This is Your Brain on Politics

alicecardsA friend told me of an article she saw that said the 2016 election has been bad for peoples’ mental health.  I remembered seeing something like that in my Facebook news feed.  My first response was : No Duh.  But I still thought it sounded like a good challenge, so I decided to look up the article.

I found a lot of articles.  Here’s a few titles.

America’s Therapists Are Worried About Trump’s Effect On Your Mental Health.  Politico.com

APA.com APA Survey Reveals 2016 Presidential Election Source of Significant Stress for More Than Half of Americans

How to Preserve Your Mental Health Despite the 2016 Election – Atlantic.com

usnews.com 5 Ways to Mange Your Anxiety about the Presidential Election

Those are the first four articles that came up when I typed in the search terms “2016 presidential election and its effect on your mental health.”  I wasn’t going for one particular site – as you can see I have everything from The Atlantic to the American Psychological Association.  I also didn’t use the term “Trump” – it came up all on its own.  The thing is, though, that it isn’t just Trump that has made us this bummed out.  Elections have been doing that for years.

You love me! Admit it!

You love me! Admit it!

Especially considering this one has dragged out for over a year.  It’s like waiting for the worst Christmas ever. You’re excited for it to come, so it can be over with, but you know that your presents are probably gonna suck in some way, no matter what’s inside.

Yet this election does seem extra special, more so even than the 2000 election when the choice of president of the United States rested on whether a chad was pregnant or not.  It isn’t only Trump to blame, but to say that he has not had a huge influence would be kidding ourselves.  His behavior, which would send most children to the principal’s office, has directly dictated how all other, Republican and Democrat, candidates have responded.  The bully was set loose, and there was no principal to be found, so they did what any other children on the playground would do. They bullied back.  Some, like Jeb Bush, called their mommies.  I know I would have.

Why WAS he allowed loose like that?  People underestimated him.  Republicans and Democrats both laughed. The media had a field day.  T.V. networks have gotten unprecedented ratings.  Everyone figured it would just be good entertainment for a short while, and then he’d be packing.

Wait, is that like the presidential debate?

Any day now.

It didn’t happen.  Because it turns out, the American people were underestimated.  Our political parties underestimated the effect that years of unemployment, of substandard health care, of  working hard and still not being able to pay for your basic bills, yet alone achieve “the pursuit of happiness”, had on people’s psyches.  No matter who was president, they would find themselves in gridlock with the other side.  This one has the presidency. This one has Congress. Very little changes.  People still suffer, because ultimately candidates will do what it takes to stay in power.

Once they are out of the limelight, it’s amazing how easily they can get along.  Bill Clinton and George Bush Sr. are actually good friends.  In reality, the politics of the parties are not that far apart.  Both sides could work together and get something done.  But it doesn’t happen.  And so things stay as they are – until the boiling pot overflows.

Trump speaks to the people who are angry and want someone to blame.  The thing is, though, there isn’t any one person, or group of people, that you can blame for the mess. Even if there was, it wouldn’t matter more than fixing the situation in the first place.  But Trump’s message is easier.  It’s the fault of Mexicans, or Muslims, or any Other you can find.  It’s their fault.  Now don’t you feel better?

People were really, really underestimated.

Enough said.

I don’t.  And as he gets louder and louder, and his vile speech harder to deny, more people are realizing they’ve let the wolf in, and there is no locking him out again.  Trump’s own party has no control of him. The Democrats had too much control of a candidate, taking away any chance for Sanders to win.  So it’s no wonder we are worried. We don’t know who to trust anymore.  And all we hear is hate and blame and fear mongering.  Hillary Clinton, even if she wasn’t trailing bombs, can’t get a message across because she is too busy fielding assaults from Trump with bullets of her own.

And no one stands up and says “Enough”.  Just once, I’d like a moderator to tell the candidates who interrupt, who belittle others, or who simply will not directly answer a question to leave.  Give them a warning. Then they’re gone, off the stage, no more debate. We’d do it with children.  Why not them?  Because I’ve watched debates before, and while there was some mud slinging, it wasn’t like this.  When John McCain lost to Barack Obama (anyone remember that far?) he told us to stand behind the new president of the United States.  Yeah, really!  Can you imagine that happening this time?

I can’t.  Our candidates can’t even shake hands.

So we all, whether we have a mental disorder or not, are showing signs of extreme anxiety.  Enough that the media is coining terms like “election anxiety disorder” or “election stress disorder”.  It’s ironic, too, because the media is responsible for a lot of this anxiety themselves.  The Wall Street Journal points out that so many articles say “don’t panic” which is liken to telling people not to think of elephants.  Or donkeys.  It stirs up fear.  And you can’t get away from it anymore by simply avoiding the newspaper, or even the T.V.  It is EVERYWHERE.  All the time.  News by the second.  Millions and millions served.

No more election coverage!

No more election coverage!

Eventually the anxiety gets so high our bodies give up.  Depression sets in.  There is nothing we can do. Doom is upon us. Etc.  But don’t worry – the media will be there to cover every second of the lunacy.

Which is why we must turn it off – all of it.  Turn off the T.V., the computer.  Throw away the newspaper.  Take a deep breath.  Watch cat videos.  The election will come, one way or another, like every other one has. And we will survive it, like we have all the others.  We need to have faith in ourselves, for no one person has control of everything. That is why we have checks and balances in our system.

