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The Bliss Blog

Not a particularly blissful topic today, but certainly one with spiritual overtones. A vague restless feeling has been pervading my soul in the past few months;  not full blown anxiety, but what I would call angst. I have been a registered voter since 1976 and cast my vote for Jimmy Carter. My political affiliation is clear to my family and friends; most of whom share my views. This is not mean to be a political diatribe and I imagine there are some who read my column who will disagree with my perspective. My intention is to be respectful to them, even if we stand on opposite ends of the spectrum.

What I do notice is a tendency among supporters of a certain candidate to deflect, rather than directly address concerns. It reminds me of playground talk when one kid is confronted on bullying behavior…”Well, he/she did this!” as if to diminish what the bully did. When I see it arise in social media threads, I attempt to calmly re-direct, sometimes to no avail. What then sometimes occurs is the mud slinging and name calling that reminds me of toddlers on a playground. It is then (if it happens on my Facebook page), that I ask for respectful and open minded dialog to occur. Sometimes people back down and other times, come back with renewed vigor, to get their point across.

What comes to mind in the most contentious election I have ever witnessed, is that it has brought the shadow to the surface. In a film, called The Shadow Effect, authors Debbie Ford, Deepak Chopra and Marianne Williamson are joined by a cast of other transformational teachers and share their thoughts about that disenfranchised aspects of ourselves that when they arise, can wreak all sorts of havoc. That seems to be the case here. The slimy, sludgy, most vicious aspects iof human nature that have been lurking in dank and dark caves, have come crawling out, hissing and roaring. It takes a great deal of fortitude to face them with compassion and courage and not go into hiding or attack mode ourselves.

In response to this dilemma, I wrote an article : How Can You Cope With Election Stress that addresses the sometimes overwhelming feelings that arise for at least half the population, as well as methods to deal with the fallout. As I sat with the feelings I was experiencing, I realized that if I (who am able to think logically most of the time and am not prone to angry outbursts) am out of sorts, I can only imagine what it is like for those whose default mode is incendiary, might be feeling. I shudder to think about it. It is one thing to feel rage, another to act on it. Too much damage has already been done, with anger at the other end of a weapon that may have started with a war of words.

Another challenge is when people use their spiritual beliefs to justify bigotry. In my area, there is a truck plastered with campaign signs with a crucifix and American flag hovering above it. The thought, “Who would Jesus hate?” came to mind. Now I know that not everyone who supports this candidate harbor hateful thoughts. One of the spiritual practices in which I have engaged comes from A Course in Miracles. A precept contained within is that fear and love can’t exist in the same space. My take is that when people hate, they are in a state of fear. Fear of differences. Fear of oblieration. Fear of losing a way of life that they have become accustomed to. Fear of the unknown.  Fear is not a comfy quilt, but instead a wet, itchy wool blanket that some think will keep them warm.

On Psychologist, David Gruder‘s Facebook thread, there was a dialog about this. I added my two cents. David had posed these questions after he read the article I had written about dealing with election related stress.

1) Might these stress levels be elevated by the psychologically abusive ways political “conversations” are largely occurring these days? Might this stress be meaningfully reduced by civil, principled, collaborative, high-minded discourse?

2) Do you see any stress-reduced ways to help people get to where they insist that candidates, elected officials, and the media elevate political discourse and the governance problem-solving process? Or is stress virtually unavoidable when people come out of complacency and learned helplessness, and begin insisting on change?

This was my response:

“Recognizing that certain language either feeds the flame or extinquishes it, the public and the influencers can shift the tone of the conversation. When the votes are counted, there will be distraught people. We still need to live with those who are on the other side of the political fence; some our nearest and dearest. Do I get riled up with hate mongering? Absolutely! When I feel the visceral reaction to the words of one the candidate of which you speak, I remind myself that feeding hatred with hatred, only exacerbates the problem. What I suggest it that when responding to statements made, especially on social media, do your best to refrain from name calling or poop slinging; as hard as that may be. When I respond, I attempt to be thoughtful and measured. Do I want to change someone’s mind? Sure. Do I think that someone who is a hard and fast supporter of this candidate will see the light? Not likely. I do what I can where I can….thus the FREE Hugs thing. I was at a street festival in my area in September, doing that and someone pointed to a man wearing political signs and asked if I would go up and ask him if he wanted a hug. I did and he did and then he asked me if I wanted to have my picture taken with him. I politely declined and then reminded him to keep his heart open and not give in to hatred. Stress inducing triggers will be there. It is a question of how we choose to respond to them. I also encourage people to find ways to work together, since an America that is truly great needs our collective love, rather than collective hatred.”

 

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