Last night I attended what was, essentially, the first meeting of a group of people in the greater Houston area who are progressive in their thinking and feeling a lot of passion about how our country is (or is not) operating at this time. The group was first called together in response to a moveon.org gathering of people for viewing the Live Earth concert and listening to current democratic candidates respond to questions about how they would manage the problem of pollution and the resultant crisis of global warming.
Some of us at that “party” agreed we’d like to get together again just to have the comfort and support of like-minded people—to have the opportunity to converse about our views and share our feelings about living and working in a community where conservative thought dominates. Many of us confessed we have felt like it was necessary to hide our progressive thinking and suppress our true feelings in fear of social ostracization or worse! Being black-balled, losing our reputations, business connections—our jobs. Isn’t that what our Constitution’s supposed to protect us from? Geez!
Our host for the meeting suggested we read George Lakoff’s book, "Thinking Points" in preparation for the meeting. Lakoff is part of a progressive think tank called the Rockridge Institute. Rockridge (and Lakoff) have analyzed the success of the conservative or neo-con constituency to engage with the populace and influence the majority to their way of defining or “framing” reality (or truth) and have found that this feat has been accomplished through the conservatives’ ability to stir people at a subconscious and emotional level and activate “deep frames” of reference (or, from a Jungian perspective, major archetypes) that are so significant to the security of the target audience’s basic identity, that many would find it hard to resist.
He makes the point that many progressive thinking people (like our group) have been left stuttering and sputtering in response to hearing judgments and decisions being made based on a frame of reasoning that is so removed from our own system of values and beliefs as to offend or to outright defy our commonly held sense of decency. “Moral indignation” is the name given this feeling reaction in the field of social psychology. It often catches a person so off-guard that s/he is speechless in the face of it and finds herself with no ability to gather her wits and make a sensible response. Sound familiar?
Because we haven’t examined and learned to verbalize our own cognitive frames and the deep emotionally charged beliefs and experiences supporting them, we are at a loss for words when it comes to defending our most heart-felt truths. In order to better express ourselves, our own feelings and beliefs, it is necessary first to examine them at depth and get clear on just what they are—then it is important to learn how best to express them in a way we can be “heard” by others who may be coming from a different point of view--a different "deep frame" of reference. This way of processing emotionally informed material and learning to express it in a constructive manner is a significant component of emotional intelligence. I'm going to call this process of political personal growth work—“finding your own voice”!
More on that later!
Other books by Lakoff are "Moral Politics", "Metaphor, Morality, and Politics", "Don't Think Like an Elephant", and more.