Many of us are dealing with various amounts of irritation and anxiety brought on by an increasingly polarized political debate. This year it seems more intense than ever.
We view campaign ads, hear political debates, hear people talk fearfully about what will happen if the President wins another term – or if the other candidate wins the election.
Before we know it, we get caught up in election time negativity. It is a new personality disorder that seems increasingly to affect us around the time of big National elections. I call it only half-joking: What-If-Itis!
You can easily self-diagnose. You have whatifitis if you feel drained or even paralyzed by one or more of the following symptoms:
- Find yourself watching the news channels that confirm your views incessantly
- Find yourself yelling at the TV
- You HATE the “other” candidate
- You develop inner talking points that your candidate should be using
- You get upset when you see bumper stickers from the other party
- You find that your energy is drained by fear of what can happen if the other party wins the election
- You feel unable to affect meaningful change on any level
- You cannot wait for the election to just be over.
People with whatifitis find themselves unable to engage in respectful debate or take action, because much of their energy gets wrapped up in a constant sense of fear and/or anger. They feel inundated with what they hear and see on TV, or read about in newspapers or on the internet. Things that they feel powerless to do something about.They are in a permanent state of action-frozen lock-down.
Here are a couple of tips that might help you or someone you know snap out of whatifitis.
- Stop seeking out news programs that confirm what you already feel or know. To be confirmed in our beliefs tend to just make us angrier at those “idiots” on the other side. It is “so self-explanatory” after all to us that “our” viewpoints hold water and “theirs” don’t. By seeking out truly credible news sources you cut out all the excess fluff, the talking heads and the hype that is specifically designed to make you angry and upset. This is how 24 hour news channels get ratings. They stay in business because of our tendency to be adrenaline junkies. By getting good and angry we stay hooked on the boob tube, and get our anger fixes.
- Do at least one thing per day that supports what you believe in. Imagine if we all stopped looking to our leaders to make meaningful change in our lives. Gandhi’s quote comes to mind: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” It can be simple little things that give us a sense of significance: help someone frail with their groceries or across the street, volunteer at a soup kitchen, animal shelter, etc. , or say hello and smile to your neighbor even though he or she is from the “other” political party. Or get active in the political campaign of your preference and work actively on causes at any level. You feel empowered when you act. And it can start simply by lending a hand or responding with a smile. Before you know it, you might get hooked on action. Remember to congratulate yourself every time you choose to take action over getting stuck in your adrenaline high of whatifitis-induced anger or anxiety.
- Remind yourself consciously and constantly that you are more than a Democrat or Republican. American or foreigner. You are a human being with much in common with others that look or think differently. Every time you find yourself tempted to go for that adrenaline infused anger rant at the TV or at the person in the car in front of you, (or on facebook) instead simply say to yourself: “I wonder what I have in common with him or her?” Or “What part of me do I recognize in that person?” Who knows what you will find? You might be surprised at the answer.