Healing Divisions, Both in Ourselves and With Others: The Brittle Weakness Exposed by Not Compromising

There’s the old, oft-repeated story, that if frogs are placed in a pot of water that is gradually heated, they will not realize the danger of eventually being boiled alive until it’s too late. However, says psychologist and science journalist Adam Grant, frogs will leap out as soon as they sense the heat. But we human beings are feeling the increasingly hotter world temperatures caused by climate change but are not leaping out and are not doing all we can to turn the heat off.


Maybe frogs are more intelligent than humans. Or maybe we are just too good at imagining reality as being other than it is?  At creating “alternate facts” and diversions? Or are too many of us just afraid of change? Or too traumatized?


How do we loosen the boundaries in ourselves? How do we let go of rigid ideas of who we are or must be or of what is real? And how do we help others do the same?


One of the biggest obstacles to changing anyone else’s mind, or our own, is realizing not only it can be done but it’s happening all the time. For example, before 2012, the country was opposed to gay marriage. In 2013, the majority supported it. In 2015, the Supreme Court struck down all state bans on same sex marriage.


Another science journalist, David McRaney, in his book How Minds Change: The Surprising Science of Belief, Opinion, and Persuasion, argues we evolved to work to consensus, to helpful adaptation. But it can happen in punctuated spurts, times of great argument and division and no clear change, then a sudden burst of change. Hopefully, we’re near such an evolutionary adaptation now.


And lately, I’ve found in myself this same resistance to facing people with rigidly held opposing ideas. It seems impossible to reach or even talk with those who disagree with me about climate change, or the “Big Lie,” for example. With the global earth and ocean temperatures rapidly reaching such high levels, the increasing number of dangerous weather events, wildfires, droughts, and floods all make climate change seem so obvious. And I saw the 1/6 attempted coup and the big lie enacted live on national tv. It just feels like what seems so clear to me should not be so hard for others to see.


But part of that difficulty comes from the fact that for all of us, our beliefs and even rationally constructed understandings of the world are the ground our lives stand on⎼ or appear to stand on. To question those views can feel like we’re washing away the ground under our feet; it can feel like abandoning our sense of ourselves.


In Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know,  Grant points out we often prefer the “comfort of conviction over the discomfort of doubt.” We resist rethinking, or talking with those with different views, not only because of the time and energy required, but because it would mean questioning ourselves. Such questioning might add more unpredictability to an already unpredictable, often threatening world. We need to recognize that what we believe is not who we are. We’re a universe infinitely larger than our worst opinions. It takes courage, not only to face those with diametrically opposing beliefs, but to unlearn what we believe, or think is true.


Especially now, it’s become difficult to change our minds. It can even be dangerous. Politically, acts mislabeled as flip-flopping are considered by many cowardice, or a sin….


*To read the whole article, please go to The Good Men Project.

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