The current political climate is proving brutal for everyone. Distortions are happening on both sides of the political spectrum. Learning to have constructive conversation with the “other side” rather than the divisive distorted banter relies on the average citizen being thoughtful of our words. Challenging distortions is not a call for political correctness. Distortions offer dramatic effect but cannot offer the clarity necessary to see both sides of an issue. In his book “Feeling Good,” Dr. David Burns described a list of 11 Cognitive distortions (this link, healthypsych.com/psychology-tools-what-are-cognitive-distortions, provides a list of all cognitive distortions). The three distortions I see most often in my political discussions are:
- All-or-nothing thinking – You see things in black-and-white categories.
- Mental filter – You pick out a single, negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened.
- Labeling – When someone else’s behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him: “He’s a loser.”
Whether you are interacting on social media, reading an editorial or listening to a pundit, I believe it is imperative to our public discourse that we acknowledge when others are clouding the issues with these types of distortions. Allowing this type of thinking into political discourse feeds the anger and makes it easier to dismiss the humans on the other side. By acknowledging distortions, we could move our conversations to the richer details indicative of sound policy addressing the concerns of all citizens. Government policy should reflect a spectrum and not just one side. We need diversity in thought to make our communities strong and receptive. Let’s reclaim civility. Ask more questions. Listen more intently. Build our future together.
Dawn Lambert, a resident of Westfield, works at the Indiana University School of Nursing and recently was accepted into the Masters in Social Work program at IUPUI. You may write her at email@example.com.