On the Trauma of Trump: How to Help Ourselves Effectively Move Forward

As a psychotherapist I am finding myself on the frontline relief of this recent political tragedy. It can be helpful to treat this election upset as you would a personal trauma or death, as it is a very real (although temporary) loss of faith in the security and safety of our home place. I would like to offer these themes to support our resiliency at this critical juncture. 

  1. Triggers. Because of how the brain works, the shock, pain, and fear of this event will trigger past traumas and wounds. If you can help your body tell the difference between the current event and the past issues it will settle your nervous system and minimize your automatic stress response. The easiest way to do this is by mindfully coming into your body in the present moment--walk, breathe, hug, yoga, etc. Also, put your screens down at least every 15 minutes so your body can rest and reset. 
  2. Responsive vs Reactive. If we let ourselves be swept away in the automatic survival response (fight, flight, freeze) that our systems will want to have to this moment of uncertainty we will be acting with the most primitive part of our brains, and will likely be irrational or immobilized. Finding a sense of calm and groundedness in this as individuals is the best possible thing we can do for the world right now. Even just feeling your own feet on the ground or looking at a tree for 60 seconds can make a huge difference. 
  3. Find your strengths. This situation is complicated and big, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. If we can each focus on one thing we feel capable of doing to comfort or organize we will no doubt be able to lessen the negative impact of this, and potentially even connect to powerful community, motivation, or causes that we didn't expect. 
  4. Get creative. If we stay calm, the part of our brains in charge of creative thinking will come back online (as opposed to the primitive one that takes over when we are stressed or triggered). If we can avoid panic, there is great possibility for how we want to respond to this moment.
  5. Compassion. The people who voted in Trump have the highest rates of disease and suicide in the nation. Although it can be difficult to understand, our efforts at compassion and connection with those on the other side, rather than further dehumanization of one another, will no doubt be our way out of this moving forward.