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We could all use a post-inauguration media diet makeover

Credit: Construction Photography/Avalon /Getty Images

I’m currently a week into my new media diet. As soon as Joe Biden was sworn in as president, I decided it was time to refresh my daily intake. Not because I don’t believe we all need to be politically active or outspoken (see all of my previous writing), but because in the end democracy did succeed, the adults are finally back in the room, and we can all breathe a least a tiny sigh of relief. The challenges ahead are daunting, and they will require all of us to be active citizens, but Jesus, I don’t need an update…

You have to overcome your brain, which is literally trying to keep you alive

U.S. President Donald Trump’s supporters outside the Capitol building in Washington D.C., United States on January 06, 2021. Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

In one way, the trauma you may be feeling from the past 48 hours is a good thing: It means your brain is trying to keep you safe.

We are wired to crave information that has a survival benefit. As our species evolved over roughly 2.5 million years, a laser-like focus on potential dangers helped us avoid death. A Homo sapien who lived 150,000 years ago and focused on, say, how beautiful the trees looked instead of the predator lurking within those trees? They became dinner. …

Unhinged optimism isn’t healthy.

Photo: South_agency / Getty Images

Is there anything more American than a redemption narrative — the idea that deep down, we know we’re right? That the right guy, the good guy, our guy, always wins in the end if you wait around or watch for long enough?

During election season, this belief becomes something like an addiction, with the New York Times needles and the Nates (Silver and Cohn, that is) serving as our dealers — offering up hope, horror, tweets, and forecasts long after our twitching eyeballs beg us to look away.

As things stand right now, with Joe Biden looking victorious, one iteration…

Masked protestors side hugging.
Masked protestors side hugging.
Photo: Eric Baradat/Contributor/Getty Images

Right now, roughly two years into this extremely long day, assuming the worst is the only thing many of us have the energy for. Psychologists call it “defensive pessimism:” the strategy of managing anxiety over an undesirable outcome by lowering expectations to meet it.

Defensive pessimism helps, sometimes, because it forces planning — in thinking through that awful hypothetical, what you’re really doing is coming up with an action plan to mitigate its awfulness.

At this moment, though, there’s no more action to be taken (besides worrying, as The Onion helpfully points out). There’s only waiting. …

What I’m telling my therapy clients today

Photo: Olivier Douliery/Contributor/Getty Images

As I watched the election results begin to roll in last night, I kept thinking about the work I do in my therapy practice as a couples counselor. When a fight erupts, I give each person a chance to tell their version of an event.

This practice never fails to astonish me because it demonstrates how two people can experience the same thing in a completely different way: One person sees themselves as the hero, while the other labels them the villain. One person thinks they handled a disagreement with maturity, while the other calls them a selfish child.


There’s a reason you wince at posts that try to tie up this election with a neat little bow

Person riding bicycle with “VOTE” banner on it.
Person riding bicycle with “VOTE” banner on it.
Photo: Jacqueline Anders/Getty Images

On social media, I’ve been seeing posts saying that we should be kind to each other because no matter who wins, “we are all still neighbors.”

While these types of messages might seem fairly uncontroversial and even welcomed in a volatile political climate, please remember that for marginalized folks, it’s not that easy.

For me, as an openly queer woman, this election is not simply about preferring a candidate or political party. This election is about my right to work without harassment, to have my marriage legally recognized, and to exist in a world that feels safe. While some friends…

Man looks at his phone while sitting at his desk.
Man looks at his phone while sitting at his desk.
Photo: 10'000 Hours/Getty Images

I’ve been texting with three friends about politics since the 2020 presidential election season began back in, what was it? 1999? 2007? And I’m not sure a day has gone by without us texting about poll numbers or election anxiety.

A politics thread allows you a certain level of vulnerability and candor that Facebook doesn’t (or shouldn’t at least), yet it’s more useful and uplifting than, like, saying to your dog, “I’m cautiously optimistic about indies in Sumter County!”

It’s been the single most important source of information for me about how the election is going and about how my…

Asian man on his laptop.
Asian man on his laptop.
Photo: Oscar Wong/Getty Images

Most of us spend a lot of time reading, talking, and thinking about politics. While we can make an impact by voting and supporting our candidates and causes, we need to be aware of our limitations as well.

Consider: how does it benefit you to internalize stress about things you don’t control? To a Stoic, “indifference” means that none of the external things that happen to us are inherently good or bad, and so our task is to remain indifferent to external ups and downs (both fortune and misfortune). We should focus instead on our highest aim. For a classic…

Photo: San Francisco Chronicle/Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images

Talking to someone who disagrees with you about politics can feel like a game of tennis — a game that ends with both players shouting, thinking horrible things about each other, and vowing to never step onto that court again.

But maybe we’re going about it all wrong.

In a Medium post, Karin Tamerius argues that our standard methods of persuasion often make things worse. …

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