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.

Look for the Helpers

November Gratitude Shorts, Day 19

I never intend to write on politics here, but I suppose if I am to be authentic in blogging, as in life, I need to express potentially controversial things at times.

In the past few days I find myself glued to Facebook, looking for information and reflecting on friends’ posts. I am grateful today for all the writers more knowledgeable and articulate than I, who strive to contribute peace and understanding in the face of fear and destruction. I hope I can make my own small contributions, too.

I share now the timeline of articles that have helped me cope with recent world events.

Saturday, November 14:

My friend posted this photo, which prompted me to wonder… “But what does it mean for an ordinary citizen to ‘stand with’ a whole other country at a time like this? It’s more terrorism happening, right? The root of that is hate, anger, self-loathing, and other pain, from what I have read. So maybe ‘standing with’ France or any other victims of violence means exercising more curiosity and compassion, less judgment and negativity, toward the people right around us, whomever they are, wherever we are. We may not redeem a terrorist this way, but we can at least not help make one?”

I did not know about the bombing in Beruit, and learned important perspective about media coverage of world events from this article.

Then, a friend posted an even deeper discussion of how we truly cannot relate, as Americans, to the horror in the Middle East, and an invitation to open our hearts and minds to awareness.

Tuesday, November 18:

Increasing news coverage about US governors announcing refugees unwelcome in their states.   A friend posted a history lesson from the Washington Post.

I see opposing viewpoints emerging in stark and sometimes vehement relief on my friends’ pages. No refugees until all of our veterans are off the streets and taken care of!  If you refuse refugees you let ISIS win, you are a pawn of fear, stop being a coward! Look at all the atrocities committed by Muslims! Oh yeah? Look at all these other atrocities committed by Christians!  Do we really want to play this game of one-ups-manship?

Just when it felt overwhelming, and I wondered again what a single citizen could do, another friend posted this picture:

And another posted this article about a past governor of my home state of Colorado, who stood out and up for his inner sense of humanity.

And another posted this quote and photo of Robert Kennedy:

Finally today, I felt impatient with all the negativity. Everybody is scared. How could we not be?  I have thought more than once just this past month that the world may actually end in my lifetime, the way things look now. But all the verbal attacks and undermining, the incendiary comments, stereotyping,  judgment, and impulsivity, on all sides, just is not helpful. If your neighbor or friend rejects refugees out of fear, how does mocking that fear make anything better?  Why must we choose between housing our veterans and granting asylum to refugees?  Surely, if we call upon the best that is America, we can do both and more?

I posted on my own page today: “I need to look for articles on the GOOD that Muslims, Christians, and others do around the world. Comparing the harm that one group does, to the harm that other groups do, keeps our focus on dark, destruction, and pain. In order to really see one another in light, we have to shift our attention to the light.”

So I looked, and once again, other writers held me up:




A lot of people quote Mr. Rogers these days, and rightly so.  Look for the helpers, his mom told him.  “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.'”  We should take this advice, and not only look for the helpers, but try to be helpers, too.

look for helpers