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Can we reduce our fear around the election?


I used to be scared of everything. I’m not exaggerating. At 26 years old, I was scared to go down some of the water slides at Water World. Not even the big ones.

As late as my mid-20s, a partial list of my fears included: slides, spiders, water, change, waking up, going to bed, authority figures, and women. For the first few decades of my life, fear was a constant companion.

So when I hear from so many Americans that they’re scared of the other side winning in November—62% of adults say that our democracy is in danger if the wrong team wins this fall—I can empathize.

But I also don’t think our fear in this area is particularly helpful. As Frank Herbert wrote in Dune, “Fear is the mind-killer.” Plus, being scared of an outcome that, realistically, each of us can do very little to prevent—our individual vote is unlikely to alter a presidential election—isn’t good for our mental health.

So what can we do to reduce our terror of the other side possibly winning in November? I propose two things.

First, we can cultivate a sense of perspective. Our country has survived slavery and the Civil War. It has endured through two World Wars. It has outlasted the Cold War and multiple terrorist groups trying to wipe us out.

We have already dealt with one full term of both Trump and Biden; and while opponents of each would say that our constitutional system has been tested by them, we’re also all still here. It’s unlikely that the United States will collapse just because our team loses; and by remembering everything our country has been through, we can keep our present problems in perspective.

Second, we can build resilience in our own lives. I think fear is target-agnostic. The more scared we are of X, the more scared we’ll be of Y. Conversely, the more secure we feel about Y, the less frightened we’ll be of X. Or, to put it another way: if we want to be less scared of the other side winning in 2024, maybe the solution is closer than we think.

What would a leap of courage look like in your own life? Maybe it would look like quitting a cushy but soul-crushing job to pursue your true calling. If your marriage is on the ropes, maybe it looks like telling your spouse how much you love them and want to fight for the relationship, and pushing to hire a competent couples’ therapist. That takes courage for sure.

Or maybe it’s more everyday. Maybe it looks like picking something that scares you and going and doing that thing. (When I decided I wanted to get over my crippling arachnophobia, I got up close and personal with caged tarantulas every weekend.) If you’re scared of heights, maybe it looks like skydiving. If you’re scared of the ocean, maybe it looks like going on a whale watch.

When we act courageously in one area, we can often find that our fear in other areas starts to fade. The more leaps of courage we take, the more we realize that we can handle anything life throws at us…including four more years of either Trump or Biden.

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