As the crisis with Iran goes into its fourth, fifth and now sixth week, Americans are seething.
We feel powerless. We're worried about the hostages, international prestige, and of course, the little matter of oil. Add to this the usual pre-holiday stress, and it's enough to make up all reach for a Valium -- but then we're supported to be worried about Valium too.
"Irage," as one psychologist calls it.
"The holidays usually are a stressful time, but this year -- with the world situation what it is -- there are more anxieties than ever," says Reston therapist.
A Bethesda marriage counselor says he has seen some unique domestic squabbles as a result of the Iranian impasse: "One couple nearly came to blows because she, supposedly, 'was more involved in the situation than he was.'
She wanted to watch both the 6:30 and 7 p.m. national news for the latest on the crisis, which meant having the TV set on during dinner. He was adamantly aginst television viewing at meat time -- regardless."
Their solution: either a later dinner for the entire family, or he takes the kids to McDonald's.
In a random sampling of 15 area psychologists and psychiatric social workers, only two (one of whom's clients are children) said Iran has not come up in discussions.
One psychologist said that he -- the psychologist -- is "having a hell of a time with it . . . I have a friend who is one of the hostages. The other night my wife and I were trying to watch 'the Sound of Music' with our kids, and we all wound up crying. And it wasn't over the Von Trapp Family.
Is there anything that we can do to vent some of the "irage?"
Some ideas, gleaned from psychologists and others:
Get your church and others involved in the bell-ringing. (The request that church bells be rung at noon to show support for the hostages came from Bruce Laingen, charge d'affaires of the American Embassy in Tehran and the top diplomat among the 50 being held hostage there.)
Organize a neighborhood coffee to discuss the crisis and establish one ground rule only: No physical violence.
If you're a tennis or racquetball buff, reserve a court and whack the hell out of that little ball. (pretending that it's something else is not only permissible, but encouraged.)
Even if your family doesn't say a prayer before meal time, a moment of silence -- for whatever purpose -- can help to give a feeling of family unity.
Involve your children in discussions. They, too, are probably confused. Talk with them about international law and the different ways countries are governed. Give them a chance to express their own ideas.
Several radio stations have suggested that car headlights be turned on during the day. Just knowing that your concern isn't isolated, says a D.C. dpsychologist," and trying a way -- however small -- to show it, perhaps would create some sort of sense, of unity. And maybe a sea of headlights would be tangible enough to give people the feeling that they're doing something."