Rhett Smith 84: Emotional Regulation, Boundaries and Anxiety in the Age of Online Political Discourse
So I am not one to talk much about politics…at least online. There are several reasons for this. 1) I feel a bit naive on the subject matter and not as fluent in political knowledge and conversation as I would like to be. 2) I’ve rarely seen political discussion online lead to anything positive. So for the most part I work on improving my family, my neighborhood, and the communities around me by having face to face conversations (about all kinds of things), and working to affect change where I am able. And I’ve noticed that ranting on FB about something does little to affect change.
And I think there is a reason for this.
This is the subject of this podcast. How emotional regulation (lack thereof usually), anxiety, and boundaries (usually violations of) lead to a toxic environment for political discourse.
And in this I will just try and speak from my own knowledge of family and organization systems, and the lens that I view things from as a marriage and family therapist. And I think this has relevancy because we are all engaged in systems, and online political discourse is a relational system where the same principles apply. And I know I have a certain view point because of my own background and experience, but I try to stick to the published work out there on this topic (which of course has it’s own viewpoints). That the reality…we all have viewpoints. But at the end of the day, I believe that if we can become aware of our biases and pain points, and emotionally self-regulate ourselves enough, we are actually capable of creating a safe environment that leads to action and change. Otherwise, all we are doing is slinging mud at each other.
I start this podcast with a quote from the Jewish Rabbi and Marriage and Family Therapist Edwin Friedman, who wrote:
Communication does not depend on syntax, or eloquence, or rhetoric, or articulation but on the emotional context in which the message is being heard. People can only hear you when they are moving toward you, and they are not likely to when your words are pursuing them.
In this episode I explore:
- Boundaries. What they are and how they are violated.
- The concept of emotional self-regulation.
- Systemic Anxiety
- The work we all need to do to act out of our true selves in a healthy way, that creates safety for others, and helps not only lead to civil discourse, but ultimately change.
In Failure of Nerve, Friedman writes:
….Precisely because our technologically advanced society constantly keeps us in often-simultaneous touch with one another it may be more difficult today not to become caught up in the surrounding systemic anxiety. Ironically, the very advances in technology that mark our era tend to intensify the ‘herding instinct’ characteristic of an anxious society. This kind of enmeshment inhibits further the kind of individuation that is the essential precondition for bold leadership and imaginitive thinking….My thesis here is that the climate of contemporary America has become so chronically anxious that our society has gone into an emotional regression that is toxic to well-defined leadership….Emotional regression, therefore, is more of a ‘going down’ than a ‘going back’; it is devolution rather than evolution….At the same time that a society is ‘pro-gressing’ technologically it can be ‘re-gressing’ emotionally….When a society (or an institution) is in a state of emotional regression, it will put its technological advances to the service of its regression so that the more it advances on one level the more it regresses on another…. (pp. 52-55)