Why People Are So Angry This Election Cycle

First – let me state clearly, this blog is not about MY personal political views or degrading or uplifting any politician. This is about understanding humans (integrating my own learnings on human behavior based on research & experience) and about why this specific presidential transition and election period has been so full of anger, Facebook wars, and aggression towards the opposition.

Anger is a VERY important emotion. It tells us when something is a threat or violates our values or our sense of safety. During the most recent election/inauguration, many people felt like their sense of safety and values were threatened on both sides and so, anger was a natural response. But if we really get to the heart of this anger, we will find a much more vulnerable emotion that can be hard for people to talk about — fear.

Many people are afraid they are in the hands of a leader that is unsafe while others are defending themselves for supporting the leader they felt was more safe. Emotional safety is highly important to all of us, and we gauge the people around us all the time for safety without even thinking about it. When it comes to who will be president, our desire for a safe and trustworthy leader heightens all the more.

During the election and into the inauguration many people feared that candidates on both sides were untrustworthy, unsafe, and would lead our country to doom.

But why are we so afraid?  And what makes us feel more safe?

Brene Brown, a research professor specializing the study of shame and vulnerability, outlines the traits of safe people with the acronym BRAVING. The more someone possesses these traits, the more trustworthy and safe they are.

As you read through the following, I challenge you to think about both sides of candidates — which traits did each possess? Which traits were they missing?

B- Boundaries. Do they set healthy boundaries, communicate them clearly, and respect the boundaries of others? Do they listen when people say no, or tell them they need space?

A trustworthy leader knows when to set boundaries and defines them in a clear, respectful way. They also respect the boundaries of others.

R- Reliability. Do they do what they say they will? Are they clear on their limitations so they don’t overcommit? Do they consistently follow through with their words?

A trustworthy leader knows their limitations, and commits to things that they can and will do over and over again. They do what they say they will.

A- Accountability. When they make a mistake (as all humans will) do they own their mistakes? Do they apologize and make amends? Do they hold grace for those who apologize to them for their wrongdoings?

A trustworthy leader owns their mistakes and let’s others have grace for the mistakes they own.

V- Vault. What you share with them in confidence will be kept in confidence. When they hear a rumor, they will not spread it and instead go directly to the source. Being a vault means that they don’t engage in gossip.

A trustworthy leader focuses on what they know, and doesn’t participate in gossip or spreading information that people tell them in confidence. They hold private information in privacy.

I- Integrity. Do they act from a place of integrity? Are they the same person they claim to be in multiple settings?

A trustworthy leader leads from a place of authenticity even when the people surrounding them disagree with their values. They lead by practicing their values even when it is hard, unpopular, and they don’t change what they say based on who they are around. They are the opposite of chameleons.

N- Non-judgment. When people need help, do they help them without judgment (but not without boundaries)? Do they try to uplift people  and help them find their strengths even when they are struggling? Do they empathize with those who are struggling?

A trustworthy leader, helps people become better without judging them for where they are. They help people find their strengths and have empathy for the struggles people face.

G- Generosity. Do they assume the most generous thing about people’s words or actions when someones does mess up or hurt them? After this assumption, do they check-in to see what’s going on with that person first hand?

Trustworthy leaders assume the best about people’s intentions and actions until they know otherwise vs. assuming the worst. They take a stance of generosity on people, and when they are being hurtful set the appropriate boundaries and consequences.

Based on the anger from both those on the left and right, you can see how most people believe neither Trump nor Clinton possessed all of these traits. For their strengths, let us be grateful. For their weaknesses, let us be understanding as to why people are afraid, angry, and resistant.

It’s scary to put our trust in a person to lead our country. Many of us ask ourselves, “Will this person have me and my loved one’s best interests at heart? Can we trust that they will do what is best for our country?”

It’s hard to know. And it makes sense that when they don’t possess all or most of these traits, we will have our doubts and instinctively be fearful. And when humans act from a place of fear, it often comes out the other end as anger, isolation, or withdrawal.

What can we do with this fear instead of getting angry?

We can talk about it in a way that identifies our fears instead of pointing fingers at others. We can take action by writing others or donating to causes that will defend the things we are afraid of losing. We can empathize with those who respond in anger and ask them how we can help them feel more safe if they disagree with the candidate we support. We can accept and support our candidate in growing in the areas he is lacking trustworthiness and become better leaders to those around us by working on our own trustworthiness.

I hope this helps us all remember that fear is a powerful motivator, but usually leads us to act in ways that are unkind, unsafe, and opposite of our true intentions. Let us recognize our fears, but not react to them — and instead take positive and encouraging action with it. Let us empathize with those who are struggling with their fear and anger. We are all human after all.

Being Okay With “Good Enough” From A Recovering Perfectionist

Admittedly, I really struggle with accepting “good enough” or being “okay” at things. For many different reasons (all stemming from various things I’m working through in my own therapeutic journey) I have noticed a desire in myself to work as hard as I can to be as good as I can be at every venture that I try without setting realistic boundaries, limits, or having much grace for myself in the process. The result? The overachiever-perfectionist mode or OPM leaves me feeling exhausted, depressed, and inadequate.

Knowing this tendency that I have for OPM, I have worked over the past 2-3 years more intentionally to slowly but surely become more okay with just being “okay” and saying “no” to myself on taking on too much all at once. As a graduate student who also coaches part-time, does CrossFit, and various entrepreneurial projects on the side — I really have to be cautious about the expectations and goals I set for myself and remember to be grateful for the progress I’ve made in the meantime.

