This past week has been whirlwind of emotions for many of us who have been frightened by Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric, certain of his supporters, and the aftermath of him becoming President-Elect. At least some of us had opened the possibility that he might actually govern differently than he campaigned. But his early picks of advisors for the transition and staff once he is inaugurated have pretty much dashed that hope.
So where do we go from here?
The field of psychology and study of history shows that fear and anger, while strong short-term motivators, are terrible for long-term momentum. Fear and anger are strong emotions that cannot be maintained. Our psyches become normalized to the new realities and the body chemistries generated by these strong emotions are harmful long-term. We should not, must not, rely on fear and anger to carry us through.
So what can we do?
We need to turn our current strong emotions into habits of action. We need to cultivate and work on actions that become a part of our regular lives: actions that welcome the stranger, actions that show compassion and respect, actions that look for ways to reduce bigotry and bullying, actions that foster empathy and love. We need to find ways to make a habit of going out of our comfort zones to make connections with people outside of our normal circles.
We need to find ways to keep informed via reliable sources. And we need make it a habit to give to organizations whose purpose is to fight hate and promote equality.
We have to turn our current negative, but very strong, emotions into positive habits that lead to change. Otherwise what Trump and his rhetoric have ushered in will become the new normal.
Personally, I do a few things to follow my own advice, and what I wrote above comes from my own experience:
- I am a volunteer victims advocate for the local domestic violence and sexual assault advocacy organization. It helps me keep grounded with real people who work with the issue and with victims of violence and abuses of power.
- I work with substance abuse issues in our community. This helps me see that issues don’t have easy, black-and-white answers or solutions. This helps me see that people are complex beings, and that I cannot impose solutions onto anyone.
- I donate to Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Their regular e-mail and print newsletters keep me abreast of religious liberty issues as they apply not just to a segment of Christians, but to all people or all religions and the non-religious.
- I just donated to Southern Poverty Law Center. I believe that the work they do in fighting acts of hate and raising awareness of instances of hate and hate crimes is especially vital going forward.
You might find some of these that work for you. And there are plenty of other ways to cultivate positive habits to combat fear and hate, and change the world for the better. My exhortation to you is that you find at least one or two ways.