Beth Workman, Chillicothe Gazette
Have you found yourself feeling out of sorts since the 2016 election? I spent a year trying to find an outlet for my discontent. With no solution in sight, I jumped with both feet into the political arena. Although this kept me busy for almost 9 months, the feelings of discontent did not disappear after the election. My husband asks me all the time if I am ok. Maybe I’m not ok, but maybe I’m not alone. Maybe some of you aren’t ok either.
The American Psychological Association’s 2016 “Stress in America” survey found that 63 percent of respondents regard the future of the country as “a significant source of stress”; some 56 percent “say that they are stressed by the current political climate.” The 2018 edition of the survey showed those numbers jumping to 69 percent and 62 percent. I don’t know if these numbers make me feel better or worse, but they let me know that many Americans are in the same boat.
Clinical psychologist Jennifer Panning has characterized these feelings as “Trump Anxiety Disorder,” a type of anxiety in which symptoms “were specific to the election of Trump and the resultant unpredictable sociopolitical climate.” Some on the right side of the political spectrum have classified this anxiety as “Trump Derangement Syndrome,” a label that the president himself embraced in one of his tweets. Political polarization did not start with the 2016 election, but it has been gaining momentum for the last 20 years. Many people today believe that their political opponents are not simply misguided, but that they are also bad people. The Pew Research Center recently found that the average partisan gap has increased from 15 percentage points to 36 points.
While searching for ways to deal with my discontent, I came across a group called Better Angels. It is a bipartisan organization that is trying to bring both sides of the political spectrum together: to learn to respect each other, to try to understand each other’s thoughts and feelings, and to learn to solve problems by using both sides’ perspectives. They are trying to help rid our country and our psyches of this political polarization. I made the long trek to Cleveland to see this group in action. I was very impressed with the workshop and would like to bring a workshop to Chillicothe.
The Better Angels Workshop has participants examining stereotypes: the ones they have about the other side of the political spectrum and also the ones that the other side might have about them. They spend a lot of time looking at where these stereotypes might have come from and also if there might be any morsels of truth in them. Both sides end up with a much better understanding of each other, a believe that they both have the same general priorities in mind, and a hope that this spirit of compromise can be accomplished throughout our country.
If you are interested in how this group may help us alleviate some of our political polarization, please join me on June 4th at 6 pm at the Northside library. If you have any questions or if you’re not available on June 4th, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also go to the Better Angels website and reach out to them as well. Hope to see you on June 4th!