This article first appeared on homairakabir.com
I've just finished a session with a client who came in terrified by the prospect of post-election life. She spoke about the divisiveness and the mistrust that she saw growing, partly because of what she was seeing around her, and partly because of what she was experiencing in her own self.
We spoke about how she could use this moment to connect to a much deeper place within her, and how it could become her source of strength, of compassion, and of wisdom. She left with renewed energy in herself and faith in the future.
As I sit and reflect, I think of the millions of us who feel fearful right now. Regardless of where in the world we live, or which side of the election we were on, there's a general unease that seems to have taken hold, and that risks ripping apart the fragile seams of the human fabric that enfolds us all together.
This election fed a part of our human spirit that reveres power and competition. You may call it the Ego, the Yang, the Masculine, depending on what you call these inherent energies of the human psyche. And it thus fed what psychologist Paul Gilbert has called the competitive motivational system - one of the two internal drives that organize emotions, thoughts and behaviors and create contexts to support them.
The other is the compassionate system. And it's in the integration of these dialectically opposing forces within us that we're at our human best. Ancient civilizations called it Yang and Yin, or Shiva and Shakti. Philosophers called it the Spirit and the Soul or Transcendence and Imminence. Carl Jung called it the Masculine and the Feminine or the Anima and the Animus. And even artists of the Renaissance lovingly depicted our paradox by deliberately placing their human figures somewhere in between the animals at the bottom and the Divine at the top.
Psychologist Robert Ornstein talks of us as Multiminds. But it does seem that in our day and age, and certainly at this moment of our history, we're feeding only one half of our human excellence. And just as a weightlifter will fall flat on their face when they try and lift the barbell from any one extreme, we risk fanning the flames of anger, rage and egoism, and losing touch with our soul.
It's time to shift. I do believe that we need to step back from the "winners" and "losers" of the election, and into a way of seeing ourselves as part of a much larger flow of life. We need to have faith that the planet is calling us to exercise our muscles of compassion for reasons that we may not fully understand or that may forever remain a mystery.
All through the history of our species, nature dutifully gifted us with neural capabilities that helped us rise to each stage of monumental challenge. And at each stage, strengthening these neural capabilities helped advance our human consciousness.
We're again at a threshold. And this time we've been given the neural capabilities of compassion, but they're still limited to our immediate families and communities. The crises of natural disasters, of human greed and power, and of seven billion individuals foraging at break neck pace through the bounties of our planet's ever shrinking resources is urging us to do more. As Albert Einstein said: "Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty".
Recognize your pain or your elation in this moment. Whatever side of the election you've been on says nothing about your inherent goodness. If you're hurting, give yourself the warm and comforting embrace that will help you find the courage to do the right thing. If you're celebrating, connect to your real intentions that go far deeper than the desire for power or competition.
Adopt an attitude of genuine curiosity as you reflect on the reasons people may have favored a competing party or person. If possible, ask them. You'll be surprised at how easily we can fall into the trap of fitting the world into our own hardwired tribal mindset of us versus them. But you'll also be surprised at how willing we are to step out of those preconceived notions IF we exercise genuine curiosity.
Reach Out to Others
When we're distressed, we either close down into our own little world or seek like-minded people to help us fan the flames of our rage or inquietude. And yet, all this does is strengthen our self-centered bubbles and disperse us farther and farther away from a common humanity. Reaching out to others is about letting love in, so we can warm ourselves by the hearth of the social bonds that make us truly human.
Author and Jungian analyst Marion Woodman once said: "The opposite of power isn't weaknesses. The opposite of power is love". Instead of unconsciously floating away in our own self-centered bubbles, lets get together and ask "Where are we alike? How can we connect? What will we love?" For its then that we not only ensure our survival as a species, we also help advance our common human consciousness.
Homaira Kabir is a positive psychology coach and cognitive behavioral therapist who specializes in self-worth. She helps women develop self-confidence through scientifically backed strategies, programs and courses, so that they show up fully in life. Sign up for her free quiz on learning to grow authentic self-worth.