Throughout my adult years I have developed fairly passionate political views. Yet, I refuse to be so presumptuous as to think that those views will never change. As a psychotherapist, I want to share a few words from my humble point of view that may be of help during this time of political unrest and frustration.
Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. We could all stand to hone our empathy skills right about now.
What can it hurt to step outside of your own personal (insert presidential candidate here) viewbox for a moment and delve into understanding the reasons why others may be supporting a candidate other than the one you do? One of the reasons I refrain from unfriending folks who share posts on Facebook/social media that I don't agree with right off the bat (even though it often makes me REALLY uncomfortable and even downright ANGRY to see these posts I disagree with so passionately), is because attempting to understand them will ultimately make us better, more educated, kind, loving, and joyful people.
Perhaps this personality trait to understand is one of the things that has propelled me toward my profession in psychology; I always held a strong desire to understand the hows and whys of what people around the world think and feel. And throughout all these years, what I've learned is simple: with all of our differences, we're all pretty much the same when you get down to it. You can learn this, too.
I get it-- it's scary to step outside of your comfort zone once you've made your mind up about something, to try and understand an opposing viewpoint can seem downright brutal. I know it feels like you're betraying yourself, your morals, ethics, and even your religion or family.
I want to tell you something we all need to be reminded of: IT'S NOT. Educating yourself about things you do not currently believe is one of the most healthy and positive things you can do for yourself. Notice I said for yourself. Don't do it for your friends, your family, your spouse. Do it for you. Because YOU are the one who will benefit from this newfound way of looking at the world. You will grow. You will become a more loving and happy person.
I know these things because, for one, when I do this, I am happier for it. When I don't, I'm not. I've spent most of my adult life studying the way people think in higher institutions, enveloped in the field of psychology by respected scholars, researchers, and clinical practitioners. Trust me on this for a moment-- it WILL help you grow and change into a better person. And if you don't believe me, do your own research. I encourage it.
Have you ever been faced with a truth about yourself from someone you love and it really ticks you off? After awhile you think about it and realize that perhaps there is some truth to it? One of the reasons we balk at opposing sides is because if we really open up and try to understand a different point of view, we are forced to take a good look at ourselves, too. Our believe system can be challenged, everything we've built our lives on. That can be pretty scary (an understatement!). But listen, in a nutshell, I'm here to tell you that it's okay to be scared. Don't fight against your fear; it is there for a purpose. You can, however, be curious about it. Where does this fear come from? What does it say about me? What would happen if this fear one day came to fruition? What are all the things I do and believe every day that keep me from feeling this fear?
We can't choose our feelings, but we can choose how we respond to them. One choice leads to a life of closed-mindedness, anger, frustration, sadness, and more fear. The other opens the door to a whole new world of possibilities, freedom, and joy. It may be painful at first, but the rewards are immense. The choice is yours.
"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." -Aristotle
Chantal D. Hayes, M.A., LPC, NCC
Chantal D. Hayes