Anxious about the election result? You may be feeling the Mexican “zozobra”
Police images, fake news about vote count and threats of lawsuits from the Trump campaign is a Molotov that stagnates us in the present, and causes a lot of distress.
Political polarization today opens a plurality of futures that unfold as terrible predictions for those who suffer anxiety or anxiety of anticipation. This is a way of referring to the manners we internalize opposing futures, accentuated by the mental devastation the pandemic entails.
Anxiety is like a horrible worm, fed by all possible fears and conditions, and extends like a relentless enemy from the stomach to the brain and into our flow of thoughts. This is how thousands of adults feel today, with a shrunken chest and a voice whispering the worst possibilities for the future of the nation.
The United States has proven once again that it is a deeply divided country. The polarization experienced in the last few weeks, added to the stress of the past four years of intense legislature with a narcissistic tycoon at the helm, has physically materialized on the streets of America and especially in the minds of all those trapped by the ghosts of possible outcomes.
In Mexico they call it "zozobra," a specific type of anxiety that prevents discerning the peculiarities of the present moment, also known in Spanish as ambivalence, a bi-directional relationship with reality where all the possibilities of something having opposite values or being interpreted with divergences are internalized. This typology of anguish is a non-pathological reality experienced by many adults, with their minds accelerated by the crazy rhythm of the news and all kinds of information sources.
In much more precise psychiatric terms, this inner management of fear is known as anticipatory anxiety. It's the same anxiety that whispers to us that we will fail an exam before it is over or that a date will go irretrievably wrong before it begins. It is not an illness or a symptom, but an exaggerated emotion we allow ourselves to be possessed by in the worst possible scenarios.
The causes vary a lot and can depend on a thousand reasons but, clinically, it is often understood as the result of childhood anxiety, acquired inferiority complexes, a victim mentality, or evasive behaviors. All of this is further complicated by the devastating panorama of mental health that the pandemic has wrought, which many doctors have already warned about, especially an increase in problems related to depression.
News in the last few hours does not help those anxious people connected to the news, Twitter, or more dubious sources of information. Between messages with images of the National Guard in Portland, the misleading reports or fake news about the count in Pennsylvania that has gone viral, the announcements of complaints by Trump regarding the tight results, or the surprising Republican impact among Latinos in Miami that has facilitated the victory in Florida, it is practically impossible to initiate healthy mental processes that allow us to discern the future and anticipate it. Instead, we surrender to the fears and terrible bodily sensations that cause the anxiety.
German materialist philosopher Ernst Bloch (1885-1977), known for important works such as The Hope Principle or The Spirit of Utopia, sought to speak about the way the future resides in the present. Not through ideological projects or state plans, but in the concrete material way where the seeds of the future live in the present. This is why he spoke of the "lighthouse of the present moment," a metaphor for the way in which, like a lighthouse, we are sometimes able to look into the distance and interpret the future without looking at our feet and understanding the conditions of the present.
It is this same "lighthouse of the present moment" that is displayed in all those who are suffering from anxiety right now, and who, frightened by these four last years, are unable determine with certainty a future no matter who wins the elections.