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October 22, 2016 at 9:46 am

For some, stress levels seem to go up every 4 years around election time, and this year seem particularly divisive. We probably all have that person (or people) in our lives with whom we disagree politically. Some have learned to avoid talking politics with this person(s) altogether, while others say it’s counterproductive to our own values (and even the larger political system) to remain silent. At one point, years ago, I asked my grandfather to stop sending me political emails. In my experience, it helped our relationship more than it hurt. I found that I reacted to the emails – I “bit the hook”, as the Buddhists might say. If he was still alive today, (and myself being a bit wiser and more mature) I might have accepted the emails without reacting. What is your approach to navigating political disagreement?

Here’s an article that goes into it:

And, for all you science-lovers and research buffs who have wondered whether there is some fundamental thing that makes “liberals” different from “conservatives”, here is an interesting study that should shed some light on this. It turns out that liberals and conservatives use different parts of their brain around risky decision-making.

February 27, 2017 at 7:38 pm

Thanks for your comments, Clark.  Wow, does the political climate feel more divisive than ever.  Like many, I find myself gravitating toward relationships and conversations which tend to affirm my political leanings (as @Elizabeth Hopper aptly points in Why are Politics so Polarized) as this can be comforting to both my soul and ego ☺.  But, I do try to engage in respectful dialogue with others with different beliefs…and am quite curious about understanding those perspectives that are different from mine.

I do believe that deep down, on some fundamental level, all of us humans – not just in the US, but around the globe – care about and want the same things that essentially boil down to a healthy dose of “love, work and play” (per Erik Erikson). We all want (and need) things like healthy relationships, livelihood, sense of purpose, and the safety to explore and express ourselves authentically.

Those that don’t want these very human things for all people are coming from a more reactive mindset (which can get complicated further by faux news, as seems to be the case even more lately). For instance, those who want to limit other people’s civil liberties in the name of religion, or who want to exploit people in the name of free market capitalism – I see those folks as acting from a place of highly reactive emotion, confusion and hurt – not from a fully human place.

So, in dialogue, I do try to get underneath the strong emotions (both my own and that of the other person), in hopes of getting to the less reactive material. I’m not always successful, but I do have a lot of interest and curiosity in finding that common ground regardless of party or political views.

PS – The study from the University of Exeter that you referenced was interesting!  Still reflecting on the possible implications…

“Democrats showed significantly greater activity in the left insula, a region associated with social and self-awareness. Meanwhile Republicans showed significantly greater activity in the right amygdala, a region involved in the body’s fight-or-flight system. These results suggest that liberals and conservatives engage different cognitive processes when they think about risk.

In fact, brain activity in these two regions alone can be used to predict whether a person is a Democrat or Republican with 82.9% accuracy. “