Social division seems rampant now. It feels like society has fragmented and people find it hard to understand-or even listen to-other people’s views. The Atlantic Monthly’s September issue is entitled How America Went Haywire.
If you’re finding it hard to understand how a large part of the country could think one way and the other part could think completely differently and/or you’re tired of people demonizing each other for different views, here’s a way to understand it.
Psychologist Carl Jung said that all desires have a sacred origin, no matter
how odd they seem. Frustration and ignorance may cause them to twist
into distorted caricatures, but it is always possible to locate the beautiful
source from which they arose.
If you have a friend or family member who is completely on the opposite side of the fence from you (and you still love them so long as you don’t talk politics), I encourage you to play a game with each other called “If you had that, what would you have?”
So if your beloved (but oh-so-mistaken) friend or family member agrees, ask them if they’ll play a game to help you understand where they’re coming from. Say you’re not going to judge or call them names-you simply want to understand where their views come from by asking the same question over and over to delve more deeply so you can understand them better.
First, ask them what they want or think they’ll get if something they say they want happens (the wall between Mexico and American is built, marijuana is made legal, everyone gets a free education, all Muslims are deported, the borders are completely open or completely closed-whatever hot button issue they have).
The questioner can ONLY repeat the question “If you had that, what would you have?” to each answer the other person gives—until your respondent starts repeating themselves or some value has been uncovered. It takes some patience-the questioner must not judge or comment.
You may find that some damn-crazy idea has a sacred origin or a beautiful source (even if you vehemently disagree that the action or policy will result in the outcome they think). And maybe, just maybe, a tiny seed of understanding can form.
May we pursue our paths, uncovering the sacred origins of other people’s perceptions,