The article, “Lessons Between Individuals” discusses how each one of us tends to attract certain people into our worlds, who can teach us particular things about ourselves. These people may not know that they are teaching us. The lesson is more encoded in the overall experience and interaction itself. Unbeknownst to us, we usually have something to teach them as well.
These lessons help us to identify, confront and release those fixed judgments or beliefs, which are unhealthy and haven’t served us well. They are like ultimatums we acquired in childhood, which we still carry around today. Such beliefs are reinforced by underlying charged emotions. These fixed beliefs and underlying emotions make up part of what is referred to as the shadow self, which almost everyone possesses.
When we become liberated of our fixed beliefs and replace them with more flexible, user-friendly beliefs, we can make more enlightened choices.
This dynamic happens between groups of people as well. As each of us grows up, we may be brought up to believe that people with particular political, social, or religious views are wrong or inferior. Our beliefs become fixed judgments backed by charged emotions, which make it difficult for us to explore and seek understanding or empathy with those views we consider wrong or inferior or our own.
We tend to belong to groups of like-minded people and battle it out with those in other groups with different points of view. We may be hard-pressed to identify the lessons encoded in the encounter, which would have us seek such understanding and empathy.
In the political realm, it happens between liberals and conservatives. Like-minded liberals battle it out with like-minded conservatives, along several dividing lines. Each political side believes itself to be right and the other side wrong, and makes no bones about it. The conflict never seems to get resolved, leaving each side to scratch its proverbial head and wonder why it can’t get through to the other side. Each side fails to see valuable lessons contained in the relationship. What can liberals and conservatives learn from one another?
Identify the lesson:
There are many dividing lines that separate liberals and conservatives. For example, in the energy debate, the main dividing line is between the liberal concern for the environment and conservative concern for the economy.
Liberals want us to be weaned off of our dependency for petroleum, nuclear, coal, and other energy sources that pollute the environment and are limited in supply, to cleaner, more sustainable energy sources that support the environment, like solar, wind, and geothermal. They would like to see such a shift to cleaner energy sources done within a relatively short time frame.
They push for an increase in government funding and programs, which will support this endeavor, and are willing to tolerate higher energy prices and perhaps even some rationing as temporary measures during the transition.
On the other hand, conservatives want to exploit the conventional energy sources that already exist in our country. They feel that we can make a transition to energy independence much quicker if we invest in conventional energy, since it is already proven and economical. They argue that this approach will minimize the risk toward higher energy prices and rationing.
Conservatives believe that, perhaps some investment in alternative energy might be a good idea, but it will take years to develop it into a reliable and economical source to meet our growing energy needs. In fact, they argue, alternative energy will most likely never completely replace conventional sources, but supplement it.
Each side is critical of the other side’s position, without giving much regard for the other side’s concerns on the issue.
But, what are the lessons that both sides can learn from the other?
For conservatives, an important lesson would be to have more of an appreciation toward the environment and not give it second-class status to the economy. Meanwhile, liberals can learn to have more of an appreciation toward the economy.
How to Learn the Lesson:
Once each side has identified the lesson, they can take the steps to learn from it.
1) It’s important to truly acknowledge the lesson and accept what it is revealing about ourselves.
This step is probably the hardest part of the learning process. It requires that we stop blaming the other side and begin to look within for answers. Once we’ve owned up, we have begun the process of freeing ourselves of the fixed beliefs and charged emotions associated with this lesson.
2) Identify those fixed beliefs, which the lesson addresses.
Naming the beliefs will begin the process of diffusing the charged emotions behind them. Many of our beliefs come from early childhood. Often times, as adults, we have not reviewed these beliefs to see whether they are appropriate, but have allowed ourselves to be ruled by them.
In the energy debate example, what are some of the fixed beliefs each side possesses?
The environment is more important than the economy.
Nature is more important than man.
It is selfish to put ourselves before nature and the planet.
We have a responsibility to protect the planet.
We don’t have a right to pollute the planet.
A clean planet is a healthy planet.
This is the only planet we have; let’s preserve it.
Oil companies are greedy and corrupt.
The economy is more important than the environment.
Reliable energy is vital to protect national security.
We have a responsibility to protect our national interest.
Rationing is bad.
Oil companies are businesses out to make a profit like everyone else.
3) Let us review the respective list of our group.
What do we think? Some items carry wisdom, while others seem a bit irrational or one sided. Those items that have wisdom, however, cannot be healthy when they become rigid absolutes and unrelenting taskmasters in our lives. They reveal themselves as the barely detectable voices in our heads, expressed as ultimatums.
Let’s take our beliefs one by one. Explain the rational for each belief. How does each belief impact our behavior, positively and negatively? How do we really feel about each belief?
Let’s review a belief on each side, to make the point:
Liberal Fixed Belief:
“The environment is more important than the economy”: The rationale behind this belief is that we do not take precedence over the planet. We are custodians of the planet and have a responsibility to preserve it, even if it means economic repercussions. A downside of this belief is that it can be neglectful to our economic well-being.
Conservative Fixed Belief:
“The economy is more important than the environment”: The rationale behind this belief is that man is ruler over nature. We have a right to pursue prosperity and happiness. A downside of this belief is that it can be neglectful of the environment.
4) Let’s now modify these beliefs.
Let’s shift them from inflexible rules, many of which we acquired in childhood, to flexible guidelines, which we consciously chose as adults
Liberal Modified Belief:
“The environment is more important than the economy”: A modified version might be, “We are part of our planetary world, and therefore should look after both ourselves and the planet. We move from observing a rigid, absolute rule to a flexible, practical principle.
Conservative Modified Belief:
“The economy is more important than the environment”: A modified version might be, “The health of the environment is vital to sustain a healthy economy.” It is in our best interest to protect and preserve the environment. We move from observing a rigid, absolute rule to a flexible, practical principle.
When we shift our thinking from inflexible rules to flexible guidelines or principles, we can begin to make more enlightened choices. The two sides can now work together with greater understanding and cooperation, without fear and distrust. There’s now less room for misunderstanding and a greater respect for the values and concerns of both sides.