With the unrest in our country right now, many of the clients that are coming into my office feel the anxiety of so many uncertainties. They worry about what might happen to them, their families, and the things they value most. What I want to say is that our worldviews look very different in the public world than in the moment by moment conversations with individuals and families who are trying to make sense of this world. The thing I believe with certainty is that every person that I have encountered is truly hoping for things to grow, progress, and move forward. I haven’t spoken to a single person who wants to see more hatred, anger, violence and unrest. Of course, the tension shows up because each one sees a different pathway forward to a more peaceful world, so what do we do? How do we step into interactions with the people we love most when they may fall toward a different viewpoint?
The first step is to become grounded in yourself. When we are swamped with media and external sources of information we become very disconnected on what fuels our own self discernment. Step back from all of those external influences and look around you; what do you have that is not influenced by media, news, and other people? A walk, a run, a snuggle with a pet, playing games with your partner or kids, or any other connected activity. And if your answer is nothing, let’s start there. If every part of your life is entrenched in others’ opinions and projections what might it be like to find a moment of freedom? A moment without the excess content or fueling of negative and divisive rhetoric. Walk outside for a moment, look at the birds and the squirrels and how they work for what is important to them. Take a deep breath and be reminded of the many ways that this world functions without a thought regarding this current political moment. Don’t get sucked down the rabbit hole of trying to find ways that this is not true. If you feel that disagreement filling you up, notice it, reflect on it, and let it be present to you. What happens if you curiously investigate your inner world, and your inner wonderings? This is a beginning sense of groundedness. Breathe, then breathe again, and again.
Now, when you interact with another person, start with a basic belief that they are making the decisions that they do because they want the world to be a better place. If you start with this assumption, you are much more likely to encounter a disagreement with curiosity rather than defensiveness. From this mindset you might say, “help me understand how the pathway that you see gets us to a more peaceful world”. You may still walk away from the conversation on two different paths, but you are less likely to have lost your relationship in the process. Put aside winning or losing, contempt and blame, and stop jabbing at each other when things appear to be out of hand. A person told me yesterday that he used to play golf every week for 40 years with someone of the opposite political perspective than he had. I surprisingly asked him how this was true. He said, “we decided we valued each other more than we valued our own opinion”. What a beautiful testament to humanity!
Let’s try that. Let's respect the value of different perspectives and the people who hold them.