Compassion is key to getting beyond cogjam–for others, ourselves, and even politicians. Yes, it’s true that much of today’s socio-political stress is fueled by politicians’ commentary and actions. But look at where they sit, as compared to the rest of us.
Chapter Four of my upcoming book, “The Cogjam Effect – and the Path to Healing Divisive Community and Fractured Science,” explains it this way:
“Opposing political opinions rarely involve the immediate life-or-death circumstances for which the fight or flight response was intended. We’d never know it, though, considering how politicians so often let gut reasoning take the lead. But look at it from their perspective. As far as their careers go, opposing political opinions may well represent life or death. Given the complexity and expense of election campaigns these days, our representatives no longer simply look out for the interests of their constituencies. They are in the unenviable position of also needing to satisfy those who finance their campaigns, which usually isn’t individual voters. Plus, they need to walk the line of party affiliations.
The needs and aims of these three factions may not coincide. The resulting conflicts of interest hack away at politicians’ increasingly precarious stumps. It’s a no-win situation, and probably terrifying for any elected official who values staying in office. The temptation to give in to gut reasoning must be profound, indeed. And as long as the status quo for election campaign practices continues, it’s a safe bet that cogjam will always be riding shotgun.
But then, here are the rest of us. We don’t experience similarly dire consequences just because someone expresses an opposing opinion. Yes, if certain policies got put in place they could negatively impact us down the road, perhaps in ways that are very significant. But that’s not an emergency situation. There’s still time to step in with a polished and measured response for the here and now. Or even choose to do nothing, for now. It’s not like we’re about to die or be maimed. If anything, we trip up more from how we express our own opinions than because of what the other guy has to say.”
Introducing the Voice of Reason
When it comes to staying objective, we live in an easier space than do our political representatives. Their cogjam battlefield is much more rocky and treacherous.
Compassion has the ability to heal both giver and and receiver, and is always there for the taking. All we need to do is activate it.
We can demonstrate compassion by communicating with them–not with demands or angry diatribes, but by pointing out where we see their reasoning falling flat. We show compassion by sharing alternative views, ones we can support with facts. We show compassion by demonstrating we believe they are capable of listening and understanding.
Of course, they may choose to rationalize away our observations, no matter what we share. But at least we would be doing something positive with the negative energy created by today’s stress, rather than lashing out and causing more problems.