We are a cultural mosaic with a wide variety of immigrants from a multitude of ethnic groups, languages, countries and cultures that coexist within our young country. Canada is just over 150 years old. A new country on old land, inhabited by indigenous people before we all migrated here. As someone that has travelled a fair amount, our multi-culturalism has always been something I have been proud of and along my world wandering, have witnessed the embrace of Canadians for who we are.
(This might be a good time for a side note to say, gosh I can’t wait to travel again!)
We have vast privilege and liberty to choose, to vote, to decide and to have opinions on what it is we believe and resonate with. So why is it so important for so many to scream from the rooftops their belief? More so, why do countless folks feel they have to shout so loud they feel it compellingly necessary to talk the opposition into agreement with them?
Social media has provided a false security and courage of expression that most would not actually articulate in a face-to-face situation. And while this is talked about in school to teach the younger generation of internet appropriate behaviour, I find the adult population misusing this social media platform to get up on their soapboxes, spread misinformation or facts that are blatantly false but some how resonate within their belief systems and echo chambers.
Whether it’s politics, international affairs, religion and other highly argumentative controversial debates such as abortion, vaccines and parenting or simply a personal opinion, I have witnessed more and more people assertively and even aggressively attempting to persuade others to take on their perspective as their own. Not just an intelligent exchange of information and facts and resources but more so a concluding personal defeat if they can’t talk the opposition into conformity.
A virus, as small and microscopic as it is, has created a global pandemic with 81 million reported cases and almost 2 million fatalities and with it has come equally massive number of conspiracy theories.
What if our energy was currency? Would you spend it more wisely?
Psychologist Leon Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance focuses on how humans strive for internal consistency. In psychology, this is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, performs an action that is contradictory to one or more beliefs, ideas or values, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values. Due to the discomfort of having two opposing beliefs, we may be motivated to try and reduce this dissonance and avoid situations that are likely to increase it.
Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities. Confirmation biases contribute to overconfidence in personal beliefs and can maintain or strengthen beliefs in the face of contrary evidence. So even while we may be provided with information that is opposite of our opinion, we refuse to accept it.
Philosopher Dr. Robert T. Carroll, speaks on another social psychology phenomenon called “motivated reasoning.” Carroll states motivated reasoning is confirmation bias taken to the next level. Motivated reasoning leads people to confirm what they already believe, while ignoring contrary data. It drives people to develop elaborate rationalizations to justify holding beliefs that logic and evidence have shown to be wrong. Emotionally driven motivated reasoning responds defensively to contrary evidence, actively discrediting such evidence or its source without logical or evidentiary justification. Carroll says “it seems to be assumed by social scientists that motivated reasoning is driven by a desire to avoid cognitive dissonance. Self-delusion, in other words, feels good, and that’s what motivates people to vehemently defend obvious falsehoods.”
The divisiveness, the resentment and the lack of unity can be exhausting.
So how do we become more tolerant and accepting to others while choosing carefully what we spend on our energy engaged in?
What if we think of our energy as currency? What if we spent less time focusing on the things we are against and more energy and time spent on what we wish to create in our lives? If where our awareness and focus create an energy, then don’t we want to bring more attention to sharing energy of what we love and want, rather than what drives us bonkers or upsets us?
Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting we be ignorant to information and reality, but how much of that consumes you? How much of external information are investing yore energetic currency into?
Here are a few tips that I have used and continue to practice:
Where my thoughts and feelings go, energy expands. If energy is currency, start getting pickier about where you are spending your energy the majority of the time.
Agree to disagree. As a recovering control freak, this isn’t always easy. I want to explain myself more and give all the information I can. But when I recognize that the information is falling on deaf ears, I agree to disagree. Sometimes this is done quietly with a smile, sometimes without.
Seek to understand different views. I have heard extreme arguments on both sides of the vaccine debate, claiming that if the other person didn’t see their point of view, they would be murdering their families! When you notice that you have tapped into cognitive dissonance or motivated reasoning, stop… take a few deep breaths and try to keep an open mind. Educate yourself to both sides of any debate and even if you hold the same position, seek to understand the perspective in which others are standing.
Empathy. Try and imagine what it is like to be in their shoes. Envision yourself from their viewpoint. I overheard someone complaining about the annual debate of having to say “Happy Holidays” versus “Merry Christmas.” One person adamantly declared that it had nothing to do with religion, “Christmas is a Canadian thing!” they said with a bite in their words. Someone else calmly pointed out that the word Christ is in the world Christmas and it very much is a religion holiday. Oddly, even with the facts in front of her, the woman’s position was unmovable. What if you were Jewish, Jehovah, Muslim or even atheist? Can we not wish other people well with greetings of having a happy holiday however they celebrate or don’t celebrate?
Respect. Be aware if you have stepped into the land of arrogance, stubbornness or fear. Respect others views and choices, while also kindly respecting your own. If it is against your belief, than simply don’t give it any more energy and time.
We always have a choice, even if that choice is whether we continue discussing our choices. Try and look at the big picture and do what will ultimately make you and your world, a happier and healthier place to live in.
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