Feeling the election year stress yet? Wanting to bury your head until it’s all over? Don’t get me wrong. Stress can be great! The right kind of physical stress keeps us alive. Opposing muscle groups in our bodies stress and relax enabling us to breath, walk, bend, and hug. The right kind of emotional stress motivates us to accomplish tasks and reach our goals. Stress also tells us when we’re in love, when we need rest, or when we’re ready for adventure.
The wrong kind of stress however leads to traumatic dis-ease. I’ve been witnessing this in action whenever a candidate for president opens his or her mouth. Many of them are using fear, division, envy, trauma, and half-truths to get our attention. They are pitting one group of humanity against others. And they could care less that many of us have already been stressed to the max by the economy, global warming, mass killings, murderous terrorism, abusive working conditions, and policies that are eating away at the middle class!
Democracy at its best allows us to use public forums to debate ideas, even outrageous ones. Debates are meant to create a good kind of stress, highlighting differences of opinion. But they are also meant to help us to compromise, not polarize. Otherwise such debates merely incite strong feelings such as rage, fear, and a clamor for change at any price. What do you think leads to political revolutions and juntas? And revolutions are never pretty. Some lead to liberation for the people. Some to enslavement and murderous tyranny.
And the media do not really help much. They thrive on stress and trauma in their daily reporting. Sometimes their information actually catapults governments and people to heroic action. But most of the time the media leave us wringing our hands in fear of impending disaster with our elected officials seemingly looking on from afar, caught up in bureaucratic wrangling.
So what do we do with all of the stress and trauma imposed on us during these endless election cycles? Sometimes we can channel it to mobilize ourselves to support a truly visionary candidate, one that has not been alleviating the suffering of the innocent or in rescuing the oppressed, starting with our own family and neighborhoods. Jimmy Carter is a perfect contemporary example of a man who eschewed the easy enjoyment of post-presidential privilege in order to neutralize human trauma. He began as he will end, with a spiritual journey that has taken him deep within his soul.
The soul is a wonderful filter for stress and trauma. I look back at my own personal experience as a highly sensitive man of faith and can pick out seminal events that hobbled and haunted me psychologically. For a long while I allowed them to remain as a spiritual burden. But now I have found a way to neutralize them on somatic and emotional levels.
I need not succumb to the tyranny of politically-induced stress that distracts me from my core values. Neither do I have to be a slave to the traumatic effects of childhood or family dysfunction. The journey for me begins as it will end, within my soul. And in between my efforts will always be on changing lives for the better, beginning with myself. I seek other seekers of truth and love to join me and consciously reject those who induced stress or incited trauma simply for gaining power. Are you one of those seekers of truth?
All pictures are copyrighted by Michael Parise