Psychologist weighs in on connecting with loved ones despite political differences

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Today’s politically charged climate has been polarizing to the extent some relationships have been severed because of differences in opinions.

News 8 spoke with Dr. Danielle Henderson, clinical psychologist at IU Health, about how friends and family members can reestablish relationships that may have gone awry while still having opposing political views.

Gillis: We were talking about election stress. We then moved to sort of a post-mortem or election aftermath. And now we’re moving forward into … perhaps what some people unfortunately are experiencing these days: severed relationships because of differences in political views. What might drive a person to cut someone off because of a difference in opinion?

Henderson: That’s a really good question. I think this year’s political season has felt different for some people, particularly because feelings and strong views towards certain candidates were more concerning to them, more stressful for them. Maybe for some people they felt unsafe and then to hear that you have a friend or family member who is supporting someone’s beliefs that are concerning for you … that could possibly have contributed to why some people decided to distance themselves from certain friends and family. 

Gillis: And you could be both the person who cuts someone off or be the person who is cut off or intentionally taken out of someone’s life. But it could also be both. So, how do we mend these relationships?

Henderson: That’s a really good question, too. I think the one thing is that mending a relationship is a personal decision and is most likely going to take some time. I think recognizing those things — and not necessarily even with politics — but with other types of situations, too. When you’re the one who’s wanting the mend to happen, it can be difficult because it might not happen on your timeframe and sometimes it might not happen at all. And so I think recognizing that it is a personal decision to do this and it will also take some time. If you do feel ready to try to initiate mending, no matter how you’ve been impacted … thinking about, what were the things that brought us together in the first place? What were the values and beautiful things I saw in you and what were the beautiful things you saw in me? That be a starting point and you can see where things go from there.  

News 8’s medical reporter, Dr. Mary Elizabeth Gillis, D.Ed., is a classically trained medical physiologist and biobehavioral research scientist. She has been a health, medical and science reporter for over 5 years. Her work has been featured in national media outlets. You can follow her on Instagram @reportergillis and Facebook @DrMaryGillis.


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