A Path Through Your Post-Election Paralysis

photo courtesy of Abigail Keenan, Unsplash, CC
photo courtesy of Abigail Keenan, Unsplash, CC

(Warning: Expletives. Do not read to your young children. But, surely, these times require expletives. Future readers: It is post-presidential election 2016.)

I’m guessing that you’re having a hard time right about now. Am I right? Your sensitivity. Your empathy. Your sense of justice and fairness. Yeah. I’m guessing that you’re feeling overwhelmed and maybe just a dollop of despair. OK. Maybe a sh*tload of despair.  Maybe you’re wondering, “Oh boy. I’m supposed to DO something because they say I’m so gifted but, I am frozen in shock at what just happened and what it might mean. What can I possibly do that will make a difference? And, anyway, we all know that I’ve been faking giftedness all these years. I’m not all that smart. So, hey, in actuality, I don’ t need to feel so dang responsible. But I do. Responsible. Guilty. Angry. Overwhelmed. Not Gifted. (Add extra expletive here if needed.)” 

Am I in your head?

If I know you (and I do know you), even in your paralysis, you’re reading up a storm. Perhaps you’ve been following Bill Moyers. Or you’ve read Aaron Sorkin’s letter to his daughter. Or Huff Post articles on what to tell your kids. Garrison Keillor. Van Jones. Calvin and Hobbs. And your usual worry meter is way way off the charts. And, it’s a very big chart.

So what now?

“…Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale…” Clarissa Pinkola Estes

What part of the world is within your reach? Are you in therapy healing the wounds from your dysfunctional family and stopping the abuse in your ancestral line so that your children are safe and loved and securely attached? Are you in recovery from an addiction and fighting every day to stay clean and sober? Are you president of your neighborhood association and speaking out about the environmental inequality in your city? Are you an active member of the Southern Poverty Law Center or the ACLU or another organization? Are you inviting your mentally ill cousin to your holiday meals?

Good. Yes. And if that doesn’t seem like enough, especially for your rainforest mind, then what?

“…One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity…” Clarissa Pinkola Estes

You’ve heard me talk about this before. Here and here. How do you “show your soul?” What’s your purpose here? What’s your way of being fierce and showing mercy? How do you stay sensitive, compassionate and empathetic in these times? How do you accept the truth of your rainforest mind and then live that life?

You can do it. I know you can. Let’s move forward, together, toward that “enduring good.”

(Here’s the full essay by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.)

(And here’s a somewhat challenging yet compelling viewpoint from Charles Eisenstein. If the opening is hard to read, keep going. It’ll provide a lot of food for thought like: “If we can stare hate in the face and never waver from that knowledge, we will access inexhaustible tools of creative engagement, and hold a compelling invitation to the haters to fulfill their beauty.”)


To my blogEEs: I want to hug each and every one of you. Wherever you are in the world, these recent election events in the US are deeply upsetting. Let us know how you’re doing and how you might access that bright soul light within you. Please avoid blaming, angry diatribes. Thank you and thanks to the brilliant Ms. Estes. (And I hope I haven’t offended anyone with the expletives!)

Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice based in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in international consulting with gifted adults and parents of gifted children. I’ve been a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a frequent guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, Advanced Development Journal and online for psychotherapy dot net, Rebelle Society, Thrive, Introvert Dear, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is a collection of case studies of gifted clients along with many strategies and resources for gifted adults and teens. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists is a collection of my most popular blog posts along with writing exercises for self-exploration and insight.

45 responses to “A Path Through Your Post-Election Paralysis”

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  1. Bee Avatar

    Thank you for this post.
    It’s not just the election which has been upsetting me. Since Brexit there has been a sharp rise in hate crime in the UK. It is also estimated that thousands of disabled people have died due to cuts.
    The future scares me.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Yes, Brexit has been upsetting as well. Hard to think about it all without triggering fear. It’s why I think it’s an important time to find our inner strength and what actions we need to take. Thank you, Bee.

