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Election Anxiety: What To Do If The "Other Side" Wins

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Are you stressing out over the election that is just around the corner? I mean, it's bad enough that we have this economic tsunami crashing around us every day, and now we are about to endure what could be a seismic election impact.

What if McCain-Palin somehow pull the rabbit out of the hat? What happens if Obama-Biden win in a landslide?

So what if we do get the "other" folks in office? How will you be affected? What can you do about it? This question applies no matter who you think the wrong choice might be, McCain-Palin or Obama-Biden.

Part of the fear, anxiety and consternation that seem to dog us every day now around the issues of the economy, this goofy war in Iraq, and the prospects of a sharply divided society all come back to a favorite theme of mine: the difference between independence and freedom.

Most people I have worked with over the years like to think of themselves as independent. I don't mean independent as a political term, but more of independence as a state of being or self sufficiency. Do you like to think of yourself as independent? I know I did until I got the difference between independence and freedom.

My theory is people proclaim independence, thinking they are claiming freedom, and, in the process, actually forfeit their true freedom in favor of apparent independence. Think about how often independence is proclaimed by someone who is clearly angry and you will get a glimmer of the freedom-independence difference I am writing about.

So, if you consider yourself to be independent, try this little test: do you make your own clothes? Do you raise your cotton? Anyone make your own sewing needles? You get the drift - just about all of us are dependent on others for a wide variety of life's necessities ranging from jobs to clothes.

About the only time any of us get worked up about our problems with being dependent on one another is when our set of expectations get threatened by someone else. Enter the election and the current economic meltdown.

The top couple of percent are worried about losing some of their excess, while those in the middle and lower brackets are worried about losing somewhere between a little and everything if the other ticket gets elected. Some have already lost a lot.

The real tragedy has nothing to do with lost bank accounts, homes, jobs, and the like. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that losing these kinds of things is a non-event. I lived in my car while in college after my dad died so I have some sense of what it is like to be at or near the bottom of the economic ladder.

The lesson here is more about freedom than it is about independence. Would you be willing to substitute the word freedom, or being free, for independence? Do you like to think of yourself as free, of having freedom? One definition for freedom might have something to do with the freedom to choose who you wish to be, truly independent of what others might want you to be.

Are you sacrificing your freedom to choose who you are because of something that happens around you or something that happens to you? Would you be any less free depending on which political party prevails?

So what do I mean by 'Freedom?" I am referring to true Freedom. The only Freedom that you have 100% control over. The only Freedom that no one can take away from you. Perhaps the best way to understand the concept, and more importantly, the power of the difference, is to consider the life of Victor Frankl.

Victor Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist working in pre-World War II Vienna, helping troubled people who were considered suicidal. His work was incredibly successful and caught the attention of some prominent thinkers in Germany.

As the war grew, he wound up being deported to Theresienstadt, a concentration camp, along with his wife, and parents. They were quickly separated and sent to different camps. Frankl himself was transferred to several, including Auschwitz and Turkheim (near Dachau). All of his family members, except his sister who escaped, died in one of the concentration camps.

On his arrival at Theresienstadt, he was selected to live, rather than be immediately executed. Once that decision was made, he was sent to the "showers" where he was stripped, completely shaved and clothed in prison garb that intentionally was the wrong size (large people were given clothes way too small, while small people were given clothes way too big). He quickly reasoned that the process was intended to strip the individual of any sense of being, importance or relevance.

Next up, the Nazi's gathered up his huge collection of research, records and writings, and burned his life's work in front of him. From there, he endured all manner of cruelty and inhumanity, including various forms of physical suffering and torture.

Along the way, as he struggled to maintain his sense of self and his dignity, he came to formulate some compelling thoughts and bits of awareness, which together allowed him to live, and to exude a dignity that the Nazi's could not extinguish.

For Frankl, the critical realization came as yet another indignity was forced upon him. That realization was about freedom. The simple yet powerful realization, goes like this:
"Freedom is that place in time just after they do something to me, and just before I choose my response."

The following are some quotes from Victor Frankl's seminal work, Man's Search for Meaning, which was published in 1946, after his long ordeal in the various concentration camps:

"When we are no longer able to change a situation - we are challenged to change ourselves."

"Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms, to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."

As we move through the coming days and months of unsteady economic challenges and the prospects of a difficult election, I encourage you to remember that as bad as you think one party or the other might might be, no one will be off to concentration camps even if they do get elected.

Follow Frankl's advice: think about where you are headed in your life, what experiences you are having, and what choices you can make about them. How could you choose freedom even in the worst of circumstances? How could you change yourself?

Allow me to leave you with a famous quote from Alexander Solzenitzen: "If you were to put the world to rights, with whom would you begin? Yourself or others?"


For more posts on Election Anxiety, click here.

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I'd love to hear from you. Please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at)


If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life and to your job, about a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please download a free chapter from my book, Workarounds That Work. You'll be glad you did.

Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at)

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