One answer to this question is that there’s a lot of anxiety in our culture, a lot of fear. We don’t feel safe—on many levels, from our own personal lives all the way up to how national policies affect us. When we don’t feel safe, we unconsciously look for a cause outside ourselves. It’s like a little sea animal frantically scrabbling around trying to hook onto something so that it doesn’t get swept away.
We Are Riddled with Anxiety
Have you noticed that inner scrabbling? It starts with a vague feeling of anxiety. Maybe something happened that startled you or scared you. On the personal level, maybe somebody yelled at you for being too slow to move out of the way, your computer did something glitchy, your friend didn’t respond when you sent them a text. On a level a bit further out, maybe there are unsubstantiated rumors that the company you’re working for is thinking of outsourcing some of its job categories or might merge with another company or is thinking about laying people off. On a national level, maybe the media is hyping up fears that Congress is considering doing away with something you’ve considered permanently ensconced in society, something you value: guns, Social Security, Medicare, the home-owner deduction, college loan subsidies, oil subsidies, farm subsidies, etc., etc. Or maybe the anxiety started completely inside your own self. Maybe you had an anxiety dream or a vague memory or just a thought or feeling of anxiety with no content.
Anxiety Tends to Build on Itself
Unless it’s stopped on purpose, once anxiety starts, it usually builds. The little sea animal is scrabbling. Unconsciously, you’re looking for something to pin the anxiety on. There’s an unconscious assumption—usually false—that if there’s a cause, something to blame, you’ll be safe.
Political Polarization is Based in Personal Anxiety
If we’re politically on the right and there’s talk of limiting the kinds of guns or ammo allowed, anxiety immediately exaggerates what’s happening and we’re afraid we won’t be able to protect ourselves from forces out to destroy us. If we’re on the left, we’re afraid that if we get ill or lose our jobs, we’ll be left to die by the side of the street with no help. And we blame those on the other side. We make them evil, we assume they’re irrational monsters. We assume the worst case scenario right from the beginning.
Which usually doesn’t solve much.
Being Aware of Our Anxiety Helps
There are certain things we need, and if we don’t believe we have them, we become afraid: safety, ability to protect ourselves, a sense of belonging, a feeling of being able to control our lives to some extent, to name a few. The extent to which we believe we can or cannot meet these needs is often etched into us by childhood family patterns, by what happened over and over in our families and at school when we were kids. For example, if we were neglected in some way, as adults we might fear being abandoned—by our partner or by society. If we were abused or criticized harshly and were helpless to protect ourselves, as adults we might fear the loss of our means of protection. In our personal lives, we might suspect people of trying to hurt us. On the societal level, we might fear governmental intrusion.
Find the Personal Anxiety Root in Political Polarization
Often it can be useful to start by noticing that we’re afraid and consciously noting what we’re pinning the fear on. “They’re taking our guns away.” “They’re taking away Social Security.” Then, assume that there’s a personal root to this fear.
•Be willing to ask yourself what that anxiety about guns or Social Security reminds you of from your own personal past?
•Notice that you’re probably feeling powerless in some way when you think of that past childhood family pattern. Acknowledge that, in childhood, you actually were powerless, because you were a kid and the adults were big and powerful.
•Notice, also, that now you are an adult and, if that same thing happened to you now, you could do something about it.
•Notice what might have happened just before you became anxious about the political or national issue that you’re focusing on. What happened in your personal life that created some anxiety? How is that being hooked onto the national issue?
•Notice what, as your adult self, you can do about this thing that happened in your personal life. What little or big actions can you take to resolve the situation, that will ease your anxiety and help you feel more competent, more in control of your part of the situation?
•Take the action!
Childhood Family Patterns Are the Root of Much Anxiety
Anxiety is often deeply rooted in our childhood family patterns, and can be hard to get to the core of. Sometimes it can be useful to get help. For information, go to www.EFT-Emotionalfreedom.com.