• Candace Whitman, LCPC

Election Anxiety & The Hero's Journey

As the election nears, I have found myself spinning, anxious, and feeling out of control.


Tomorrow is the election of my lifetime, and it is likely the election of yours as well. So much is riding on the outcome of this election and if you’re like me, you’re probably feeling the enormous amount of heavy energy running through the country today.


I couldn’t sleep last night. My brain just would not stop going over the battle that is well under way. It brought up feelings of anxiety, fear, and powerlessness. I attempted to distract myself with Hulu and Netflix and found myself still awake at 8 am this morning.


After getting 3 hours of sleep, I awoke to my alarm reminding me that I had responsibilities today. I questioned how I could possibly show up for my clients to help guide them through this heaviness when I was barely functional.


Although I was tempted to cancel my sessions for the day and just crawl back into bed, I instead connected with a part of me that gently nudged me in the direction of just doing the next right thing.


So I got up, took the dogs out, took a shower, brushed my teeth, slathered some essential oils on my neck and the bottom of my feet, and made myself a cup of coffee just in time to get started with my first session of the day. It felt like a major feat just doing each one of these things, one step at a time.


And then as I attempted to step into the role of counselor to guide my clients through this difficult time, I found myself gaining more wisdom and encouragement from them than I was able to provide back.


One of my clients suggested that she has been working towards this moment all of her life, reflecting on the struggles she has faced and overcome, how she managed to get through, and what she learned from those experiences to overcome today’s battle.


It dawned on me that her own self-reflection was exactly what I needed to hear. It never ceases to amaze me the amount of profound work my clients do and how much I learn from them along the way.


The message she was giving herself reminded me of the Hero’s Journey. This concept, coined by Joseph Cambell in 1949, outlines the classic narrative of a hero who departs on a journey, faces adversity, and in the end triumphs and returns home.


In her book, Rising Strong, Brene Brown dives deep into the concept of part II in the Hero’s Journey, after first outlining the three acts.


“Act 1: The protagonist is called to adventure and accepts the adventure. The rules of the world are established, and the end of Act 1 is the ‘inciting incident’.


Act 2: The protagonist looks for every comfortable way to solve the problem. By the climax, he learns what it’s really going to take to solve the problem. This act includes the ‘lowest of the low.’


Act 3: The protagonist needs to prove she’s learned the lesson, usually showing a willingness to prove this at all costs. This is all about redemption-- an enlightened character knowing what to do to resolve the conflict.”


Diving in more depth into Act 2, she describes this as the “middle space” where you “are too far in to turn around and not close enough to the end to see the light.” She goes on to say “people find all kinds of creative ways to resist the dark, including taking issue with each other.”


As I reflected on the present time, with the election results coming in over the next 24-48 hours, I wonder if we are in Act 2. I wonder if I’ve tried all the more comfortable ways to solve the problem.


I first tried to ignore and dismiss it as not being a real threat (back in 2016 before the election results came in). Then I turned to blaming, which turned to anger, which turned to rage. Rage motivated me to be more vocal and embrace my role as an activist, all while continuing to take issue with everyone around me.


So here I am, 1 day before the official election day, and my attempts at overcoming the challenge has only taken me so far. There’s nothing left I can do to change the outcome of tomorrow’s election.


And I am wondering-- what if the election isn’t really the final battle? What if it is really just the climax that is pushing towards this awakening of how to really overcome the adversity?


Brene Brown reminds us that we can’t skip the middle. “The middle is messy, but it's also where the magic happens.”


Tomorrow is not the end of our story. Tomorrow is just part of the scary, messy middle.


So my question for you is this--


What do we still have to awaken to in order to finally learn “what it’s really going to take to solve the problem” in our own Hero’s Journey?


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