After the election of Donald Trump, many of my clients came in shocked, upset and afraid.  Apparently the voices of pain, anger and hardship of many people in the red states felt largely ignored by the politicians of both parties and they decided to choose the “populist” businessman to be their president.  It left many of us on the West Coast scratching our head in dismay. Trump said many racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Islam, xenophobic and hateful rhetoric during his campaign, but it does not mean that all people who voted for him feel the same way. However, unfortunately, there are certainly individuals and groups that are openly expressing and acting out those sentiments.  So how do we find common ground as citizens of our country?  How do we heal the breach of trust and respect that has diminished between relatives, friends and colleagues? 

As we probably all know, when two people are angry and pointing fingers at one another, any attempt at conversation can quickly derail.  None of us like feeling misunderstood or made to feel wrong by our partner, boss, family member or friend. Usually we feel defensive or angry and want to fight back or get revenge. Our  pain is real and often we retreat and repress our feelings until they explode in a rage at a later date.

It is more constructive if we are willing to listen to each other’s pain and fear and anger, even if we disagree.  Can we practice being curious, ask questions and not take it personally? Are we willing to pause and reflect on our own biases and discrimination?  Are there people we scapegoat with our attitudes and beliefs?  It is easier to point the finger at others than to see our own inherent prejudice or religious judgements. 

It can be even more difficult if we feel threatened.  Fear triggers the limbic system in our brain which means the amygdala is aroused and goes into “fight or flight.” So we also need to practice calming down before we respond with feelings or statements that will add fuel to the tension already crackling in the conversation. Including a practice of going a bit slower, paying attention to our inside landscape to know when we are triggered, and allowing more quiet to guide our actions can all be extremely helpful in these challenging times.

It also helps to remember we are all in this together and the web of life is interdependent.  Start by practicing self-compassion for your own efforts, especially when it is difficult, and begin to extend that kindness to others around you.  Resisting and judging the other person is not a good way to create change.  Stand for what you believe in, your values, and continue to speak their importance in respectful tones.  Be willing to hear others and ask them to hear you. Pause and breathe often. Go slowly with love whenever possible.  Real transformation requires more humility, less self-righteousness and lots of patience whether in our marriage, with relatives or in our country.