As we are swept by the wave of the election outcome, many of us are getting hammered on social media by the emotion of the moment. One group (half the nation) is elated at the outcome, feeling confident and optimistic, and the second group (the other half of the nation) is in tears, fearful of the future. As this political season has carried a very high emotional tone, many of us may have created an emotional attachment to a candidate or to a set of beliefs held by a party. Hence, the loss for some is very real while the possibilities for others is energizing. We had a similar collective experience not too long ago with the Cubs victory. While we passionately rallied around one team, another group did so for the opposing team as well. Obviously, a baseball game is not equal to the policy implications that come with a presidential election, but the experience of a collective emotional experience is similar. With wins and losses, there are a ton of assumptions being made. These assumptions are based on the stories that either we make up from our own experiences or that we pick up from others. The assumptions made are like a script that we internalize and which further deepen the way we feel about the outcome.
Last night we watched the aftershock as many took to the streets in shouts of protest or took to social media pouring out initial reactions and disbelief. The shock and denial was very akin to the stages of grief that many people suffer through when they experience a loss. It’s just that in this experience it has been magnified as it is a crash of tears and cheers by a divided nation.
The question for us is, “what are the personal results of this event?” Some people have begun to de-friend their friends on Facebook that hold opposing views, further narrowing their worldview, others may even feel paralyzed due to fear, and others have taken up a hate chant.
Like a marriage in conflict, our country is struggling through a diversity of opinions and feelings that can easily divide. I would encourage each one of us to step out of our comfort zones and to reach out and listen to people who hold opposing views and the reasons behind it. Just like we tell couples in Family Bridges’ workshops, listening does not mean agreeing. You don’t have to agree with the policies of one group but you can always listen to why they hold their beliefs and why they feel the way they do given the outcome. How are they experiencing this outcome and why? Hold your feelings and ideas in suspense for a moment and listen to the story of another. By doing this, we can enrich our world and understand the fears and hopes of “the other side.”
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