MysteryShrink Shorts: Do I Have to Agree with You to Be Your Friend?
Politics doesn’t usually come up so much in doing clinical psychology work—usually. This spring and summer has been different. More than ever I’ve heard family members choosing to use distance as a way to manage the anxiety that bubbles up when they find themselves on opposing sides of a political issue.
I’ve given many presentations on family relationships and mentioned what happens when we punish others with distance when they do not think or behave the way we think they should. The examples are usually pretty hefty, like the father who refuses to come to his daughter’s wedding because he doesn’t agree with her choice or a mate or a sibling who drops out of family functions because he or she has determined that his or her educational and financial success means he or she no longer has anything in common with family. What?
But now I hear threats of changed holiday plans and anticipated miserable times due to differences in choice of candidates. From what I can tell, both sides are pretty convinced that if the other side gets in, it will be the end of time as we’ve know it so far. Thinking differently has taken on a ferocity that suggests—
“If you don’t agree with me you are stupid.”
“If you don’t agree with me you don’t care about humanity.”
“If you don’t agree with me you are part of the problem ruining this country.”
“If don’t agree with me, you are on the side of the really bad people.”
“If you don’t agree with me, it’s because you don’t know what you are talking about.”
“If you don’t agree with me, it’s because you don’t understand the issue . . . and I am now going to fill you in on what’s really wrong with this country.”
“Okay, I was wondering if you could pass the butter. I love you, you know.” Do we have to be locked together in a hurricane shelter to focus on what we have in common over ways in which we think differently?