Tuesday, December 27, 2016

HSP Living: Planning, Politics, Getting Started and the Fear of Change

It's the 27th of December. The year is almost over; in a few days we get to "uncork" a fresh new year, filled with...?

Regardless, 2016 will be closed and put in the history books. It was a turbulent year for many, for a variety of reasons. For some, a great year. But many will feel relieved that it's over.

A lot of folks — HSPs and otherwise — feel that the political ruckus in the USA is somehow to blame for much of their malaise. From my vantage point, there is little doubt that the Presidential race and election brought everyone in touch with "something" that made many feel...

... feel what, exactly?

I have been pondering this post for quite a while... almost two months, actually... its direction changing like the wind on the back of  each new perspective and insight; its words prompted by the insistence of some that I am — somehow — a "thought leader" in the HSP Community, so I should "say something about how we're feeling" because people "expect" it.

Seriously? I hate expectations. And I have never felt like it's my place to "speak for" people. I find it challenging enough to speak for myself.

But this morning, the last puzzle piece fell into place; the missing piece of what it is we (or many of us) are feeling.

There is little doubt in my mind that a lot of people are struggling these days; struggling emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, financially. And there is a blockage or stuck-ness there... like patiently sitting at a traffic light that never turns green because you are following the rules and haven't yet realized that the traffic light is actually broken and will never turn green. But as long as you wait at the red light you are at least safe, even if you are wasting a lot of gas and your life is wasting away.

As I said, it took me a long time to determine exactly what people were struggling with. What I was struggling with. What also took me a long time was determining how to say what I wanted to share, without the overlay of the inevitable partisan political filters that permeate the world at the moment and seem to turn every civilized discussion into a battlefield.

I wanted to simply talk about what many are feeling from a purely human perspective, rather than a "Liberal" or "Conservative" perspective.

As HSPs — Highly Sensitive Persons — we are given to process deeply. But sometimes this deep processing goes over the edge into a sort of "analysis paralysis." We end up creating our own "broken traffic light" to get stuck behind.

The more I considered and sat with what I was feeling — while occasionally going off on assorted tangential tirades and rants — the more I came to realize that the heart of many people's dis-ease is centered around uncertainty. The unknown. People are getting "stuck" in a variety of cycling thoughts and analyses because on Tuesday, November 8th, the US threw out everything we "know" about politics and how the conventional political system works.

Regardless of whether you hate government, mistrust government or think it's a great thing... the election of Donald Trump meant that we can no longer look at things — and count on certain processes — the way we did before. It doesn't matter what your political affiliation is, everything changed. Doesn't matter whether you think Trump represents new hope or a total disaster... it still holds true that the "old rules" and the "old system" got swept out the door.

So let's reflect on that for a moment. That's what I did, and then I realized something. In the past, there have been Presidents who did — and did not — represent my perspective or point of view. That said, my reaction back then was something along the lines of "Bummer... now we have to deal with _____ for four years" or "I feel somewhat hopeful that ____ will make a positive change." But we were always dealing with more or less "known" parameters.

But let's continue to keep partisan politics and Presidents out of the picture for a moment... and examine our fundamental humanity.

There's little doubt there were a lot of people here in the US who wanted "change." They saw a system that was broken, and perceived the need for something to be different. The entire Presidential race started off as anti-establishment, with the most visible candidates — Sanders and Trump — swinging from the wings.

Now let's shrink this down to the scale of our daily lives; we often want change. We want to get in shape, get a better job, eat healthier, cook instead of eating out, get involved in our communities, lose weight. And yet?

We seldom DO.

We conceptualize and visualize and theorize the changes we want; we plan them, journal them, meditate on them but end up not acting on them. Or we get started but end up just "dabbling." Most of us join gyms, go 5-10 times, and then slide back into our old patterns. We talk about starting our own businesses, but we never really get around to actually quitting that corporate job and jumping off the cliff into self-employment. We say we want change, but our actions betray the depth (or shallowness?) of our actual commitment.

Because we — ultimately — perceive real change to be "dangerous." It's "scary." It's "uncomfortable."

