For many Americans like myself, our values, rights and life as we know it feels shaky right now. The blueprint this administration is following feels haphazard and chaotic. What they are building remains to be seen.
What is certain? The breathtaking speed at which they are unsettling the very foundation of our democracy. Their sharpest tool: Uncertainty.
If we want America to emerge from this threatening rubble, we must take a Trump era crash course — certainly never on the curriculum at Trump University — in owning our power beyond simply casting a vote. To do this, each of us will have to develop our agency.
Agency is our capacity to know we still have a choice in how this all unfolds. To know we have power. As we exercise this power, many of us who have stood by in the past (but now realize the stakes are too high) will feel or be told we’re acting “out of character.”
Whether it’s attending marches or speaking up in your church congregation about a more encompassing definition of pro-life, you will almost certainly encounter emotional discomfort.
Here’s how to start getting comfortable with the uncomfortable:
1. Be on your game. You’re of no use to anyone if you’re fuzzy and depleted. Your emotional and physical health are not separate. Plus, healthy choices build your agency muscle. You will need to feel emotionally centered and focused to make choices fueled by hope, not fear. This is nearly impossible without eating and sleeping well. I discuss holistic health tips to thrive every week on my Insatiable podcast.
2. Access insight from your feelings. Most people live in their heads. And with this administration, you can’t know all the chess moves being made. Trying to know it all before we act will be our downfall.
It’s time to travel south, to your body, and visit the emotional discomfort. There’s incredible intuitive insights available there.
To do this, I encourage clients to recognize when they’re having uncomfortable emotions. This discomfort usually shows up as “a tornado of thoughts”, feeling in “crisis mode” or a bunch of “shoulds”, “musts” and “have tos” circling in their brain.
Clients often label this as a feeling in order to get some distance. In this space, they can recognize their internal state doesn’t necessarily match reality. While your Facebook feed is short-circuiting, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to go down with it.
Politics is all about theatre and “optics”. What gets said and what gets done are very different. Being able to honor your discomfort and not overreact from it will enable you to have more choice in how you respond (I know I’ve been guilty of taking the Facebook bait from time to time).
Once you recognize the disconnect between what you’re feeling versus reality, do a moving meditation like dancing to music or walking (bonus if it’s in nature). Sink into your feelings to make them useful. Staying stuck in emotional overwhelm is unhelpful. Insights and clarity you wouldn’t have been able to get through thinking will arise when you stay with your discomfort.
Over time, this will also build resilience in handling your feelings. Tears and anger are okay.
After being with your feelings, reflect on this question:
What do I care about here?
What do I want to see live in this world?
What can I do to support my values?
Your heartbreak is a calling.
You will have loud and quiet callings. They all matter. Keep answering the calling of your pain to make it useful. Yes, pain can be useful (if you choose). Anxiety often comes from worrying about uncertain future outcomes. Taking action in the present can be an anecdote to this anxiety.
3. Recognize your internal resistance. When you make new choices, your emotional discomfort will dress up as thoughts like they have more time for this than I do or I’m only one person. Plus, what do I know?
Many of us grow up thinking discomfort or these thoughts mean we need to stop. We’ve equated pain and discomfort with being powerless. So we shut down, stay silent or back away. This creates a self-fulfilling prophecy of not developing the skills to know what we’re actually capable of and what our choices truly are when we push past this initial resistance.
When you hear these thoughts diminish your capabilities, recognize them as resistance, not reality.
Working through discomfort will never feel convenient or good. Your reward from rising to the occasion is a renewed faith in your agency and the ability to make a greater impact.
4. Learn from the powerful. For many white people especially, this can feel like the first time American values are uncertain.
But for those who’ve been consistently marginalized — from Native to African Americans to the long list of others Trump seems bent on alienating — uncertainty about where they stand in relation to these values is not new.
And despite having every reason to be cynical, Standing Rock and Black Lives Matter activists continue to stand and work for the realization of the American vision for all. They have much to teach us about which actions and strategies lead to results.
These results in turn increase our agency and a positive feedback loop begins.
As Desiree Adaway, principal of the Adaway Group said,
We do not need to feel hopeless as we do this work. We do not need to feel tired as we do this week. We do not need to feel discouraged as we do this week. If we ground our work in joy, support, community, and security we will win.”
These marginalized groups have made progress even while many of us have stood on the sidelines. Imagine if we all came together. In fact, we must if we are to turn our current polarization into an opportunity.
As I work through my own discomfort, I look to these groups as a model.
To thrive in these days of a reality TV star becoming president, you must realize being uncomfortable doesn’t mean you’re fragile. Practice the steps above (over and over) to develop resiliency.
You’ll know you have the choice and power to make discomfort mean, “I’ll figure this out. I’ve got this. We’ve got this.”
Are you in or out?
Hired or fired?
It’s your choice.
Originally published at medium.com