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Notes from the Nexus

Post-Election: 11/9 and the Throughlines of Resilience

21 Comments / in Blog / by Doug Silsbee

Yesterday was a very difficult day.

I went to bed on Tuesday night with the election trend clear, but not knowing the outcome. I awoke at 6 a.m. yesterday to find out that the candidate that I felt scared by had won decisively. I understand that for many, this was great news, and I appreciate that there can be reason and caring behind this view.

I was in shock. I woke my wife, wanting to share the moment with her, but quickly headed out for day three of our Presence-Based Coaching retreat.

At breakfast, the group looked shell-shocked; some students were crying, others trying for humor, there was a sense of disbelief. Not everyone wanted the same candidate. Not everyone even voted. But together, we all felt the tsunami that crashed ashore Tuesday night.

I was working with my own emotions. Outside, it was cold and drizzly; inside me, it felt like all was lost.

9/11 had the sense of nov-9a seismic shift and the undeniable emergence of a world that I didn’t recognize. I had the same feeling the day Reagan was elected, when Kennedy was shot, during the Cuban missile crisis. In those seminal and traumatic moments, it seemed everything I knew was under threat. Yesterday felt the same: that deep existential dread. And, we were to be leading a coach training retreat?

By the end of the day, our group of 21 students and Sarah Halley and I had moved into a very different place. I think the container of our group and the structure of our retreat were strong enough to take the tremendous shock of the unexpected election results and use that energy to deepen our experience and forge something powerful and useful.

I want to share some of what helped; it’s generalizable. All of these had previously been designed into the program. And, we moved a lot around to serve what was needed in the moment.

Our practice, in PBC, is to be present and work with what is happening. These practices are personal and coaching-related. Yesterday they had new immediacy and relevance:

  • Community: We began the day by sitting together. We stayed present with each other, and with ourselves. All had time to voice whatever they cared to say. There were tears, anger, shame, fear, gratitude, caring. One person had to leave the room and return. The process took a couple of hours. By the end, something had shifted. Community and connectedness are key ingredients for healing. It begins with feeling heard and respected.
  • Meaning-making: In PBC, polarities are a lens for exploring tensions and competing commitments. We sense these dynamics within ourselves, in our relationships and teams, and in society. Yesterday, our students coached each other through a powerful somatic coaching exercise to illuminate and integrate polarities in service to what we care about. And, we understood, with greater compassion, the nature of the polarization that has rent the US in this election cycle. It is reassuring to have language and distinctions for interpreting and making meaning of disruptive events.
  • Grounding and settling: We (including me) began the day feeling shaken to the core, fragile, raw. We took reflection time in the afternoon to be alone on the land. Trees were still growing, the sun poked through clouds, kingfishers swooped up the river that has been flowing here for a half billion years. It was deeply settling to simply be outdoors. No requests, no drama. Nothing in nature supports the illusion of permanence. When we are outdoors, it feels easier to relax, to accept whatever is true, to settle and ground in the faith that everything runs its course.
  • Perspective-taking: Last evening, we did a coaching practice called the Grand Tour. This practice invites us into the perspective of big time, and we are able to sense ourselves as the inevitable product of everything that came before. We see ourselves as a unique person with an invitation to contribute to what happens next. This big context gives our commitments a new and deeper meaning. We are inheritors of our current situation. And, we each, in our little corner of the world, are an authors of what comes next. What we do matters.

These four themes provided the container for 23 humans to move through strong shock and grief, to come together, to practice some crucial coaching skills along the way, and to metabolize our shock and grief into intimacy, presence, and readiness for whatever is next. It was a privilege to share an extraordinary day with these extraordinary people. In the midst of shock and disruption, our process of being present together will stay with me and inspire me well into the future.

I know that this work isn’t done. I still feel waves of grief and fear. I suspect that some extraordinarily difficult times are ahead. And, I feel optimistic, awake, and ready.

All of us are in this together, whoever you voted for, or if you didn’t vote. Please share:

  • How are you resourcing yourself internally in this new reality?
  • How are you resourcing with others?
  • And, what might you share that would inspire and support others?
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21 replies
  1. Mary Schaefer
    Mary Schaefer says:

    Doug, my friend just introduced me to your work. I am so glad I had the opportunity to read of your experience as you describe it here. Just reading about it helped me feel more grounded. Thank you.

