Winding Down Your Emotions After the Election
Now that the election is over, some people may be feeling let down—either by their chosen candidate or by the entire process. After months of listening to friends debate the pros and cons of their candidate, and reading combative social media posts from people at opposite sites of the political spectrum, the days and months following November 8 can seem downright lackluster.
Election Stress Disorder
A major cause of stress in adults, “Election Stress Disorder”, is described in Psychology Today as something that causes people to “download the negativity of their environment and take it out on the closest people to them.” Steven Stosny, Ph.D. and author of the article, states that a web of emotion connects us all and that political campaigns set the web of emotion ablaze with negativity.
As a therapist, Stosny adds that elections bring an uptick in the number of patients who he sees who are complaining of being under stress. He describes the stress as something that hijacks the adult brain, making it behave much more like a toddler would. Stosny says that the stress impairs ability to take other perspectives, weigh evidence, see nuance, plan for the future, and create value and meaning.
Stosny mentions that during an election season, it can be difficult to be compassionate to the people closest to us. And he advocates that there are lessons to be learned from the stresses associated with living through a difficult election year. “To make the country stronger, we must respect the people we encounter, tolerate differences among all people, and allow a little light to spread through the web of emotion.”
Voter’s Illusion and Why Voting is Important to Us
Despite the stresses that can be involved, many people choose to vote because they truly believe that vote will make a difference. According to an article by The American Psychological Association, psychologists and political scientists have many reasons to explain the factors that influence voter behavior.
“Some [people] see voting as a form of altruism, or as a habitual behavior cued by yard signs and political ads. Others say voting may be a form of egocentrism, noting that some Americans appear to believe that because they are voting, people similar to them who favor the same candidate or party will probably vote, too—a psychological mechanism called the voter's illusion."
Individuals also choose to vote because it makes them feel like they’re part of a group, the article explains. It goes on to state that research (Melissa Acevedo, PhD, of Westchester Community College, and Joachim Krueger, PhD, of Brown University, in Political Psychology [Vol. 25, No.1]) shows that people who do take the time to vote tend to be more altruistic, or concerned about the welfare of others.
To obtain these finding, researchers presented a number of hypothetical options to see how study participants would respond.
Questions included the level of regret that a person would feel if they purposefully abstained from voting. Based on the responses, the psychologists running the study came to believe that people truly do believe their vote can impact the outcome of an election.
Stosny sums up the societal implications of both Election Stress Disorder and Voter’s Illusion by stating that sometimes it’s best to limit exposure to certain election information, such as negative political campaign ads. “Of course political campaigns are designed to exploit bias rather than expose it. Still, I wonder how candidates can seem entirely certain about enormously complex problems. Well, I shouldn’t wonder. Few endeavors can be more stressful than running for president.”