How to Tranquilize Stampeding Thoughts: Rx for the Election Blues

Above: So, this happened. What now?

Are you upset by the outcome of the presidential election?

Before the election, my plan for this blog was blithely to continue my series of stories of how the Work has given my husband and me a more open, honest, and loving relationship. But then Donald Trump was elected, and cataclysms make plans made in innocence seem trivial. The cataclysm must be dealt with.

The night of the election, as states began to report their outcomes, I was puzzled to see so much red. Puzzlement turned to dread, and like the child who falls asleep when she realizes she’s lost, I went to bed. The grown ups would wake me when they found me, when the news was good. Instead, a nightmare woke me. In the nightmare I was driving in Hawaii – paradise. My road took me through an industrial area, and I soon noticed that it wasn’t ending. I stopped the car to get my bearings and discovered that I was on a trash barge. It stretched to the horizon in every direction.

When I woke, Guy was also awake.

“Well?” I said.

“Trump won,” he said. “Hillary just conceded.”

I tried to go back to sleep, but I could not. Like a herd of wild horses, my thoughts had been spooked and were stampeding. As they raced on, I stood in the middle of them with my hands up, shouting, “Is it true? Is it true?”– the first question of the Work. But the herd was in chaos. On they ran, and my heart pounded along with them.

Has that ever happened to you? Your thoughts run riot, your body follows, and you can’t get a handle on anything?

In my panic, I discovered a lasso – a lasso and a way of grounding myself so those ponies wouldn’t trample me.

First, the grounding. I’m half afraid you’re going to roll your eyes at me because it’s so basic and I already talk about it so much, but here it is: deep breathing. Ever since I experienced the power of deep breathing to get me through childbirth comfortably, I’ve trusted deep breathing to get me through pretty much anything arduous.

The outcome of the election put me in fight-or-flight mode. Trying to do thought work while in fight-or-flight – shouting, “Is it true?” as the herd stampedes – is ineffective, because stress hormones make clear, rational thinking impossible. Breathing deeply is the opposite of the rapid, shallow breathing of fight-or-flight, and it sends a message to the brain that everything is okay. This shuts off the production of stress hormones and initiates the release of the body’s own (horse) tranquilizers, beta endorphins.

Now that the herd is beginning to calm, you can use the lasso to capture the individual thoughts: ask, “And that means. . ?” and write down all the answers. As in, “Donald Trump was elected, and that means. . . half our country is racist, misogynistic, and xenophobic. It means that our way of life is over. It means that evil triumphs over good. . . .” I wrote until I was empty.

The act of writing down painful thoughts slows them down even further. The next step, doing the Work on each one, puts the belief in a clear glass box, so that you can examine it from every angle and get to the truth of it. If more painful beliefs come up when you do the Work, just add them to your original list to do the Work on later. Keep yourself focused on one thought at a time – don’t let it out of the box.

What have I found through this process?

  • I’ve found my own bigotry and complacency. Thank you. I’ll work on that before expecting it of others.
  • I’ve found hysteria. Katie says, “If you want to be terrified, get a future.” In other words, I really don’t know what the future holds; it serves no purpose – none – to imagine the worst, no matter how much the past seems to point to it. Thank you.
  • I’ve found my blind spots. Because I believed Trump and his supporters were awful, I never listened to any of them. How does that ever help? Blinders removed, understanding and compassion rush in, which is the only effective place from which to engage anyone.
  • I’ve found courage – to help, protect, connect – because I found love. Love is much more powerful than hate, fear, or hysteria, period.

Reader, if this process works so well on people you hate, imagine how well it’ll work with people you love. Details on the Intimacy Intensive, my Work-based course for dissolving resentment and creating more love in your closest relationships, are coming soon.

How did you take the election outcome? If you voted for Trump, what do you want Hillary supporters to know? If you voted for Hillary, what helped you come to terms? Please comment below.

3 thoughts on “How to Tranquilize Stampeding Thoughts: Rx for the Election Blues

  1. Sue Ann Gleason says:

    “If you want to be terrified, get a future.”
    Yes, that sums it up beautifully. I have a little card on my desk with a similar quote for times like these, “Stop having your pain in advance. You may need the energy you’re expending there later.” This is, indeed, a very difficult time. I’m facing my own edges along with my fears but mostly right now I am engaging in extreme self care. My bodypsyche is aching. Thank you for yet another beautiful illustration of “the work.” xxoo

  2. Katie Jackman says:

    Fascism came to power because Democracy was weak. More than half our country is racist, misogynistic, and xenophobic. It means that our way of life is over. It means that evil triumphs over good. . . that’s how Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin cam to power. Our country will learn a HARD lesson. And I don’t want to be here. I want to go to my father’s homeland, Ireland. But don’t have the money to leave this country. God help us.

    • Allison Evans says:

      Katie, you’re upset, but you are not powerless. How will our country learn any lessons if all the passionate defenders of the marginalized — people like you! — go away? Or refuse to engage with the people who elected Trump? xo

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