Are you afraid of what will happen on Election Day? I sure am. I fear that if the election for president doesn’t go the way I want, this country is going to be very miserable. Not just this country, the world. I believe the other side also is afraid. They are afraid of me and the people who think like me. They fear that if my side wins, America and the world will be in trouble.
Should both sides in this election be afraid? Does one side have a right to honest fear and is the other side suffering from delusions? If that is a possibility, how can the honest fear be addressed and the delusion realized and ended?
President Franklin Roosevelt famously said “we have nothing to fear, but fear itself.” The Bible contains numerous admonitions against being afraid. These warnings against the damaging consequences of fear were issued long before modern psychology understood the brain chemistry of that emotion. The biblical and sociological warnings against fear are well founded. Living in fear is debilitating. A consequence of living in fear is fatigue. As a country, we are sick and tired of being sick and tired. We want relief from the fears that are crippling us.
Daniel Goleman published his book "Emotional Intelligence" in 1995. It became a bestseller, but more importantly, a foundational understanding of brain chemistry and how emotions could be hijacked. As a psychologist, Goleman takes the reader through “the neural circuity of fear” in appendix C of his book. As an emotion running unchecked in an individual, fear can lead to destructive behaviors such as murder and suicide. Delusional fears by societies have led to genocides, wars and catastrophic conflicts. Social media is already buzzing about threats of conflict and violence should President Trump not be reelected. The president seems reluctant to quash those fears and instead said, “stand back and stand by” -- interpreted by some as a call to violence should he deem it necessary. Is that a realistic fear?
Goleman publishes in appendix D key ingredients of effective programs to gain emotional intelligence. He credits the W.T. Grant Consortium on the School-based Promotion of Social Competence “Drug and Alcohol Prevention Curricula,” in J. David Hawkins et al., "Communities that Care" (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1992). Teachers learn these techniques for application in their classrooms. They seem timely for America today. I have selected some from the list. Try them and see if they help.
Identifying and labeling feelings. Assessing the intensity of feelings. Delaying gratification. Controlling impulses. Knowing the difference between feelings and actions.
Self-talk -- conducting an “inner dialogue” as a way to cope with a topic or challenge or reinforce one’s own behavior. Reading and interpreting social cues -- for example, recognizing social influences on behavior and seeing oneself in the perspective of the larger community. Understanding behavioral norms (what is and is not acceptable behavior).
Nonverbal -- communicating through eye contact, facial expressiveness, tone of voice, gestures and so on. Verbal -- making clear requests, responding effectively to criticism, resisting negative influences, listening to others, helping others, participating in positive peer groups.
From my perspective, the other side need not fear me or my thinking. I am willing to have a discussion about those thoughts as they pertain to our county’s decision on Nov. 3. I am willing to listen to why I should not fear the other side. I am sure I harbor baseless fears I don’t need. Can we have those conversations? I am tired of being afraid.
Bill Patrie has been recognized for his work as a cooperative developer by the National Farmers Union, the Association of Cooperative Educators and the National Cooperative Business Association.
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