Featured Image by https://pixabay.com/users/geralt-9301/
With growing concern, I have noticed that my sessions with clients over the last six months have become more polarized than ever. The last few years have brought many problems and old wounds to the surface. Fears, diverging opinions, and lately different health choices have split the world into groups. And this split shows up in our closest circles: children against parents, siblings against siblings, friend against friend, husband against wife, and the list goes on. We see an “us versus them” mentality lately, filled with fear and anger. It troubles me immensely and has me wondering what is behind this dynamic and how we can get out of this polarization or bridge the divide.
“Human beings have a strong dramatic instinct toward binary thinking, a basic urge to divide things into two distinct groups, with nothing but an empty gap in between. We love to dichotomize. Good versus bad. Heroes versus villains. My country versus the rest. Dividing the world into two distinct sides is simple and intuitive, and also dramatic because it implies conflict, and we do it without thinking, all the time.” ― Hans Rosling, Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think
As humans, we forget that we are all connected, and instead, we tend to focus on separation and opposites. This separation happens in our individual lives and on a bigger scale between countries or religious groups. Surely “the other” is to blame for how we feel and for the suffering we experience. And nobody realizes how much anxiety “the other” who we have deemed to be the problem carries. Our opponents hold just as much fear and despair as we. As a result, we get stuck in an ongoing conflict, resentment, or even hate.
“When very complicated situations collapse into simple ‘us versus them’ problems, then certainty, hate, and escalatory spirals proliferate and become a driving force for perpetual conflict.” ― Peter T. Coleman, The Five Percent: Finding Solutions to Seemingly Impossible Conflicts
Right now, the splits in our society are more profound and more palpable than ever, and we are faced with what appears to be unsolvable conflicts. What we forget is that underneath the surface, there are similar fears for everybody. We are all afraid of the Unknown. Fear is the factor that is the reason for the split, while at the same time being the common factor that could reunite us.
The opposite of fear is love. We forget who we are at our essence. We are all life force energy, creator energy. As life force, we all come and return to that one omnipotent, omnibenevolent, and omnipresent force of love and light, may you call it “God”, or “Spirit”, or “Creator”, or “the Universe”. That life force flows through me, you, and the person, we perceive as the problem. It also works through me, you, and through them.
We are all like the different fingers of one hand. And when I hurt a fellow human, angrily judge them and blame them for the misery we are experiencing, I am cutting into one of those fingers. I am hurting myself, I am hurting all of us. Separated, we are weak and vulnerable. But, together, we are strong as “one hand.” Together we can face anything and tackle all the pressing problems and crises of our time. If we don’t get lost in mutual blame, we can make a difference and steer this planet back on course.
How does it look to operate as one hand aware of all the parts of that hand? We need to start with focusing on what we have in common and how we are the same. In every moment of our day, we have choices. We can choose to blame and finger-point, or we can strive to listen and focus on how we are all the same. So instead of barricading ourselves behind our respective opinions and staying stuck in who is right and who is wrong, let’s have open dialogues.
Open dialogue means recognizing that the anger we feel is fuel by our fears. It means managing those fears we feel and listening to the fears and needs of the other party. Everybody is longing to be heard and treated with respect. Issues aren’t just black and white; there are so many shades of grey when we can move beyond right and wrong.
“Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing
there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.”
To read more about how to have challenging conversations when one or both of you are angry, go to “How Do We Talk to Each Other When We Are Mad?”. Your relationships with your partner, family, and friends are too valuable to allow an estrangement due to fear, anger, or resentment. Mutual understanding and connection are close with the commitment to listen and speak from the heart.