I think we forget how much fear plays a role in aggressiveness.
Why’s it so hard to have a civil conversation? Why must politics be such an antagonistic sport?
From personal experience, I can tell you why.
Fear plays a big part. Insecurities an even bigger part.
For those of us who strongly identify with our beliefs, the thought of being proven wrong is terrifying.
The thought of being influenced by other views, ultimately adopting those views is uncomfortable. Funny thing is, that’s how it works.
We’re constantly afraid of our worldviews changing. Yet, it happens all the time.
I’m fearful of it. It’s something I think about constantly.
This fear is what I think keeps a lot of people from having worthwhile conversations.
My Own Struggle to Avoid Aggressiveness
My early political journey wasn’t filled with slogans of “Freedom for All” and “keep an open mind.”
It was very much the opposite.
I remember getting into heated arguments with people online. Over issues I don’t care much about, now. Some of them I’ve even changed my mind on (like, drug legalization).
The arguing and hostility was a way for me to protect myself against the possibility of being convinced. Keeping a cool head, refusing to call them names, making an effort to understand their point of view. These were all things I didn’t about.
Did I mention being hostile is fun?
It’s fun to pick on other’s views and opinions. It’s an empowering feeling. I know what’s right. They’re obviously wrong (not to mention being stupid about it). Why wouldn’t I attack their views? Why wouldn’t I mock them?
I guess that arguing is attractive to me. It’s the feeling that’s attractive.
Arguing is a way for me to show my superiority. It’s one of those messed up mental modes that we feel we need to appease.
In reality, we shouldn’t appease it. Because it holds us back.
The Dangers of Appeasing that Mental Mode
This mental mode is built around a few different mentalities. Superiority, insecurity, and self-protection.
All bad modes to be in. Especially when it comes to political outreach.
This mental mode is a bad habit. A bad mental habit.
Superiority is never a good state to be in. It prohibits you from getting on the level of whoever you’re talking to. You’re incapable of relating to them. Understanding is nearly impossible (for obvious reasons that usually go along with a superiority complex).
FYI: you’re not as superior to democrats as you think you are.
Insecurity is a killer. It holds you back from experiencing new things (like, interacting with new and different worldviews). It’s a barrier setup by your own mind. Usually setup to keep you in your comfortable and safe place. Insecurity is the opposite of keeping an open mind.
Insecurity is your mind’s way of keeping you in your “safe place.”
Self-protection is another enemy of an open mind. It’s based on fear, but not as apparent as insecurity is. This is what stops you from having a conversation, for fear of being swayed. You’re afraid of being wrong. You’re afraid of being made a fool by somewhere with superior arguments. So you protect yourself against views that don’t bolster your worldview.
Self-protection is the natural defense mechanism of those who haven’t separated their identity from their views.
Beating the Game in Our Heads
The best way I’ve found to beat this mental mode is to be aware of it (I talk about this in my newsletter). That seems pretty simple (maybe even “duh” worthy), but it’s harder than you’d imagine.
It’s a constant conversation in my head of, “Oooook, I’m starting to slip into this hostile behavior. Why am I attacking this person’s views so much? Am I insecure? Am I enjoying being mean? COURSE CHANGE!!!”
You’ve got to be aware. Willing to change.
You’ve got to sit out. It’s a time out for your mind.
It helps to remember and accept the benefits of not appeasing the mental mode of hostility. The benefits of keeping an open mind, of understanding. They’re far bigger than any “high” you’ll get from fruitless arguing.
Conversations built around mutual understanding, engaging questioning, and the Marketplace of ideas. That’s what we need. That’s what the political arena requires.
Leave the insecurities and fear behind.
Outreach, not attacks is how we’ll win our fellow Americans over to the side of Liberty.
What do you think about hostility and how fear plays into it? Do you ever feel yourself falling into the mental mindset? Do you think it’s dangerous? Leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.