Please note: If you are pleased with the results of the recent elections, you may not want to read this post. I wrote it for those who are struggling emotionally and need support and guidance for how to walk through their difficult feelings so that they can arrive, ultimately, back at love.
However, I need to say that my first draft of this article was written two days after the elections in a raw state of emotions, and I have since edited out the portions of it that were coming from my own small-minded and black-and-white thinking. I do not want to name-call. I do not want to participate in a culture of hate and divisiveness. I know that not everyone who voted for Trump carries all of his values and his rhetoric, and that the reasons why people voted for whoever they voted for are complex and multi-faceted. I seek to understand and dialogue from a place of true curiosity, and I genuinely apologize to anyone I may have offended in the original version of this post.
I’ve been humbled by my first response to the election outcome, which was rooted in fear, and I’ve taken this as an opportunity to see some of my own blind spots and further my own growth. Everyone is welcome here, and I hope that my site continues to be a safe place where we can join together and explore any places inside that keep us separate from ourselves, our loved ones, each other, and the world.
I hesitated for many reasons to write this post, but in the end the post wrote me. The topics that I write about every day demanded to be known and expressed in the context of this election: how to work with fear, how to respond effectively to our thoughts, how to attend to our feelings with compassion, and ultimately, how to awaken to our true nature, which rests in goodness, beauty, and love. Everything I write, say, and do stems from a devotion to the force of love, and a commitment to exploring the power of fear that obstructs love’s flow. This post isn’t so much a protest against the results of this election (although it is that as well) as much as a plea to all of you who are committed to your inner work to act now as love’s emissaries in a world that is falling prey to fear’s grip.
Love is stronger than fear, and yet nothing will incite more fear than when our own health and wellness or that of our children is threatened. The president-elect has inspired fear because, at least based on his campaign rhetoric and many of his past actions toward women and minorities, he seems to pose a real threat to our individual well-being and the wellness of the planet. Which is why, as love warriors, we must walk now, individually and collectively, into a world that needs us to wrestle fear to the mat, to call it by its true name, and to act in whatever ways we can so that all people, all creatures, all living beings, and the Earth herself live in integrity, equality, and freedom. And in order to do that, we must first meet the fear, grief, and despair that live inside each of us, tending gently and compassionately until it unfolds into action guided by the light of hope.
The fear softens into grief which fires into action cradled in hope.
The first day: shock and fear. As the votes were being tallied and the states bled across the map on our screen, I could feel a collective panic setting in. Hearts raced and bodies shook as we stared in disbelief at our screens. This isn’t the way it was supposed to go. This isn’t happening. It will turn around. But it didn’t turn around. The impossible happened (even the Trump campaign says they never expected he would actually win), and we woke up to a new reality.
There are many responses to shock: we fight, flee, or freeze. In fight, we stand up and rise against the perpetrator. In flee, we escape into safe territory (causing the Canadian visa website to shut down). In freeze, we collapse from cold fear. On that first day, many people froze as they viewed the world through a lens of despair. When we fall into the tarpit of fear and believe a vision of doom, we lose the impulse to act. On the other hand, when we can see an election result like this as a warning and an offering, it can propel us into action.
It’s the same process I talk about every week in my blog and my courses: when fear takes over, we become paralyzed. When we believe every thought and story that fear poses, the fear-lines obstruct our path. It’s not fear itself that blocks the path; it’s how much power we give to fear. The same applies here. We cannot give our fear of Trump the power. Fear paralyzes; truth and love mobilize. There’s a massive mobilization occurring across the country as people say NO, we reject your platform of bullying and divisiveness. You do not represent my values and my ideals. We say no as we rise up from out of fear’s clutches and act.
The fear softens into grief…
The morning after the elections, I received many emails from clients asking for guidance on how to handle the enormity of their feelings. The first step, as always, is to be with the feelings without the barriers of judgment or shame. We cry through the pain, we shiver through the fear, we yell through the outrage. Then we act.
