When Life Gives You Lemons …
Wednesday morning after the election, on learning that a bullying and hate speaking businessman was to be our next POTUS, my brain stopped working properly. I fed the cat, made a hot breakfast drink, put out my nutritional supplements for the day, and sat down to eat breakfast – only to see I’d failed to make any food. Then I couldn’t quite remember what I usually have for breakfast.
Poet Mary Karr wrote about Trump’s hate speech and language of bullying in a post-election New Yorker series of articles called “AFTERMATH: Responses to the election of Donald J. Trump” (New Yorker, 11/21/2016):
“At the risk of sounding like a total candy-ass, I swear I have developed P.T.S.D. from the venom of this election.” She went on to say “Those of us who experienced trauma as children, often at the hands of bullies, felt old wounds open up just hearing Trump’s fierce idiom of outrage. … Language is key. Trump’s taunting ‘nyah-nyah’s are the idiom of threat and vengeance. … The vicious language of this election has infected the whole country with enough anxiety and vitriol to launch a war.”
I know a thing or two about Post Traumatic Stress from both personal experience and my work as a psychotherapist and came to understand that I’d become somewhat dissociated from myself. Fortunately, I also knew how to work towards getting grounded back inside myself again – lots of breath work, meditation, yoga and other exercise, connecting with people I love, following my daily routines, talking with strangers who are also clearly in shock, sitting with my feelings and thoughts, using tuning forks*, and figuring out what I can do to counteract the attempts of an intensely narcissistic, racist, misogynistic, scapegoating, hate speaking, self-serving president and his like minded administration hell bent on using the government to destroy whatever is left of our democracy and the health of our planet for their own gain.
* When I have the time, I’ll finish the post I started on using tuning forks for physical and mental healing.
REVERBERATIONS FROM THE LEMONS
Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right National Front party, said Trump’s election “shows that people are taking their future back” and suggested that French voters do the same. A man whose election and desired cabinet appointments are being celebrated by Le Pen and other far-right leaders around the world (Russia’s Vladimir Putin, the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders, our own KKK) is deeply frightening to me – and millions of others here and around the world.
Le Pen’s chief strategist tweeted, “Their world is crumbling. Ours is being built.” Dutch extremist Wilders eagerly anticipates Trump’s win will boost Europe’s racist right.
White supremacist and former KKK leader David Duke called Trump’s win “one of the most exciting nights of my life” and tweeted “Make no mistake about it, our people have played a HUGE role in electing Trump!”.
Islamic State jihadists expect Trump’s victory will lead to civil war and the downfall of the United States. The al-Minbar Jihadi Media network, which is affiliated with the Islamic State, said, “Rejoice with support from Allah, and find glad tidings in the imminent demise of America at the hands of Trump. … Trump’s win of the American presidency will bring hostility of Muslims against America as a result of his reckless actions, which show the overt and hidden hatred against them.”
MAKING LEMONADE So here we are now – with some serious bitterness and anxiety on all sides. How to stay strong and centered so we can go on and work towards building civility, respect, and a more equitable society?
As often happens, just the right thing comes into our lives when it’s most needed. For me, this was a friend’s speaking about the book Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan.
A ‘black swan’ is an event or occurrence that deviates sharply from what is expected, is extremely difficult to predict, and has a major effect. It was generally believed that black-colored swans didn’t exist but then someone became aware that flocks of them lived in the wilds of Australia and New Zealand. (I presume Australians and New Zealanders have long been aware of actual black swans.)
Taleb’s thesis in Antifragile is that many things in life benefit greatly from disorder and stress. He coined the word ‘antifragile’ to describe the category of things that come about only under conditions of stress and turmoil and need such instability to flourish. He urges us to embrace these events to make ourselves strong and improve our lives.
One day Taleb was talking with David Halpern, a UK government advisor and policy maker, about his notion of antifragility. Halpern informed him of “a phenomenon called post-traumatic growth, the opposite of post-traumatic stress syndrome, by which people harmed by past events surpass themselves.”
It occurred to Taleb that people are aware of this possibility – as in the saying “Facing adversity builds character”.
We often focus on the negative responses to bad, random events and feel fragile. Taleb points out that it’s possibile to have positive, antifragile responses to such events. “The excess energy released from overreaction to setbacks is what innovates?”
Perhaps Trump’s election was a black swan event. Now it’s up to those of us who are horrified at the results to use the energy of our outrage and fear to work for positive change. Many people are already doing this.
And for those of you who rejoiced at the election results, you too will soon have opportunity to put your outrage and fear to good purpose when you realize that Trump and his governmental choices will in fact make your lives much more difficult rather than give you the improvements you’ve long needed and intensely desired for yourselves and your children.
REFERENCES Karr, M. (11/21/2016). Donald Trump, Poet. “AFTERMATH: Responses to the election of Donald J. Trump”, The New Yorker. See: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/11/21/aftermath-sixteen-writers-on-trumps-america
Taleb, N.M. (2014). Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder. See: https://www.amazon.com/Antifragile-Things-That-Disorder-Incerto/dp/0812979680/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1479575289&sr=8-1&keywords=antifragile © Copyright 2016. Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.
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