The Spiritual Person’s Guide to Politics As Usual

As spiritual people, we talk a lot about recognizing our underlying belief systems and expanding our awareness – for the world around us, but mostly of ourselves – and how that’s the mechanism for spiritual growth, and we’re able to expand that awareness through the experiences we have.

And yet there are still so many things that affect us that we are not fully aware of until we are able to see our situation from a wider, more holistic perspective and that includes an intense study of ourselves in relation to our society and the individuals around us.

As some of you may know, aside from journalism, I studied sociology pretty intensely in college. Apparently I had a natural talent for it, as one of my professors attempted to convince me to change my major to it two years in. Sociology is interesting because it factors in human psychology, but looks at it from a broader context – in how humans interact with one another in group settings, and there’s a lot going on in the world today that is exceptionally relevant to the study of sociology.

Politics and Religion

Politics is right up there with religion as one of the most divisive belief systems in existence. And it IS a belief system.

And it is greatly informed by religion (after all, religion used to be the law of the land until government decided it needed to be a separate entity. This, of course, was merely an illusion – there is no true secular state for as long as people with religious ideologies are running said states and creating laws in said states because the laws they create will always reflect their religious beliefs and you see that struggle playing out in our country on a daily basis).

I’d like to make one thing about myself abundantly clear. I. LOATHE. POLITICS. I don’t hate the government, in general. It’s a system and it’s no better or worse than the people who keep it running (a.k.a. us…). I don’t hate social issues. I don’t hate economic issues. These are things worthy of discussion that need to be figured out.

What I hate is the fact that in this country (and in every country), people do one (or all) of a few things:

  • Listen to what they hear on TV and don’t bother to research anything else.
  • Believe everything they read on the internet, no matter how ridiculously biased it is.
  • Surround themselves with information bias by only listening to what they hear on news outlets that reinforce their own beliefs.
  • Do “research” but only research from the aforementioned sources that reinforce their own biases and ignore the things that don’t.
  • Make up their minds based on partial or oversimplified explanations of complex issues (this is actually the root cause of all the above).

Misplaced Emotion

I posted an article in my discussion group earlier today and included some commentary that touched on several of the following points:

One of the ways that you are being duped by the media, politicians and even by your own ego is when perfectly neutral and factual academic concepts are politicized through oversimplification in such a way as to cause your subconscious biases to flare up and latch onto a specific narrative without actually actively thinking about what you’re saying or doing… a.k.a. having an emotional reaction.

And then you do that thing that people do where they read an article title on the internet and immediately get offended and then don’t read the article at all or at least only read it partially before they start mouthing off about it without having actually understood it in its entirety.

“According to a new study by computer scientists at Columbia University and the French National Institute, 59 percent of links shared on social media have never actually been clicked: In other words, most people appear to retweet news without ever reading it.

Worse, the study finds that these sort of blind peer-to-peer shares are really important in determining what news gets circulated and what just fades off the public radar. So your thoughtless retweets, and those of your friends, are actually shaping our shared political and cultural agendas.

But most interesting…this habit of sharing without clicking — a habit that, when you think about it, explains so much of the oft-demoralizing cesspool that is Internet culture. Among the many phenomena we’d tentatively attribute, in large part, to the trend: the rise of sharebait (nee clickbait) and the general BuzzFeedification of traditional media; the Internet hoax-industrial complex, which only seems to be growing stronger; and the utter lack of intelligent online discourse around any remotely complicated, controversial topic.”

Or, you DO read it and it evokes such a visceral emotional reaction that you don’t even bother to ask yourself why it makes you feel the way you do, you just start vomiting your emotionally-driven rhetoric, which then triggers someone else and they do the same thing, creating a chain reaction where you spend the next thirty minutes (or three hours) arguing with a “moron” on the internet about politics, knowing full well that you’re not going to change one another’s minds.

But you’re not doing it for their benefit, you’re doing it for YOUR benefit, because you want to be RIGHT.

‘Round here that’s what we call an “emotional trigger” and those, too, are things that we are supposed to be using our superpower of self-awareness to pinpoint and learn from.

To paraphrase Anais Nin, we don’t see the world as it is. We see the world as we are. We project our own beliefs onto everything we see and then act accordingly, thus contributing to the way the world is.

The people crafting our political campaigns KNOW, beyond a shadow of a doubt, how to push all of your emotional buttons and get you so riled up that you’ll vote for their candidate no matter how shady you logically know they are. Another tactic commonly used is masquerading behind highly emotional social issues and completely ignoring or downplaying other important topics. That’s not to say that discussions around those social issues shouldn’t be had – because they should. But they should be had in a constructive, rational manner  that takes into account all of the complexities involved – not in an overly simplified screaming match that only addresses one or two aspects and treats them as “right” or “wrong.”

Politics is just another form of duality – Liberal vs. Conservative, Republican vs. Democrat. The longer we maintain the “right or left” way of looking at things, we’re going to continue to be divided. You have to learn how to take a step back, detach from your emotional reaction and consider ALL sides of an issue. That’s how we approach our own personal development, it should also be how we approach our politics.

Recognizing your biases and your emotional triggers and how your personal belief systems feed into your political belief system is how you do that.

Here’s a few links to my previous posts that tackle some of these topics:

I challenge every single person who reads this to begin questioning your political alliances the same way you would question your own beliefs about yourself as part of your personal development process. I challenge you, the next time you read a headline or an article that is related to a political issue, to stop and assess your own emotional reaction and begin to question why it makes you feel that way.

Ask yourself, ‘Is this reaction coming from a place of love or a place of fear?’ (if it’s a negative reaction, it’s coming from fear. Period.) Ask yourself what your motivation is for liking or agreeing with said article – is it because it’s something that actually made you think, or is it because it agrees with your own beliefs?

I also challenge you to never EVER like, comment, or share another link on the interwebs without actually reading it and fully digesting what it says from a neutral standpoint, considering all sides.

Do you think you can do it?



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1 Comment

  1. Excellent and eloquent post, Ash. You’ve really touched on the core, key elements, in our belief systems. I am in that mix as well, but I have become less so as I’ve developed more spiritually, and as a result, I feel better emotionally and physically. I now recognize that underlying my strong beliefs and biases was fear, and all that goes with it; anger, judgment, catastrophizing (if this happens, the world will implode…), anxiety, etc. I did get to a point that when I posted an article on Facebook, it was something I had read in full, and I pointed out what I felt were both good and not-so-good points, even if it was coming from an opposite viewpoint from mine or another political party that I don’t ascribe to. However, I realize that posting on FB was often coming from my ego, and also because there were other more productive things I could be doing. I think FB and other social media can be valuable, especially to share with loved ones/relatives/friends, and for getting the word out about a person’s business or to impart knowledge. Cheers! Judith


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