One client who wrote to me early Wednesday morning and asked for something to ease the despair: some hope, some words, some anchor. I told her that the force of good will show up in numbers, and that there are many passionate people in this country who will rise up against injustice. There are so many ways this could go. We don’t know a lot right know and that’s very hard. We don’t have answers. But if we fall into the pit of fear, we can’t act. So, yes, we’re scared, there’s no way around that. And we are in deep grief; there are many people who are crying right now. But if we don’t look forward with hope and believe in the power of light, we will become paralyzed.
She responded (shared with permission):
I’ve been thinking of your words all today. Thank you for writing back and sharing them with me.Most paramount for today: Giving myself permission to feel. Each tear has saturated the parched spots of my soul awakening me into action. Now more than ever I see a clearer path to how I can help or be of service. And thank you for forwarding this to me today. I’m also reminded of the Mizuta Masahide quote: “Barn’s burnt down — now I can see the moon.”No time for complacency. No time for excuses. Only time to dive right into the heart of it all, challenging ourselves to really take ownership of our pain and suffering so love and healing can emerge.Thank you for role modeling that for me.
Our grief takes many forms, and touches different places for each person.
As a woman, I grieve that the man elected as President is a misogynist, a man who parses women’s bodies into parts to be grabbed and rates women on a scale of his own invention. This destructive attitude toward women extends to his view of our beautiful Mother Earth, and mimics the mindset of those who raped and pillaged this country under the hubris of colonization hundreds of years ago. Our earth is in great danger (the number of species that go extinct yearly is staggering), and the man we just elected plans to further the peril, not only through lack of protection but through active violation.
We are this earth; we are not separate from the planet. We are animals, we are wild, and we are inextricably dependent on the earth that we are blessed enough to roam. It’s time to recognize this so that we can stand up and speak out and protect our Earth who has no voice. Leonardo DiCaprio makes the same point in his film, Before the Flood, which is free and has gone viral. As I drove into town this morning and watched a V of geese flying in formation next my car, their long, sleek necks and graceful feathers shimmering silver in the early light, the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains jutting up majestically above the golden fields, I wept.
As a therapist, I think about my clients and readers who struggle with anxiety, whose bones are quaking with fear and uncertainty. I think about one of my extraordinary course members who posted the following on her Facebook page (shared with permission):
As a woman I feel a surging sadness in ways I am only beginning to understand. When I did my morning yoga and came into my body, I began to weep. I became overwhelmed by a feeling that this body, my body, was not respected in the place that I live. I thought about my freedoms as a cis gender white female lesbian, to have cast votes in 8 presidential elections, to have been able to choose and have an abortion when I needed to, to marry the woman I loved with full legal rights, to say all of this out loud in this moment without fear of repercussion.
As a Jew, I grieve for and with my people who have been marginalized for as long as we’ve walked this planet. We have known persecution through the centuries in all forms, an attack which crescendoed with the Holocaust. My sons know this, too. They know it in their genetic bones. We’re scared because we’ve all been marginalized at some point in our history, which means, when we let ourselves, we can easily step into the shoes of our Muslim, Hispanic, Gay, and African-American brothers and sisters whose bones are quaking. We stand with you now.
We allow ourselves to grieve as the grief arises. When we squash the grief, as we know from our inner work, it morphs into anxiety, and when we get stuck in the pit of fear or allow the grief to become indulgent, we become immobilized. We grieve in cycles and waves, allowing the pain to crash over and through us according to its own timetable and rhythm. Then we act.
The fear softens into grief which fires into action…
As Maya Angelou wrote, “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”
How do we respond? What do we do?
The work is the same whether we’re in the realm of relationship anxiety, trying to conceive, or dealing with the fact that Donald Trump will be the first president elected in this country with no political or military experience (this is fact, not opinion). The work is to respond effectively to the thoughts that want to grab us by the throat and send us into the tailspin of anxiety and despair. The work is to attend to the feelings inside the thoughts: the uncertainty, the disappointment, the vulnerability, the sadness, the grief. From this place of internal equilibrium, we gather the strength that overpowers the threat of despair. And then we act.
As a citizen of the world, here is what I know: we must speak when we can speak and act when we can act. We must not be afraid of offending; we have a much bigger threat at stake. I hear a deep rumbling that extends beyond myself, a rumbling of the ancestors who are shaking their fists and a people who are protesting. When we untangle ourselves from fear’s chokehold, we find our voice. For me, when the dam of fear released and the grief softened my heart, the words streamed through me all day and into the night. I write and I write and I write, as this is one way that I can act.
