The political systems in the United States and elsewhere appear to be more polarized than at any time in our memories. If one political party proposes something, the other party seems to have the knee-jerk reaction of opposing it – regardless of the content of the proposal. This polarization is maintained by the proliferation of radio stations and cable TV channels that behave as if they are totally owned by one political party or the other. It is thus possible to listen to one station or channel all day long without hearing an opposing point of view.
With that type of orientation from key opinion makers, it is almost inevitable that the rest of us begin to think in “either – or” terms. If someone has a point of view that differs from ours, we assume that the other belief must inevitably be wrong. It is only a short step from that assumption to attacking the other’s intent – not only is the other person wrong but also either stupid or bad or dishonest. After all, that’s how our “role models” in government and the media behave, so why shouldn’t we do so. Of course that kind of thinking can extent beyond politics into beliefs about family relationships, business practices, and medical and psychological theories and treatment.
One of the missions of The Mental Health Gym is to restore reasonableness to our interactions with others. It’s not that hard to do! An easy way to start when you find yourself disagreeing with someone’s opinion or approach or behavior is to ask, “Why is s/he saying or doing this?” I think that you will find it to be a more productive and reasonable question than the one that is usually asked (whether it is articulated or not) – “Why isn’t s/he doing what I would do?” In other words, ask a question that promotes reasonable self-inquiry rather than shutting off both self-exploration and a potential meeting of the minds.
Goal-achieving psychotherapy can be most effective in an atmosphere of openness and reasonableness. Those attributes may not be in fashion currently but, given the state of the country and the world today, it might make sense to do the opposite of what’s in fashion. What do you think?