Each week, PhilSTAR L!fe addresses a reader's concern about relationships, career, and anything they want to talk about through its advice column: Asking for a Friend.
Dear L!fe friend,
I need advice on what I can do to not alienate myself further from our family members who are all Candidate A’s supporters. All of them keep on sharing false information and unfounded accusations against my preferred candidate (Candidate B). They won't listen to reason nor respect my opinions as I often hear them say that they won't consider me as a family member anymore albeit jokingly. It hurts me but I unfollowed a lot of them and kept my mouth shut in family group chats even if the lies they are sharing among themselves are laughable.
This election season is not good for my mental health.
Dear Stressed Voter,
I know of many people who undergo the same stress as you do. On a national level, politics and political discussions in the country are already toxic; how much more if dissents and discussions are brought to the household level?
I talked to a family psychologist named Noralle G. Collado—a sought-after speaker and counselor in Region 4-A—and this is what she had to say about your dilemma:
“That’s bullying. That’s verbal, emotional bullying. What happens to her is a familiar banter of bullying because it comes from her family. When it is done recurrently at home, that’s bullying, whether it is a joke or not. Nobody deserves to be bullied. There should be respect at home—regardless of who your presidential bet is,” began Collado, a guidance counselor for 27 years who shifted to family counseling for five years now.
She mentioned “respect.” And respect is such a lonely word these days, especially when it comes to topics pertaining to presidential bets. Respect, like what’s happening in your family, is becoming endangered as you are sitting, defending yourself in one post, ducking from tirades, and parrying blows from the opposite court. Alone.
In her practice, Collado observed that many homes have been divided because of politics; many friendships severed. “The best thing to do in that situation is to reach out to a family friend, someone who can mediate between Stressed Voter and her family members. She is in a most precarious situation because she’s alone defending her stand, and the situation is already causing her mental stress.”
“And mental health problem is a serious problem. She needs to reach out to someone who can bridge her to her family. Someone who can tell them that Stressed Voter is already affected by all the ‘false information and unfounded accusations against my preferred candidate,’” Collado said.
Stressed Voter, get an ally. Someone neutral. Someone your family respects. Again, the word “respect” crops up. Maybe this time, we hope and pray, it will not be a lonely, futile word.
“If the first attempt fails. Try again. But the family of Stressed Voter should get the drift on the first attempt,” she said. “They are a family, after all.”
The conduit, Collado added, should be able to explain how grave the situation is and how gravely it is affecting the mental health of Stressed Voter. “Therefore, Stressed Voter should tell the trusted person everything that bothers her. Nasasaktan na ang bata. Apektado na ang bata. This should stop.”
Now, while you scout for that trusted person to guide you on your path to an amicable family setup, do some calming breathing exercises first. This, I learned from Dr. Nina Jao, a psychiatrist.
- Take a long, slow breath in through your nose, first filling your lower lungs, then your upper lungs.
- Hold your breath to the count of three. One. Two. Three.
- Exhale slowly through pursed lips while you relax the muscles in your face, jaw, shoulders, and stomach.
- Repeat eight times.
The pandemic, admittedly, drives people crazy. Couple that with the stress the elections bring and the craziness becomes like double jeopardy. In a few times when confusion is the watermark of my psychological makeup, this link is my go-to savior: anxietybc.com. Please click it from time to time.
“Prayers work, too, in settling family disputes,” Collado concludes.
So, there, Stressed Voter, pray. And allow your heart to hear and feel the great wisdom and calm.
Editor’s Note: PhilSTAR L!fe has removed the names of the candidates from the dilemma to provide fair and unbiased advice.