How to Get Out of the Cycle of Outrage In a Trump World
If we live in a perpetual state of outrage, Trump wins.
Have you heard about the latest outrage? Can you believe what the administration just did? I’m not actually talking about anything specific, but between the time I’m writing this and the time you’re reading it, there will no doubt have been plenty of examples. Your inbox and notifications are likely full of them. Your friends are probably texting you about them. You may well be talking about them at dinner tonight, before settling in to watch outraged pundits rehash them. Then there’s one last check for late-breaking outrages before a night of restless, fitful sleep. In the morning, with a check on the accumulation of whatever new outrages rained down overnight, the cycle starts all over again.
Trump has brought many new things to our lives. And one of them is this state of perpetual outrage (Trumprage? Trumpdignation?) provoked in reaction to the state of perpetual chaos his administration seems to generate on a daily, even hourly basis.
This is no way to live. Literally. We’re only 17 days in, and people are already exhausted by it. Trump hasn’t invaded any countries (yet), but he’s certainly invaded our minds and hearts. As Kevin Baker wrote in Politico, “thanks to social media, and to the nature of our new president and his administration, politics is suddenly with us always, in every aspect of our lives, including wherever we may look for diversion.”
And that’s not healthy. There is — as our president might say — a tremendous mountain of science that shows that when we live in an ongoing state of outrage, anxiety, fear and stress, it wreaks an awful toll on our physical and mental health. It’s not sustainable. And there is another way.
It’s not that the outrage is unwarranted. Trump’s executive order on refugees, his endless petty feuds — with allies, with judges, with Arnold Schwarzenegger — his constant stream of up-is-down and down-is-up fabrications is outrageous. Any president’s actions have real consequences in real people’s lives. This is high stakes and it really matters. But that’s precisely why it’s so important to take back control of how we react. Because only then will we be able to mitigate the effects of those presidential actions on the lives of people most vulnerable to them.
So we need to go back to the truth that helped the country recover after 9/11: if we are consumed by fear, the terrorists win. If we live in a perpetual state of outrage, Trump wins. Because when we become depleted and exhausted, and sapped of our energy, we’re not as resourceful, creative, or effective. The goal of any true resistance is to affect outcomes, not just to vent. And the only way to affect outcomes and thrive in our lives, is to find the eye in the hurricane, and act from that place of inner strength.
It’s the centered place Archimedes described when he said “give me a place to stand and I shall move the world.” It’s the place from which I imagine Judge James Robart issued his historic order to reverse Trump’s executive order on refugees. And it’s the place from which Viktor Frankl, who lost his pregnant wife, parents and brother in the Holocaust and spent 3 years in concentration camps, could write, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way…every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom.”
When we are robbed of our inner freedom, we feel like victims — victims of our circumstances, of Trump’s outrages, policies and chaos. If we want one more reason not to live in a state of victimhood and perpetual outrage, think of this: that’s the world Trump lives in. He wakes up feeling victimized by the media, he goes to sleep outraged at Alec Baldwin’s portrayal on SNL, and then he wakes up outraged at Judge Robart’s decision. And it’s from that place that he reacts and lashes out with language his administration has to spend news cycles explaining — like the “so-called” judge.
So whatever you do, don’t just let yourself get stuck in the outrage storm — that particular weather pattern is likely to be here for a long time. Remember, you have the power to step out of the storm, think carefully about how best to channel your valuable energy, and then take action. And there are so many ways to do that.
Laura Moser is a freelance writer and mother in Washington, D.C. After the election, she found she couldn’t disengage. So to channel her energy, and that of others as well, she created Daily Action, a daily text people can sign up for that gives them one concrete and specific action to take. In just a matter of weeks, she’s amassed over 100,000 subscribers. One is Aaron Becker, an author from Massachusetts. “People are feeling fatigue,” he told the Washington Post . “We are not really designed as human beings to take on the responsibility of everything at once.” But since channeling his energy in a specific way, he’s gotten a measure of control back in his life. “Now I feel like I can turn off my browser window and do some work,” he said.
And there are plenty of other groups doing a similar thing — making it easy to channel that outrage in productive ways that can change outcomes.
• 5 Calls gives you five calls that you can make in five minutes.
• The Resistance Manual is an open source guide to taking action on a range of issues, from incarceration to immigration.
• Run For Something is dedicated to helping young people get off the sidelines and into the leadership pipeline.
• No One Left Behind is dedicated to helping obtain special immigration visas for those — like translators and interpreters — who have helped U.S. soldiers abroad.
• The March for Science will be held on Earth Day, April 22nd. Showing up will be a way of demonstrating that we care about facts, data, science and what they tell us about climate change.
•The Indivisible guide bills itself as a “practical guide to resisting the Trump agenda,” and also shows you how to get involved with one of the over 4,500 local indivisible groups that have already been started.
When you fight a disease — and the Trump presidency is a disease, an assault on the health of our entire system — the most important thing is to give yourself the resources to allow your immune system to prevail over the disease. And that includes taking care of ourselves to strengthen our resilience — making sure we sleep, exercise, enjoy nature, eat healthily, take breaks from technology, and don’t start and end our day by going straight to the latest news before we’ve found that eye in the hurricane. As Marcus Aurelius, who spent nineteen years as the Emperor of Rome facing nearly constant war, a horrific plague, an attempt at the throne by one of his closest allies and an incompetent and greedy step-brother as co-emperor, wrote, “People look for retreats for themselves in the country, by the coast, or in the hills. There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.”
So how do you put this into action in your everyday life? How can we renew ourselves and thrive in the Age of Trump? Here are a few of our ideas. I hope you’ll add your own by hitting “write a response” below or telling me on social media at @ariannahuff on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook:
1) As they say on airplanes, put your own oxygen mask on first. Take care of yourself so you can take care of others.
2) Take action. Once you’ve taken care of step one, you’ll be ready to put your outrage to work, and the list above is a great place to start.
3) Remember that humor has always been a great way to find light in dark times. So seek out ways to laugh. There are, of course, the usual sources: Bill Maher, SNL (and Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer!). But you can also lead the way, as did whoever thought of the fake vigils to honor the victims of the “Bowling Green Massacre” made up by Kellyanne Conway.
4) Get creative — as did those who started the viral hashtag #dresslikeawoman in response to Trump’s narrow (and antiquated) ideas of how women should dress in the White House.
5) Find your own Thrive Tribe — reach out to people, seek out encouragement and inspiration from friends and be there for those who need the same, including those most vulnerable to Trump’s decisions.
6) Don’t limit your reading to social media — read the Greats and surround yourself with their wisdom. Here are two of my favorite quotes that I’m keeping by my bed right now: “Our actions may be impeded, but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. The impediment to action advances actions, what stands in the way becomes the way.” That’s from Marcus Aurelius. The other is from Albert Schweitzer: “One who gains strength by overcoming obstacles possesses the only strength which can overcome adversity.”
7) Unplug. Calendar time in your day when you choose to separate yourself from your devices, from the news, from social media.
8) Breathe. Seriously. It’s good for your brain.
9) Trust: As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Remember: truth and justice ultimately always win.