Two friends asked me for this post. One because she’s seeing friends posting, mired in guilt over not having done enough to prevent the results of the election. And the other because she’s seeing friends posting about being so sad about the election and other people telling them that they can’t afford to be sad and they have to act. So let me start with the first one.
Guilt is utterly useless unless it spurs you to change something. For instance, if you’re in the middle of a situation and are acting the wrong way and you feel guilt about that and it makes you start acting a better way, then that guilt is useful. But otherwise, guilt after the situation is over never does anything except weaken you and get you stuck in a self-centered echo chamber of wallowing.
So forgive yourself. You might have to be really purposeful about this. Sometimes we take blame for things because it makes us feel like we have control over things we’re afraid of not controlling, or because guilt gives us an adrenaline hit, or because we’re already feeling so bad that we might as well stoke the fire of feeling horrible. If you’re a tension increaser you’re in danger of doing this because once you’re physically upset you need to keep going so you need more fuel to be upset about. So deescalate with yourself and then forgive yourself.
Then, think as unemotionally as possible about what actually happened and what else you could have done. Is there something you can learn about what to do in a similar situation in the future? File that away. Now, is there anything you can do to make amends right now? In this situation, not exactly, but you can start making calls and supporting people the way then ask to be supported.
Side note: Here’s something I keep seeing people getting massively twisted up about–helping other people. It is not help if the other person doesn’t want it. When you get a great idea to help someone, ASK THEM if that’s the best way for you to help them. If they tell you it’s not, don’t get upset, just ask them what you can do instead, and then do that. If you ask them and it is what they need, then you get double pleasure from asking them and then doing it.
But back to shaking off guilt: Once you start working to resist Trumpism, you are going to build up proof (for yourself) that you’re working, and it’ll be easier to move away from guilt and keep moving. Like a shark.
Just because guilt is usually worthless doesn’t mean that sadness is. We all process things differently. I have to start acting right away because if I don’t I’ll spiral, but then I also process through work, so working helps me get the feelings out. Not everyone (maybe even most people) aren’t like that and need some time to be sad first. And different people need different amounts of time to be sad, based on personality and (and this is back to the original intent of this blog) on how traumatized you were already coming into the campaign cycle and then how traumatized you were coming into the actual election and results and now all the hate crimes and lost relationships.
Basically, hurt people are going to be more hurt and feel sad for a long time. And the fix for that isn’t to “toughen up.” If you could, you wouldn’t have been hurt. The answer is to put yourself in situations in which you feel more safe and secure so you can heal, and then once you’re ready, you can start acting. So let yourself cry if you need to. By the time you’re ready to come back, a lot of us who came off the mat right away will need breaks. There is work for everyone.
If anyone’s worried about mental health right now, my co-writer at the Advent Calendar for Depressed People put up a post-election, pre-Advent post about not letting her mental health go down with the ship that was exactly what I needed.
All my love,