But as I sat up in bed this morning, thinking about what I could do to change these fears and be part of the population to shift the perspective, I realized I have been placing a lot of blame and judgment like so many of those I have seen on social media. I've witnessed people severing friendships based on who they voted for, people making hateful comments towards those who don't hold the same viewpoint, and people placing blame on others out of fear, disgust, and anger. In the wee hours of the morning, I made a commitment to myself. "I need to see the other side."
In DBT, it's all about seeing the other side. It's all about the balance between acceptance and change. Regardless of what side we all stand on politically, it is our responsibility to see the other side so that we can bring each other to the middle ground. If we all stay stuck in our extreme points of view, just so we can "be right," we will never be happy. If our sole purpose is to let the other side know how much we disagree with their standpoint, we are simply fueling the fire.
Let me be very clear before I move on. Choosing to see the other side does not mean I like all their opinions and beliefs. This does not mean I condone the ideas of taking away rights and making sweeping generalizations about any given group. I most definitely do not. However, I can accept their opinions and beliefs and not like it. This is the dialectic.
When I run our DBT skills training, one of the key points we go over are the DBT Assumptions. People who tend to commit to our group are those who have a very difficult time regulating their emotions, which often can lead to a life of misery. (This I know first hand) The goal of DBT is to have Life Worth Living, and there are often old habits that can really get in the way. So, the brilliant Marsha Linehan (who developed DBT) came up with these assumptions to help people in the groups gain some acceptance and structure before the skills are even taught. An assumption is a belief that cannot be proved, but we agree to abide by it anyway. I use these assumptions in my everyday life, and at this moment in time, I'm needing them more than ever to access my own skills.
1. People are doing the best that they can.
If we as a collective were able to come to an agreement, that at any given time, people were doing the best that they can, would it allow us to have some forgiveness and acceptance? I know for me, when people aren't doing exactly what I think they should be doing, saying this allows me to let go of my expectations and release judgment. If people are doing the best that they can, I make the assumption that this is all they know...right now.
2. People want to improve.
In general, people want to improve their lives and be happy. This includes those people on the other side of our own political views. They believe, as much as those of us on the opposing end, that things need to improve in this country. We may not understand it, but it is as real for them, as our dreams to improve this country.
3. People need to do better, try harder, and be more motivated to change.
#1 and #2 are not a free pass in my eyes. As Ms. Linehan says, "the fact that people are doing the best they can and want to improve, does not mean these things are enough to solve the problem." This goes for all of us. If we don't make every effort to work harder towards the change we want, things remain the same. I think I saw this in myself and in others this election season. I shut out the negative comments, turned off the TV when I heard our President-Elect make statements that offended me, looked the other way when people were raising their signs, and all this did was keep me in my own bubble. I chose not to see the possibility of a divided country because I was "doing the best I could."
4.People may not have caused all our own problems, but we have to solve them anyway.
"People have to change their own behavioral responses and alter their environment for their lives to change."- Marsha Linehan. This is the one I've been struggling with. I hear so many people saying things like "Well, let's just see what he does." And this just does not sit well with me. While I turned a blind eye to the negativity of the campaigns, if I choose to sit back and let rights be taken away and the divide in this country expand, then I am part of the problem and not the solution. On the other side, I wholeheartedly believe that people who voted for our President-elect, believe in his way of solving problems. This is hard for me to come to grasps with, so I am tryin to look at it from a place of "there are people in this country who see things as problematic and needing to be solved."
5. All behaviors (thoughts, actions, emotions) are caused.
There is always a cause, even if we do not know what it is.
Just as I have sat for days thinking "How? Why? What's Next?" people on the other side very well may have felt the same way leading up to the election. It's not something I understand, but there are reasons for their thoughts, feelings, and actions. And they are as much human as the rest of us are.
6.Figuring out and changing the causes of behavior work better than judging and blaming.
"Judging and blaming are easier, but if we want to create change in the world, we have to change the chains of events that cause unwanted behaviors and events."
I have to admit, I would love nothing more than to point the finger and blame those with opposing views than my own. But I know that all it will do is incite their anger, and then my own. I don't want to be stuck in a vicious cycle. This is the hardest test of using my nonjudgmental skills. It's very easy to get pulled into the blame game out of fear. But I don't want to live in fear, I want to be a part of a community that gets together and spreads the light of how we can unite and learn from one another.
What I want more than anything, is to be able to lay in bed at night with the woman I love, and rest easy knowing that our rights are as much protected as our white heterosexual neighbors. I want to be able to look my friends in the eye who voted for an opposing party, and understand what it is they want to see change in this world. I want to gather with people who clearly see the extremes in this country, and work together to find the balance. Whether you choose to buy into the idea that there is truth in both sides, is completely up to you, but I would like to find the dialectic, I'd like to see the other side...and work towards synthesis, peace, and unity.