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.

Parenting is Hard

One of the most valuable phrases I’ve learned when working with people is:

Rules – Relationship = Rebellion

This concept was originally created to help step-parents and blended families understand the oh-so common rebellion that can happen when a step-parent steps into a child’s life and tries to enforce rules, while failing to foster the relationship (outside of setting and enforcing rules) with that child first. The common result? Rebellion. Kids innately value the relationship bond that happens at birth (and I’ll likely cover why this is in future blogs). For most step-parents, it’s tricky because they don’t get that opportunity to chemically and emotionally bond in those very crucial developmental stages so creating that bond with step-children can be an even bigger endeavor. Add in the complications of co-parenting, residual trauma from divorce, and a kid being in multiple environments with multiple rules and walaaa! It can be a super frustrating mix of chaos for both the kid and the step-parent.

Needless to say, this formula also applies to Authoritarian parenting relationships. That is, when parents create rules without offering explanations, listening & empathizing with their child’s emotions –even the irritating ones, and expect them to follow it in a militant kind-of-way. Most parents do this with the great intentions of making wonderful kids for our society, however, it commonly can go bad because these kids often struggle in the world when complicated emotions arise and things aren’t so “black and white”.

How can we change this? Build relationship with your kid. Listen to their emotions and utilize emotion coaching when you can (that is, “saying yes to the emotion, and no to the problematic behavior, see Dan Siegel’s works on parenting). More tangibly, make time every week to spend with your kids getting to know them, playing games with them, and taking a break from the enforcer role. Let your kids get to know you and remind them after hard conversations that at the end of the day you are on their side.

Try working on the relationship piece if you are struggling with kid rebellion and see what happens. This equation isn’t perfect (nor my own), but in my experience — it’s pretty darn close.

 

 

 

 

Understanding Borderline Personality Disorder: An Empathy Piece

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) has no biases. It happens to both genders, all classes, and all races/ethnicities. In fact, it is widely theorized that beloved people such as Marilyn Monroe had BPD.

 

One of the hardest parts of treating this disease is empathizing with those who struggle with it.

 

Therefore, let’s take a look into what other authors with BPD (kudos to “Border __” the documentary listed below and Carrie-Lynne Davis) have provided in their wisdom and experience of living with BPD.

 

*CAUTION, this is just one empathy piece based on the experiences and understanding of some; it is important to remember every case is unique and different and therefore, these assumptions are just a framework but NOT the only experience of those with BPD*

 

What it’s like living with BPD:

1. Most people will NOT understand how a BPD thinks, feels, acts. Unless they are a psych nerd, well read in BPD literature. BPD does not make sense to the average or even educated Joe. Therefore, many people with BPD walk around genuinely feeling misunderstood.

2. A BPD’s first AND second thoughts are often wrong (cognitively distorted). It is tricky living with a brain that’s go-to emotional response is haywire. Those with BPD truly have to challenge MOST if not ALL of their thoughts on a daily basis. Which is really hard AND really exhausting. It’s hard to think healthy thoughts and although the desire and will is there it’s like (if not harder than) going on a vegan raw diet after eating fast food for years… super difficult, causes distress itself, and feels impossible.

3. They’ll likely have other co-occurring disorders, as Davis put it “extra baggage”.

Those with BPD typically also have an assortment of addictions and as a by product of the confusing mix of emotions often act impulsively–and in effect, make a lot of bad choices.

4. BPD is not a person’s fault, although many people will try to displace that as a “person’s choice”. BPD does not equal “bad person”, it is genuinely a mixture of nature, nurture, and likely more than we even know. What we do know is that there are genetic components (65% have a parent with BPD), cognitive components (see previous blog for more details) and likely impacted by childhood trauma (and arguably adult trauma as a result of the disorder).

5. When stressed many people with BPD will experience Dissasociation. Dissasociation is scary. Dissasociation is a puzzling situation of feeling “outside of” reality in many ways. There’s Depersonalization, which is a feeling of being outside of one’s body. There’s Derealization which is the sensation that things around you are “surreal”, like when you become aware you are in a dream in the dream state. Losing Time, is that sensation that many of experience driving home from work. “One moment you’re getting into the car, and then the next you’re stepping out without any recollection of the actual drive”.

6. Many with BPD often question, “Who am I? Can you help me figure it out?” Because of the onslaught of constantly changing emotions, being emotionally corrected by others, and dissasociation, many with BPD (understandably) have a huge crisis of “who am I?” It’s part of the reason they depend on others, that feeling of emptiness when left trying to figure out all their conflicting thoughts and emotions can often be very difficult and it’s hard to find their identity.

7. Those with BPD can be incredibly interesting. Because of their impulsive behaviors, and whimsical feelings– many with BPD are often the “life of the party”, and “muses” to the art scene. They are charming, captivating, and the romancers of emotion. This is one of the interesting upsides of BPD, (and can often be a reinforcer to act out for some with the disorder).  There’s good and bad to the bunch, but it’s important to remember the positive experiences one can feel on the rollercoaster of emotions.

8. Those with BPD are strong. It is extremely hard to live with BPD. Those who are surviving and better yet, working on themselves through therapy are INCREDIBLY strong. Kudos should be given to the person living with a brain who is consistently trying to trick them into false beliefs/reality.

Alas, there is hope and there is recovery. Although it is a pervasive illness, (again it is a personality disorder–and those don’t change over night or even over years)… there is hope.
There are many ways people can work on restructuring the way their brains think to be healthier and to make better decisions in the long-run. Many BPD’s also see a lessening of symptoms over time, so it is interesting to note that many “out grow” some symptoms (to an extent). Until proven wrong, I believe that many with BPD can work towards changing their thought patterns and challenging this disorder with time, therapy, and medication when needed.

Mindfulness and Dialectical Behavioral Therapies have been shown to be the most effective therapuetic treatments to date.

I fully believe in trying to honor and understand those with mental illness. It is my hope that with this piece one will more fully empathize with those experiencing BPD.

I welcome any feedback from others on their insights, as I am constantly growing and learning myself in this field.

Until next time,

 

J out

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BPD Documentary:

https://www.youtube.com/watch/?v=Ikl4GjQHPz4

Inspired by:

http://thoughtcatalog.com/carrie-lynne-davis/2013/08/10-things-you-discover-about-yourself-when-youre-diagnosed-with-borderline-personality-disorder/