Ask Amy: Senior Gets Inundated in Political Negativity

By Amy Dickinson | August 12th, 2021

When your spouse simply needs a break from the news...

Senior woman reading political negativity

Dear Amy: My wife and I have been together for 44 years.

My wonderful wife used to be generally happy and positive.

Then came four years of politics, which seems to have scarred her permanently; she now worries about everything, is (at times) hypercritical, and has a decidedly pessimistic outlook. Negativity abounds.

During the Trump administration she would obsess daily about the latest outrage/headline/scandal to the point where I suggested, and she accepted, trying therapy. She “didn’t like it.” (She has done therapy before, and we both had counseling together years ago. Both experiences were positive.)

In suggesting therapy recently, I contrasted how each of us is likely to live out our “golden years.”

My high school yearbook described me as “happy-go-lucky,” a pretty accurate assessment; my father kept a smile on his face to the end, a trait she admired. Her father, by contrast, was Archie Bunker: railing at demons, scowling, always critical, forever unhappy. She doesn’t want to be like that, but even she admits that’s the path she’s on.

Is there a remedy other than “therapy” that I might suggest, or a more convincing way to position it to get her (or us) to try it again?

Neither of us is religious, we are financially secure, and we are very much in love. I’d like to course-correct to the way she used to be, and she agrees!

What to do?

(We read your column every day in the Washington Post.)

– Concerned in DC

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Dear Concerned: I appreciate the fact that you read the Washington Post; I believe that this may actually provide a clue about your wife’s state of mind.

Events during the previous administration may have triggered her anxiety and negativity, but actually living in or near DC, surrounded by politically engaged and concerned fellow citizens, as well as being in physical proximity to protests and the insurrection following the election, could be keeping her in place.

Negative thoughts tend to be “sticky,” leading to rumination.

Your wife might have inherited her father’s basic temperament, but the fact that she wants to change her perspective means that she can.

My suggestions for her are: Disengage completely from social media. Within the first 24 hours, she should notice a change in her basic outlook.

Turn off the TV and spend some time each day reading a novel and/or poetry.

Read up on mindfulness and meditation and start and end each day with a deliberate choice to list three things she is grateful for and spend time quietly thinking about each one.

Spend as much time as possible outdoors, preferably in nature.

Volunteer! The Smithsonian has a cool project where any citizen can help to transcribe documents from their huge historical collection. Check for information on how to get started.

See her physician. Her stress could cause health problems, but an undiagnosed medical issue might also contribute to her stress.

And yes – therapy! Good therapy, like a good marriage, is all about the right fit. Keep trying.

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2021 by Amy Dickinson

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