This morning, I notice that I’m not feeling as anxious as I have been. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? On the one hand, it’s nice to be a little less on edge. On the other hand, maybe I’m just falling into complacency about a situation that is dire. Am I becoming the frog in the pot on the stove who is appreciating the warmth of the water as he slowly begins to boil?
I fluctuate between two poles. One voice says ‘It’s OK. We’re the same country now we were before the election. Sure Trump will do some terrible things, but we can survive this. This is just what a real democracy looks (and feels) like. ‘
The other side is: ‘These are unprecedented times. It’s never been this bad. We have never had President-elect so unqualified and temperamentally unsuited. He is a con man, racist and misogynist who will do irreparable damage to our earth and to our world.’
Over the course of the minutes it took to write the previous two paragraphs, the external world itself changed very little, but my internal experience changed dramatically. I now feel again the rising fear and uncertainty in my body and mind. Quite an amazing demonstration of the power of words and thoughts.
As human beings, we are always telling some story about what is happening. Stories are a necessary part of how we make meaning and how we live in this constantly changing world. But stories are also always partial and, to some degree, arbitrary. The same situation can be described in an almost infinite variety of ways.
All stories are true, but not all stories are not equally useful.
To say ‘everything is fine’ when the house is burning down, may be true in some existential way, but is probably not helpful in doing what needs to be done to bring the people in the house to safety. On the other hand, ‘everything is fine’ is a story that may have the power to help us heal and appreciate the life we do have even after terrible things happen.
When we are conscious of the perspective we are taking, we can sometimes have more freedom of choice and action. What is the story you are telling about Donald Trump at this moment? Are there other stories that are equally true and might lead you to a better quality of life and a greater range of actions?
Feeling anxious is unavoidable, but not always necessary or helpful. Maybe I can feel less anxious and still be alert to stand up for the values and beliefs that are important to me.