Friday, September 7, 2012

Why do we care so much?

We are in the final months of the National Election for 2012.  This is one of our biggies--the President gets elected this time.  No doubt everyone has heard the sound bites, seen the ads, listened to some or all of the national conventions, and had discussions with friends about who is the best candidate.

I'm not about to open up the can of worms about which man is best for the job of president.  I'm sure all of my readers have already decided or are at least leaning one way more than another.  No, my post today is more about the question:  Why do we care so much about what we think or about what others think about the Presidential election?

I'm sure everyone knows someone who prefers a different candidate than they do--who doesn't?  We all see postings on Facebook, Twitter, forwarded email, and the like.  We hear people discussing it at home, on the bus, in the grocery store, at church, etc.  Everyone has an opinion, whether they share it or not.  But why does it "push our buttons" so much to talk about this stuff?

I mean, think about it.  I can disagree with people about which foods they like, which sports team they like, what color they like--all kinds of stuff.  And while I will try very hard to avoid arguments about religion, politics, or even child rearing practices, encountering an opposing opinion raises emotions that other topics do not--even if I don't show it, it still does.  Judging from what I've seen and heard around me, it does the same for others.

So why is that?  Why do we feel so personally offended if someone disagrees with us about some topics but not about others?  Is it because we want to be on the side of the winner?  Is it because we want to be able to say "I told you so"?  Is it because we really think that voting in one candidate over another will make that big of a difference?   Do we believe our candidate will win if we can just convert others to vote for him?

I suppose it could be any of these things, but I believe it may go a lot deeper than that.  For whatever reason, I think who or what we choose to support in politics is a kind of representation to the world of our own personal values.  There is something about that candidate or that policy that represents a piece of us, whether it be our values, our priorities, or even our fears.   When someone disagrees with our choice in politics, we take it really, really personally.  It probably isn't even rational, but on an emotional level, we feel like we've just been told that our values, our priorities, our fears, or whatever are misplaced.  On some level we feel like we, as people, are being rejected by those who disagree with us.  This may be even more pronounced with close friends and family.  I know I find it a lot easier to ignore opinions of people I don't know.  But people who I know and respect and love, well, its a little bit harder to ignore them.  It's a little bit harder not to take it so personally.

Maybe I'm the only one who feels this way, but I really do think it has something to do with emotional vulnerability for a lot of people.  I don't know about you, but it helps me to realize this.  If I can be aware of the "irrational" reaction to differing opinions, I have a better chance of being able to recognize it for what it is and remind myself that just because my friend and I don't agree on politics doesn't mean that they are rejecting me, just that they have a different opinion.