I’ve never quite seen the likes of the mudslinging and finger pointing now driving so much of American politics. I can hardly keep up with the whirlwind of opinions as to who’s disappointed who and why, or who simply won’t do what needs to be done in the way it should be done, not to mention all the accusations of whose beliefs and ideas are archaic and whose are too progressive; who is corrupt, dishonest, philandering, pandering, inexperienced, overly entrenched, too conservative, or too liberal; who supports corporate domination; who’s a hypocrite.
It’s gone far beyond respectful, responsible analysis that’s helpful to the public and, in fact, crucial to democracy. And I can’t help but see this torrent of opinion as a fundamental expression of inner conflict and fear.
Every time we fall to the sorts of personal attacks that we now see and hear regularly in the news, we expose something about ourselves. For instance, is there someone in your life who seems to always bring out the worst in you, or at least a side of yourself that you aren’t comfortable with?
Unless you’ve been living as a hermit, your answer has to be “yes.” We all have people in our lives who trigger aspects of ourselves that we’d rather not acknowledge. But rather than coming to terms with them, we often point fingers and spend our time obsessing on what they are doing wrong – even better if we can get them to see the error of their ways.
All too often, the bigger we make our case to prove ourselves right, the bigger the can of worms we refuse to admit is ours.
Remember when Bill Clinton was in deep with his lady troubles? At the time, I couldn’t help but notice how so many of those who screamed the loudest about how awful he was were the very same people who had either done or considered doing the deed themselves but hadn’t come to terms with it. Those who let Clinton off the hook – even if they opposed him politically – tended to be those who were at peace with themselves and their own integrity.
We first chasten ourselves inside, then soothe or distract ourselves by wagging our fingers at others. By doing this, we flee our fear. Yet somehow, it always manages to catch up to us. And when it does, it often wears the mask of anger.
Now we’ve got the most incredible nastiness flying around in our political atmosphere, and it’s proving to be completely divisive, serving to further break down community and prevent the kind of cooperation that might actually serve people.
I like to have a sense of balance, so if someone is critiquing the left, I often try to see the point of view of the right, and vice versa. If someone is bashing a female candidate, even if I disagree with her position, I try to look deeper into the reason why. I am sensitive to the injustices women face and want them to succeed, not be publicly insulted. I don’t want to see women of any party vilified, and to this extent, I defend them all. My opinions and passions stem from inside myself first, perhaps from fears that women have been relatively powerless.
If you want to do an interesting psychological experiment, notice what you and others say about people. You may find that it’s not always the external truth being spoken but the internal truth of the speaker’s pain and fears.
This may sound awful, but it’s actually quite marvelous, for it means the answer to the problem lies within oneself, too.
Such awareness is an important step toward greater effectiveness. Taking responsibility for our own individual fuss and muss may be the first and best way we can contribute to a cooperative world.
Read more by Dr. Grant on her blog, Dr. Grant Holistic