Four Steps to Cope with Pain from the 2016 Elections

Time heals and it will help us overcome the pain.
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By: Manoj Jain MD and Mark W. Muesse PhD

The pain is silent, subtle and gnawing, like that of being overlooked for a promotion, or being rejected by your dream college. Over 60 million Americans who voted for Hillary Clinton may be groping for a way to overcome such a pain after the stunning loss of their presidential candidate.

For thousands of years, sages have guided us on how to find comfort in a time of pain and suffering. They tell us that hardship and suffering are inescapable parts of life. How we cope with suffering, is our choice.

Suffering is of two types. Physical suffering comes from an injury or a disease such as cancer. Mental suffering is being disappointed, concerned, worried, anxious, panicked, or depressed. Both physical and mental suffering can be personal or public.

Here are four suggestions offered by the wise sages on how to overcome the pain of mental suffering.


1. Be present in the moment. Be aware of what has transpired. Don't scratch at the wound by rethinking, reanalyzing, or rejudging. Don't get caught in the web of What ifs - what if Comey's letter, Podesta's emails, and Obamacare rate hikes had not happened at a crucial time in the campaign. The past has happened. It is our time to live in the present.

2. Allow for acceptance. Accept the loss. Accept the pain. And then just as it came, allow yourself to let it go. The depth and intensity of suffering is often related to how attached we are to what we have lost. The sages tell us to do our work and our service without the desire for the fruits or reward. We must accept whatever outcome has resulted. Love and value your candidate and your political position and modulate the attachment to an appropriate acceptance level of your choosing.

3. As hard as it may be, practice loving kindness, compassion, meditation. With each inhalation and exhalation say these words.

May I be well, happy, and peaceful.
May my family and friends be well, happy and peaceful.
May my teachers and mentors be well, happy, and peaceful.
May those persons whom I find difficult, be well, happy, and peaceful.
May all persons be well, happy, and peaceful.
May all living beings be well, happy, and peaceful.

Now imagine someone with whom you disagree, someone who has advocated for the opponent. Now with each breath repeat.

May those persons whom I disagree with be well, happy, and peaceful.
May the opponent be well, happy, and peaceful.

Without judgment or condescending attitude, hug a person who has voted for your opponent. Recognize them as a person with feelings and aspirations just like you.

4. Realize the wisdom of non-absolutism, or the multiplicity of views. The sages call it "Anekant"- which means that reality and "right and wrong" are perceived from different perspectives, and one single view does not hold the complete truth. The story of the six blind men and the elephant is a reminder that we collectively comprise reality and none of us single-handedly can grasp the truth. We must recognize the views of our rivals and opponents with open-mindedness and respect, even though we may disagree. In her concession speech, Hillary Clinton too accepted this: "we owe him an open mind and the chance to lead."

Time heals and it will help us overcome the pain. But the sages tell us, we also need other tools: we need to be present in the moment, allow for acceptance, practice loving-kindness, and realize multiplicity of views.

Manoj Jain is a physician and Mark W. Muesse is a philosopher who together teach meditation. See about their offerings.

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