Psychological impact of the election

Several people have recently asked me about my take on the psychological impact of this election, so I thought I would write something about it. 

I believe the psychological impact of this election, regardless of the outcome, is trauma through the legitimization of aggression as a response to fear.

In my psychotherapy practice I work with helpers, healers and innovators, to help them manage fear and anxiety, so they can distinguish danger from perceived danger, and practice not taking out their fears on themselves or others, so they can feel safe, happy and fulfilled in the world.

The problem with this election is that it teaches people that a possible solution to fear, is to take out your aggression on others. This idea flies in the face of one of the core principles of how I try to work and live.

The problem with this election is not that Trump could win.

This possibility is only a symptom of a much larger problem that has been brewing for a very long time. Trump's candidacy by itself suggests the terrifying reality that over time anxiety and fear of many different kinds have gone unaddressed for way too long, and finally have joined forces with hatred, racism, rage, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia and misogyny.

As a result we are now so far gone as a society that a very large contingent of Americans have endorsed that aggression and violence against women, people of color, and every marginalized group, is an appropriate answer to fear and anxiety.

No matter the outcome of the election, the fact that unchecked aggression hangs out there as a validated solution in America, is absolutely terrifying.

The psychological impact of this election is that people are being traumatized and retraumatized by the legitimization of aggression as a response to fear.

What does that mean? It means that people throughout this country are now scared every single day that their basic human rights will be taken away. And they are not scared by a perceived threat. They are scared by an actual threat. They are going to sleep, waking up, and living their lives in a state of fear. It may be mild for some.  But for others it is far from mild. 

I believe there is a way out.

It is very hard. And we need a lot of help to get there.

We need to get underneath the hatred to the roots of the original human fears and anxieties. In order to do this we need help making sure that the fears and anxieties of all are heard, acknowledged and addressed. Van Jones is someone who is very good at this. Watch him and listen to him speak. He has a unique ability to bring people together across many different divides.

Also, people's fears, whatever they happen to be, must be heard in a context where aggression is never condoned. Until we do this the trauma will continue and we will remain a traumatized nation.

Rachel Goodman, MFT works with helpers, healers and innovators, in Berkeley, California. You can find her at www.rachelgoodmanmft.com