August 3, 2016

Politics & Fear: Here’s how to Separate Them.

woman alone museum painting art

I don’t like discussing politics, and often I shy away from conversations that are centered around current events.

Not because I don’t have an opinion about the state of the world, but because I have a deep disdain for conflict and inflexibility.

As I’ve scrolled through my social media feeds lately, I’ve been a bit put off by some of the stuff I’ve come across.

Does voicing my opinion via social media help? Does it sway others to see it my way? Does it affect their way of thinking? Probably not. Every person has their own perception of the world that is a compilation of everything they’ve ever known.

Even those who have experienced the same events will have different thoughts on what actually happened. Their personal experiences, interactions, and feelings are all stored in a little brain box, which dictates how we perceive what is happening around us. Which is why, although I can possess empathy and sympathy, I can truly only see the situation from the limited point of reference that is my perception.

I feel strongly about what I’m writing here. I will mind you that it is solely my perception, how I view the world, based on what I’ve seen, felt, and experienced.

We naturally gravitate toward stories that align with who we are and what we’ve been through. At times it can be hard to read something outside of our perceptual normality.

Why? Because we, as humans, love to be right. We love it. We thrive off of it.

We find data and statistics that support exactly how right we are.

We talk to the people who are going to agree with us. We congregate in groups because it really feels bad ass and awesome to be right. It’s a bubble.

When we are wrong, or when something is presented that is outside of our perception (what we know and believe to be true), we get this little thing happening called cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is when our beliefs are clashing with what is presented, creating a bit of anxiety and discomfort. Our brains go into panic mode and we are forced to consider this new, clashing information as an outlier or a rarity. Declaring an outlier is like someone running their fingers through your hair before bed. It makes our brain feel all better, and we can cozy up and go back to feeling warm and fuzzy, in alignment with our beliefs.

By nature, most of us are people pleasers. We like people to like us. We like to keep our friends by agreeing to what they agree to. We like to make our parents happy by following their rules and expectations. Sometimes we have to dig deep to discover what is truly right for us. Real deep. Tucked away under societal rules and parental influence. Deep below the surface of peer persuasion and life experience.

Somewhere so far down that we might have totally forgotten it existed. Our real being. Yes. It’s still there. It is a thing.

If we want to make real change, we might need to honor and allow others to have their own thoughts in the first place. Challenge gently, but respect wholly. We have no clue what they have been through.

We are all a little scared right now.

And fear can make us do crazy things. Fear makes us hate. Fear makes us conjure up all of the what ifs in the scenario. Fear makes us feel vulnerable inspiring the internal urge to protect ourselves, bringing natural defensiveness that generates anger and violence. Fear forces inflexibility, which denies our ability to change our mind, no matter what alternate information is presented to us.

We are just so afraid.

Afraid to be wrong. Afraid to be powerless. Afraid to not be enough. Afraid to have hope. The crazy thing about fear is that it’s not real. However, our bodies will respond as though it is real. We can work ourselves into a total panic attack, triggering our nervous system to fight or flight, based on thoughts alone.

Our brains are powerful and incredible. We can create joy or we can create destruction. Everything starts with a thought; when you feel the fear creep up, when you feel your temper flare. When someone doesn’t see things from our perspective.

Let’s stop. Let’s step back. We may feel strongly about our beliefs. About our thoughts. But, guess what? Others also do that.

Life is about respecting others. Life is about hearing what others are saying, acknowledging it, feeling it, accepting it, and then sharing your own. When we all start to step back and dig deep within, straight to our authentic selves, only love and respect will shine through. When we don’t act on fear, then we act on love. On safe passion.

Our thoughts are our world.

Our thoughts are our perception.

Our thoughts affect our actions.

Our actions affect the world. Let’s think wisely.


Author: Nichole Eaton

Image:  Una Laurenci / Pexels

Apprentice Editor: Robert Busch, Editor: Sara Kärpänen

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