Most of the time when we debate politics we debate the issues. It is undeniable however, that in the current state of political discourse individuals are increasingly debating their feelings instead. Specifically, one cannot escape the fear and pain behind the positions that many people have taken and the angry manner in which they choose to express them. Logic has become less important than the feelings of the person taking a specific political position. This is why using data, statistics, and facts are becoming irrelevant in these debates. In these instances, we are no longer talking to the other person’s reasoned mind, we are instead talking to the person’s pain body.
Eckhart Tolle created the term “pain body” to describe what happens when someone’s pain is triggered. When someone is triggered, you will see a completely separate identity emerge from that person. This pain body that appears is very much like that person’s Mr. Hyde to their normal Dr. Jekyll personality. This is how it may seem to an outside observer, but what is happening is they are in some ways reliving a very painful period in their lives. This painful period can most likely be traced to an experience in which they sought comfort and reassurance from someone but received pain instead. In short, we are all triggered by a fear of rejection and this fear is responsible for the seemingly bizarre behavior we are witnessing in US politics.
Putting in plainly, many white voters felt marginalized by Barack Obama. They felt he did not speak on behalf of their interests. Many white voters felt that other US citizens took the side of every other demographic other than them in every debate or incendiary incident that took place. This feeling of invalidation triggered a nationwide pain body that is running rampant throughout current political discourse. Is this logical? No. Does that matter? No. This is what it means to deal with another person’s pain body. Logic does not matter in such an instance. The only way to help someone see logic is through listening, compassion, and time. You cannot circumvent that no matter how hard you try. The pain body is a wall the other person has built to protect themselves, and in many instances you will see that the more you try to attack the pain body, the more vicious it becomes. It is designed to protect the person from experiencing the pain and rejection they felt before. It is their survival mechanism, so trying to break through that pain body feels like a life and death matter to that person. This is why people may become violent when debating seemingly inconsequential matters.
It is not only white people that have felt rejected lately, but men in general. Traditional symbols of masculinity are coming into question in a way that is threatening and quite frankly unfair in some circumstances. Not all men who flirt with women should be viewed as sexual predators, but it is not an exaggeration to say that the line between flirting and harassment is becoming blurred. Men may begin to feel that their very nature is coming under attack. Hence, we have a man that stated he can grab women in their privates whenever he chooses as our sitting president.
Attempting to have a logical discussion about this will result in the same cyclical outrage followed by divisive discourse, and absolutely no change in the nastiness of the political climate. When people are voting with their pain bodies, opportunists will campaign in a way that appeals to them. It is easier to appeal to a pain body by validating it than it is to try and use facts to invalidate it. As a matter of fact, as was previously stated, using facts to invalidate it is useless and will likely lead to more anger as the person will see your facts as threats to the pain body they believe they need for survival. It would seem hopeless to get through to another person under such circumstances, but this is simply not the case.
The person who validates the pain body is the one that gets its attention. The person that tells you or shows you that everything you fear is correct is the person you will run to when your pain body is triggered, even if that is the very person that hurts you. Your pain body gets strength from such circumstances. In such circumstances, it will thrive like a virus until you and possibly others are dead. Viruses do not respond to antibiotics (logic), they only respond to rest (reflection), and care (compassion).
We have to address these problems differently than what we are used to. Two pain bodies together is a terrible combination. One side of the debate cannot perpetually attack the other with rancor and ridicule and expect anything but catastrophe. This may seem to be about politics, but it isn’t. Its about invalidation. Feeling marginalized or rejected will trigger our pain regardless of whether that marginalization or rejection is real. It is when we are at our worst that we need the other to tell us we have value. It is when we are behaving most unreasonably that we need the other to say, “I understand your pain”. The problem is, when your pain body is triggered, it becomes impossible for you to do this for another person. How can two pain bodies effectively communicate? This is the cause of most break-ups in relationships and it is the cause of the division in our political climate.
Someone has to have worked on their own pain body enough to break the cycle and say, “You are right to feel the way you feel, and I was wrong to judge you for your feelings.” There are many ways to say this, but the important thing is that it must be sincere. Try this. Next time you are in an argument with another person, whether it be political or personal, try to see the person’s fear of being marginalized, rejected, or unloved. Hear what they are saying through that filter. In doing so you will invariably find yourself understanding them better than before, but most importantly you will better understand yourself.
You may find that validating the person in the middle of such an argument is difficult for you. You may want to say words of validation but find it hard to communicate them. You may know logically that you should be changing course from your previous patterns and trying to find ways to communicate compassion and warmth, but too set in your attitude to do so. When that happens, it will be clear to you how powerful the pain body can be. It will be clear to you how you have contributed to other’s pain unknowingly. You may then begin to peel back the layers to heal yourself and hopefully take your newfound understanding and become more aware of your own triggers and myopic thinking. This is how we change the current state of politics.