Let me first define what I mean by attitude polarization. This is when your perception of things (what shapes your attitude) silently slips away from being opinion and sets up housekeeping as truth. It’s almost impossible to recognize this phenomenon, much less get out from under it. But one effective way is to get savvy to the nature of opposites and their arrival in polar pairs.
All of our opinions and ideas are formed within the construct of opposites. And at no time in recent history has this splitting of opinion into polar opposites been so evident. While most of us realize the downside of this, there is also an upside. However … it requires an open mind, mindfulness, and presence to the situation in order to uncover this upside.
Polarization Is A Natural Response To Polarization
It’s important to realize that you cannot not polarize. When you’re in the presence of someone in the grips of attitude polarization, your own polarization happens naturally. Again, polarization is expressing a viewpoint far away from the middle point of view. It acts as if it alone were the correct perception of the situation in question. But why is there such hullabaloo about the middle point?
Well, this is where polar opposites can rest in harmony with each other. In the middle, antagonistic tension between the polar opposites is transformed into dynamic creative tension. You can’t get rid of tension. (An important point to remember.) But you can understand it differently. It’s only when you recognize and manage your own attitude polarization that this different perspective becomes available.
As I indicated in my last post, polarization is one of nature’s strategies for restoring balance. And as soon as an attitude or perception takes up residence on a dead-end street, a perception that opposes it will naturally emerge. This is simply nature’s way of following its prime directive – homeostasis. Balance at all costs.
Another edict from nature seems to be that all living things be endowed with two capacities: the ability to move towards growth and to move away from things that threaten its survival. Culture and civilizations tend to forget these two very important guidelines for how life is designed to function. When forgotten, problems swiftly arise. When remembered, solutions are free to emerge.
The Weakness Of Attitude Polarization
You are probably very aware of the negatives surrounding attitude polarization. When your perception of anything swings out to the edge, you can feel your emotional body getting revved up. That happens even when you’re just a few degrees away from the middle.
Polarization generates emotional turmoil. Emotional turmoil generates distorted perceptions and misunderstandings. Distorted perceptions and misunderstandings generate intense disagreements or arguments that lead to fights. And of course, these kinds of fights become the foundation for generating wars and the ultimate extreme reaction to polarization – genocide.
Knowing all of this makes it seem natural to fight polarization, to try and eradicate it and bring everyone back to the middle. A lofty and worthwhile goal. But if you go about it in the wrong way, it will not work. Here’s why.
Eradicating polarization isn’t possible without managing your own polarization first.
Why It’s Not Reasonable To Challenge Another’s Beliefs
First, of all, if you challenge someone’s beliefs (even if you do it nicely), you are inadvertently activating the amygdala or primitive part of their brain. This is part of what’s called the reptilian brain. It’s located at the base of your skull just above the neck. This puts out the signal to either flee, fight, or freeze. These are not states of mind conducive to friendly discussion or meaningful dialogue.
Well, here’s the thing. Let’s say your goal is to change other people’s minds. But you’re unaware that your own mind has already moved to a polarized position. When this is the case, the above is what will surely happen.
But … you can become astutely aware of your own natural, spontaneous, and unavoidable attitude polarization. That’s when you can then leverage your mindfulness, presence, and commitment to living out of the ‘now’. That means you can not only bring yourself back to the center point. You can also be conscious that the center point always rests between the two extremes.
That means you’ve reclaimed your understanding that there are only viewpoints here and no single one perspective that has the whole truth. The way to handle the differences rests in accessing the strengths and the weaknesses of both viewpoints.
The Strengths Of Attitude Polarization
It’s easy to see the strengths of your own viewpoint. But usually much harder to own, or even acknowledge your viewpoint also has a few weaknesses.
Likewise, it’s easy to see the weaknesses of the viewpoint you don’t like. But much harder to identify and honor that the opposing viewpoint also has some strengths. You want to be able to pinpoint the weakness of your own viewpoint and the strength of the opposite viewpoint. Why? This is the beginning of how to manage and neutralize your attitude polarization.
When you become conscious of your polarization, you are free to then redirect the energy it holds within it. Recognition is powerful.
You can starts the process of defusing the emotional turmoil the polarization has created by the simple recognition that you are polarized.
Here’s An Exercise For You
Let’s use one of today’s current issues, usually emotionally charged, as an example for you to explore.
One side of the populace wants Trump to win the upcoming election. The other side wants Biden to win. Take a moment and try to assess the strengths and weaknesses of both perspectives.
Now you may not be able to do this easily. You may need to take a few moments to rise above the emotional turmoil associated with your own polarized perspective. Do this and you can then move more toward the middle point. If you can’t, you are captive to the power of your own attitude polarization. And that means you’re subject to the resulting phenomenon, aptly named ‘polarity blindness‘.
But once you can get to the middle, you’ll be able to better perceive and assess the weaknesses of your own viewpoint. And then assess the strengths of the opposing viewpoint.
I know it’s hard to do in the beginning. And I guarantee you both the strengths and the weaknesses are sitting right there. But you won’t be able to see them unless you come back to the middle first. And that’s where your dedication to mindfulness, presence, conscious leadership and conscious living enter the scene.
Your allegiance to building these qualities and capabilities frees you to return to the center or middle point more easily. Then you have increased your freedom to perceive the situation from a more balanced place.
The difference you can make rests in your ability to
recognize, neutralize, and redirect your own polarization’s energy.
And to accomplish that, you need to pass on this information to your brain.
Freeing Yourself From the Polarization Nature Demands
Centered 24-7 is designed to help you do just that. If you haven’t checked out my free mini-course on Centered 24-7 – Leading From The Eye Of The Storm, you can CLICK HERE for immediate access. This mini-course will give you the basics you need to begin standing up to this challenge. And if you’ve already checked it out, and would like to know more about my full Centered 24-7 sixty-day mentoring program, just CLICK HERE for all the details. (By the way, the last course in 2020 starts on September 5th.
It’s a challenging, often frightening, and amazing time. So many polarizing issues are on the table. And all offer rich soil for polarization to take root. So it’s more important than ever for you to know how to recognize, neutralize, and re-direct your own polarized viewpoints has never been more obvious. You have the power to release the handcuffs of narrow vision. You can break the chains of attitude polarization.
Where do you find yourself divided on hot issues? Self-isolation and masks due to the pandemic, public health concerns, racial inequality, economic challenges, or politics? Regardless of the arena, now is the time to step up and embrace your own attitude polarization. You have what you need to do it. The challenge awaits your acceptance.
Until next time, may you be happy, centered, and find as much inner peace as you can fully enjoy.
images courtesy of www.Pixabay.com