As I watch the division created in this country by a man that emphasized differences over similarities, I’m reminded of my life long work of contributing toward closing the divide between women and men created by a culture that would promote contrived stereotypes and sexism. I do feel inspired by Joe Biden’s speeches on uniting us, crossing partisan lines, and finding common ground.
This is how I find myself talking to my struggling couples, who find themselves in a seemingly endless power struggle, much like we see in the country today. I tell them they have more in common as human beings than they do differences based on their sex. These are couples that often cannot report witnessing any relationships that they admire. Is it any wonder that they would struggle in their own relationship? Family, whether it is experienced through friends, as only a couple, or as a large family of many, is something we all desire, but somehow in this culture we made independence bigger than interdependence and lost our way. Mr. Trump could not have divided us so easily if we were not set up to be divided. We divide ourselves constantly whether it be by race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, economics, neighborhoods, or age, and now we’re to the extreme with politics.
Emotions such as anger, fear, sadness, and joy are where we connect as human beings. Man or woman, Republican or Democrat, we have these feelings in common. They are adaptable emotions that help us to survive. Anger is meant to protect who we are and our self-worth. Here are examples that may elicit anger: if I live in a democracy, I’m a registered voter, and I’m experiencing obstacles to voting; if I’m a person of color and experience unlawful shootings committed by police, predominately aimed at people of color; 0r if I’m told by my partner that I should know how to keep house or he should know how to fix things. These are examples of healthy anger where we would take an action such as asserting ourselves to protect our dignity and self-worth. Unfortunately, many people use their anger unhealthily for the adrenaline rush and control.
Fear is adaptable in that it is meant to protect us by letting us know we are not safe. It tells us, with the high crime in this culture, to avoid walking down that dark alley or to lock our doors. But when fear is used to manipulate a divide between people who disagree on policy, this is abuse.
Sadness is meant to clear the way for us to move forward after a loss or disappointment. A good cry can help in this forward direction. When the sadness turns into helplessness or hopelessness, and the cry doesn’t help, we’re at risk of going into a depressive state. These are feelings that the pandemic and the leadership style of our president have contributed to.
Feelings of joy uplift our mood and give us a deep sense of contentment, like the laughter between people, the satisfaction of a job well done, or a walk with nature. Of course, the drug pusher may promote a false sense of joy with the high one gets from a substance of choice.
As human beings we all experience these emotions. We can experience them as helping us in life, while also having the humility to see how we can be susceptible to the unhelpfulness and manipulation of these feelings, whether we are male or female, black, brown, or white, republican or democrat, rich or poor, young or old, LGBTQIA or heterosexual. Increasing one’s awareness to the thoughts that proceed our feelings is key to a healthier direction. The bottom line is we are of one race, the human race, and our emotions tell us so, because we all have them. If we can accept this fact of commonality, perhaps we can start to build bridges towards compassion and understanding and become more united than divided.

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