CTS AND OTHER POST-ELECTION WOES
If you will grant us a little tongue-in-cheek moment, we would like to propose a new psychological condition, Clinton-Trump Syndrome (CTS). This condition manifests itself when one interacts with other people by imitating the candidates’ style observed in the presidential election of 2016. For instance, in their debates, commercials, and speeches, the candidates brought the presidential election to new depths of rudeness, vulgarity, disrespect, and intellectual inadequacy. In short, the candidates legitimized uncivilized behavior and established a new low for standards of acceptability about what is considered civil discourse.
Exposure to this type of behavior so frequently and over such a long period of time desensitized us and habituated us to insulting negativity and indecent language. We got used to it and, consequently, began to accept it as normal and a good way to interact with others. Unfortunately, this new “normal” is totally incompatible with effective coping, and anyone who imitates this behavior is coping poorly.
Will sophisticated conversation become a rarity and damage what we know to be good interpersonal coping strategies? Will CTS spread to high-school student government meetings, to town-hall gatherings, to casual conversation? Will social interactions degenerate into name-calling and insults? Already we hear news accounts of expressions of racial hatred appearing on high school bathroom walls, neighborhood garage doors, and various public places.
We face a real danger that discourtesy, intolerance, and incivility will become the standard way of conducting interpersonal interactions. In fact, one of us recently was mostly listening to a discussion between two other guys about legalizing marijuana. One of them really began to get belligerent and insulting, and the other one held up his hands and said, “Whoa! Time out! We are both entitled to our opinion. Let’s not make this a Clinton-Trump debate!” Interestingly, that comment defused the situation.
When it comes to providing a psychologically-healthy example of effective coping techniques in conversation with others, the verbal interaction between the candidates was a dismal failure. If you want to cope effectively, do not imitate their example.
Constructive, tolerant, and respectful communication is extremely important in relationships, and maintaining healthy relationships is essential to effective coping. Do not allow CTS to draw you into degrading exchanges and interactions with others. Maintain high standards and disengage from those who want to wallow in the CTS mud. You can’t control them but you can control whether you join them.
Our blog co-host, Carlea, has some reassuring words from a teaching perspective. “I hope that we as a nation can rise above the base mudslinging that has made the country look foolish. During the campaign, in my work with students (our future!) I often asked them for their thoughts on the election. I used their feedback as a springboard for discussing the importance of using kind words and expressing ourselves in a positive way. We need to be at our best even when other people aren’t. Once again, the most important thing to do is realize what you can and can’t control. I can’t control anyone other than me, but I can help to build up citizens of good character.”
A basic premise of social psychology is that others will treat you not only as you treat them, but also in accordance with how you expect them to treat you. Think about it. If you begin conversations expecting others to be cold, disrespectful, and condescending toward you, then you are likely to act toward them in negative ways that will irritate them and insure that the behavior you expected from them will indeed occur. It’s a self-fulfilling prophesy: You expect her to be cold and distant so you treat her rudely and, guess what?………She becomes cold and distant. Congratulations. You produced the behavior you expected. Now there’s an absolutely terrible way to foster successful interactions with others who might help you cope more effectively with everyday life.
And as if CTS is not enough of a poor election legacy, we have general post-election anxiety itself. Unless you live under a rock, you are no doubt aware of turmoil following the election. Many folks have great fears, uncertainties, and concerns; others are bitter and resentful. We hear threats, complaints, criticisms, lies, speculations, etc, and many worry about what will come next.
What can you do about post-election stress? We know, you’re inundated with advice in the media, but let us throw our two-cents in. First of all, review the Preamble to this blog; then review the Core Principles of Coping that we posted on 11/17/16. Some additional steps:
–Accept the results. As President Obama reminded us, Donald Trump will be the 45th President of the United States.
–Keep contact info for your Congressional representatives handy. Email them regularly with your concerns. Be short, concise, and respectful. Remember, the minute they take office they have one goal: to be re-elected. Group signings (see “neighborhood group” below) are especially compelling.
–Do some homework on the Presidency, what he can and cannot do. Some of the limitations may give you some relief.
–Those with views dissimilar to yours are not your enemy. Don’t treat them as such.
–Rid yourself of cynicism about our country. It will devour you.
–Start a neighborhood discussion group. Make it as inclusive as possible, especially with respect to party affiliation. (Meeting only with those who hold similar views runs the risk of Groupthink, and reaching irrational decisions.) Hold weekly meetings and discuss with civility and respect how those with differing political views might find common ground and work together. No CTS sufferers allowed at meetings! Work together toward consensus in an atmosphere of respect, dignity, civility, and decency, always sprinkled with humility and kindness.
–Either keep CTS sufferers away from family celebrations, or banish them to a special room, preferably a sound-proofed one.
–Get outside yourself. Volunteer and bring your services to others. Make your experiences proactive, productive, and personally satisfying, and live the beauty that is America.
–Step-up and lead by example, not as an extremist, but as a caring citizen who is respectful and tolerant of divergent and opposing viewpoints.
–Finally, try this on for size: Reflect on what did not happen the day after the election. The President did not declare martial law and signal his intention to remain in office to protect the citizenry and the Constitution. Opposition generals did not mass troops and tanks around the Capital city for a coup attempt. Nope, there was none of that. Instead, the President and President-elect met in the Oval Office and expressed their respect for each other. And in a few weeks we will see a peaceful transfer of the reins of government from one administration to another. Let’s face it, we all love this country and we all won on November 8th.
Time to move on, but stay vigilant and focused.