We held a presidential election in America earlier this week and the results left some people astounded and shocked. It was perceived by many as a contest between love and hate, acceptance and fear, inclusivity and exclusion. How we each processed these apparent polarities depended a great deal on which candidate we supported. In the end, the country was split almost exactly down the middle: the electoral vote went to one candidate and the popular vote to the other. In America, the electoral vote decides the election.
It’s not my intent here to discuss who should have won, or who did win. Rather, I’d like to explore the role the Five Elements played in this election in the hope that this understanding will help us begin healing. America is dangerously divided right now and needs to come together to move forward as a whole country. As Abraham Lincoln pointed out in his June 16, 1858 speech, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
A dominant theme in this election was fear. Fear of people not like us, fear of what either candidate might do if elected, fear of lost rights, fear of staying stuck, fear of elitism, fear of exclusion; you name it, we feared it. Even those aspects of the campaign that emphasized working together carried an underlying fear of what would happen if we just couldn’t work together.
In the Five Elements model, fear sits in Water, which we all have at some level in our elemental wiring. Water deals with newness and untested ideas, and this election delivered that in spades: we were going to elect either the first female president or the first president with no government experience. The threat to our perceived safety this newness created did its job. Most people were stressed and often terrified during much of the election cycle.
Remember that stress can cause each of the elements to become dysfunctional versions of their normal selves. For Water under stress, their usual positive personality traits of hope, optimism, trust, and tenacity can morph into hopelessness, fear, distrust, and intolerance. Out of balance Water easily loses faith in the world and feels like no one cares. Their normal connection to something bigger than themself (like a country) or trust that all will be well can transform into the fear that they are being left out, fear that they won’t get what they need, or fear of losing something that they value or that defines them.
And because we all have Water in us, there was plenty of fear to go around during this particular campaign because the two candidates were miles apart on almost every single issue. Specific issues (insert your favorite from women’s rights to suitable temperament) made it easy for fear to flood the land. What happens when there is too much fear in any whole, like for example, an electorate? If the Five Elements model works well, Earth energy rises up to control the Water (Earth controls Water). This did happen, but instead of directing the Earth energy at the people afraid of being left out, rightly or wrongly the Earth energy that manifested seemed more directed at defending the “others” who were demonized as the reason that Water was losing its place in the whole.
Those familiar with the Five Elements model know that Earth not controlling Water leads to excess Water. Too much Water will eventually give rise to too much Wood (Water feeds Wood), which can manifest as anger and violence. We saw examples of this at various times during the campaign. But remember, for Waters – and we all have Water in us – the initial issue is usually fear and distrust. Sadly (and understandably), these exact conditions have changed little in the 48 hours since the election. We still have an abundance of fear (what will the president-elect do? Think? Steal from us? Etc.). But what is it that helps control the excess Water creating that fear? Right, it’s Earth. And what does Earth excel at? Compassion.
If you are on the losing side of this election, perhaps you can muster a bit of compassion for the fearful people who have lost something (jobs, lifestyles, pride in country, whatever) and who voted in droves for the winning candidate. If you are on the winning side of this election, perhaps you can muster a bit of compassion for those who are terrified that they are about to lose something (rights, freedoms, pride in country, whatever).
Honestly, it’s right there in the model. More Earth, more compassion, will help manage the turbulent Water energy creating the fear overload we are all feeling right now. And that could lead to healing, which would be a very good thing. I’m sure going to try.