The Problem of Polarization

politicians and cowboys

by Michael Maciel

The problem of polarization is probably THE problem of our age, so it’s really important to understand the underlying causes of why we’re at each other’s throats. And in typical fashion, we all tend to exteriorize our problems, projecting out onto the world and each other the unresolved conflicts within us.
We all seem to have a pretty good idea of what’s wrong with other people and so little understanding of what’s wrong with ourselves. We prefer to think that we’re basically okay but that those we disagree with are fundamentally flawed. But when we’re honest, the reason people bother us so much is that they stir up our inner demons. And we don’t know what to do about those, so we project them onto others and then try to fix them out there.
We need to get past this idea of otherness and realize that we ARE that other person. They are the embodiment of the things within us that we haven’t figured out yet. And it’s not that those things are evil, necessarily, because we don’t know that. It’s far more likely that they are simply those things that are foreign to us—part of us but foreign—and that can be extremely upsetting.
We need to get to know these people, the ones that bother us profoundly. Because they’re our mirror. Maybe they have something to teach us. Maybe they’ve figured out how to deal with the things in us that we’re not conscious of yet. Maybe they’re farther along in the process of discovery than we are. Instead of a threat, they’re really our lifeline to wholeness, IF we allow them to be that.
The old aphorism is true: my enemy is my teacher. In order to fix the world, then, we have to become better students.