A Harvard psychologist reveals the best way to deal with shock or disappointment after the election
If you're in that boat, it can't be easy to sit with those feelings. But given that a) Donald Trump's victory isn't up for debate and b) your job and your family are still depending on you to be a functioning human being, it's important to deal with those feelings productively.
We consulted Susan A. David, a psychologist at Harvard Medical School and the author of "Emotional Agility," about how to handle your post-election emotions. The most important thing to remember is that whatever you're feeling at the moment is okay - it's all about what you choose to do with those feelings.
Here are David's top three tips for anyone who's feeling overwhelmed.
1. Get as specific as possible about what you're feeling
It's crucial, David said, to "get to a space where we can label emotions in an honest way." That means reckoning with the full range of emotions you might be experiencing, and not just "the first thing you grab."
One way to appreciate your emotional complexity is to ask yourself: "What are two other options for what I'm feeling?" So if you're feeling angry, maybe you're also feeling hurt and fearful.
This process is "very important in any kind of healing process," David said. Research suggests that people who can describe their emotions in detail tend to do a better job of regulating their negative emotions and are less likely to act in destructive ways.
"Reach a stage where you are bringing to the surface what's happening to you," David said.
2. Avoid venting
Often, David said, people deal with negative emotions by "brooding" or "co-brooding," going over their emotions over and over again, either in their own head or with other people who feel similarly.
And while it might seem like you're doing yourself a favor by getting those feelings off your chest, David said this behavior can in fact make you angrier. That's because you're not processing your emotions effectively - only dwelling on them.
Instead, you'll want to listen to those emotions and mine them for information about yourself: What is really important to me? What are the underlying values beneath my emotions? And how can I act on those values?
3. Show compassion for others - even if you don't agree with them
Compassion is not, David said, the same thing as accepting, validating, or agreeing with someone else's viewpoint. Meaning you don't need to become a Trump supporter overnight.
"Be open to people who felt like their voices were lost and therefore voted in a particular way," David said. That's especially true if your family members or close friends voted differently than you did.
Compassion, she added, is about understanding that everyone's trying to do the best they can with what they've got. But everyone goes about that process differently, and their struggle "might be expressed in ways we don't agree with."
Ultimately, you might decide not to pursue a particular relationship because the person voted differently than you did. But if that's the point you reach, David said, make sure it comes from examining your values and trying to understand theirs - and not from an impulsive emotional reaction.
"Emotions are data," she said, "not directions."
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