Support for the Inner Work

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Things were a little crazy this week.  I have an idea for a post and still have not sat down to write it out.  But I want to share something that came out on my Facebook page (of course) tonight.  One of the reasons I love writing is that insights pop out when you least expect them.  Writing exchanged with others is even better, because those insights are then shared, and their meaning amplifies.

I posted this article from the Washington Post yesterday: “Nearly half of liberals don’t even like to be around Trump supporters.”  It’s a summary of a recent Pew Research Center survey, which finds that 47% of liberal Democrats “say that if a friend supported Trump, it would actually put a strain on their friendship.”  It posits, among other things, that liberals are less tolerant of dissenting ideas because they are clustered in urban areas, lending to louder echo chambers.  By contrast, only 13% of Republicans answered that “a friend’s support of Hillary Clinton would strain their friendship.”

From the survey report:…Nearly nine months after the election, most people (59%) say it is ‘stressful and frustrating’ to talk about politics with people who have a different opinion of Trump than they do; just 35% find such conversations ‘interesting and informative.'”

I consider myself a socially heavily left-leaning, fiscally centrist Independent, but I identify more with liberals than conservatives, by a large margin.  This article made me sad, that my ‘tribe’ shows itself to be much more intolerant and judgmental than I would like.

I posted this comment along with the article:

Ooohh, so much data here, so much potential for blame, and also for self-exploration. Humbling, no question.
“Be extra kind with your comments on this one please, friends. No need to reopen barely scabbed wounds. I mean for my page to be a safe place for all of us to engage. We are all in it together, and the sooner we *all* figure out how to deal with 45 and one another, the better we will all be.
“Also, I’m bummed that Asians are always left out of the data set.”

I got some comments from my liberal friends about how hard it is to talk to Trump supporters, so much so that they avoid talking politics with those friends altogether.  But one friend exemplified my aspiration for all of us.  She wrote:

“… I recently had dinner with a very close friend who voted for Trump. Typically I think I’m a really good listener, listening with curiosity and a desire to raise the conversation and all involved to a higher level. However, when our conversation turned to politics I found myself cutting her off, getting defensive and bordering on being critical of her. I was horrified by my own behavior. I think this article hits on it – the support or opposition of Trump feels like less of a political stance and more of a statement of a person’s values and morals. I don’t think that’s necessarily true- I think a large population of Trump voters (my friend included) were actually voting against Washington more than for Trump. While I can’t get behind Trump I can get behind a vote to change the system. I wonder what might happen if more of us looked for what we can stand behind together?! Thank you for continuing to be a voice for this movement!”

Exactly!  Immediately I felt connected to my friend in a higher calling, and a shared struggle.  I replied:

“(My dear friend), I derive so much of my strength and curiosity from you. How many of us can own up publicly about our own flaws and failures, like you did here? And I know you know I use the word failure in the most empathetic and loving, mutually understanding way. I think that is the first step–complete humility and openness to our own imperfection. It’s so fucking hard. And I’m so lucky to have friends like you, (these four other dear friends), and others… I know now, better late than never, that we cannot do this work without unwaveringly reliable support, no matter how motivated we are.  And for those of us who are already well-supported, I think it’s our responsibility to look outward and support others. You never know when or where someone may be standing on the edge of openness, and when your small gesture of encouragement may nudge them on. Thank you for your loving support, my soul sister!”

It really is true, we cannot dig deep and bring out our best selves by ourselves.  We are meant to hold one another up and accountable, to bring out the best in each other.  It breaks my heart when I interview patients, and learn how sparse and frail their emotional support networks are.  There is no stereotype for this scenario, it can happen to the best of us.  Past experiences, circumstances, timing, life events—they can all combine to undermine our relationships, thereby weakening our capacity for self-awareness and exploration.  So we fall back on default modes of defensiveness, righteousness, denial, and blame.  Whether it’s quitting smoking, sticking to a healthy eating plan, or elevating our political discourse, we are truly stronger together.

I share this tonight because I so admire my friend for owning her whole self.  I am so grateful to her for sharing her imperfections and vulnerability with humility and hopefulness.  She gives me strength to keep going, despite how fucking hard it is.  And I hope I can do the same for many, many others.

6 thoughts on “Support for the Inner Work

  1. So on point, Kathy. One thing that keeps coming back to me is that maybe we need to do the inner work, make that a priority, before trying to address the ills of our aging and often ineffective systems. What if every person dug deep, understood her/himself, and then reacted to the world from that kind of self-knowledge?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Pam! So sorry for the delayed reply! If we all dug deep, indeed… It’s never too late! In his book _Mindsight_, Daniel Seigel, MD describes a 92 year-old man who comes to therapy and discovers insights into his hitherto emotionally stunted life, and was able to apply his learnings immediately, improving his relationships, his own life, and the lives of his loved ones thereafter. It’s inspiring, this inner work, if we can recruit the right support to dig in.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Very interesting post! All of my family and 99% of my neighbors, (I live in Alabama.) are Trump supporters. I still love my brothers and sisters, and I still talk to those neighbors who are close to me. I even went to a 4th of July party where in the house Fox News was blaring loud and clear. Sigh. But I had a good time.

    Still I do feel a bit uncomfortable when politics becomes the topic. As a liberal democrat who supports gun control, environmental issues, and women’s choice, I despise Trump. There’s no other way for me to put it.

    Regarding the poll I wonder to what extent things would be reversed if Hillary had won…that is if Clinton were president would Dems then be more tolerant of conservatives and the Trump losers would shun the winning team. I say that because of this:

    Before the Nov. election, tensions were running high in my town. Very high. People who normally waved and smiled to me as I walked my dog…flat out didn’t. One could feel the frustration of the anti-Hilary voters. It was scary. Someone had thrown a dead dog in the dumpster behind the small black church. Hate signs against Hilary and Liberals were everywhere. Like everyone, I was sure that Hilary would win. And then…she lost.

    A day later, everybody was friendly…they waved, they smiled. Had Hilary won, I don’t think they would have waved. I doubt if they would have smiled.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Paul, and thank you for your thoughtful comment! Please excuse my delayed reply.
      Yes, I really wonder how everything would be different things would be (I am convinced it would be radically so) if Hillary had won. Some things, I’m sad to say, might not be better. I don’t imagine DT would have conceded easily or gracefully. I often wondered right after the election, as hate crimes were increasing against minorities and women in his name, if that might have been worse had Hillary won? What kind of other ‘resistance’ (or outright revolt?) would we be seeing? Would there be more or less violence? Calls for her rape, like images of lynching Obama in 2008-9? I suppose it’s a moot point in the end, all circular speculation.
      And, in the end, all we can really control is ourselves and how we choose to interact with those around us. I aim to choose generosity, respect, and goodwill. And if I can stay connected to others who aim similarly, we can all make a big difference.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you so much for the thoughtful reply. I am in complete agreement with everything you say. And since the DT govt. is pretty much out of control, I think you are totally correct to say it is important to control ourselves in a positive manner–especially towards others, even those with whom we might not agree 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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