Mind Matters — Stress in America

A front page headline in the Boston Globe proclaims that the “newest topic of the therapist couch conversation” is politics.

Since the election, says the Globe, mental health professionals have experienced a rise in politically induced anxiety. Yes, I have just moved to “liberal” Massachusetts. So you might say, “Oh, that’s just happening there and nowhere else.” In fact, the feeling is more pervasive. The American Psychological Association found that its Stress in America survey indicated a significant spike in overall stress levels in the U.S. between August, 2016, and January, 2017. Worries of both Democrats and Republicans included the future of the country as well as the current political climate.

There has not been this much national upheaval since 9/11. I recall in 2001, post 9/11, that I was unable to go to New York City to do any Red Cross volunteering there because people were clamoring for appointments like never before. Even though 9/11 may not have been directly addressed in sessions it was the event that tipped the emotional balance for many. Past traumas and unresolved grief came flooding into the room.

The situation now may be even worse that 9/11 because there does not seem to be a let up of stressful news and there is no new normal in sight.

This new administration has mainstreamed hatred and bigotry so that those who have been bullied in the past feel they could be victimized again. Those who have been sexually abused also feel threatened.

According to the Globe, Boston therapists are faced with clients concerned about civil rights, the environment, immigration, the potential for war, and, not to be forgotten, the loss of health care.

Young women who have grown up with Title IX and have considered that misogyny was a thing their mothers and grandmothers dealt with and buried have had the rude awakening that misogyny is as much a lethal virus as is racism and bigotry.

However, what therapists can convey to their clients is that there are ways to inoculate ourselves while this rampant epidemic rages. These viral bullies like to see people victimized and demeaned. What fends off the viral bully the most is standing up to them and not collapsing into victimhood.

The civil rights movement of the 1960’s knew this and so it is that the civil rights movement for the equality and acceptance of all continues. The bullies are back, but victory is never theirs.