In today’s world, it is very hard to stay out of politics. If you are reading this in a democratic country, specifically the USA, political parties dominate the news and social media every couple of years. Even if you don’t want to pick a side (and you shouldn’t have to), most people will pick one for you with the “if you’re not with us you’re against us” mentality. If you’ve experienced this dilemma first hand, then I probably don’t need to say anything else for you to resonate with it.
Because of this, I am writing this article to address how to maintain peace and serenity when the world is turbulent.
Oftentimes, we forget the value of keeping things to ourselves. It is very easy to get caught up in a conversation and forget everyone has different values, attitudes and beliefs. Usually these things are fairly harmless and a lot of times they allow us to know more about a person and their experiences. There are however, topics which are heavily polarized. Politics, religion and family values to name a few. When people talk about these topics, they seldom are looking to change their mind, despite how the conversation may come about.
When someone talks about a topic that is close to their heart, what they really are seeking is acceptance for who they are. Quietly listening and nodding with the occasional “uh-huh” shows the other person you are listening and provides a safe space for them to express themselves. You would be surprised how rare this is for people.
People who appear overly combative have never really felt accepted sharing their beliefs. Whether it was at home, in school, the workplace, or somewhere else, these individuals feel they must prove the value of their perspective. When someone shares their perspective and we contrast it with our own, what we are really doing is saying “I think you are thinking about this wrong, try thinking about it in this way”. Only in very close relationships or when the individuals have the right temperament, is this not the case.
After all when you share your own beliefs with someone, are you really looking to have the other person change your perspective? It may happen as a result of being accepted and open to new ideas, but I would argue in most cases you’re not. A good mentor of mine gave me an easy question to ask myself when I feel like talking: “Am I listening to listen, or am I listening to answer?” Essentially, am I listening to provide a safe space or am I listening to be right and gain admiration?
If we are talking with someone and the conversation takes a turn for the uncomfortable, we can always deny the conversation topic. Most people feel awkward saying things like “I’d prefer not to talk about that” because they feel it suggests they have something to hide. On a more simplistic level, most people simply have a problem with saying “no”. What it really communicates is the desire to deepen the relationship before becoming vulnerable.
This is something like putting a “no trespassers” sign in the conversation. If the individual disregards your desire to avoid a conversation topic, they are intentionally overstepping your boundaries. This gives you a lot more information about someone than just their opinion. If they are willing to disregard you in a conversation, they are likely to disregard you in more serious situations, regardless of how they might justify it.
There are many to dodge a conversation topic. If you don’t like to be confrontational, most people will not notice when you change a subject. Respond to a sub point of their statement and elaborate on it. Without knowing it they will elaborate on your topic point and the conversation with shift. This is the rhetorical breakdown of how a conversation changes topics without losing flow. Most people only recognize a change in topic when it is disconnected from the current topic, i.e it disrupts the flow.
One of the favorite human past times is the blame game. It keeps us from looking at ourselves, allows us to maintain an image of superiority, and completely disregards any possibility for growth or understanding. Most people do it without even knowing it. That being said, most people are liable to do it in the moment and it is only through vigilance and self reflection are we able to recognize this behavior.
Have you ever heard the saying “you spot it you got it”? This shows us, what annoys me most in other people is likely a behavior I exhibit myself in other situations. Subconsciously I recognize this and I wish I didn’t do this. When I see it in other people I become consciously aware of it and now I have to do something about it. This is very much what Carl Jung would call “shadow work”.
In many cases, we generalize our blame on a group of people, organization or belief system. This is easier for us to accept than blaming an individual because we may have people in our lives who we want to make the exception for. Most people have that one family member who they don’t agree with but they still love that person. It is easier to blame the ideology of conservatism than to say “grandpa is a racist”.
If we dig into ourselves and are honest with what we find, everyone has moments in their life when they act in a way they wish they hadn’t. Maybe it was out of ignorance or anger. We know it is not truly representative of who we are as a person, yet we feel guilt over our behavior. The way most people cope with this is through projection and reaction formation. That is to say, we become overly passionate about the stance/behavior we feel we should have taken and we become upset with people who act in the way we believe we have acted.
The issue with this is it doesn’t allow for recognition of our own behaviors and it doesn’t allow the other person the opportunity of learning. We become the parental/religious figure saying “don’t do this, it’s bad” instead of allowing the person the opportunity to learn for themselves. In addition, if we ever show this same behavior in a moment of weakness, we then become a hypocrite.
The Buddhists said Buddha was being in the world but not of the world. That is, learning to operate in society but not being caught up in the emotional and mental turmoil of society. When we learn to maintain our serenity despite our surroundings we can interact with anyone for any reason, and the results of that interaction will invariably be better.
I hope this article has helped you to maintain your serenity despite everything going on in the world. I hope you and your family are blessed with peace and happiness. If you have specific questions, check out my book a lesson tab and remember to follow me on social media!
May your seeking be fruitful and your findings bountiful!