  2. Sarah Avatar

    Paula, I used to really like your blog. There were times when I felt you did understand how I felt. To assume that I share your political views is naive and, dare I say it, slightly offensive.

    There’s a quote by Kellyanne Conway in the Wall Street Journal this morning that sums up my feelings about why I am not bereft after this election. “Fairness is about equality of opportunity, not equality of outcomes.” As a gifted person and the parent of two gifted children I am deeply concerned about what Common Core and NCLB are doing to the quality of gifted education. I believe that all people deserve equal opportunity. I’m not racist. I’m not a bigot. I love working in education and my biggest fear is for the children who slip through the cracks due to lack of opportunity and/or lack of parental awareness for socioeconomic reasons. But I also want my own kids to get the challenging education they deserve.

    It was time for change. I do not understand the whiney hand-wringing going on. I do not understand people protesting who did not bother to vote.

    I really do not understand why a psychotherapist to the gifted thinks she can tell the gifted how we are supposed to feel about this election. You are in the left coast bubble, I believe, in Washington State. Well guess what, the people in all that flyover country don’t necessarily agree with you. Some might. But most dont. I suggest you get over it and move on. No one knows what is going to happen next. Life is like that. Every day. Sometimes we just forget.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for writing, Sarah. I appreciate hearing your views. It was not a quick decision to write that post and, in retrospect, I might have written it in a way that wasn’t so strongly worded; so it might be less offensive to you. It wasn’t my intention to tell you how to feel. But, rather, a response to people I’d been hearing from who were upset and frightened (myself included). I appreciate that you want things to change. I know not all of my readers will agree with me on this and other things. I hope that you’ll keep reading my blog and take what works for you and leave the rest. It’s helpful to have respectful dialogue when we disagree so that we can better understand each other and learn from each other. Thank you.

  3. FredB Avatar

    The Chinese say, The mountains are high, the emperor far away. The yoga folk say, “Stay on your own mat.”

    You considered the candidates. You voted. You are done with your part of this election. Take a short break if you like but, then get back to the things that are in your span of control. This is sometimes called “your life.” Other people are responsible for establishing a government according to the instructions we, collectively as voters, have given them.

    1. Mark V Avatar
      Mark V

      Democracy is not a “set & forget” process that only requires a few minutes of input once every four years. In a democracy we are all responsible, so “our lives” include the obligation to stay informed, maintain open dialogue (such as is happening here), question authority and above all, keeping the feet of our elected leaders to the fire. Because otherwise those leaders may use our apathy and passivity to take away our freedom to do those things.

      People are freaking out, and feel justified in their fears. You may think it is merely misguided hysteria. Luckily we still have the right to disagree.

  4. Richard Avatar

    You have no idea what you are talking about! You do not need to pander to our gifted community! Your pandering is detrimental to those intellectually gifted persons struggling with their awareness. As a Clinician, you should be directing your clients to research Clinical Prospective such as Intellectual Defense Mechanisms. Defense mechanisms tend towards long term stability opposed to momentary warm and fuzzy suggestion. Thanks for the opportunity.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Not sure what you’re saying here, Richard, but I want you to have the chance to say it! I know that in this particular post I share some of my political views and still am not sure it was a good idea. But it seemed too odd for me to pretend this election didn’t happen and that many people weren’t fearful and struggling. But I want the rainforest mind information to be available to everyone. And I welcome differing viewpoints. So I appreciate your sharing your thoughts.

  5. Mark V Avatar
    Mark V

    It sure seems like a lot of people just shrugged their shoulders and said “F*** it. Here’s the keys to my house and my car, here’s all my credit cards and bank info, now go fix my life.” And they said that to Bernie Madoff. That kind of gambling on a mass scale is not politics as usual, which is why it feels so ominous. And yet….

    Despite being disappointed by the whole Gong Show, I felt in my gut “that’s your cue”. When things are going smoothly the world doesn’t need crazy people like me. But as Hunter S. Thompson once said, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I wonder who are the real “crazy people,” Mark. The world needs you!

