Oh no, here we go! “I know, I can scan this article really quickly to find out what side of politics this guy supports and what religion he subscribes to, and then I can determine what I really think of him!”
“Don’t talk about religion or politics! You’ll lose friends!”
“Don’t talk about religion or politics! You’ll lose followers!”
The moment the words “politics” and “religion” come up, people become defensive, heated, and outright vicious toward one another, and there’s a biological reason for that. Recent brain scan research has shown us that the same region of the brain that helps us protect ourselves (the amygdala or “fight, flight or freeze response center”) is elicited when people talk about politics and religion. That means when you hear “politics” or “religion,” your brain literally experiences the same physiological processes as it does when you are in real physical danger. Basically, when those topics come up, your brain moves into a physiological state of, “Oh no, now I have to either fight, run, or freeze up!”
People become furious if you disagree with their perspective on politics or religion. And maybe you do, too. Worse than the anger, however, people have tortured and killed others for not believing the same thoughts. And really, all of this hate, all of this anger, all of this violence, it all comes down to one very important physiological aspect: We interpret and experience others’ disagreement with us as a physical threat, even if we are perfectly safe, and simply having a conversation regarding others’ beliefs. But my career is dedicated to helping people learn how to manage extreme emotions, so I want to help you manage the emotions you experience when the words “politics” and “religion” become present for you.
Here are my tips:
- Strive to be conscious enough to recognize what’s happening with you physically when the topics of politics and religion come up.
- Strive to evaluate whether or not you are faced with a real, imminent physical threat simply because others have different experiences, different information, and different perspectives from you.
- Strive to be mindful of the ways in which you might be exuding the very things you dislike in others’ beliefs and perspectives.
- Strive to understand more than you do to be understood.
Because with more awareness, with more consciousness, you will have a much better chance to talk about politics and religion without operating as if your life is being challenged, when really, only your beliefs are.