Friday, November 5, 2004

Get over election emotions, back to life

By Peggy O'Farrell
Enquirer staff writer

The election is over: One guy won, one guy lost. A levy passed or failed.

Your side won or lost. You won or lost.

Maybe you're nursing your wounds or rubbing salt in the opposition's now that the divisive 2004 campaign has been resolved.

Win or lose, it's time for an exhausted electorate to get back to work, and remember how to get along with voters at the other end of the political spectrum, experts say.

The issues under scrutiny this election - war, religious and family values, gay marriage, terrorism fears - "hit people in a very personal way," says Jonathan Fleishman, director of clinical services and a therapist at University Psychiatric Services. "Those issues are very divisive, and we're all trying to figure out how things have changed and how to deal with it."

If your side won, you have a while to gloat.

If your side lost, you get a shorter while to adjust.

"I think a lot of people are just responding to being exhausted and fatigued and their ability to deal with the let-down of their candidate losing is compromised," Fleishman says.

The process isn't unlike grieving, he says, but it's much quicker.

"The first thing is to take a deep breath and realize what happened. For people who volunteered their time and effort, there was nothing else they could do to affect things, and the majority spoke," Fleishman says. "And things were never going to change that quickly no matter who won, so it's time to embrace whoever is now in office."

Because the issues were so divisive, the campaign was much more emotional this year, Fleishman says. And the glare of the national spotlight on Ohio voters didn't help.

"Everyone was on heightened awareness," he says. "Everything was covered very closely by the media. Even the local races took on heightened importance for everyone.

"And between the issues and the amount of coverage and the fact that the presidential race was going to be so close, every little nuance to the whole election this time really took on a heightened importance."

Any lingering disappointment from Tuesday's election should be gone within a few days for most of us.

If it continues for weeks to come, it might be time to get help, Fleishman says.

"We can't stay divided forever," he says.

Peggy O'Farrell

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