The recent political debates have led to an unceasing outpouring of negativity. There is far too much naming calling, character assassination, hand wringing, and fear mongering going on. As Thoreau notes when we ruminate on thoughts, they get embedded in our being and dominate our lif=ves.
This has led to lumping individuals according to what you think their political views are. A form of prejudice most do not see as being intolerant or prejudiced.
Emotional Fitness Training Thoughts
When we label one person as a member of a group we are being prejudiced.Whenever you place one person in a group, you are making a hasty generalization and that is what leads to prejudices.
As defined by the social psychologists, “Prejudice is an unjustified or incorrect attitude (usually negative) towards an individual based solely on the individual’s membership of a social group.”
I am not saying labels don’t have some value, but I like labels to be seen mainly on files, and even then only if the label reflects what the file actually contains. I don’t think I am alone in the world when it comes to finding my files often contain items totally at odds with the label on the outside of the folder.
It both saddens and amuses me that I am seen by some as on the far left of the political spectrum, while others think I am far right. Most of these opinions are based solely on what I post on my Facebook page or here in my blog.
What really hurts are the people who know me personally and over a period of years who have suddenly decided I am a member of whatever political party they did not vote for. In a number of cases that has meant the end of our friendship, but not on my part.
Actually, this is a post I started many weeks ago as a response to the fact that most conversations seemed to end up putting labels on one person or another. This includes conversations heard or seen at the movies, on the TV, heard on the radio, read on various email lists, discussed over lunch or dinner with friends, and in daily conversations with my husband.
Think of the conversations where you have heard others called Baby-killer, Christian Conservative, Islamophobic, Jew, Racist, Nigger Lover, Zionist, Radical, Bigoted Hillbilly, Reactionary, Pacifist, Conservative, Stupid, Card Carrying Republican, Card Carrying Democrat, Tea Party Patriot, Member of the Moral Majority, Narcissist, Sinner, Communist, Socialist, Bleeding Heart, Ignoramus, and so on.
Actually, I am extreme left on some issues and far right on others. I vote issues not people or political parties. As for a label, I see myself as a contrarian. In most conversations, I knee jerk defend whoever is being attacked. You will not be surprised to know that one of my mother’s nicknames for me was “Mary, Mary Quite Contrary.”
What Causes Prejudice
At the heart of all this labeling is the ancient brain’s fear when faced with the contradictory or unknown. Everyone wants an easily understood and predictable world.
As children we tend to believe “what is is normal.” It takes the expanding mind of the adolescent to begin thinking that what is “normal” actually might not be what should be. This probably is as much a factor in the turmoil that some adolescents experience, as the confusion created by raging of hormones.
Moreover, the more another’s beliefs contradict something held dear to your heart, the more your world of beliefs de-stabilizes. Your whole internal world shakes when you start to doubt your beliefs.
Jerome Kagan, Harvard researcher, says uncertainty distresses us particularly uncertainty about our strongly held beliefs. He also notes that one way to get rid of the distress is to blame the person making us uncertain. We get angry instead of frightened. For many anger feels better than fear.
We also handle fear of the unknown by clinging to the known. The logic pursuers call that Confirmation Bias. That also explains why many of us gather in our own tribes and clans and avoid getting to know those in other tribes.
At our primitive brain level we are all prejudiced. What varies, or which prejudice operates most strongly, is what we learn and that often depends on what our parents or others in our surroundings teach.
The fact that the content of our prejudices is learned is cause for hope. Learned behaviors can be unlearned. We owe it to our children and all children to take active steps to unlearn our conscious and unconscious prejudices. Here are some tips for reducing the prejudices that try to control or boss you.
Emotional Fitness Training Tips
Tip one: Know the beliefs dearest to your heart. These are the ones that will probably lead to anger or righteous indignation on your part. I’ll admit, it works that way for me. Knowing that at least keeps me somewhat more open to trying to understand another person’s point of view.
Tip two: Open your eyes to the less savory elements of your heart-cherished beliefs. Rather than responding with an either/or approach, try thinking yes/and … Yes, religion is useful for teaching some values, and religion can also be a tool for feeling morally superior to others. Yes, the United States can behave just as badly as many tyrannies, and the United States also is more religiously tolerant and more devoted to freedom of expression than those same tyrannies.
Tip three: Make a conscious effort to get to know “the others.”
- Make it a point to break bread with those from groups you don’t know well.
- Attend services at a variety of churches, synagogues, mosques and temples to learn about different faiths. If religious, explore atheism. Look for the truths people find in their faith or lack of faith that binds them to a certain belief.
- Attend a play, listen to music, or go to a dance performance by artists whose race or ethnicity is different from your own.Shop at ethnic grocery stores and specialty markets. Get to know the owners. Ask about their family histories.
- Learn sign language.
- Take a conversation course in another language preferably one that is spoken in your community
This will only work if you are determined to get to know the various people you meet as a person and not as one of “the others.”
Tip four: Speak out against obvious prejudices. When you speak out do you kindly. In other words, say what you mean, but do not say it mean. You will not always be heard, but some will think more about what matters and those being talked against or treated with prejudice will gain.
Tip five: Practice kindness in your everyday interactions with everyone you meet.
There is a personal benefit to be gained by following any of these tips. You will reduce the stress of uncertainty and you might make a new friend or two.
Thank you for all you do
Remember to share all you find of value on the internet. All who post crave recognition. A like says “Thank You.” Comments say you have read and thought about the post. Sharing is a gift to three people: the blogger, the people you share with, and you for your kindness blesses you.
Post Inspiration: This post was not inspired by a WordPress Daily Prompt: Flee, although prejudice is something we should flee from.
Links of Interest
These links are for those not familiar with Emotional Intelligence or the idea of Emotional Fitness.
- Emotional Intelligence (en.wikipedia.org)
- The five components of emotional Intelligence (www.sonoma.edu)
- About Emotional Fitness Training (emotionalfitnesstraining.com)
- An Emotional Fitness Program for Parents (amazon.com)
Even the most learned researchers and therapists quarrel about much. Take their advice and mine carefully. Don’t just listen to your heart, but also think; don’t just think, listen to your heart. Heart and head working together increase the odds you will find useful advice amid all the promises and hopes pushed at you be others. As others have noted, take what seems useful, leave the rest.
Disclaimer two: Forgive my grammatical errors
If you need perfect posts, you will not find them here; I will understand if you don’t follow, like or share what like me. Not only am I dealing with an aging brain, but all of my life I have been plagued by dysgraphia–a learning disability, Some of my posts might be peppered with bad spelling, poor punctuation, and worse words that make no sense. If you want to hang in with me, thank you; you are kind. If a post doesn’t make sense or bugs you too much, stop reading, I will understand.