Holding the Space for Connection Through the Hard Conversations, Part II


Today I watched this video of Trump supporters at his rallies.  Their words, actions, and expressions represent the basest human emotions.  I posted the video to my Facebook page, commenting:

(Donald Trump incites rage and hate) in his followers. He stokes the worst in people. He provokes the emotional states that preclude rational thought and reasonable behavior–he is the king of emotional hijacking. Nobody ever makes a good decision while emotionally hijacked; that is when relationships and connection are destroyed, often violently and permanently.

And here’s another irony:  We non-supporters are similarly hijacked by his belligerence.  He and his supporters incite us to rail against them all, collectively and wholly as individuals, as racists, bigots, idiots, haters, etc.  Name-calling is the easiest and most convenient way to separate ourselves from what we disdain, what we fear, and what’s too uncomfortable to tolerate.  But how does this help anything?

On my last blog post I wrote:

I intend to avoid:

-Speaking and writing in sweeping generalizations

-Following snap judgments about groups, or individuals based on their group membership

-Labeling and shaming people or groups as ‘racist,’ ’ignorant,’ ‘stupid,’ ‘lazy,’ etc.

Today I wrote about Trump’s supporters:

I’m trying not to label and pigeon-hole these people, trying not to judge them and discard them, just by what I see here.  That only advances the exact mentality I seek to reverse: more separation, more hatred, more “you are less than me, you don’t matter.”

I guess I have to keep reminding myself.

I can hardly imagine what it would be like to sit down, one-on-one, with someone who sincerely supports a Donald Trump presidency, and have a conversation about it.  But I can easily imagine talking to a Trump supporter about the trials and joys of parenting, the breakneck evolution of technology, and a mutual love of Marvel movies.  Who knows, maybe I already do.

I think most of my friends know my political persuasion.  Most of them also share it.  But probably more than I realize don’t share it, and we avoid talking about it.  Why?  Because it’s uncomfortable.  We don’t trust ourselves to avoid the emotional hijacking.  We’re afraid we’ll say something we’ll regret and damage the relationship.  Or (and), we see the only objective of such conversations as trying to change the other person’s mind, or having our mind changed, which feels at the same time futile and scary.  So our avoidance of the hard, uncomfortable conversations is an attempt to maintain connection (with ourselves as well as one another).  We intrinsically understand that our relationships are important.  So we limit our conversations to topics on which we agree.

At this time in our human evolution, however, we are called to do more.  It’s too easy to live in the echo chambers of like-minded friends and media sites.  It’s too easy to filter our perceptions through repetition and reinforcement, to think that our point of view is the only one, or worse, the only right one.  It’s too easy to label others as wholly racist, sexist, bigoted, idiotic, communist, misogynist, mindless, right-wing, extremist, or evil, based on impulsive interactions in comment sections on a blog or Facebook post.  It is simply too easy to fall victim to premature judgment and conviction based on skewed and incomplete evidence.  We are called to so much more.  We are called to the hard conversations, the interactions that require effort and persistence.  Why?  Because the rewards of this work are understanding, compassion, empathy, connection, and love.

My friend wrote to me, “We have to do this work for your beautiful children.”  Yes, my dear friend, for all of our beautiful, innocent children.  Let us model for them what it means to Hold the Space for Connection, even, and especially, when it’s hard.  This is the work we are called to do.

8 thoughts on “Holding the Space for Connection Through the Hard Conversations, Part II

  1. Nice to connect with you after a long while, Catherine, and that too at a critical juncture when America is on election mode. As the economically most powerful nation on earth, the rest of the world is equally concerned with the US presidency, hoping for sanity and balance to guide the peoples’ choice of leadership. The grand irony of it all is that America is a land of immigrants, of diverse colour, religion and beliefs. The same people who are now extremely vocal against immigration and outsourcing are the ones who have marginalised and exploited the original inhabitants of the continent. The country is in a pre-eminent position today only due to the contribution of diverse communities. The current rhetoric of hyper-nationalism and divisive ideologies can only serve to destroy the very concept of United States of America. One hopes that sanity and prudence guides the way forward. Best wishes… Raj.


  2. Cathy, so much meat in your two most recent posts, so much to think about. There is a huge polarity we must manage when we see and hear the things a politician and his followers are saying—things that divide us and incite hatred and bigotry—and when we are faced with friends and acquaintances who are onboard that train. I don’t want to diminish the horror and concern I have when I hear hate-speak, but I also don’t want to demean people whom I know to be good and kind in myriad ways. It’s hard not to judge, or not to make a snarky comment. Do my words further separate us, and does my silence give tacit approval? There are no easy answers when we want to both stand up for what we believe with all our heart to be right, and also allow others to express their beliefs (even when they appall us). These are the hardest conversations of all to get right, and I believe it’s what you mean by holding the space for connection, and by healing connections. Sorry to have rambled so much. Thanks for your honest and thought-provoking words.


    • Hi Donna! Thanks so much for leaving this thoughtful comment! It is so complex, isn’t it? Human relationships are so hard sometimes… I really think the only way to do them well is mindfully and intentionally–not off the cuff and from the hip all the time. I think most people understand this and try most of the time. But more and more we are instigated. It takes more now to manage ourselves than it used to, maybe, because of technology 24/7 media? That reality is here to stay, so we have to find a way to be better… Thanks again! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Catherine,
    Once again so much food for thought. My husband and I are just marveling at the US election juggernaut. The process goes on and on and on and this fight between Clinton and Trump has been ugly from the start and the way it’s lingering on is just exacerbating things. From my perspective, it looks like Americans can’t make a decision and they have to draw the election process out as long and painfully as possible so no one’s left standing at the end.
    It deeply concerns me how a bad choice by the American people will impact on world politics and what it will mean. I hope there are checks and balances in place to prevent that.
    I hope Americans take this vote very seriously and vote responsibly and at all.
    xx Rowena

    Liked by 1 person

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