So if you’re reading this chances are you and I already agree politically and socially. The events in Charlottesville were abominable and even more disturbing is the way the president has responded to them. We all knew he was a bit of a garbage human, but this solidified it when he couldn’t outright say “Yah, Nazis are bad.” Dude.
On Sunday, August 13th I woke up to my Facebook page overwhelmed with people’s opinions about what was going on and lots and lots and lots of articles about how white people uphold white supremacy and how white liberals don’t quite “get” what they’re fighting for.
If you don’t already know what these things are, a Google search will help you find them, but the bottom line is all white people are racist if not Racist. The sooner us white folk accept this, the sooner we can start to be part of the solutions than contributing to the problems.
Ok, but I’m not here to tell you about things others are much better at talking about. I’m here to tell you about something I am really good at talking about: conflict and self-management.
On Sunday and Monday there were LOTS of social media posts that brought people from opposite ends of the political spectrum together to “talk,” aka scream in to the internet void at each other.
Social media is not the place where people’s minds are going to be changed if they are that far divided, so let’s not approach these sorts of disagreements with the intention of changing people’s minds.
Let’s approach them with an opportunity to learn something about ourselves in hopes of raising the bar on how those of us who are socially and politically conscious move through the world.
Let’s become more self-aware.
And let’s take it up a notch. Let’s become more self-aware about how we handle conflict.
I have yet to meet someone who says “Oh yeah, I’m GREAT at conflict!” Most of us who have hearts are conflict averse. Therefore when conflict happens we get defensive, dig in our heels, or run away. We rarely have opportunities to examine how we have conflict because we are so busy HAVING it that we can’t really take a pause. The real world is not equipped for us to say to our fighting partner “hold on, I need to do some self-reflection.”
But social media is perfect for this.
First, you’ll need to find a conversation that you find offensive. This should not be hard. Most comment sections of news articles these days (or hell, mommy blogs) are full of people denying that racism exists and insisting that they don’t see color (harmful white nonsense).
Second, you can take 2 approaches here depending upon your tolerance. You can be a by-stander in someone else’s argument, or you can directly engage with someone. If you are VERY conflict averse or you can’t speak coherently about social issues, I recommend the former. Your ability to link to Snopes is not a good way to handle an argument online.
Third, engage. Read the comments or post your own and wait for a response.
Fourth, check in. What do you feel? Are you overwhelmed with a desire to punch Nazis? Do you want to eat a sheet cake? Are you numb?
Fifth, manage. Write about your feelings. Talk about them with someone. Talk through them out loud. Do some reflection about why you are feeling what you are feeling and if you want to change it. For me, I feel an overwhelming sense of anger at the injustice and ignorance of people. Get to the root of why you feel that. I had a lot of situations growing up that were wildly unfair where even facts didn’t sway people, so I felt very helpless. Even if you don’t engage in a therapeutic practice that soothes hurt childlike parts of yourself, knowing that the way you respond to conflict is rooted in old hurts is helpful.
Sixth, repeat. Engage, examine, engage, examine, engage, examine. Try on different coping techniques. My best coping technique is talking to my husband or my best friend about how stupid people are and why can’t they see how clear and logical my argument is? But this also gives me a chance to find other ways of coping. Deep breathing, drinking water, doing jumping jacks, anything to help my nervous system either chill out or expend the pent up adrenaline. Over time you can zero in on techniques that can be done in public and in private. For instance, privately when I have time, I write, when I have less time, I do push ups or handstands (sort of, I get into downward facing dog and walk up a wall until I’m in a 90* angle. I’m not strong enough yet for a handstand). Publicly I drink water, lots of water. I focus on engaging my deep core muscles so my shoulders relax. I take deep breaths.
The goal is not to becoming a crusader for a cause and fight for everything. Nor is it to find your total zen so you can manage conflict with non-reactivity. The goal is to identify when and why you get hooked by conflict and how to manage yourself when you do.
Then, if you punch a Nazi, it’s more of a choice and less of a knee-jerk reaction to hatred, even though it may be a totally understandable approach to dealing with idiots who legit don’t want people we love or even ourselves to exist.