Responding to the U.S. election results

Conversations with therapists on working with the ripple effects of hate crime and fear

“We as a society are entering a space between stories, in which everything that had seemed so real, true, right, and permanent comes into doubt. . . What would it take for it to embody love, compassion, and interbeing? I see its lineaments in those marginal structures and practices that we call holistic, alternative, regenerative, and restorative. All of them source from empathy, the result of the compassionate inquiry: What is it like to be you?”

– Charles Eisenstein

A glimpse into a conversation with members of The ProChoices Community Counseling Clinic on the topic of working with the ripple effects of hate crimes and fear following the results of the 2016 US Presidential election.

Graffiti in South Philadelphia including the word “Trump” and a swastika, November 2016. (Facebook)
Graffiti in South Philadelphia including the word “Trump” and a swastika, November 2016. (Facebook)

Letter to the ProChoices team from Clinic Director, Hilda Nanning:

Dear Therapists,

I imagine you may share some of my overwhelm and upset at the political crisis we are facing and the effects that are starting to show up. In all its newness, I am finding it is taking some time to catch up to me and to the remembering to engage my resources and supports. I had five sessions yesterday and the situation was a concern and influence with all of these clients in various ways (some clear and some not so known). Media will be highlighting the wrongs and hate crimes erupting but may not be presenting the counter stories and interventions of those that are handling these situations with intelligence, kindness, and conviction. It has its effect here with me now and I wanted to check in with you all. I am here with a fellow therapist, who will be doing sessions later today. We are attempting to find some helpful questions and invite you to add yours.

1. Would organizing a debriefing with other/another therapists and/or someone from your own community supports be helpful at this time?

2. Is there a particular resource that might be helpful for you to remember at this time, and to accompany you into the room – as an ally and wise consultant?

3. Can you recall a time, when you found yourself responding to a large crisis experience – in ways helpful and grounded, for yourself and for others? If so, what did that feel like and what might you recollect as supportive to the approach that was helpful for yourself and others.

In solidarity

Some responses from the therapists

On cause and effect…

“A lot of the new intakes are mentioning this right now; and therapist-peers across the city are all seeing this on the ‘couch’ as well. It is touching us all. The fear is real and valid and so is the incredible outpouring of resilience and solidarity and protest.”

On our position as both therapists and community members…

“I guess the questions that came to mind for me is, ‘What’s self-disclosure’s place here?’ Is it appropriate to share the feelings with the client, or is it better to leave space for the client to explore their feelings related with this?

I had a client first thing Wednesday morning and had to do a brief meditation to calm down right before the session. The client came in upset about the results and began discussing it, and I immediately got worked up again. We both shared our frustration over the events and its’ impact for 5 min then moved on, but not sure if that was an appropriate thing to do as this doesn’t really help the client in any way?”

On solidarity, opportunities for resistance, and healing…

“What a week yes. I love these questions. I sit here in a comfy chair in this small town of creative hippies in western Colorado. I am deeply grateful for it and this ProChoices community and am blown away by the profound awareness, solidarity, and concern of Canadians in this political crisis.

I awoke Wednesday with a fear hangover that I’ve been fairly successfully battling ever since. I have witnessed my community members and friends in various states of shock. I saw my last clients in the morning on Tuesday and will have sessions again beginning Monday. I wonder about the effect this will have had on them? I, like my fellow therapist, wonder if perhaps small self-disclosures could humanize the fact that there are large political events going on and that the political is personal and the personal is political. I wonder in what ways we might be able to poke holes in this scary seeming problem story of the world ending due to a persona promoting ignorance and hate being elected the next president of the U.S.A.

What do I like and not like about this situation: I like that there seems to have been a mass crumbling of faith in large institutional power being the leadership we must look to. I dislike the wave of hate crimes we are hearing about.

What resistance is happening? So much! People are being real, are feeling things that need to be felt, and are questioning assumptions that hold us in non-creative opposition to people and ideas. Elitism is being questioned. Grass roots efforts are being fueled by desire to fight on behalf of each other and our planet.

Can you recall a time, when you found yourself responding to a large crisis experience – in ways helpful and grounded, for yourself and for others? If so, what did that feel like and what might you recollect as supportive to the approach that was helpful for yourself and others.

I recall taking baths while listening to dramatic French music being helpful in times of extreme distress/confusion/overwhelm at the amount of violence and pain that exists in the world (glass of wine optional). I recall walking in nature helpful. Getting off of the computer and walking outside to talk and make food with friends also seems supportive of grounding. Making art. Singing. Sitting with the parts of myself at play within the characters of these stories. Continuing to dive into the not knowing and curiosity of this radical work we are sharing seems especially potent now.

Wishing you all so well. All hands on deck!”

We at ProChoices wish all folks feeling touched by this elections results some moments of togetherness, reflexivity, resistance, and healing. For those desiring support, we invite you to attend our Group Therapy Sessions on Tuesday evenings from 7pm to 8:30pm.

In Solidarity.