I know a few folks who, the day before the election, assumed Governor Romney would win by a wide margin. Even Karl Rove was convinced his party would win just thirty minutes before CNN called the election in favor of President Obama.
I know folks who feel a bit shell-shocked and others that are angry about how things turned out. I understand and empathize with these feelings. I imagine that it’s sort of like waking up on Christmas as a kid and finding out Santa forgot to stop by the house (if you don’t celebrate Christmas you get the metaphor).
Emotional Intelligence and Executive Development
In times of stress or duress I’ve found solace in clearly naming and expressing my emotions.
To process our emotions we need to have the skill to connect an event to its resulting emotion. For example, loss brings up sadness. Sadness will not arise just because the country’s leadership didn’t change last week. More than that was lost.
This election marked the passing of an era. The chances of a middle-aged white male being in the White House have gotten much smaller in the past four years and the trend will continue. Ethnic groups that used to be the majority are now the minority. The nuclear family of the past has given way to single parent homes. A recreational drug that many consider immoral or derelict is now legal in two states.
Regardless of whether you wanted change or are conservative or progressive, these are real losses. Portions of our traditions and cultural norms and traits are changing forever. Psychologically, we long for things to stay the same (the source of all of our suffering, per the Buddha). It will take some time to adjust and to let go of the old.
Recall the stages of grieving. Denial is first. Anger is the next emotion most of us are aware of when we experience loss. We don’t fully experience the immediate hurt and sadness. Part of this is our natural defense mechanism to avoid feeling pain and part is our training from our family.
In the short term, it’s easier to feel anger than to sit with our pain. It’s easier to deny the hurt or go numb, shutting down our feelings.
This may be a time for you to mourn. It may be a time to express your sadness instead of your anger. Make a list of what you will miss. And, you may feel fear—fear that comes from your concern about what’s ahead. If this is you, make a list of what you’re scared of. These lists give your emotions a voice. When you make your lists you are taking general thoughts and adding detailed and specific content. This is a great way to use a journal and your Court of Support (your inner circle, accountability partners, and YPO forum or other small group).
Our modern, intellectual culture offers few places to grieve. Yet without tears you are left to vent or turn your anger and sadness inward until it turns to depression and illness. Or you self-medicate or find something to distract you from your pain. When you do these things you experience another loss, a loss of your aliveness. When you are confused or in denial of how you really feel you lose your sense of empowerment to choose who you are in the face of events outside your control.
It’s Time for a Change
Arguing with reality is a losing game. Judging and expressing global statements and generalizations are short-term forms of entertainment and long-term signs of a lack of compassion for others. They do nothing to change reality or your emotions.
Your emotions will lead you to the source of your sadness and, in the process, give you a chance to change from the inside. That internal reality is the one you can argue with and even change.