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Follow the Sacredness: How to discuss politics calmly with anyone

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It is possible to discuss politics (and religion) without starting a fight, when we understand how it is possible to heal social rifts with moral psychology.

“Happiness comes from between. It comes from getting the right relationship between yourself and others, yourself and your work, and yourself and something larger than yourself.” — Jonathan Haidt

If you’re concerned about discussing politics over the holidays following this year’s presidential election, you’re not alone. When conversations about politics and religion come up, things can get quite touchy–but there is a way you can still stay calm and carry on a respectful conversation.

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Moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt asks the excellent question in his book, The Righteous Mind, “Why do good people get divided by politics and religion?”

One thing that moral psychologists do is to take a look scientifically at answering the question, “What does it take to be a moral person?” You might think this would simply be a matter of knowing the difference between good and bad. And of course, it is. But how can we determine the simple difference between good and bad? How do people do that? Why is it that amongst cultures in the world some people’s idea of what’s good and bad are so very different than someone else’s? Yet overall, the things that help us decide whether something is good or bad are very similar.

Why is it that liberals and conservatives, in times of political elections, can get so upset to the point that they have trouble seeing straight, let alone finding common ground, when they really are smart people with good hearts? How can that be?

These are the questions that moral psychologists seek to answer. By asking really difficult questions that were extremely uncomfortable for the people being asked those questions, moral psychologists such as Jonathan Haidt, have been able to determine “the five taste buds of morality.” And these five taste buds that form the basis for Moral Foundation Theory are extremely interesting:

Care versus Harm;
Fairness versus Cheating;
Liberty versus Oppression;
Loyalty versus Betrayal;
Authority versus Subversion; and
Sanctity versus Degradation.

These five are a bit similar to taste bud senses of like: savory, salty, sweet, sour, and bitter–except these are moral tastes.

In general, people who are strong in exhibiting conservative traits care just a little bit less than liberals about things like Care versus Harm and Fairness versus Cheating, but they care a whole lot more about Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity. When you start thinking about things in this way, you can begin to bridge the gap that sometimes develops between people who are quite conservative or quite liberal.

Another big idea from The Righteous Mind is that when people come to a decision about something, like whether they are conservative or liberal, or how they feel about a certain contentious subject, they will tend to make decisions first and foremost not from their heads, but from their intuitive-emotional body, which often doesn’t necessarily know why it’s leaning one way or another. Jonathan Haidt describes this with a metaphor of a person riding an elephant. The elephant has a tendency to want to go one way or the other, and the person riding the elephant–the rational mind–then comes up with reasons why this may or may not be a good idea.

Follow the Sacredness

Many of us are wondering what we can do this holiday season to keep peace in our family and at home.

Something we can do whenever noticing differences of feelings and opinions is to do what Jonathan Haidt calls: “Follow the Sacredness.”

What that means is, look for that relationship between someone and something bigger than themselves. And keep an open heart and an open mind when you’re looking for this, so that you can better empathize, and get a little glimpse of what’s going on with the moral foundations within that group. Maybe they’re not only looking at Care versus Harm and Fairness versus Cheating, but maybe they’re looking at a lot more.  And maybe these things matter a great deal to them. By following the sacredness, it makes it easier for all of us to appreciate and truly “get” what makes somebody else tick. What it is that they’re living for that is larger than themselves.

I hope this is helpful for you, and I invite you to keep asking “How good can it get?”

___________________________

QuantumJumps300x150adCynthia Sue Larson is the best-selling author of six books, including Quantum Jumps. Cynthia has a degree in Physics from UC Berkeley, and discusses consciousness and quantum physics on numerous shows including the History Channel, Coast to Coast AM, the BBC and One World with Deepak Chopra and on the Living the Quantum Dream show she hosts. You can subscribe to Cynthia’s free monthly ezine at: http://www.RealityShifters.com
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Bridging Social Rifts with Moral Psychology

Cynthia Sue Larson

“Happiness comes from between. It comes from getting the right relationships between yourself and others, yourself and your work, and yourself and something larger than yourself.” – Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind

While we often picture visions of holiday celebrations as joyous gatherings of family members sharing traditional food and festivities, the reality can be less happy and more stressful. One of the most stressful aspects for many people during the holidays has to do with getting together with family members with different political and/or religious views. There’s a reason we’ve been cautioned against talking about politics or religion with those holding different views, and it has to do with the way few such discussions end up very well. But why can’t we talk about some of the things we care so much about?

The Righteous MindI recently read and thoroughly enjoyed reading Jonathan Haidt’s book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion.Jonathan Haidt is a moral psychologist who gains insights into people’s true moral priorities based on uniquely disturbing surveys and questionnaires, designed to delve more deeply into an understanding of morality than has previously ever been done. Intentionally disturbing questions were asked in order to delve into matters that otherwise might not be obvious, such as why in certain cultures it is considered horrible for a widow to eat fish, for example.

The first truly big idea presented in Haidt’s book has to do with the way logic follows intuition in all humans, despite frequent assumptions that in actuality, we are being perfectly reasonable. Research studies show that humans lean in the direction of our gut feelings… our intuition… and once we start leaning one way or another, our busy rational minds get to work coming up with reasons this direction makes so much sense. This wouldn’t be much of a problem if we all tended to lean the same direction as one another, thus tending to generally agree, but it can present difficulties when individuals or groups of individuals all start leaning one way or another and sharing reasons for why that direction is better than others.

Haidt outlines something called Moral Foundations Theory in his book, in such a way that shows how people from different cultures around the world identify to varying degrees with several basic foundations of morality. These are a bit like tastes, so just as some people might have a “sweet tooth” and others prefer salty or sour, people also show preferences and varying degrees of identifying with the six basic foundational pillars of morality: Care/Harm, Fairness/Cheating, Liberty/Oppression, Loyalty/Betrayal, Authority/Subversion, and Sanctity/Degradation.

Intriguingly, these moral foundations illuminate similarities in viewpoints of members of groups who share concern about Care/Harm and Fairness/Cheating (Liberals)… and the study of moral psychology thus illuminates reasons great rifts can sometimes occur between Liberals who presume Conservatives do not share their same concerns with regard to Care/Harm and Fairness/Cheating, when studies show Conservatives do care about these things… in addition to all the other elements of moral foundation, and perhaps a bit less than some.

So how does a better knowledge of moral psychology help in healing social rifts, such as those we may find around the holiday dinner table this year? Learning how people have initial intuitive leanings and viewpoints about things as being good or bad so they subsequently create logical support for them can be extremely important, so you can respect how feelings are the primary driving force. Jonathan Haidt recommends that when we really want to understand someone from a different viewpoint or culture, we do well to listen with open hearts, following a sense of sacredness. This is excellent advice for deep listening in general, and listening truly is the best way to show respect to others, and bridge gaps between ourselves and others.

How good can it get when you feel inspired to learn about someone’s world view? Keep in mind that every person has a unique way of relating to others and something bigger than themselves… and feelings are at the center of these relationships. When you listen with love and respect to peoples’ views, you just might discover something amazing and wonderful about some of the deepest mysteries of life.

You can watch me discuss this topic on my YouTube video, Bridging Social Rifts with Moral Psychology… and please feel free to comment with your thoughts and ideas here on this blog and in the comments under the video. I’d love to know how you feel!

Love always,
Cynthia Sue Larson
email Cynthia at cynthia@realityshifters.com

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