By Kim Scott, LMFT & Caroline Kurkcuoglu, LMFT
Collaborative Counseling Center
In the time since the Presidential election, many of our clients have expressed a tremendous amount of grief, anger, confusion, fear, and loss of hope. This election, unlike any we have seen before, was felt on a deeply personal level. This has led us to look for ways to help our clients find understanding, meaning and hope within themselves, in these changing times. We also want to share some of our thoughts on healing with you, in hopes that it might help facilitate your journey.
The first question we might ask is, “How have the results of the election influenced the way you think and feel about yourself, others, and the world?” We strive to help our clients look behind the rhetoric into their hearts and into the hearts of their loved ones who may have different views. We want to help our clients listen to their own thoughts and to really hear each other. We might also ask our clients to look at how they have overcome previous obstacles in their lives. How and when they have been resilient, and how can they access that resilience now?
When explored and processed, intense feelings like those stirred up by this election can help a person understand themselves and their values, which leads to growth and positive change. As therapists, such transformation is always one of our goals.
Many of our clients have also been grieving, which is normal following a loss. They have been experiencing the stages of grief: denial and shock, anger (exhibited through protests and voluminous Facebook posts), bargaining (“If we could get rid of the Electoral College and go to the popular vote, my candidate would have won.”) depression (tears, withdrawal and sleepless nights), and in healthy grieving eventual acceptance tempered by a resolve to make things better in the future. But when talking about acceptance, we often hear our clients say, “How can I accept these results?” We believe the following two quotes may help:
“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
And, the Serenity Prayer, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” Reinhold Niebuhr
For each of us the answers we find by applying these quotes to our lives will be unique, just as the feelings each of us have experienced throughout the election have been very individual.
For instance, acceptance could mean accepting the outcome of the election but never accepting racism or misogyny. It could mean maintaining “infinite hope” that someday we will live in a society where neither race nor gender will determine who can be president, how much money one earns, or the opportunities available to a person. For others this election could remind them of what they can change and help them find the courage and will to fight for their beliefs.
This election reminded me that the work of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Suffragettes is not complete. It also reminded me that many people in our country are fearful, disenfranchised, and concerned about the America they live in.
My healing comes in the form of finding my causes and fighting for them. My healing also comes in the form of trying to understand views different from my own. What form will your healing take?