Tuesday, much of the world watched in horror as Donald Trump became the president-elect of the United States of America.
I was one of them. I was angry, scared, sad and even considered fleeing the country for about 30 minutes. What brought me back to a state of peace and acceptance is my unshakable belief that things happen for a reason. Call it naive or trite or whatever you want, but I believe there is a reason for everything.
I’m not sure if it’s actually true, but coming from that place, I have been able to see some really wonderful potential outcomes from this election. Not the least of which is that this election brought some really nasty beliefs and behaviors to the surface.
The racism. The bigotry. The fear-mongering. The bullying.
These things were not created by the election. They were illuminated by it. As disgusting as it may be, this is ultimately a good thing.
Shine a Little Light
As a coach and healer, I am constantly telling my clients that sometimes we have to shine a light into the darkest corners of our soul, and see some things we’d rather not, in order to heal. That applies to individuals, and it also applies to nations. These wounds have been festering under the surface for many years, and as long as they stayed there, there wasn’t anything we could do about them.
You can’t fix a problem you don’t know is there.
Of course, some will argue that these problems have been obvious all along, and perhaps in some pockets of this country, they have been, but now there’s no denying them. Yes, it’s painful. Yes, it’s embarrassing. Yes, it feels like too big of a problem to manage. Healing always feels that way—at first.
If we look at the state of affairs here in America the same way we would a person, there is much to be learned.
Donald Trump is the human embodiment of our collective ego.
The venom and hatred being spewed now by both sides is a reflection of our internal conflict and self-doubt. The bigotry is a reflection of our unwillingness to accept and love all parts of ourselves. It’s easy to point fingers in this situation and say, “I’m not like that. It’s their problem. Screw them.” But what does this accomplish? Hillary supporters are now burning effigies of Donald Trump and breaking car windows. Isn’t that what we would’ve expected—and been enraged by—had the results come down in the other direction?
The two sides aren’t as different as I’d once thought, and it’s a wake up call for us all.
Heal Yourself, Heal The World
The whole reason I created the New Humanitarian movement was to spread the message that healing ourselves can heal the world, one person at a time. Instead of looking outward at what’s wrong out there, we can first look inward and see where we are unconsciously participating in these damaging energies. If every person in this country did that, we would be unrecognizable.
How might we go about doing it in this case?
The possibilities are only as limited as your imagination, but here are four inquiries you can go through to help you shed some light on this.
1. As you’re scrolling through your Facebook feed today, start to notice: do you have any Trump supporters left? Did you delete them all? If you did unfriend everyone you don’t agree with, consider what made you do this in the first place. Is it fear? Is it anger? If you didn’t unfriend them, observe how you feel as you read their opinions. We so often project our emotions onto others and call them “hateful” or “fear-mongering,” yet we feel hate and fear as we say that about the other person. This is a natural human tendency, and something that often gets overlooked. This is a perfect opportunity to examine where we are being what we claim to be against.
2. This unyielding need to have the last word, and to pummel the other person with facts and dogmatic opinions, are lauded in politics—and Trump’s behavior during the debates was a great and terrible example of this. Frankly, these behaviors show up all over the news media, both right and left, and it’s unhealthy. Instead of dwelling on how frustrating this is, start to ask yourself: why do I feel the need to be right? Why do I feel the urge to invalidate another person? Why do we feel like we have to interrupt? With so many prominent people doing these things, it’s no wonder our culture embraces it. It is up to us to unlearn bullying in arguments, and practice truly listening and responding compassionately.
3. Trump is infamous for his aversion to saying, “I’m sorry.” Apologizing is not his strong suit. Neither is taking responsibility. He deflects and uses emotionally charged topics like ISIS to change the subject. Now turn it the other direction. Why do you resist apologizing? Where do you avoid taking responsibility? Where do you try to get away with things, by turning the argument around on the other person or bringing up unrelated, emotionally charged topics? Many of us do these things on occasion. What if we we all practiced saying, “I’m sorry” and taking full responsibility when we make a mistake, instead?
4. Speaking of which, what would it look like for you to take full responsibility for the outcome of the election? It’s obviously not true that you’re fully responsible, but this is just as a place to look. Where did you choose avoiding confrontation over speaking your mind? Where did you overlook or unwittingly condone intolerance? Where did you choose to stay at home and watch Netflix instead of getting out there and making a difference? Where did you choose to bury your head in the sand, rather than facing the reality of what was happening around you? Many of us, including myself, were arrogant in this election and thought, “there’s no way,” and didn’t get involved until it was too late, if at all. What might have been possible if we’d all chosen to take consistent action?
We are not separate. We are all human beings, with human flaws. What one person does, we all do, even if just in a small way in our own mind. This election has been a perfect illustration of our collective unconscious, and we all have an opportunity to step up, take responsibility for it, and ultimately grow from it.