I don’t know if it’s really possible to write a wellness post about an election, but I’m going to try.
I am struck by the attacks, negativity, fear, and blame that fills the convention speeches and the political ads, and the partisan rhetoric from much of the media while cloaking it in the name of news. And I believe it is pervasive on both sides.
I am concerned about the energy all this spewing puts into our emotional environment. We are surrounded by words and ideas aimed at creating fear and defensive responses. Public relations /Advertising research shows that negative messages work. Why? Because they grab our attention where it is most sensitive and highly developed – responding to perceived threats. So election of each candidate is described by the other as “the worst thing that could happen to -,” “the collapse of –,” “the destruction of –,” and so on. You get the picture. We aren’t being asked to elect a president who will lead us reasonably and with good intentions. We are being called to protect our families from ruin, death, and destruction.
To make matters worse, the claims of pending disaster have been accompanied by statements of “fact” that are clearly distorted, if not entirely fabricated. Why? Because when humans are on alert for their safety, they tend to remember the information that comes with the threat. You can always take back a false statement, maybe even apologize publicly for it. But the original content remains in the mind of the listener, connected to the threat that accompanied it.
It saddens me to see that we as citizens and consumers accept these practices; that we allow – perhaps even require our politicians to attack each other with lies and catastrophic predictions. We reward this system by watching and contributing to the campaigns and PACs championing our cause. We have grown as desensitized to ranting politicians and media personalities as we have to the violence of today’s video games, television shows, and movies. It has become normal. When did we lose all attempt to keep the claims truthful, to base our competition on true differences, and to welcome differences as something we can learn from?
My greatest concern is that this environment of fear and anger creates an emotional environment detrimental to our individual and collective wellbeing. What kind of energy are we creating in this country? Our moods, our thoughts, our physical well-being respond to positive and negative input. Do we truly believe that all this negativity has no impact on us? I don’t.
There is significant research showing the varied impact of external stimuli on our brain waves, and consequently our mood, thoughts, and behaviors. In the same way, we respond to negative words, negative moods, angry tones of voice, an intimidating presence, and threats of harm. Cooperation decreases, satisfaction decreases, creativity declines. At a time when the U.S. needs to channel its accumulated wisdom, creativity, and cooperation to addressing the needs of the country and its people, we are engaged in vilifying those that disagree with us, building walls between groups that need to cooperate, and cultivating agitation.
We need to calmly collect ourselves and engage in meaningful problem solving. Our wellbeing depends on an internal sense of being able to creatively cope with the difficulties life presents: recognizing we can change some things and survive others. Seeing the world or the future as only a choice between annihilation and success creates an environment of unceasing tension and anxiety. It is time to move from a fear-based view to a competency-based view, assured we can find solutions through cooperation, creativity, wisdom, and practice.
Think about turning off all political ads, not just the ones for the candidate you don’t support. Turn off your candidate’s ads, too. You do not need that negative energy in your life. You need support, rest, opportunity, creativity, and peace. Vote for the candidate that will contribute to your well-being.
Be Well, Take care.
Remember, this forum is not intended to be therapy. I have no way to view your body language, hear your tone of voice, or see if your words and your displayed emotions are matching. These are essential to effective communication and great tools for the therapist (and for the consumer when reversed.) I will attempt to be as helpful as I can. I will refer you the best I can to needed services. Even though I will not be your therapist, I am a health care professional bound by law and ethics to act to protect persons from harm. I will be required to report my concerns of harm to self or others, and suspected abuse of children and vulnerable adults. I am located and providing these services in Washington State.
Again, I am open to communicating directly with you through this forum. If you have questions or concerns, please let me know. I will attempt to address them if I can.