  2. Mary Jo Asmus
    Mary Jo Asmus says:

    Thanks Doug. I was brought back to my time at the PBC retreat, and feel great gratitude for that community and currently for your wisdom during a difficult time. I was also surprised to find that the four themes were entered into naturally and were familiar themes that have helped me to stay grounded yesterday and over and over in my life. Everyone in our immediate family (children, spouses) were feeling spent after the election (this is a mild term, and doesn’t exactly describe the moods we all felt), as we spontaneously gathered for dinner while working through those four themes (without realizing it). I would add one more theme that is helpful – laughter. We laughed. A lot.

  3. Jo Ann Skinner
    Jo Ann Skinner says:

    Thank you, Doug. Reading about the process your went through with your class is grounding for me. Taking a deep breath and moving forward with compassion in my heart.

  4. Jackie
    Jackie says:

    Hello to all my very dear PBC community. You have been so present in my mind and heart these last few days. I have been able to stand on my shores a long long way away, notice my own sadness and only imagine how this new reality feels for you. Doug, as always your writing brought positive reflection and useful steps. What we each do, and how we each are in community matters!
    This article form Jennifer Garvey Berger was also helpful

  5. Fran Fisher
    Fran Fisher says:

    I found peace and calm within myself about two weeks before the election. I made a decision to stop judging the judgers and feeding fear with fear. I made a choice to trust even more deeply the grand scheme of things beyond my understanding or control. I call that grand scheme of things “divine intelligence.” I am not afraid.

  6. Vivien Pau, Hong Kong
    Vivien Pau, Hong Kong says:

    Thanks Doug for the sharing. As someone watching the US President election from afar, I feel we have much to learn from the democratic tradition in the US. How you manage diversity with respect and move forward. It is calming to read your article – I sense calm amidst chaos, groundedness in the eye of a storm.
    I am interested in the Grand Tour coaching approach you mentioned – is there anyway I can learn some more about it?

    • Doug Silsbee
      Doug Silsbee says:

      Hi, Vivien… the Grand Tour is a guided practice we do in our second PBC retreat. I don’t have a recording of it, nor anything written. Brian Swimme’s work is one of the influences on that practice, but it’s really a piece that is specific to our coach training. I will also have a chapter in the next book that points us to that perspective…. and maybe a blog post in this space…

      Thanks for asking!

  7. Sairamesh
    Sairamesh says:

    Getting in touch with oneself is perhaps the best gateway to understanding others and building relationships. I loved reading and reflecting every bit of your writing Doug. Touched I am, and I am willing to accept and ‘just be’. Hope Trump trumps the trust beheld in him, his leadership and the Republicans.

  8. Scott Ferguson
    Scott Ferguson says:

    Dear Doug and all

    Doug, that is masterful how you made me feel like I was right there “with you”and with your PBC group as all of this unfolded for you Tuesday evening and Wednesday. I do not recall reacting to Reagan’s election, but your other examples vividly brought back the thoughts and feelings of those moments, such as being an 8 year old boy living in the shadow of the Cuban missile crisis nervously watching my beloved father care for the family he so loved the only way he could think of by building and stocking a fallout shelter. Invoking Churchill, the peaceful resolution of that crisis may have been America’s finest hour.

    Now to 2016. This is serious. They protest in Portland, SF, Seattle, Baltimore, NYC and so many other wonderful cities. They cower in the Mosques. They celebrate at the Kremlin. I am not able to appreciate the views of those who wanted this result.

    In June, I had the privilege to tour the Interpretation Centre in Nuremberg, a classy, tasteful, caringly designed museum that took the German government decades to think through to “get it right” so to make sure history never repeats itself.

    As the tour took us through the section that explains the rise of the National Socialist Workers’ Party, the political playbook was eerily familiar. A candidate was unveiling it night after night on CNN. And apparently, it worked.

    They also explain how to engage forces to go door to door and how to motivate neighbours to snitch on neighbours to facilitate strategic deportations.

    While I worry about the candidate who won, I feel particularly threatened by whatever phenomenon elected him. I listen to interviews of the celebrants and their viewpoints in utter disbelief. Where I live, I detect only one point of view. Everyone I’ve spoken to is reeling.

    To turn a wise phrase of your wonderful First Lady, as the winners appear shallow, good people go deep, as evidenced by your reflections and these replies by members of our Silsbee community.

    Love trumps hate. That’s the message they try to get across in Nuremberg. They also indicate that it can take a while and a lot of courage and sustained effort.

    Anticipating that depth and effort gives me hope.

