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On the current political atmosphere

As a therapist, I am both curious and disturbed by national politics, as well as how it has impacted my psychotherapy practice. The past two years have had clients reeling from all the high drama coming from the White House. I include myself in that group.

This blog is not meant to persuade or criticize those on the right or left. Nor is it meant to judge. This is to be a place where there is no vitriol, no attacks.

Ever since the 2016 election, many of my clients have been deeply troubled by the political ethos. In fact, the day after the election, my office felt like a morgue. People were left shocked, scared, and rendered helpless, similar to how a person feels after a traumatic incident, where the memory feels frozen in time.

Nowhere is this truer than for the Me Too Movement. After the Kavanaugh hearings in the Senate, many women were again activated. Seeing Christine Blasey Ford appear in front of the judiciary committee, with a look of what I would describe as terror, and based on the committee’s actions not believed, brought into sharp focus what women live with all the time. She came forward because she believed she had to, and the Senate voted that they believed she had been assaulted, but not by Kavanaugh. In fact, Susan Collins remarked that she KNEW it wasn’t Kavanaugh who assaulted her. That astounded me.

A client recently asserted that we as women have been rendered powerless. I don’t believe that. What I see is male bastions being challenged, and in their effort to do so, clamping down on a movement that simply will not be thwarted. In fact, I see many of these folks as quite weak and scared beneath the loud bravado. They feel deeply threatened. But there will be no going back.

But how do we take care of ourselves? I admit that I get caught up reading and listening to the press, and then being anxious and upset. I have had friends and colleagues suggest taking a break from the news. I think we need to find ways to take special care of ourselves. This can include massages, time with good friends, meditation, and exercise. It can also include becoming an active citizen.

We are living in a psychological state of cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is defined as the mental discomfort experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas or values. This discomfort is triggered by a situation in which a belief of a person clashes with new evidence perceived by that person. For example, Ms. Blasey Ford’s testimony was believed by the Republican members of the judiciary committee, yet they chose to forward Kavanaugh’s nomination anyway.

This is a time when truth is not held by the culture as a high value. And it is deeply troubling. There aren’t “alternative facts.” But what people choose to believe seems to hold sway over what really ARE facts. How it is that Trump concluded that Kavanaugh was rendered innocent is baffling. Nothing was proven; no effort was made to get at the truth. Not based on what he or she said, but on a thorough investigation.

I can understand why Republicans were angry that the Democrats wanted a public forum for Christine Blasey Ford, as opposed to a private meeting. I can also understand why the Democrats wanted this to be a public display, feeling rendered powerless when the Republicans refused to hold hearings for Merrick Garland.

What I want to see in our public officials is civil discourse, accountability, and of course, lose the sanctimony.

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