It’s also why we have pitchforks.

Take care of yourself.  Enjoy a bath. Play with your kids, or someone’s kids – as long as their parents know who you are and all.  Read something funny.  And relax.  Most of all, relax.  It will be alright in the end.  We are not helpless.  There is always hope.  You can see it in your children (when they aren’t out stealing cars and all) and you can see it in each other. The average, normal American who makes up the majority of the population. We’re there, we just aren’t as loud.  But we’re there.

And as long as that is true, we’ll be okay.  If not, there’s always Canada.

© Alice and A Canvas Of The Minds 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Alice and A Canvas Of The Minds with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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11 thoughts on “This is Your Brain on Politics

  1. I was doing pretty well with not letting Mr. Trump’s shenanigans get me down, but the closer we get to election day the more anxiety I feel. I don’t want this to be like Brexit where I wake up and I’m stunned.

  2. I think Obama should pass an executive order that says Alice gets to decide appropriate candidate behavior, and those who fail to heed her rules can still run, but they have to do stuff like go sit in the time out chair at the back of the debate stage. (Except I cannot say this without a parenthetical, because the Constitution is kind of like my Bible.)

    “It’s like waiting for the worst Christmas ever.”

    That I just had to stick that in my comment, because it is the most brilliant description of this election EVER.

    I’m not so much as going to mention a single name (okay, there’s going to be one, but it’ll be okay, I promise), rather I have to share my particular malady and a revelation I had while writing these first few sentences.

    I am an irredeemable political junky. I don’t know where it came from, because my parents, while solid citizens more interested and informed than most, certainly don’t want to see the sausage being made. Me, I cut my teeth on Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (see, the name is fine), and have on more than one occasion actually cried that he is not around for this one.

    No more names, but the Watergate guys, all those straight and true political journalists were like my long-lost uncles and aunts.

    So this time of year I am usually flying high as a kite. There are very few things, very, very few things that I love better than a presidential election. Usually.

    And I’ve been looking away, but I probably still ingest 10 times the political crap (I could not use the news word) of an average citizen per day. It’s gotten easier as it’s gotten closer for me not to look, because as far as I’m concerned, you can stick a fork in this one. That’s another reason I’m pissed. If you’re me, it’s not only the worst Christmas ever, but the most boring. You know all your lousy presents ahead of time, but you still have to wait to open them. Usually at this point in a presidential election I’m vibrating with energy, and I swear I give off sparks. (My family stay far away.)

    And I don’t know why it took me so long to put together, but I have no doubt this is a major contributing factor to the severe depression I’ve been swallowed in for months – I NEED this four yearly joy, you dingbats. (So wanted to use another word.)

    In any case, I honestly believe that fundamental fight about elections as my true love versus what the hell is this crap could have tipped me under the dark. When you’re excitedly anticipating one of your favorite events ever, and then that turns out not just to be completely devoid of the exhilaration it always brings, but further, not to merely be mediocre instead of exhilarating, that is bad enough, but it couldn’t even manage to be fundamentally unremarkable. What should be the best kind of thrilling instead actually unfolds as one of the most horrifying spectacles imaginable, the antitheses of everything good that ever delighted you about democracy. . . . Suddenly all I can think of are the Dementors from “Harry Potter.”

    Don’t get me wrong, a lot more happened that contributed to my depression taking me down. I’m just invoking the straw theory.

    Ending on a happy note, the Obamas and Bush the Youngers actually are friends as well, especially Michelle and Laura. It’s possible. We just have to keep hoping.

    (I am so sorry my comment is post-length itself. You gave me an awful lot to work with.)

    • I’m glad I did! My parents are both Democrats, but my mom swears she did not contribute to me being how I am. She said I came from the womb a feminist. One of my first memories is of thinking something in kindergarten was biased toward the boys.

      Anyway, I have always been a bit of an agnostic when it comes to God, but even with their shortfalls, the founding beliefs of the Democrats, or what they should be striving for with all the special interests and whatnot clouding the picture, are my faith. I believe in helping those less fortunate. That everyone deserves medical care, food, housing, and even more, a chance at happiness. That your average person does not need a gun, especially an assault rifle, but that if they use sensible precautions, they have that right. I believe that people should be given an equal chance no matter their color, sex, origin, romantic preferences, etc. I believe the rich should pay their fair share. Plenty comes out of my pocket each paycheck, which is tough, but I know if is for those who are where I once was, and where I once may be again. And I am glad to give it. Even in my cynicism, my counselor pointed out I still have hope. That is my faith, which is why I can’t help but care about politics. It is in my blood.

  3. It’s really easy to stop the candidates from interrupting each other – just turn off the microphone of the candidate when it’s not his or her turn to speak.
    But it can be almost impossible to get them to answer a difficult question – and while for Trump every question appears to be difficult, Clinton dodges and spins pretty often, too.

  4. If you and I ever got together and got un-depressed, we would be totally unstoppable. And after reading that incredibly passionate, Frank Capra worthy speech (Alice Hatter Goes To Washington), I kind of want to ask you to marry me. Only without any of the sex part.

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