      1. Mark V Avatar
        Mark V

        Thank you Paula. I know I am needed, I just meant maybe now more than ever. There seems to be evidence that those of us who suffer from depression, bipolar and other forms of madness are somehow better equipped to survive or even lead in times of crisis.

  6. FredB Avatar

    Gallup: Half of Americans More Confident in Trump Since Election

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober


  7. Tiffany Avatar

    Thank you for this. I think one of the most difficult things after this election is feeling unable to speak up for my beliefs for fear of insulting others. So I’m happy to read this because all I can think is “I should have done more.” The best thing that has come out of it though is how many candid talks my son and I have had about kindness and acceptance and even racism, homophobia and sexism. We can’t change the past but hopefully we can help the future.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      It sounds important that you’re connecting with your son. I think we all need to improve our communication in our families and communities and that’s something concrete to do. Good to look at what you can do now. Thanks, Tiffany.

  8. themonthebard Avatar

    The hardest part for me right now is the isolation.

    I blogged about a possible Trump victory a year ago. This is all part of a repetitive pattern in human societies that has played out too many times to count. While the details are always different, the general outline is pretty clear and consistent.

    Isn’t that what we rainforests do? See the patterns in the big picture?

    A year ago, it was all remote and theoretical and blog-fodder, and only one of numerous possible scenarios. In fact, I thought it relatively unlikely. When it actually happened last Wednesday, so quickly, in a single day — only a week ago, my God! Only a week — it was devastating. I’ve been in shock for a week, and I’m still not out of it.

    In the short term, I’m taking care of myself, like I would in the face of any sudden shock. No major decisions that I can possibly put off. Eat, sleep, work, chop wood, carry water. Take comfort in routine. My wife and I went camping in the redwoods last weekend, and didn’t think about this too much. Or at least, tried not to.

    But I find that I can’t really talk about it. I don’t think last Wednesday was a bad move for the nation. I think it was the last move for the nation. The United States died on November 9, 2016. What will replace it … will not be pretty.

    No one wants to hear that. No one.

    Nor is there any real point in saying anything, now. It’s done. I don’t have any solutions, or suggestions, or hope to offer. I see all the frantic “mobilization” of the political left, and it leaves me cold. It’s too little, too late. It’s the EMT’s trying to revive the corpse.

    I could, of course, be completely wrong. Dear God, I HOPE I’m completely wrong. But right now, I see what I see. And no one wants or needs to hear it.

    So I’m pretty much isolated in this. That’s the hardest part, for me.

    No major decisions this week. Breathe. Take comfort in routine.

    Once the shock wears off, I’ll be fine, I think. I’ve been thinking about this subject for a long time, and despite the evil of men, there is always solace and beauty to be found, and a good life to be carved out of any conditions.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Did you look at the link to Eisenstein’s work in the post? You might find his writing compelling and somewhat in line with what you’re saying. I can see how it’d be isolating. I hope you can find comfort in your relationship with your wife and in the beauty all around you. Thank you for sharing with us, themonthebard.

      1. themonthebard Avatar

        Yes. I’ve always liked Charles’ writing. Thank you for posting that link.

  9. Karen Z Avatar
    Karen Z

    Thank you Paula for your message. I see that my finding of this site and from reading your “Your Rainforest Mind” book recently has given me a home. ( I had bought it as I researched ‘giftedness’ for my kids but have known myself to be a complex, sensitive, academically talented person for awhile.) When I read the leading sentence, I knew that you were not being partisan, you were speaking to our sensitivities and intensities that go along with a rainforest mind. I love that. As I face a Thanksgiving holiday with relatives in a state fraught with FoxNews in every home and public space, I will keep Christina Estes’ words close at hand. Thanks again for this mission you’ve undertaken in support of ‘us’.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I appreciate hearing from you, Karen. I wasn’t sure how to approach this topic in a way that would be helpful to as many readers as possible. But I know some will feel offended. It seemed too important not to address it, though.

