As I write this, I have gotten three alerts on my phone that my friend, John, has responded to my text.
I am deliberately ignoring these alerts and haven’t read his response. Before I can engage in this text “conversation,” I need to first figure out how to be nice.
You see my friend John, like me, is currently nauseous, disheartened, and enraged by the election results.
Like me, and maybe like you, he is doing everything he can to refrain from screaming (audibly and/or via social media) at his neighbors, “friends,” family members that endorse anti-intellectualism, misogyny, racism, homophobia, xenophobia and who, for all intents and purposes, voted to ruin the friggin’ country overnight.
OMG IS THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENING?!
The last thing that John needs is his like-minded BFF trying to bait him in a text war by casually asking “so um why were you acting accusatory the other day like you were trying to imply that I’m not a real vegan or something?”
Yet that is exactly what I found myself doing 10 minutes ago and now I am actively avoiding the repercussions.
You see, like many of you, I am trying my best not to lash out at the people I am really angry with. I am trying to be a good person, citizen and Buddhist. I am trying to set a good example to others, my clients, my niece and your kids. I am trying to be part of the “collective bigger person” by redirecting negativity into positivity.
I even posted something on social media (to double digit “like” acclaim, I might add) about the importance of alchemizing our anger into positive action. Note that directly afterwards, I also changed my profile and cover photo (and not even on temporary) to a sarcastic New Yorker cartoon depicting sheep voting for the wolf that is going to eat them because he “tells it like it is.” (It is really a very clever cartoon, look it up).
Immediately after advocating peace via social media, I find myself not only posting passive aggressive cartoons but also trying to pick a fight with my friend. It was then that I started noticing posts and memes touting a similar sentiment that everyone just in general hates everything and everyone else. So what gives?
I decided to put my therapist hat on and realized that my approach in dealing with this tragedy has been all wrong. I am trying to rush myself and others through the grieving process.
We are grieving.
Let’s just sit with that a moment.
We are grieving a country we thought we knew. We are mourning the loss of a future we maybe even secretly thought, admit it, we had in the bag. We are grieving an optimism that the majority of our country loved one another. We are grieving a tremendous loss of hope that it was going to work out.
And the grieving process usually goes something like this:
This morning, we were in denial. Maybe we’ve been in denial for months, decades even, though that is another article altogether. The point is that we tried to go from denial to acceptance in a day.
When right now, we should be right about here:
Now of course, although we have every right to be angry, we can’t be jerks! Not even to the people that ruined the country. So what do some of us do? We take it out on our friends (a little). We take it out on our like-minded equally grieving friends. Why? Because we know that our friends will, to a reasonable degree, understand.
But we can’t take it all out on them because that is not cool and they won’t and shouldn’t stand for it. So here are some ideas of others things we can do to cope with our anger. And a disclaimer, just because I’m a therapist doesn’t mean I have all of the answers. So if you don’t like these ideas than just google how to cope with anger.
1. Imagine the people you hate getting hit by a car (note that I said “imagine,” if you don’t act on it and it makes you feel better, it’s fine and hell, make it a Mack Truck).
2. Imagine the people you hate as cute little toddlers shitting their pants (how can you be mad at an innocent, albeit literally shitty baby?)
3. Eat some carbs.
4. Write a letter to the people you hate. Don’t send it to them. And also don’t publish the letters into a book because that’s my idea (see book info, below).
5. Do some exercise (I have to be responsible enough to mention that this is a viable and effective option even if there is less than five percent chance I am going to do it).
6. Make a prank call (ask if someone’s refrigerator is running and tell them to go catch it) and if they’re a Trump supporter tell them that while they’re at it, to take a long walk off a short pier. Just kidding, do not do that.
The worst thing you can do is to lash out verbally or physically in any way unless…
7. Your friends are cool enough to get down like that in which case invite me over because I am itching for a fight.
8. Give yourself a break today. Let’s just be sad and angry. When we are ready (or have no other choice) we will turn this anger into positive action. Tomorrow I will see you on the other side.
And we will get to work.
Note: I’m stopping at 8 because I took my own advice with the carbs and now I’m tired.
Additional Note: I finally looked at John’s response. He said something to the effect that he doesn’t remember implying that but if it came out that way he didn’t mean it and he loves me, blah blah blah. He is a good person. Even if he won’t let me argue with him when I want to.
Author: Jenny Spitzer
Image: The Awkward Yeti
Editor: Caitlin Oriel