  9. Ralf Schneitz
    Ralf Schneitz says:

    Dear friends in the USA,

    Since hours I am fighting with myself what are the right words from a perspective 1000 miles away. What words could help or ease your suffer? It might take hours to express my deepest respect and compassion for all of you.

    I wonder whether the result of your election could be a huge chance for your country? Your country will not be the same in four years, as it is today. Does this mean it will be worse? Has it to do with a single person? It could be, but who is the person?

    You are such privileged human beings living in an incredible beautiful country, with unlimited possibilities and huge power and energy. I love the big size of your country, the possibilities human beings have and in particular your daily question: ”How are you today?“ What a great respectful question, really worth to ask each day!

    Your history supported you for centuries and it will support you this time. Your nation had learned, developed and improved, independently what happened. Why should it be different this time?

    What really happened? What is the meaning-making you create for you, for others, for our community and country? What are the words, the conversation you generate out of this meaning-making? What is the future you start to create?

    I wonder whether our meaning-making out of what happened is related to our level of consciousness? In these times do we not need leaders with a high level of consciousness for our own complexity and the complexity of the world?

    Complexity has its own principles and rules and can’t be dominated and conducted, it is conducting us. What a luck!

    I hope I could express my compassion, respect and optimism for each of you.

    Take care,

    Ralf Schneitz
    CONVERSANT Germany

  10. Andrea Sharb
    Andrea Sharb says:

    Doug, thank you for this posting.

    Friends of mine began texting me at 7AM on Nov 9, devastated and wanting to get together ASAP!!! to commiserate. Though I was devastated myself, I knew in my heart that wallowing in despair and dwelling on the outcome would not support me in transitioning out of the place I was in. I also knew that transitioning would be the first step in being able to move forward with my work and the important work that might be abandoned by the incoming administration, like work on Climate Change. Luckily a post titled Five Science-Backed Strategies to Build Resilience from the Greater Good Science Center at Berekley was waiting for me in my inbox that morning.

    One of the suggestions in that article invited me to change my narrative through expressive writing. Because of my coach training I had an acute awareness of how well formed and deeply ingrained my narrative was, as well as how tightly I was clinging to it. I opened myself to the exercise and wrote about my disappointment, my anger and my fears. I wrote about what I feared for myself, my children, citizens dependent on programs like Obamacare, and the planet. Getting closer and closer to retirement age, one fear of mine was that devastating news would result in a crash in the stock markets, after all Dow futures had been down 600 the evening of November 8 when I went to bed. Having documented that fear, I forced myself to put down my pen and look at what was actually happening in the markets. Lo and behold, the sky hadn’t fallen. This small rip in the fabric of my narrative opened me up to the possibility that other fears I’d expressed also might not come to pass. True, none of those fears could be dispelled with a quick google search, but the reminder that my narrative is a story and not the truth was powerful.

    Reading your posting today created yet more rips in my narrative. Your reminder that we’ve experienced similar feelings before is an important reminder of our resilience. The mention of the Grand Tour, which I recall fondly from my PBC retreat so many years ago, brought me peace and reminded me of my place in this universe, creating an appropriate context for this current experience. I hope in months to come more rips will develop and I’m confident that as time goes on I’ll be able to pull and tear and alter the fabric of my narrative even more.

    Doug, thank you for your openness and your willingness to share with this community as we support one another in healing and moving forward.

  11. Tina Geithner
    Tina Geithner says:

    I, too, am deeply concerned…and very appreciative for Doug’s blog and communications from like-minded individuals who recognize the potential issues with and possibilities available for responding to the outcome of the election in the U.S.
    A colleague and I just finished teaching the 3-day residency (on-campus) portion of an 8-week graduate class on mindfulness that was scheduled for the day before, day of, and day after the election (interesting timing!). We gave some time and space in the class to acknowledge reactions to and feelings regarding the outcome of the election, and we practiced centering and metta/loving-kindness meditation. We were gentle with each other and mindful in our communication, and my sense is that those practices helped ease suffering (for those who were experiencing it) and to help us be aware of how we respond.
    We have the opportunity to be mindful in our responses, to come from love, to direct our attention towards the good, and to take a stand for the things that are important to us, such as “the dignity and worth of all human beings. Without exception.” (Mandy Blake, master Somatic coach, and colleague and friend of Doug’s). This can be an opportunity to “walk our talks” on multiple levels, and to feel our convictions, to speak our values, and move forward from grief and anger and into positive action.
    I am not sure yet what this means for me, but I know I can start by being aware when I’m triggered by what has happened and fears about what that might mean, and choosing to communicate in thoughtful, compassionate ways and extend kindness toward others. I’m just echoing what others have said and what you all know…just helps to put it out there in the collective space. Thanks for helping to create that space, Doug :-), and for all of you who are holding a space for others and for our nation for moving forward in a positive way.

