As a therapist, I experienced a variety of client reactions following the election results on November 8. Some clients were happy with the results. Others were fraught with intense anxiety and fear over what the next four years would be like for the United States.
Some of the country experienced shock at the election results. A theme I keep hearing from clients is the realization of such stark differences in viewpoints across the country.
For many those viewpoints are different than those in their immediate surroundings. These viewpoints are different than those people have seen in their social media feeds.
Everyone is in shock. The impact, however, is revealing itself in different ways.
Facing Culture Shock
I’ve been working with client who is from a rural, conservative town. She has been living and working in New York City for several years now. She has come to embrace a wide range of friends of different cultures, genders and ethnicities.
Following the election results, she told me she was a strong supporter of Clinton and was shocked at the election announcement that Trump was going to be the leader of the free world for at least the next four years.
In our discussions immediately following the election, she had come to terms with the results. It wasn’t until she returned back home for Thanksgiving that she started to feel disturbed by the results again.
Because she had spent the vast majority of her adult life in metropolitan areas, it was tough for her to return to her conservative hometown. Once back she realized how her big city life had affected her political leanings.
She had returned home to a place that is much more conservative ideologically. The Thanksgiving holiday was tough as she realized she lost the muscles that helped her engage in political conversations with people who held different views. She found herself isolated within her own family and unsure of what to do fix it.
New Challenges With Dating and Relationships
It’s common for people who are in relationships to have different political perspectives or viewpoints. It’s not only about conservative versus liberal, though. People sometimes have conflicts about deeper values.
Following the election, I talked with a few clients about how different reactions in the same household had induced an element of chaos. Previous ideological differences became magnified due to the emotional nature of the election results. Communicating had become more difficult.
I had a client, for example, who identifies as liberal but overall sees himself as moderate. When the election results were announced, it was clear his more conservative partner’s stance on the Affordable Care Act created a conflict that wasn’t necessarily relevant on a daily basis before.
The looming concern over decreased access to sexual health interventions being covered by their insurance company has led to ongoing arguments about sex, sexuality and overall access to medical care. Suddenly they were forced to deal with the reality of potentially making some difficult choices that would affect them both sexually and financially.
Several clients mentioned how challenging it had become to talk about politics with their partners, even to the point of reconsidering the viability of the relationship. The question that keeps coming up is, “How can I be with someone who holds values that run in such stark contrast with mine?”
Seeing the U.S. in a New Light
We do not often take the time out of our days to think bigger than ourselves. We don’t have the energy or brainpower to engage in that kind of regular reflection.
On election night, however, folks across the country — if not the world — took to their TVs and devices to track what votes were coming in and from where. The hours-long coverage across major news networks served to both inform and entertain. It showed us how different pockets of communities were thinking and feeling about the state of our union.
It is easy to be only surrounded by those who think like you and reinforce a specific perspective on life and politics. It’s a term in psychology that we refer to as cultural encapsulation. We can be so immersed in our own subculture that we don’t see or value how the rest of the world (or other communities in the United States) think and feel.
This can lead us to impassioned reactions with limited pieces of information. Breaking out of that encapsulation might be the the way to work through and process the collective shock of election 2016.