      Thank you for reading my book! I think many people discover their own giftedness when researching for their kids.

  10. Antarmukhi Avatar

    Thank you Paula for this post and the wonderful links. I know America is in a lot of turmoil especially emotionally due to the recent elections. Unfortunately we in India have been dealing with our own prime minister who seemingly like your president hides a religious fundamentalist attitude for the last two years. The government introduced a demonetisation drive on the same day as the American election results, that has the country divided and we have venom and vitriol spewing out. The only options are pro and against. I am in despair over what it seems like a fragmentation and division everywhere I look. People are triggered of their own past difficulties, colouring their views and making the other an enemy. It’s just seems exhausting. It also feels like compassion, empathy, humanity is taking a beating and I am just sponging it all up. As I am struggling with not getting overwhelmed and keeping my compassion afloat, your post is a good grounding resource. Thank you.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I’m so sorry to hear what’s happening in India, Antarmukhi. Let’s keep supporting each other to keep our “compassion afloat!!”

  11. Lucinda Leo Avatar
    Lucinda Leo

    Paula, It’s interesting experiencing what’s going on over there, 5 months on from my own intense reaction to Britain voting to leave the European Union.
    I wouldn’t want to make light of anyone’s authentic feelings, but witnessing what’s happening there has made me realise how far I’ve come processing my own emotions.
    No matter what’s happening around us, my experience is that our corks will naturally bob up to the surface (wellbeing) after a while. (“Everything will be all right in the end. And if it’s not all right, it’s not the end.”)

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Love, that, Lucinda. Hope our corks bob up soon! And I love that quote, too. It’s from a movie I enjoyed but the title slips my mind. Thank you for sharing.

  12. telperion1214 Avatar

    At first I was in denial that I had feelings about the results of the election. Then I realized that I’d started to eat sugar again… I got sick from just a small amount and am now paying the consequences. That is actually subject matter for another place…

    This discussion reminds me of a quote I love from Emerson:

    “If you love and serve men, you cannot by any hiding or stratagem escape the remuneration.
    Secret retributions are always restoring the level, when disturbed, of the divine justice.
    It is impossible to tilt the beam.
    All the tyrants and proprietors and monopolists of the world in vain set their shoulders to heave the bar.
    Settles forevermore the ponderous equator to its line,
    and man and mote, and star and sun, must range to it, or be pulverized by the recoil.”
    – Emerson

    I believe this as much as I believe the Universe is friendly, as posited by Einstein. Hang in there, my friends, and see how much this actually impacts your own life and soul. If it makes it stronger, so much the better. And if we all perish, our spirits are set free… although I do recognize that this is not the most attractive option.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Powerful quote, telperion1214. Good to hear from you. Thank you.

  13. Shin Shin Tang Avatar
    Shin Shin Tang

    Dear Paula, Thanks for having the courage to post this! For many of us, the election result is a cultural trauma. We need all the hope we can give each other.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Sharing the hope. Thanks for writing Shin Shin Tang.

  14. Jens Lyon Avatar
    Jens Lyon

    I’m about to publish my novel, so I’ve been putting a lot of energy into getting it ready. Right after the election, I had an existential crisis where I almost decided not to bother with it. Fortunately, a friend talked me down from that ledge.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      It’s more important than ever to put your work out there, Jen!

      1. Jens Lyon Avatar
        Jens Lyon

  15. Charmaine Coimbra Avatar
    Charmaine Coimbra

    I’d be in complete denial if I didn’t admit that in the pit of my stomach I still feel as if I have run head-on against the most venomous creature in the jungle. And while I’m inching back from last week, I can thank my own searching and writing about this event for bringing me back to reason. (https://charmainecoimbra.com/2016/11/12/the-election-uncorked-champagne/ )

    My friend who is active in the inter-faith community and who lived through the 1940s, said, “We must be diligent,” because as Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.”

