A Very Disorienting Presidential Debate

By Ed K.S. Wang, M.S., Psy.D.

Even as a passive observer, the debate was extremely disorienting due to the lack of civility that I am not accustomed to in past presidential debates.  I was feeling irritated, restless, and felt my blood pressure was rising.  I was so stressed that the one behavior I could manage was “flight” from my distress.  I turned off the TV thirty minutes into the debate.

Thinking of my physical and emotional responses, I thought about the reason behind writing the Feeling Alphabet Activity Set with Karen Gross.  We trust the scientific explanation of stress and the benefit of stress management.  Paying attention to our feelings and naming them make us less likely to get caught up with negative feelings and thoughts.  This mindful action helped to alleviate some degree of distress in the stressful situation that I experienced. 

The Feeling Alphabet Activities Set is a pathway towards the practice of mindfulness.  Naming feelings is the first step into processing those feelings with associated thoughts and behaviors.  Sometimes it is hard to see the connection between feelings, thoughts and behavior because all three can happen so quickly like during the evening of the debate.  But after I turned the TV off, I had time to connect my feelings, thoughts and behavior to prevent my negative feelings took over. 

By paying attention and acknowledging my negative feelings of anger, shame and frustration as a result of the uncivil debate and my conviction that this is not what our country is, positive feelings and thoughts of hope, change and gratitude for what good there is about this country re-surfaced.  Such positive feelings, though miniscule, helped to counterbalance the negative ones.  Some peace of mind is so important during this stressful time in our country.

It’s events like this that remind me of why Karen and I wrote the Feeling Alphabet Activity Set (buy through this site).



Edward K. Wang, a grandparent and psychologist, promotes the social and emotional well-being of children across the globe.  As the Director of Policy and Planning for the Division of Global Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, a former member of the National Advisory Council, Department of Health and Human Services and a public steward of the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, he continues to call attention to the resiliency and hope, growth and healing of mental ill adults and children.

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