It can feel overwhelming to know how to act, especially when you’re a highly sensitive person and are acutely aware of the multitude and magnitude of problems in the world. Where do you begin? I love this piece of guidance offered by Mirabai Starr in her book, God of Love:
Andrew Harvey, founder of the Institute for Sacred Activism, acknowledges the magnitude of the challenge to respond with compassion to the vast array of social and environmental crises. When the suffering of the world feels like too much to bear and you cannot figure out where to begin, pause and check in with your heart, he says. Find the cause that most deeply moves you – the suffering that most radically breaks through the protective layer of your complacency – and use that as your guide. Follow your heartbreak, is the way Harvey puts it. Choose one heartbreaking issues – one broken thing – and dedicate yourself to learning everything you can about it, and then do whatever you can to repair it.
I feel heartbroken about so many crises in the world, but the issue that breaks my heart open the most is the environment, and after these elections I feel a renewed energy to pour as much time, energy, and money as we can into the fight to save our planet. As a family of highly sensitives who derive endless comfort and renewal from nature, with sons who save mosquitoes and cry tears of deep sorrow for any living creature who is hurt or killed, we ache daily for the pillage of the earth and her resources. We act in ways big and small to conserve our resources, and we will continue to act with renewed passion to protect our precious earth.
What does your voice say? How will the quaking in your bones inspire you to act? Where will the rumbling in your legs lead you? I’d love to hear what breaks your heart open and how you do or can act in the comments section below.
The fear softens into grief which fires into action cradled in hope.
Lastly, we turn to our antidotes and anchors, for we all need totems to hold onto when the forces of fear and despair take hold.
The antidote to fear is faith.
The antidote to despair is hope.
Where is the faith? Where is the hope?
- We’re going to be okay. We can adopt a mindset of doomsday and apocalypse or we can choose a mindset of faith. The choice is ours.
- Rebirth will occur. The law of transitions says that the rebirth of spring always follows the death of autumn and the frozen state of winter. From a psychological and spiritual perspective, there needs to be a shattering of the old structures before the new, healthy structures can take root. We know this from our inner work, as love warriors battling the stronghold of fear. We know that the old habits, patterns, beliefs, and behaviors must die before the new ones are born. The same is true on a nationwide and a global level.
- Resistance is necessary for change. Perhaps this president-elect is a gift in disguise, for we also know from our inner work that when resistance shows up it’s an opportunity to push through and press harder. He is the wall that he has said he will build, and we must rise up against that wall. Sometimes the most powerful change occurs when we have something to push up against.
- We cannot see the bigger picture, but we can trust that from collapse comes restoration, and that our planet and ourselves as humans are on a trajectory of healing and growth. We can trust that there’s a bigger plan in place, an invisible plan the timing of which may seem confusing and alarming from our earthly lens but makes perfect sense from a zoomed-out perspective. Historically, we’ve vacillated between times of immense darkness to times of awakening and creativity, for it seems that we need the darkness to awaken the light. The pendulum has now swung in a dark direction (it has been swinging there for years), and we must trust that in response and with time we will see a greater consciousness emerge.
- We accept responsibility, which means the opportunity to look at how we created this situation, and how we can change it. As Brother Phap Hai writes, “For too long, we have behaved as children, expecting others – in this case our political leaders – to do our work for us, or more precisely our shadow work. Expecting others to bring our nation together. Expecting others to heal the divide. Expecting others like organizations or churches to feed the hungry. This is a wake up call indeed.This is an invitation for us to step into adulthood and to realize both our capacity and our responsibility.”
We, on this website, fight for love in our lives every day. Now it’s time to bring this fight into the world. In solitude, we do our inner work. In solidarity, we take action. This is how the world changes in service of good. This is how we heal. This is how love prevails.
P.S. Two songs that are lifting my spirits lately and giving me a quick infusion of hope and inspiration as I listen and dance in my kitchen:
What songs lift your spirits?