Michael Kimmel | Life Beyond Therapy
This is not the column I expected to write this week. I did not expect to awaken with dread the morning after the recent election. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to face a world where Donald Trump was the president-elect. I was scared of what would happen. I didn’t feel safe.
This column is about how to feel safe in times of trauma and chaos. Here are some specific suggestions on what to do now and in the coming weeks as we “prepare” for President Trump and his minions:
- Don’t make monsters. No matter how awful he seems, Donald Trump is just a person. Making him into a monster is a great way to terrify yourself. Remember, he’s a person, just like you, who eats, poops, sleeps and wants love and security, as we all do.
- Create a safe place for yourself in your mind and go there often. You might remember a specifically wonderful, safe experience in your life, like being in your lover’s arms, loving your pets, a hug from your best friend … anything that makes you feel safe.
- Get support from like-minded people, but don’t scare yourself. Don’t play “ain’t it awful.” Instead, focus on creating positive changes and what action you and your comrades can take to make a world that you all feel safe in.
- Safety is a state of mind. Watch your thoughts and monitor them. Whenever they veer into “OMG, what will happen to the Supreme Court now?” or something like that, bring your thoughts back to either your safe place or what I call the “I don’t know” mind, e.g., “I don’t know what Mr. Trump will do, so I am going to stay in the present rather than worry about an unknown future.”
- Stay in the present; don’t project into the future. You are safe here, now, today. We don’t know about tomorrow, it’s all conjecture. Many things that you’ve feared have not come to pass, right? Think of all those nights that you lay awake being afraid of something happening. And it didn’t. Wasn’t that a waste of your time and energy?
- Don’t keep re-traumatizing yourself and limit your exposure to traumatic stimuli. This comes straight out of cognitive therapy. For many of us, this means not watching the news as much as we normally do. Every time I see Mr. Trump on television, or hear about whom his cabinet may contain, I feel re-traumatized. So I am severely limiting my exposure to social media, for a while, until I feel strong enough to gradually know more.
- Take action. Give money to organizations that “fight the good fight.” Volunteer and do something positive. For some of us, this is the most powerful way to deal with times of trauma and chaos.
Please be clear, I’m not saying “Put your head in the sand and ignore what’s happening.”
What I am doing is urging you to find safety in your life in this time of great shock and upset for many of us. Eventually, we’ll all find ways to cope with four years of Mr. Trump. But, in the immediate period after his shocking election, let’s give ourselves a break.
Take extra-good care of yourself as your mind slowly accommodates to the startling new state of affairs. I am allowing myself to eat foods in quantities that I typically don’t. I am going out to restaurants more. I am going to yoga and the gym more. I am going out in my garden and meditating more. I am talking to friends more.
These are ways that I am helping myself feel safe in this time of shock. I know I won’t do this for long, or my waist is going to get much bigger, but in the short run, it’s okay. I’m upping my self-care to get through the next few weeks. I’ll gradually return to eating healthier, but right now, the comfort of the food is more important than its nutritional value.
You can find safety in these troubled times, it takes some effort, but it’s worth it. Your peace of mind is worth nurturing and protecting. Try some of the ideas listed above and begin to feel better.
—Michael Kimmel is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in helping LGBT clients achieve their goals and deal with anxiety, depression, grief, sexually addictive behavior, coming out, relationship challenges and homophobia. Contact him at 619-955-3311 or visit lifebeyondtherapy.com.