    So, I will work on dredging up more energy to keep the light shining.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks, Charmaine. Yes, it takes a lot of energy but keep your light shining!!

  16. changemaker Avatar

    I’ve been alternating between states of sheer panic, full-blown grief and sorrow, fury, despair, numbness, and guilt at my apparent inability to get out of the crouched position in the corner with my hands over my horrified eyes. Even having nightmares involving hostile alien ships landing and eviscerating loved ones and human symbols of peace, harmony, justice and light. It feels to me as if Voldemort has prevailed and is polluting the world and stacking powers with his death eaters. These election results are triggering PTSD symptoms. This will take quite some time for me to work through, and I will need help. And if I hear one more Trump supporter holler “He won, get over it!” I’m going to lose my shit on them. Again. That said, as an INFJ, I know I will be compelled to action, and will work to change this potentially apocalyptic election outcome, whether switching careers, organizing events, writing letters, petitioning, protesting, donating, ( realistically, probably all of them) or whatever else I will come up with. Since just a kid, always been an activist and an advocate for any injustice I see, large or small, whether animal, environmental or social and will continue to be until I take my last breath. now is the time for recovering, healing, taking time off, self-care, then out to the front line to fight the good fight. NOT my president. I will never utter his title and his last name together. #stillbernie

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I know so many people are having such a hard time. If you’re experiencing PTSD symptoms, this might be a good time to find a counselor. And engage in some self-soothing and self-care.

    2. FredB Avatar

      You should know that “He won, get over it!” is an echo of Obama’s statement, “I won, get over it.”

      It’s not like we have never done this before. President Donald Trump is our 45th president. The process is well established and durable. It results in an orderly, peaceful transfer of power that is not available to every country. Be proud of that.

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        I think the difference is the temperament, narcissism, racism, assaults on women and unpredictable nature of this person this time, Fred. What appears to be his absolute self-interest and lack of empathy. I understand that there have been others like this but maybe not quite as extreme? But I hear what you’re saying. We can be proud of the way the system works and in the transfer of power. And there will be a 46th president.

        1. FredB Avatar

          You could have had Mitt Romney.

          1. Paula Prober Avatar
            Paula Prober


  17. Gail Post, Ph.D. Avatar
    Gail Post, Ph.D.

    Brilliant – and very brave of you. There may be some who might challenge you (since they might be happy about the election results!), but hopefully they will appreciate your extremely wise words of comfort for the millions of us who are struggling with this. Thanks so much for putting this out there.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I thought about what to write and whether to send it out or not for quite some time. I know it was risky. This blog isn’t about politics. But it felt important since the situation is so extreme. I hope that everyone can appreciate the words of Clarissa Pinkola Estes and perhaps we can have some positive dialogue in the comments.

  18. kristen k Avatar
    kristen k

    Yes, Paula. As usual you are in my head. Thank you for writing this post and helping us all through this challenging time. In addition to everything you’ve mentioned–I’m also feeling a need for a WHOLE lot of self care…not a massage or pedicure…but for time to be quiet–to do things that are really nurturing–so that I may as you say “move forward, together, toward that enduring good”. thank you for everything that you have done for me and for all the healing you do in the world!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for writing, Kristen. Self care is so important. Sending appreciation back to you!

      1. Antarmukhi Avatar

        Hi Paula, I realise you have worked hard to keep this blog sensitive and address the distress felt in the recent times. My comment doesn’t seem much on the same lines, mentioning the leaders. My sincere apologies. In the throes of feelings, I failed to communicate my empathy and understanding of the distress you mentioned succinctly that i too resonated deeply with.The links and articles are very much helpful. Thank you.

        1. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober

          I thought your comment was fine, Antarmukhi! I want my blog to be inclusive and yet, I felt that I couldn’t ignore this election result. I think we’re all trying to figure out how to respond. Your contribution is always welcome. You provide us with a larger view, as a person living in India. I’m so glad to have you with us.