One of the most helpful quotes that resonates in my mind when I begin going on an overachieving binge would be that,

“We will never fully arrive. If we think we have arrived, we are already far off course.”

These truths are so incredibly helpful for me because I have realized that this whole process of improving is a JOURNEY and we will never win at it. So, why not ENJOY that journey in the process?

It’s funny because most of my own “big-why’s” for setting certain goals is to become more of the person I think I want to be because I believe it will make me happier, more in touch with my healthier self, more at peace, and better able to serve others…. Ironically,  when I get into my OPM which I believe will help me achieve said “inner peace”, all of that goes out of the window and I lose sight of my whole purpose and drift farther from happiness, peace, and being attuned to others.

For this reason, I have set lower expectations, and practice being grateful for the “good enough”. This year, I may not progress much in CrossFit or my entrepreneurial projects because my main focus is on my clients and graduation. If I am able to be more present with them and get my degree — I will feel good enough and grateful that I am still a part of CrossFit (because I love my community <3) and able to feed the entrepreneur inside of me albeit with slow progress.

I will also embrace when I don’t get a chance to blog because my day is so incredibly hectic or a client is in crisis. The whole point of this blogging thing is for me to document as I learn and grow — and hopefully for that to be something that is inspiring and helpful in you, my reader’s, in your own journey of growth.

So to my fellow perfectionists (or to those who tolerate us!), my hope is that we can SLOWLY (not all at once or perfectly as we will be soooo tempted to do) give ourselves permission to be good enough with things as they are today, to be grateful for the baby steps along the way, and have grace for the moments that we fall and fail. In doing this, I have been able to grow a bunch more in my own personal and professional journey which has been full of failing, spiraling into the shame cave, realizing I’m spiraling into the shame cave, and doing things even when I really doubt myself.

Cheers to an imperfect, failure-full journey of growth in 2017!





Why Jail Fails People Struggling with Addiction

*To preface this article, I want to start by saying that this is not about police bashing or to put out fear or disconnection to any sort of agency in America, this is about giving both an empathetic and responsible look at the War On Drugs and the system we are currently using with the more updated research that we understand now. I am grateful for having a system whose main goal is to protect us, and do good by American society, however, it is important that we also look at where the system isn’t working and learn from those well-intentioned errors. Also, instead of calling people “addicts” I will use the phrase, “people struggling with addictions” or PSWA for short, bc I don’t endorse addiction as an identity.*

Jail for people struggling with addictions doesn’t work. In one of my client systems, I was heartbroken that the moment they broke their parole by drinking alcohol the next step was to put him back in jail, and all of our work was put on hold. Not because I believe that I am some amazing therapist, but because deep down (and through reading through the recent research on attachment, trauma wounds, and the like) that jail for him was not working. And in fact, it was hurting.

Him and many other PSWAs had a past that had a lot of pain, trauma, misunderstanding, and lack of healthy family communication &boundaries. Turning to alcohol and drugs can be many things to a person: a way to numb out painful emotions, a way of feeling belonging and connection, a way of getting emotional needs met, a way to cope with overwhelm and depression, the list goes on….

Jail doesn’t meet these needs. Yes, it gives a punishment that clearly sends the message that this thing is not okay — but when complex emotions surface, drug use will always win over the painful feelings that come up. Drug use will always win over the scary and painful feelings of insanity, isolation, or worthlessness.

Jail can actually cause more trauma for an addicted person. It can increase feelings of disconnection, shame, and of not knowing how to be “normal” in the free world. One of my clients can’t sit away from a door from the beatings and the “boundaries” he had to create when he was in jail. Empathy, vulnerability, and healthy boundaries aren’t taught in jail… in fact, it would be AGAINST a person’s survival to engage in that. Unfortunately, in the “free world”, that leads to increased shame, disconnection, and inevitably turning towards a substance or something else (legal addictions like food, sex, or Netflix) to fill that void of disconnection.

Needless to say, jail isn’t fully working or fixing the problem. It’s just keeping PSWAs off the street and stuck in survival mode.

So, while we can’t overhaul the whole justice system here are my hopes for the future:

  • Prevention programs will understand the underlying causes of drug abuse and work to identify and point people to therapy, body work, or psycho-education resources early.
  • The jail system will allow people to attend therapy for the mind and body several times a week with specialists who address family systems, trauma, and attachment in their work.
  • That friends and loved ones of alcoholics and addicts will be able to communicate with both empathy & responsibility — always offering a hand of connection to the person beneath the addiction/alcoholism.
  • That families will also be extra-attentive to work on their issues (boundaries, ways of connecting, underlying mental illnesses, perfectionism/shame) when they have a family member struggling with addiction.
  • That we will seek to find other ways of helping the PSWA cope and self-regulate when their bodies and brain chemicals are creating discomfort. And after that, helping those who struggle with addiction learn to hold those uncomfortable emotions and know that they are not defected for feeling that way.
  • That we will honor and help people struggling with addiction.
  • Help those who are struggling with addiction find safety again in connecting with others and in their own skin through mindfulness, yoga, and the nurturance & acceptance of attachment needs.

If you have any other thoughts or ideas on this, I’d love to hear your feedback. You can comment below or send me a message on Facebook. With hope and shamelessness – Jenny