The Silly Season is Upon Us - Stay Sane

MALAYSIA MEMILIH

The Silly Season is Upon Us - Stay Sane

Some of us may get a bit crazy during the heat of the election period, but others​ can completely come unhinged. Clinical psychologist Vizla Kumaresan lays out the polls prognosis to AWANI Review's Zakiah Koya.

We are all a little mad in the run up to the General Election 14 (GE14) but it is ​a necessary and temporary insanity which we must live with.

Clinical psychologist Vizla Kumaresan said this is because it has to do with picking the right leaders who will decide our future for the next five years. 

Vizla said that the election madness which turns many of us into crystal ball gazers and fortune tellers during the high pitch campaigning period​ is a combination of two things. 

Politics affects all and everyone as it will determine the quality and quantity of everything and our livelihoods. Whether we like it or not, we have to take part

"One, there is the human curiosity - it is natural to want to know what will happen. The other thing is that we predict because we need to know,​ so that we can manage our anxiety. 

"Politics affects all and everyone as it will determine the quality and quantity of everything and our livelihoods. Whether we like it or not, we have to take part," said Vizla.

She said that the obsession with politics during GE14 can be higher due to the fact that Malaysian politics is also mired in lots of intrigue.

"The average person does not know the kind of decisions​ and posturing that go into deciding who gets elected for which constituency. We have no idea ​on what basis people ​are appointed as cabinet members. 

"There is a lot of intrigue and unknown. That breeds a site for a lot of human anxiety and we want to predict because we are trying to give (the unknown) some kind of wisdom, some kind of order over things - to give a sense over this thing called politics which we actually have no control over," explained Vizla.

The clinical psychologist,​ who specialises​ in mental health of women and marginalised communities, said that election time is much fodder for our teh tarik sessions. 

"For a little while, all of us can play at being experts in politics," according to Vizla.

However, she cautions that from a clinical perspective, it becomes a problem when it starts to affect our daily functioning.

"It becomes a disorder when (due to our obsession with politics), we fail to function or fail to take care of ourselves such as neglecting our personal hygiene. When it affects our ability to perform at work and affect our relationships, we then look at it in terms of pathology," said Vizla.

 

POLITICS AND FOOTBALL

She said that this tendency to go overboard is more prevalent among sports fans. While it is not really given much importance in our culture, she said that in the West, it is regarded as a problem with some even committing suicide when their favourite football teams lose​ matches. 

"This (failure to function normally)  is more common among sports fans than political observers. We know of football fans who go crazy during football seasons. We have people who quit their jobs so that they can stay at home and watch all the matches for World Cup. Of course that is so normalised in our society - we don't think about it - but in the W​est, it is considered a problem. We have cases of suicides when teams lose or football fans who are obsessed with their football teams that they neglect their families," said Vizla. 

She said that unlike sports which is all year round, obsession with politics tend to be more seasonal and hits its peak during election time - for Malaysians, once every five years. 

She also said that unlike India where riots break out and cities come to a standstill during elections, there is no worry that Malaysians would react to political happenings extremely. 

"I don't think that will happen in Malaysia. In India, there is such a high democratic involvement regardless of your social standing. In Malaysia, we still want to enjoy our teh tarik. So, we will never come to a point where we will disrupt things that much so that we can't go to the mamak's and make the price of roti canai go higher than it already is. I do not think that we are ready for our economic lives to be disrupted," said Vizla. 

She also pointed out that Malaysians on the whole care for the creation of conducive environment that attracts foreign investors.

As a citizen, Vizla said that she is heartened by the passion of Malaysians for the electoral process and the fact that people are gung-ho to take part in the political process to choose their leaders. 

 

JUST TOO MUCH? 

However, as a clinical psychologist, Vizla conceded that the obsession with the GE14 and politics can come to a point where it can get too much and people can get exhausted. 

"People get "muak" (sick). I do know people who say, "Oh my god, when will it be over?"

"I think it is a temporary discomfort people have to live with as I think the overall benefits supercedes it. I see people engaging in it and that is a good thing," said Vizla. 

She also stated that the campaign fodder bombarding our handphones is merely the usage of a new platform by politicians who will do everything to get their votes.

When someone criticises our chosen candidates or political party - they become an extension of us and we think they are criticising us, as they represent everything that we want

In the olden days, candidates and vote canvassers will phone or visit homes well into the night ​because that is when people are at home, said Vizla. 

"We are not actually victims because you can choose to (switch) off your social media platforms, off or silence your phones or leave it outside your bedrooms. 

"Politicians will do what they can to get their votes - that is what they do. We as people - we can choose our response to that - we can also exercise our agency," said Vizla. 

She further advised people from getting unnecessarily and overly agitated when discussing politics during the campaigning period. 

"It is very difficult because politics is very personal.  It is a kind of dilemma as it means so much to us. When someone criticises our chosen candidates or political party - they become an extension of us and we think they are criticising us, as they represent everything that we want. We need to learn to separate the two. People criticise as that is what is supposed to happen in a democracy and we need to learn not to take it personally," said Vizla, adding that it is easier said than done. 

"It is very hard when passions run high - particularly in this election where it is nothing as seen before. Everyone I see has a strong opinion about it, " said Vizla. 

She further said that one of the reasons some of us may find it difficult to cope with the election madness is we are not prepared for the barrage of campaigning on social media. 

"Our ​education system does not prepare us on how to deal with these pressures psychologically and on how ​to​ engage with social media. It is easier to engage in hate speech and be ​violent because you are anonymous," said Vizla.​

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