Updated: Mar 12, 2019
I was asked to share my thoughts by Bold Latina on how we can support ourselves and our community in this current political climate we are in. Not only is it a very important theme given that tomorrow is the much anticipated voting day, this is a topic we have all been starting to pay much more attention to given all of the violence and aggression we are finding new ways to speak up about. I love independent media and see it as such a tool for empowering the community. If you don’t already know about @boldlatina, they’re cutting edge reporting with a heart in social justice for our gente.
Thank you for inviting me @michelleoliveras and for what you are doing for our community with these good words.
Here is the article here https://boldlatina.com/5-ways-to-cope-political-climate/
and the full content below of what I answered to their questions.
I hope these thoughts inspire you to feel a little better as much as they also did something good for me to express.
Con Amor Siempre 💛
How can the political state of our country affect people emotionally and psychologically?
This is a very good question. The political state of our country affects people emotionally and psychologically the way any abusive unhealthy relationship would. It could lower self-esteem, create anxiety, anger, sadness, etc. The difference is one sometimes has an option to leave an unhealthy relationship and in this situation with our administration, it’s not so easy. So the question is, how do we protect and take care of ourselves?
How are women and POC particularly affected?
It is pretty clear by now that we are dealing with a racist and misogynistic administration. Our safety is impacted with racial profiling, acts of violence, and lack of protections. Our health is impacted individually and as a community by oppressive conditions that keep us marginalized. Emotionally we are impacted as we are targeted.
Logistically we are impacted with laws and policies that try to disempower and control women and POC but the saying of “...they tried to bury us but didn’t know we are seeds..”, comes to mind. They don’t know that is only temporary they are wounding and disenfranchising us. Wounds heal and when they do, anyone who has ever had a wound can tell you, they are tougher than normal skin. Our numbers and awareness are rising. We will come back even stronger and bigger and the survey statistics reflect this.The average white male right now is a senior citizen. The average Latinx is a teenager and we are already outnumbering the white population.
Is it normal to feel threatened, afraid, vulnerable right now?
It is very normal and it is very important to acknowledge and normalize so that we can confront it, grieve, and find ways to cope with these feelings.
It is easy to become weary and pessimistic when we are being attacked chronically. We have been forced into a war and like wise warriors, we are identifying the reality of the racist climate we are in and understanding our opponent to win this war.
Why do things that seem so distant affect us so personally?
In unhealthy relationships, there is a term called ambivalence. It is understood to be the confusion one feels of not knowing whether to stay or go. It is known that the confusion that keeps our thoughts in a loop and sucks our energy and prevents us from thinking clearly. The micro and macro aggressions taking place are similar to this ambivalence in that they are confusing and we can feel powerless not knowing how to control our direct our thoughts to make healthy decisions for ourselves with the oppressor.
How can current events and controversies be triggers?
Another great question. I believe we are all here to heal something and most of us very likely are healing something. Being in communities that are oppressed exposes us exponentially to more trauma. Current events and controversies can be triggers if one has unresolved trauma which is very likely given the way healing has been stigmatized and colonized. We have been told healing is for crazy people and shown that those who had mental illnesses were often locked away or made fun of for seeking treatment. Healing has been colonized in the sense that we were killed or punished for practicing our traditional ways of healing and told the only ways to heal were adapting European philosophies. Therefore many of us are holding unresolved trauma and are less likely to heal wounds that we have inside and can be triggered with anxiety and depression that surface when we hear or read about things that either trigger our wounds or make us feel anxious that we or someone in our community could be harmed or sad and angry that conditions feel to impossible to overcome.
Distant things that we hear of trigger us as well because we are connected to everything in our spirit and it hurts us. It is a wound to witness others be hurt or threatened. In psychology terms, it is referred to as PTSD or vicarious trauma.
What are things we can do to cope with bad news?
I think about the words of Don Miguel Ruiz with this question. He is the one who inspires me when he says we are warriors in this war of life and we have to be in good shape as warriors to be strong and mentally powerful. We can take a look and see if there are wounds standing in our way that are weakening us and tend to them as gently and effectively as possible so that we are not as intimidated or triggered with the threats or tactics of our opponent. Having our mental health in a good place will give us strong self-esteems that will uplift our families and communities so that we can be positive and inspiring leaders. We can educate ourselves about the cyclical history of greed that the current administration is enacting in their attempts to continue to steal the land from its rightful owners to further disenfranchise us and try to disempower us. When we hear bad news we must stand firm. We cannot be like the a flimsy tree swaying with the wind. We must sink our roots deep in the ground like a sturdy oak and reaffirm our faith that our community is in the midst of an attack and we are defending ourselves meanwhile healing as we grow in numbers. This bad news is new and temporary. We must look at the bigger picture. In the words of Gustavo Gutierrez, this continent has been indigenous since time immemorial and will be so again. The colonizers arrived to a land where the indigenous communities respected the spirit of all the elements of the land and each other and lived in harmony sustainably since the beginning of time. In the last one hundred years, we have created more harm to this land than in all of time combined. When we hear bad news, it is this bigger picture we must remember. There is a reason why we are here at this time fighting in the belly of the beast as Che Guevara referred to it.
Both of my parents came here from Colombia and I am first generation like many of you. We are healing things our ancestors before us set in motion.
We are healing and growing stronger and while we hear of and experience set back, let’s get pumped and know that we are going to overcome this war against greed and ignorance. Our reward is coming and it won’t be reflected in wealth. It will be reflected in the health and happiness of our beautiful communities and families.
Let’s stay optimistic and hold our faith and community tight. This is what “El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido,” refers to.
How can we recognize our negative emotions (in a healthy way)?
We can recognize our negative emotions in simple ways beginning with an attitude of gentleness and compassion. Take a moment to breathe and follow that breath into your lungs. Notice mindfully what is there. Continue following that breath by breathing deeply into your stomach. Again notice what is there. Observe and greet any tension or heaviness. Ask where it comes from. Make an agreement with yourself to do something about those emotions whether it is self-care or speaking with a trusted friend or professional. Greet your heart with that breath as well. Say hello. Ask what is in there and how it is doing. Notice how those emotions that might be bottled up may spill out sometimes or make you try to numb them in unhealthy ways. Try to treat and speak to yourself the way you would a little one. You wouldn’t speak harshly to a child that is asking for help through their speech and behavior. Observe your thoughts, emotions, and actions in non-judgemental ways and take care of yourself in a good and courageous way to heal anything that is troubling you.
How can we help others cope?
One of the best ways to help others is to help yourself. When you are sound and strong, you will be of greater benefit to others in the same sense the way we are instructed to put our oxygen masks on first.
We can help others cope by reflecting to them that their emotions are normal and inspiring them to be as strong as possible.
Share information, share culture, share whatever you can in the sense of community. We are not going to win this war by staying in our homes and staying silent.
I strongly believe that we need community spaces to come together regardless of age to unite and communicate. It is not an accident that community and communicate are such similar words.
Lastly, I think having a good attitude and taking good care of our mental health is what is going to help us finish this race. The race is for the future, the environment, and our future generations. In Colombia, the Kogi Indigenous community believes that we must look at the opponents as little brothers that are lacking education and wisdom. We are the bigger brother and we know what our environment and community needs to thrive. We are going to heal and help them heal in return. I believe that the story is never over until something good happens.
Michelle Gutiérrez-Leyva, AMFT