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Leading a Workshop after the U.S. Election

Last year our annual Area workshop was on the weekend after the U.S. presidential election. As the leader of the workshop, I was struggling to have any attention. I felt lost, alone, and scared. I am a father of two young girls of color, and I felt powerless and scared that I would not be able to protect them. As I listened to other people, I heard them describe feeling alone, untethered from things that had seemed secure just a few days before, unsure of the future, scared. As a result, I started the workshop assuming that everyone was probably struggling in a similar way and there would be little point in putting attention on other issues until we’d gotten a significant amount of discharge on the feelings that the election had brought up.

I held out that the current situation presented a great opportunity to look at what we hadn’t been able to face previously. I said that we would need to decide, over and over, to look at what it had brought up, to not jump over the feelings and start planning actions before we had discharged the discouragement, confusion, and isolation that had come to the surface.

I encouraged us all to discharge, and keep discharging. I insisted that our perspective would right itself, that we would be able to understand things we hadn’t understood, and face things we hadn’t been able to face, but only if we did this work. I said that the more we could do it, and stay with it, the more clearly we would understand the challenge that we face and how to take it on [confront it and do something about it].

I reminded us, over and over, that it takes time to discharge deeply. We have to feel what has been pulled to the surface and go back to it again and again. I encouraged us to not use our sessions to plan actions, complain about the situation, or seek reassurance by trying to compose a hopeful, forward-looking perspective (that would come later) but instead trust the discharge process.

I suggested that we turn off our cell phones for the weekend, or at least turn off the news feed and stop checking Facebook. Media forums are using our fears to attract our attention. There is often little real information, and certainly not information we need to be updated on hourly. We can discharge and decide what information we actually need. We can ask ourselves, “Is this advancing my perspective?” We can decide on a few news sources and how often we will access them. Our minds are ours. We can take them back.

I encouraged us to notice that we have each other, that we will always have each other—that we are in this together and always will be. I asked people to forego organizing topic tables at meals and instead use the time to sit with each other and visit. I asked them to try to make contact with everyone at the workshop, especially the people they didn’t know as well, even if it brought up feelings.

I suggested that we use our sessions to tell each other exactly what we were feeling, and discharge, and at some point ask ourselves, “When do I remember first feeling this way?” I didn’t insist that people work on early distress, but I reminded them to regularly ask themselves the question and to try, as often as they could, to work on the early losses and defeats the election had restimulated.

By Sunday, I could tell [perceive] that the fog was lifting. We could notice that we really did have one another. The tone was high. At the conclusion of the workshop, I encouraged everyone to have more sessions, including a short session on the phone every day. I’ve been doing that, and it’s made an enormous difference.

Steve Thompson
Area Reference Person for the Madison
RC Community, in Seattle, Washington, USA
Seattle, Washington, USA


Last modified: 2019-05-02 14:41:35+00