Elisa A. Escalante/ LCSW/ 8-1-2022
“Judgmental people are always the worse violators of what they’re trying to preach against.” -EaE
With technological advancements, especially during the onset of the pandemic, I found myself doing some heavy research. This research involved exploring the comment section under any type of meme, news, comment (etc.), that I knew was considered a controversial topic. I wanted to read how people argued. Why? I wanted to get a sense of what is important to people; What is the hot topic, what is offensive and why? More importantly, I wanted to understand why people felt the way they felt about certain topics, I wanted their story that led them to those beliefs. I wanted to search for the middle grounds of truth between all the arguments. I wanted perspective from personal life stories. I wanted something above and beyond research and statistics; hearing people out is often the realest type of research we can get. I do not believe that this is easy research at all. Being able to not react even when I have my own personal views was quite hard at times. But, when I put on my therapist hat, I can remove myself from the equation and see a lot from a neutral lens. It takes unconditional acceptance, to grasp the reality that we will not always see eye to eye. Even when I feel right, I could be wrong. How many people can admit that fact?
Here’s where I felt different: When someone disagrees with a viewpoint of mine, I am not ready to go on a preloaded argument with regurgitated ‘facts’ I read from sources that agree with my viewpoint. I am not putting on my keyboard warrior armor and ready to clash it out to the point both of us are angry and still, no one’s mind has changed. THIS IS A WASTE OF TIME. I do believe, that out of everything I learned, the most crucial thing I learned was this: The average human is terrible at 1- arguing, 2- getting their point across 3- and most importantly: LISTENING. I hated to have to say it to friends, family members and acquaintances, but many of them were wasting their time and energy on these politically heated arguments. And no…. not because it’s not ‘important topics’, but rather, it wasn’t constructive, how anyone chose to talk/ argue about it. Now, how do we know when an argument is constructive? I would venture to say when it leads to a helpful outcome such as: 1- a problem was resolved 2- knowledge was built 3- and/ or someone felt heard/ validated or empathized with. If those things are not happening during your average argument, you are likely wasting your time/ breath.
Why do people get so offended?
People get offended for many reasons. Sometimes it’s when something insults their intelligence or worldview. It’s also normal to get offended when a topic makes us uncomfortable and we then have the compulsion to deflect, and/ or we move into our primal fight or flight responses. We may get offended when we feel threatened, either physical, mentally, or spiritually. The truth is all humans will get offended sometimes. What differs is the level of threat we may feel depending on where we lie on the spectrum of trauma, as well as how we will then choose to react after we are offended. And it will not stop there, because there is likely a whole other person on the other end of this topic, that is also unpredictable in how they were wounded and how they will react. I believe there is a crucial millisecond between what happens to us, and how we will react that we need to learn to pause and live in longer. If we can pause, the single most important question we need to ask ourselves first (before reacting) is: “Why am I so offended by this right now?” I believe also that you should work to find those answers within yourself before you start to react. This approach is not something I made up; many therapists would agree because this fits perfectly with one of the most successful evidence based therapeutic interventions in the world: Cognitive behavioral therapy.
What is a constructive way to teach and/ or learn?
So, for those that want help, if they can learn to pause, then what? Where does all that anger energy go? What’s a more constructive approach? Note, I am not telling people to sit in silence and stew and or to be in denial about the issues in the world around us. What I am suggesting, is that we do not make a situation worse by falling into the vicious cycle of where this media circus has been trying to take us. It’s also important to see outrage for what it is sometimes: Avoidance of your true inner self, and your true inner emotions/ insecurities. Being constructive in how we approach debating and learning means to: 1- be self-aware 2- Take pauses/ take time to inner reflect 3- Listen empathetically 4- Learn to pick our battles 5- Be either: Learning and/ or solution focused. (Vs winning at all costs focused) If we are willing to put our perspective out there, we must also be aware and work on the unconditional acceptance that there are some that will NEVER agree with it. If we are angry when/ if people do not agree with our perspective, I am afraid we will never not be angry. Is a perpetual state of anger ever our goal? I hope not.
Why is logic important?
The logical part of our brain (in the frontal lobe) oversees rational and problem-solving capabilities. It is a very advanced part of our brains, and humans often pride themselves in their logical thinking capacities. This is our 1+1 equals two capabilities. Our ability to see an issue and problem solve our way to an answer. Logic works for many aspects of daily functioning, but NOT all aspects. Logic does not fill every gap, it fills some. Logic does have holes, logic helps in the realms of science, math, and parts of linguistics, parts of child rearing. And then, it fails us in certain aspects.
Why are emotions equally important?
Though many try to insist logic is all we need to win or make sense, emotions and empathy can fill the gaps that logic leaves. Emotions, as well as art. There is an art to listening, an art to empathy, an art to language/ communication and an art to child rearing. Where logic fails us and/ or leaves the table, we have our emotions to help guide decision making. For example: Logic could tell you, ‘Keep doing this job it pays so well!” While your emotions tell you “You are so damn miserable with this job, the money isn’t worth it, because you are drowning in depression.” When we internet debate, we often see people use logic and judge those that are not ‘logical’ but rather ‘emotional in their style of debate. Though we may judge this, the emotional argument is just as valid as the logical one. I, as a therapist, am here to say that logic does not ‘trump’ emotions, and emotions do not ‘trump’ logic. We NEED both. And arguing either or does not make us inherently wrong or right.
Live in the Moment… sometimes.
I became a ‘conscientious objector’ toward watching the news about four to five years ago. Not because I do not think it’s important, but rather, I see the media for what it has become: A means of sucking brains into a vat of coercion and control for the sake of reaction and profit. This does not mean that I believe everything on the news is a lie, it’s not. But it’s rarely all the truth. What it will do, with certainty, is force us into a state of emotion and/ or reaction in some way: Anger, depression, outrage, anxiety, shame etc. When working with outraged citizens of Brooklyn during the pandemic in 2020, the objective became clear very fast. Mass agoraphobia, massive amounts of fear and anger, a sense of threat/ danger, mass quarantine as well as phones/ tablets/ screens sucking us into ‘what is going on’ in the outside world. Most everyone’s mental health deteriorated at a massive rate. This is where the online offense and fighting reached another all time high. One of the greatest challenges was helping aid patients toward harm reduction strategies when it came to the screens/ news/ keyboard warrior fanatics and helping them learn to adapt and ‘live comfortably’ in the ‘what is’ the present moment.
I want to conclude this with one of my favorite quotes: “Learn from the past, live in the present, and plan for the future’. (Thomas Monson). To expand on this in relation to my blog topic; to live in the past always means to ruminate. To live in present only, means to become delusional about your reality and where it’s going, you will also become complacent and careless. Then, to be future focused always, means to live in anxiety, and never be able to find true contentment. Live in the moment, sometimes, this is where we forget to be.
2 thoughts on “Why so Offended?”
Wow. Hit another home run. I just read what could be the prologue to a new book. Great advice
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Really good points! I see so much online bickering and most of it really doesn’t matter…but what does can deteriorate with ineffective communication. Great points!
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