I haven’t written a blog for a while largely because I’ve been managing my own life and, for the past couple of months, adjusting to an old-fashioned winter. We have been housebound for days at a time. Our outdoor activities focus around snow removal and preparation for the next snowstorm. It is interesting how early in the winter people tend to like the snow and then become disenchanted as the winter wears on. One of the things that I preach to my clients is “mood is a choice and I am the one who gets to choose mine.” We have been extremely fortunate this year in that our preparations from the past years have made this much more tolerable and our plans for next year should make even more improvement.
My purpose here is not to discuss maintaining a positive attitude about the weather but rather to begin to look at people’s attitudes about politics. To a great degree, the ability to maintain a positive attitude is linked to a person’s acceptance of labels. The American public seems to be increasingly ill-informed. I mean this to apply to both sides of the political fence. I don’t recall such a prolonged, vicious and ignorant outcry as we are seeing currently. This did not start with this current election but it has certainly amplified as a result.
Under a misguided label of ‘standing up for the rights of the underprivileged’ a great number of people have begun to accept, support and further the cause of the very principles against which they rant and rail. They tried to make reasonable the argument that violence against certain groups is acceptable but it is not acceptable when used against their chosen cause. Even to the point of justifying wrongful killings. Segments of America have become woefully ignorant of the outcome of their emotions.
Uncontrolled emotions lead to uncontrolled behaviors. When a group of people begin to coalesce around a series of emotions, it frequently will be to coalescence around a series of behaviors or emotions that get expressed as beliefs. This group of people then will begin to take on a gang-like mentality where thought or logic gets left in the dust.
I recently heard individuals talk about the fact that if police would quit going into inner-city neighborhoods, violence would decline. I also heard another interview that said police did stop patrolling in parts of Chicago because the policeman did not feel they could adequately do their job without undue recrimination in certain neighborhoods. The result was a decrease in altercations between the public and the police and murder rates doubled in the same time frame.
It seems as if Americans have become addicted to emotional polarity. Individuals on both sides of the political aisle espouse the opinion that people who disagree with them are inferior and ignorant. All it takes is a disagreement on any point for the argument to become a full-fledged, all-encompassing emotional free-for-all, eventually reaching a point where conclusions seem immaterial. Emotions rule the day.
And now back to the weather. I can either rant about things for which I have little impact, such as the speed of the wind, or I can learn more, prepare better and weather the storm. Many of the people who have tragic outcomes as a result of weather may have been able to avoid those outcomes with better preparation. Their anger will often lead to errors which further endanger their overall comfort or even their lives.
To rant and rail about politics is just about as successful. I encourage people to use the three rules of no yelling, no swearing and no name-calling so that they can avoid useless emotional outbursts and become more thoughtful. Let that thoughtfulness lead to better preparation and education of themselves and the people around them so that they are better prepared to weather the next storm.
Politics, like the weather, can seem to have unpredictable outcomes for which extreme emotional responses end up wasting energy, resources, and your mental health. Emotions certainly are addictive. Whatever goes on in the brain for more than two or three months, the brain sees as normal and will seek to maintain it. If that normal is anger, then that is what will be maintained. However, if the normal is to be more reasoned and thoughtful, the ability to relax and prepare improves dramatically.
In closing, I want to get back to the basic idea that minute by minute relaxation is a major part of emotional wellness. You can choose your mood by choosing your emotional condition. A great start to that is to limit yelling, swearing and name-calling so that your new addiction is to be much more thoughtful and relaxed.
Here’s hoping you have a great 2017. I look forward to your comments.