The underlying ideas and intent are beautiful and rosy, but when push comes to shove, the ongoing actions and commitment required to create real and lasting change often seem overwhelming and harsh. At least for most people. And, truth be known, slamming our fist on the table and telling all our friends that "we need changes!" keeps us dreaming, yet anchored within our comfy safety zones of no-change. It gives us a feeling of taking action, without actually DOING. As a metaphor, we may say that we want to save the environment, and we get "involved," but ultimately, re-tweeting Greenpeace and EarthFirst doesn't actually reduce our carbon footprint.

Getting back to the recent political debacle, we can look at history and see that previously elected "change" candidates have come to power within a known frame of reference. They were governors, or senators, or mayors of some city. Even if we look at Ronald Reagan and feel tempted to call him "that Hollywood actor," fact remains that he was Governor of the state of California, the 6th largest economy in the world. If we look at Minnesota's colorful former Governor, Jesse Ventura, he might have been "a ridiculous pro wrestler from TV" but even he was mayor of the city of Brooklyn Park (a good sized city in Minnesota) and involved in politics for almost ten years before becoming Governor.

We don't have that, now. Phrased as an analogy, we have someone who may have "lots of experience" at operating "heavy machinery" or "sailing giant ships" who's suddenly decided that their debut attempt at flying an airplane is going to be getting in the cockpit of a fully loaded 747 with 450 passengers onboard.

What we also have is the knowledge that it was the election process we otherwise trusted that put him there.

These are things we KNOW, regardless of whether we consider Donald Trump a "welcome change" or "a dangerous sociopath."

And so, there is a sort of "stunned silence," emotionally and spiritually speaking. As much as anything, the underlying issue many are struggling with is the utter uncertainty of the new paradigm. The inner realization that we don't get to "talk about" changes to the system anymore... they ARE HAPPENING, whether we like it or not; whether we are ready or not; whether they even are the changes we want, or not. We have been kicked out of our comfort zones.

In short, we realize we're sitting at the broken traffic light, and we will have to go through on red — dangerous as it may seem — or we will stay stuck till we die of starvation. We must move forward, or we will never get ANYwhere, let alone towards any kind of destination. And there's no "turning around and going back," because it's a one-way street.

Of course, it's also easy to fall into the trap of "spinning stories" that aren't true. Stories that can't be counted on as being the actual outcomes for the future. Stories that keep us stuck in the world of rationalizations, without doing anything to move towards the future. Towards co-creating a future, rather than helplessly get swept along by the inevitable march of time.

The other day, I heard one of the "taking heads" from a major news channel confess his regret at having taken a "Catastrophist" approach to spinning news stories and their implications for the future of the US.

Spinning the future as "eternal doom" is not only disingenuous, it keeps us stuck behind that broken red light, paralyzed by our fear of change.

People don't really like to look at logic and facts.

If you're a dyed-in-the-wool Liberal, let's face it, "half the country" aren't "violent misogynistic racist pigs with guns," starting with the plain fact that Donald Trump received the votes of about 25% of the US voting age population. It's also a pretty good bet (although this is speculation) that the "scary and dangerous" individuals many people on the left fear... likely represent only the most dedicated 20% of Trump's supporters. Which means the other 80% — whereas they may be "conservative," philosophically — are basically ordinary Americans who were fed up with the way the world was turning out.

So you're seriously going to tell me that you're prepared to let 5% of the population keep you cowering in the corner in fear for the next four years?

Don't misunderstand what I am saying here. I am NOT a Trump apologist... I'm just suggesting everyone take a step back and evaluate what we are really dealing with, in our distressed emotional states. I'm also not suggesting that those who are horrified by the current situation stand idly by and "allow" it, if they are in opposition. What I am suggesting is taking a moment to clarify exactly what and whom, you are in opposition to. It's easy to paint everything and everyone we don't like with the same broad paintbrush.

If you're a dyed-in-the-wool Conservative, let's face it, "half the country" aren't "whimpering sore-loser libtard snowflakes" longing to turn America into a socialist playground where overcooked political correctness effectively squashes Freedom of Speech just as surely as a militant dictator would. Most people you think of as "Liberals" are much like you, but just didn't believe Trump was the best option we had. 

So... let's all try to stay somewhat civil about it all, and move forward.

Thanks for reading!

And DO feel free to leave a comment!

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