  12. Coleen Davidson
    Coleen Davidson says:

    Dear Doug & PCB colleagues, thank you for your thoughtful and deeply mindful post. My circle in Canada is reeling from what has just happened – we are still discussing it on a personal and national level and what this means for us as individuals and as a country. I feel that the world is tilting on a not so great axis, and I ask myself – What can I do to help? my conclusion – similar to the process you outlined in your post – I can continue my work, bringing light, creativity and gentle-kindness and love into the world and maybe during this particularly challenging time – tuning it up a notch. Light & love to all. Coleen

    • jan
      jan says:

      One foot in front of the other, being in nature and having faith in the universe, meditating on a brighter world ahead…not losing hope. Pulling family and friends close…not in fear but in gratitude.

  13. L. A. Reding
    L. A. Reding says:

    Dear Doug,
    I always read your posts because I know I’ll leave grounded.
    One question I keep asking myself is “What is needed by the people?” All the people.
    It helps me stay in curiosity and response-ability.
    Also, if disrespect and abuse become the new paradigm, I am personally ready to take a stand like I’ve never been called to before.
    I hold light and love and courage. L.A. Reding

  14. ken eaton
    ken eaton says:

    i recently read a analogy in the book The Art of Possibility :
    A shoe factory sends two marketing scouts to Africa to report back on the prospect of increasing markets. one responded “SITUATION HOPELESS STOP NO ONE WEARS SHOES”
    the other wrote back:
    I realize that imagining the future is thankless task as it has not happened yet. My explanation for what happened is that we have suppressed people’s anger and frustration for so long that this is the result. meaningful conversations have been cut off by name calling and assumptions of motives.
    I choose to look upon this as an opportunity to have meaningful dialogue.

  15. Mark Crouter
    Mark Crouter says:

    On Nov. 4, NY Times columnist David Brooks wrote, “A few weeks ago I met a guy in Idaho who was absolutely certain that Donald Trump would win this election….Everybody he knows is voting Trump so his entire lived experience points to a Trump landslide.” Brooks’ tone implied that the guy in Idaho was hopelessly provincial because he couldn’t see that Clinton might win. In retrospect, we see that they both might have been provincial in their views. As I reflected on this and your question about supporting others, I came up with this, which I hope will be supportive (if not exactly inspiring):
    As coaches, we learn that we have to “meet the clients where they are.” It can be hard, but even harder to apply that commitment outside the coaching relationship. How can we meet that “guy from Idaho” where he is? How can we meet 47 million Trump voters where they are? How can we meet Donald Trump where he is? If we can do it for our clients, why not for our fellow Americans? And how might this conversation be different if we could?

    • Linda Furness
      Linda Furness says:

      Thanks for that, Mark. I think that has to be part of any positive way forward from here. As Sharon Salzberg said in a post election meditation (one of the resources that has been helping me), we are all in this together, and will sink or swim, together. “That’s not being sweet – it’s just the way things are.” It’s so difficult to let go of my identification with my own values and views enough to really listen to others whose perspectives seem to threaten mine…but what other way forward is there?

  16. Kim
    Kim says:

    Hi Doug,
    Beautiful and poignant writing by you. I had the sense of the lodge embracing and supporting the emergence of connection and community and the openness of the land that cradled people as they settled into themselves. Memories: 9/11 – a project kickoff with 50 people making their way to Nashville that day. 2004 and 2008 elections – a time where I was frequently in France on a global program; interacting with a big international community that cared equally or more deeply about our election than their own.
    Last week, feeling the dread as the evening wore on and waking to the news. Sitting on the deck and watching the sun rise, knowing that nothing had changed for the sun, it is still in the sky brightly shining the same as the day before. Wondering how I could embrace that.
    I was and am grateful to be able to witness myself and people in my communities. Acceptance and suffering, breathing and wishing for a more spacious existence for all of humanity. Grateful for my church community who has been affirming and choosing peace in 2016. Deeply touched by the awareness that there’s a very big population that has not been heard for the last 8 years and wondering how big my circle needs to be to hold all of what is emerging, so all voices can be heard…and I can’t find the edges to that, yet. And believing that this disruption holds big opportunities and gifts for us – individually and systemically. I am curious about the future.


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