There’s never been an election like this one and I say this as someone turning 70 next year. Feelings are high and emotional restraint is low. You can practically cut the political tension among families, friends, neighbors and co-workers with a knife. What a perfect time to turn to food to regulate your feelings. Or maybe there are better ways to manage your emotions and still enjoy a positive relationship with food.
There are a few reasons you might turn to food inappropriately when political hot buttons get pressed, whether yours or someone else’s. The first is to calm yourself down after a rousing debate that still has you reeling hours (or days) after it’s over. The second is to break internal tension if you’ve been holding in your sentiments and feel about ready to burst. Here are some emotional triggers that may come up for you regarding political disagreements:
- Wanting validation and approval: If you have difficulty standing up for your own opinions without worrying what others will think of you, you might have a tough time if your friends/family members/co-workers are supporting different candidates or referenda. You might feel the urge to go along with them outwardly, while secretly harboring opposing feelings. Or, you might remain silent and let them think you agree with them. Both situations can easily cause internal tension to build up in you.
- Fearing being confronted: You may be going along just fine in a political discussion until someone asks you directly, point blank, who or what you’re supporting. If you’re usually uncomfortable with being confronted or put on the spot, you might easily freeze up, not know what to say, lie or blurt out your opinion.
- Needing to be right: If you’re a person who needs to be right or have the last word, you may get angry that someone has a different opinion than you do. You may raise your voice, intrude into their space, and start an argument. Moreover, long after your disagreement is over, you may either feel ashamed of your behavior or still enraged.
Here are my suggestions (from an interview in the Sarasota Observer, 10/20/16, pp. 17-18, https://issuu.com/yourobserver.com/docs/sarasota_observer_10.20.16/c/smg6r40 and https://issuu.com/yourobserver.com/docs/sarasota_observer_10.20.16/c/smg6fq1) on how to approach talking about politics this electoral season:
- “When talking with someone who doesn’t see politics as you do, you’ll want to think long and hard about both your motive for having any kind of political debate and the effect it might have on the relationship. While it’s human nature to try to persuade someone to see life as you do or, in this case, vote as you do, it’s also hardwired into us to keep important relationships intact.”
- You’ll need to look to your experience and expectations to know what to do. “If every election year, you and your neighbor engage in friendly sparring about who’s voting for whom and it means nothing to either of you, that’s one thing. If, however, whenever you and your partner or spouse try to share political differences, you end up fuming at each other or retreating into chilly silence, don’t go there. If your boss or a higher-up tries to ensnare you into a political discussion, unless you’re sure that it will never be used against you, don’t go there either. Be especially careful about what you say on social media and when you’ve been drinking.”
Two crucial questions to ask yourself before even thinking about opening your mouth are: 1) “Why am I raising this subject or allowing myself to be lured into discussion about it, eg, to educate or give someone information because they’re open to it, because I love a rousing debate, because my friend/spouse/colleague and I always talk about politics and then agree to disagree? and 2) How will discussion affect my relationship eg, we’ll grow closer from sharing divergent opinions, it won’t have any impact, or whenever we get entangled in a political discussion, our relationship suffers?”
As to eating, during this time of political madness (and maybe for a while longer after the election as well), ask yourself two vital questions as well: Am I hungry enough to eat and, if so, is this really a food I want right now? and 2) If I’m not hungry, what am I feeling and how can I manage this feeling effectively.” This way you’re covered on both ends of the problem: emotions and eating.
And, please, because we live in a society in which we’re able to vote, get out there and cast your ballot if you haven’t already.