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  • Writer's pictureRichard Mailman

Mad as Hell!

Coping with Social Division and How to Prevent a Political Aneurism.

No matter how many pins you stick in your Trump voodoo doll, or how fervently you might insist that Hunter’s laptop is what’s wrong with the world, there’s one thing I think we can all agree on. We’re experiencing an unprecedented level of social and political division in this country and it’s exhausting! Public debates turn into fist fights, family get togethers escalate into civil wars, and as demonstrated on Jan. 6th, political descent erupts into violent confrontation. It’s become increasingly more evident that our social and political differences have created a cavernous divide in our societal landscape. The mental and emotional toll it takes on us by living in such a polarizing environment can, at times, be overwhelming. What it does, is create serious anxiety and frustration and generates a deep sense of hopelessness and despair. While some lash out and fight back, others become numb and just try to ignore all the noise. But in the midst of all this mental and emotional chaos, there’s one crucial thing we all need to be reminded of. And it’s that each of us holds the power and resilience to respond to it all in a thoughtful and constructive way. Should we choose to.

Trust me, I’ve gotten into it with folks. Anyone who follows me on social media can attest to that. But I can honestly say that although lashing out and venting may serve as a momentary emotional release, it almost always leaves me with a feeling of anxiety and dread. Aside from landing some stellar zingers or getting thrown into Facebook jail for the umpteenth time, I’m not really sure what good any of that does. I’m not naive. I think we all understand that sometimes, no matter how hard we try to be rational or diplomatic, it’s not always met with the most reasonable response. And although the sentiments behind such classic bits of wisdom like, “…We can all still find a common ground”, or “despite our differences, we all want the same thing” … Are all true and well-intended, not everyone holds those ideals and values as part of their personal philosophy. So, what the hell do we do about it?

Unfortunately, because the current political landscape encourages serious tribalism, we tend to surround ourselves with like-minded people and retreat into our own corners. But the simple act of trying to gain a better understanding of different viewpoints and empathizing with others can really help bridge that gap. But here’s the kicker. Sometimes it’s really all about just bridging the gap in our own hearts and minds. Because as we all know, we’re not always going to be able to change someone else’s mind. It’s so incredibly important to be aware of our own feelings as well as those of our detractors. And I’m here to tell you, the two can coexist.

It may be easier to understand and acknowledge our own anger and fear around it all, it’s not always easy to do that with the people we disagree with. But what’s really important is understanding that everyone has strong opinions about political matters, no matter how different or ill-informed they are. Engaging in thoughtful conversations with people who have different political beliefs and trying to understand their perspective fosters an open dialogue and promotes mutual respect. Let’s be realistic, we’re not going to be able to elicit that response from everyone. So, when you feel like your head’s about to explode it’s helpful to remind yourself of that fact. Then politely excuse yourself and go have a cocktail.

In the midst of all the social and political division it's so easy to forget about the humanity that exists in others and in ourselves. It’s so important to connect with people on a personal level beyond their political beliefs. I’m not suggesting you become besties with a Proud Boy. But it isn’t totally out of the realm of possibility to connect with a neighbor or coworker by sidestepping politics and focusing on experiences that unite us instead of the ones that divide us. While it may feel challenging at the moment, change is constant. Progress happens by overcoming obstacles, and emotional resilience is part of that journey. We don’t have to feel powerless. We can channel our emotions, refocus our attention on what we have in common, and then go out and get involved in causes that align with our own values to contribute in a positive way.

Social and political division has existed throughout history. It’s extremely stressful and emotionally draining. Getting mad as hell and giving ourselves a political aneurism isn’t the answer. We all have the power to respond to it in ways that are constructive and compassionate, not only to others but to ourselves as well. By practicing mindful awareness, fostering human connections, and with understanding and empathy for differing viewpoints, we just might be able to navigate these turbulent times. Together.

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