December 17, 2021

Navigating the Trauma of Political Polarization

Written by Rachel Eddins

Posted in Emotional & Mental Health and with tags: Relationships

Political Polarization and trauma political candidate at rally

One of the great things about living in a society can be the diversity of opinions.

It’s how we learn from each other and reach new conclusions. However, even a positive potential like this can turn extreme.

Exhibit A: The current political climate. People have become more and more polarized. This reality has resulted in the loss of family and friends — due to polarizing beliefs.

Due to political polarization, the loss of connection has created what I call the “trauma of having to choose sides.” What does it do to our collective psyche when families and friendships are being torn apart thanks to different opinions and viewpoints?

2021: A Snapshot

Over the past year or so, we’ve been subjected to a wide range of challenging events. For example:

  • Divisive elections
  • Social unrest
  • Racial strife
  • Fake news
  • Politically-based paranoia

Of course, all of the above is happening in the midst of a pandemic and a patchwork of confusing lockdowns. The result is pervasive mistrust. Many of us feel compelled to withdraw into smaller and smaller groups. We feel safe and understood in those settings.

Unfortunately, this kind of tribalism is a recipe for even more conflict.

The Impact of Political Polarization

I’m right and you’re wrong.”

“Anyone who disagrees with me is evil.”

This kind of black-and-white thinking is both common and detrimental. It divides people, as described above.

But it also creates a vast sense of loneliness and alienation. These trends are made possible by changes introduced by the internet and social media.

As social creatures, we are losing contact with some of the people who enrich our lives. We’re also losing our ability to have healthy disagreements and discussions.

Without the healing power of facetime, so many people are feeling lost and angry. Unfortunately, this anger is usually aimed at anyone who dares to make us uncomfortable.

Over time, such strong and misplaced emotions impact our mental health. We feel traumatized.

Navigating the Trauma of Political Polarization

Recognize That You’re Being Manipulated

You and everyone else you know is subjected to algorithms and artificial intelligence. In particular, social media is designed to corral individuals into echo chambers.

If you mostly see posts that reinforce your beliefs, you will come to feel that you must be “right.” Better understanding the digital forces at play will guide you to a more nuanced perspective.

Embrace Nuance

Speaking of nuance, it is needed now more than ever. The world is far too complicated to be reduced to binary perspectives. If you force reality into convenient categories, it will always result in deep divisions.

Take Tech Breaks

So, following up on the two points above, it is non-negotiable that we all need to reduce our screen time. Free your mind from the non-stop notifications.

Give yourself the gift of contemplation. Most importantly, connect with people the old-fashioned way.

Have discussions face-to-face. Things feel way different when you factor in body language and vocal tone.

Set Boundaries on Conversation Topics

There is no rule that anyone must talk about politics. In a world teeming with wonders, you can talk about endless topics that stimulate and enlighten you.

Agree in advance with some friends and family members to keep some topics on the shelf. Give yourselves a great chance of creating a richer and stronger bond.

It May Not Be That Simple

The suggestions above are a great start. But you may need more help. The political traumas we’ve all endured are tough to just put aside.

You may need an action plan for recovery and trust-building. This is where therapy can be valuable. Let’s connect.

Please read more about therapy for your emotional health and reach out. Let’s talk about the many ways you can heal and thrive again.

Together we can create a plan for you to reach your goals.

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