Staying Sane Living in a Politically Divided Country

The past few years have left some countries, the United States in particular, more divided than ever. Once close friends and family members have become bitter enemies. The media is drowning in spin. Moderates are growing rarer as left- and right-wing extremists take increasingly greater portions of the spotlight.

Who isn’t at odds with at least one person right now over COVID-19/masks/vaccines, the 2020 elections or immigration policies? I personally don’t know anyone at the moment who isn’t suffering an aching heart over something political. We all know at least one or two extremists, and the fallout for everyone has been nothing short of tragic.

So, how do we deal with it all without losing our minds?

Forget ‘Right’ and ‘Wrong’

There’s no seeing eye to eye on at least a few current issues, and the more anyone analyzes the “other’s” stance, the more it’s likely to add to their angst. No, the people you disagree with aren’t making any sense—at all. Certain solutions seem clear to you, but only infuriating to them, and their asinine responses clearly come from the scripts of their favorite spin doctors.

Those of us who focus on the wrongness of the opposing party will merely succeed in growing our own resentment. It’s vital that we each take a step back from the stances we’ve adhered to and consider how far we may have been misled as well.

Regardless of which side of the line you stand on, unless you’re a true centrist, you’re also likely feeding the divide. The puppet masters win.

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Refuse to Engage

It’s tempting to at least try to find an argument worthy enough of bringing the extremist around, but brainwashing is a powerful enemy, one you might not be able to overpower. Spin doctors use issues near and dear to us to appeal to the emotional parts of our brains, creating what scientists call cognitive dissonance.

We can lose clarity over anything we feel passionate about because we may process it from a place of emotion over logic or reason. Even more, there may be no argument, no matter how solid or sound, that can break past it. You can present all the evidence you want—and your opponent is only like to twist it into evidence to support their stance. That’s right: They’ll even see proof against their views as proof supporting them.

Even incredibly intelligent people can fall into this mental rut, and you’re liable to want to beat your heat into the wall if you attempt to fight it. There’s no reasoning against cognitive dissonance because the mindset filters out all sense of reason. Refuse to engage and save yourself a lot of unnecessary frustration.

Don’t Feed Your Own Fire

Remember that the divide depends on both sides buying into the spin and fueling their anger. Consider how politicians and the media may have fueled your feelings. What about a particular issue to you feel has impacted you personally? What makes it more important than the other issues currently on the table? Is this an issue that will affect your day-to-day life as much as the media has convinced you it will?

Could there be other factors at play that you haven’t thought about? Might someone be benefitting, personally or financially, off your anger? More importantly, how is all that angst serving you?

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Take a Break

Even moderates are losing their minds right now. The insanity some groups are pushing is enough to leave practically everyone with one foot in the psych ward. It feels like half the world is on fire.

In a sense, it is—with social media as the kindling and every news outlet with a political bent being the gasoline. The effects of the constant negativity and mudslinging have worn most of us down; a short break from both could go a long way in helping everyone regain some piece of mind.

Have a Refuge

Not all people can escape the nonstop barrage of political venom. Some of us live with fervent members of our opposing parties, or we have jobs that force us to witness the spin on a regular basis. When the negativity looms close by no matter how hard you work to keep away from it, finding or creating a safe zone might be in order.

The “man-cave” or “she-shed” isn’t always an option, although it’s a good one if the home has become a political battleground. You may need to establish your bedroom as a politics-free zone, take a daily walk or assert your right to a quiet bubble bath. The biggie is setting boundaries and enforcing them. Everyone needs to have a place of peace and safety. Fight for yours as well as the right to use it when you need it.

The current political climate is ugly, but you can protect yourself by keeping perspective, limiting your exposure and finding better balance in other areas of your life. With a clear strategy and a bit of resolve, you can weather through the worst of it. Ultimately, most of us want the same things: security, food, clean water, freedom to grow and be happy. There is a middle ground, but we’ll all need to work together to find it.

Even if the storm gets a little heavier before the skies clear, this too shall pass. Remember that no one is defined by a single belief, and even sheep that have been led astray often eventually find their way back home.

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