What a tormented world, where we are between self expression, facts and firm beliefs being dragged into a quagmire of toxic interactions. How do we manage this unending stream of uncivil discourse? It isn’t simple but I will break it down. It relies on discipline, self awareness and boundaries.
The first two are the hardest, discipline and self awareness. Self awareness perhaps the hardest of the two. I can and usually do go on about meditation, sorting ones minds and emotions, and choosing actions, thoughts and emotions, I won’t here. This takes years of discipline and practice. Discipline which is equally important, the willingness to reflect, self audit each and every reaction, and hone actions and reactions with conscious and deliberate forethought and planning. Discipline is about decisions and creating a habit. This is where most people lapse into addictions what they believe about themselves, and don’t do the continuous work to improve. One must get past that, one has to have tools to make decisions from.
Boundaries whether they are external landmarks or internal checks and balances, the limits have to be defined. Our capabilities have to be assessed and honestly know ones limits.
Harry Callahan: A man’s GOT to know his limitations.
This is where it gets difficult. I have been accused of coming to a verbal knife fight with a gatling gun. I may have had the last word, and shut the conversation to the stand still. But the cases where I did this I never convinced anyone. And I am sure I didn’t make any new friends.
A discussion or civil discourse is when two sides talk about facts, where they got them, mull over their value, experiences, identify each other’s concerns and if an action is needed how to go about taking an action, and backing it out or altering it as it goes. This doesn’t happen very often except maybe at some jobs, and the boss, supervisor or leader, has a final say of the direction to be taken. Too often the leader has to quell arguments and opinions. They decide the action, their position and authority is accepted and the world keeps on working, usually.
Any step further goes down. Not unlike from the movie the Mummy.
Arguments, may use experiences, anecdotes, similes, metaphors and yet like a discussion a solid answer isn’t really known. Experiences from a certain set of circumstances may have more weight than others, it is how we handle this information. As soon as opinion comes to play all hopes of civil discourse disappears into the gaping void. And like any good intention, it paves the road to hell.
Logical discussions are based on a common set of language, a common set of facts, and usually an equal understanding what those facts mean. A logical argument starts with a set of priories. A set of assumptions that all parties understand that they are working with. A good philosophical debate, will worry over most meanings of words, what they mean, and the assumptions or priories that one is working with. Logically, based on what those assumptions are or are not, the pros and cons can be of an idea can be discussed.
Opinions are based on personal assumptions. The assertion of opinions are set out as assumptions. When people get back to these assumptions, regardless of the discussion, those assumptions if taken personally, the discussion ends. Personal based beliefs or assumptions, that are part of an opinion are not up for debate. End of story. Beliefs are not necessarily rational. I believe a table is blue, other people see it as a table and is blue, I don’t believe it any more, I know, and I know they know. As soon as I say I believe in a fact, the fact becomes part of a questionable experience. That fact is held onto with emotional investment, from experience. The belief someone uses has an equal or strong amount of emotion invested in it. There are stories, similes, metaphors and illogical leaps of assignment of emotions to something portrayed similar to an idea or a supposition. A strongly held belief, that underlies someone’s opinion, makes that opinion off limits for discussion. One may want to engage you with their opinion, but it is not for a discussion but for proselytization. They want support for their belief. This is were discussion should end.
We don’t set the boundary to end the discussion. We don’t realize that the discussion is over. Whether it is facts, beliefs, sound logic or emotionally linked rationale, people get drawn into all the toxic slugfest of what the Greek philosophers called Sophistry.
How do we tell when the discussion is over.
Liberally taken from online Dictionary. Techniques of rhetoric are examples.
Bombast is when high-sounding language with little meaning is used to impress people.
Hyperbole is when exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally are made.
Simile is used when a figure of speech involving the comparison of one thing with another thing of a different kind, used to make a description more emphatic or vivid (e.g., as brave as a lion, crazy like a fox ).
Exhortation is an address or communication emphatically urging someone to do something.
Straw man argument is an intentionally misrepresented proposition that is set up because it is easier to defeat than an opponent’s real argument.
False equivalence is a logical fallacy in which two completely opposing arguments appear to be logically equivalent when in fact they are not. This fallacy is categorized as a fallacy of inconsistency.
Up to this point, one can start looking at the method of arguments. Identify that the opinions and rationalizations are opinions and hard held beliefs. Recognize it, say so, and let it go. The stinging thing can be said about how you feel and think about the sources of these arguments. This does not win friends. When it is based on societal imprinting and hard held emotionally charged opinions, these feelings make sense to them. The ideas are strung together with emotionally charged feelings about each point of the argument. The lapses of logic and connection are glossed over with the emotions of what feels right and what makes sense.
There is no way one can wedge sense, ones own emotions, or logic into these beliefs. The addiction to this whole pattern of belief and rationalization go to the core of the person’s and sadly a large section of society beliefs in who they are. The moment you make them uncomfortable, with facts, and your own feelings (and they will be dismissed) because they can’t feel like themselves, the emotional shift does not square with their feelings, and their ability to think doesn’t fit either. The whole thought process is usually hijacked with propaganda, a culturally contrived sense of right and wrong with a series of connected feelings with facts and lies that are loosely connected. The belief is based on what feels right. The loss of identity and a sense of self, will be fought back aggressively.
Sadly it has become ingrained into the American psyche as a cultural norm to also use abusive techniques. This is a boundary that needs to be set as a hard limit. The perpetrators will not change. This is the nature of parasites and that of sociopaths, narcissists and psychopaths. The boundary between believers and abusers is getting murkier than ever.
Ad hominen is an argument or reaction directed against a person rather than the position they are maintaining.
Gaslighting is when one manipulates someone by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.
Sealioning (also spelled sea-lioning and sea lioning) is a type of trolling or harassment which consists of pursuing people with persistent requests for evidence or repeated questions, while maintaining a pretense of civility ( Poland, Bailey (November 2016). Haters: Harassment, Abuse, and Violence Online. University of Nebraska Press. pp. 144–145. ISBN978-1-61234-766-0.)
There are the more abusive patterns than just Gas-lighting etc. https://thoughtcatalog.com/shahida-arabi/2016/06/20-diversion-tactics-highly-manipulative-narcissists-sociopaths-and-psychopaths-use-to-silence-you/
In the above articles, they start using the concept of triangulation. This is were they develop co-dependents and enablers to further abuse their victims. And victims band together to survive this also. Then it becomes this toxic us or them mindset. Which is true. And the abusers will use projection, to make them look like the victim.
This brings us to the point where we develop ethnocentrism. A convenient way to set social boundaries without calling it bigotry. The Bigotry is based on the abusive non-inclusive type of behavior, or the outright abusive proselytizing.
The sad fact of the matter, is when the abused as co-dependents stop being enablers, or continue being victims, they learn to be abusers themselves or counter-dependents. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/theory-knowledge/201404/signs-counter-dependency or https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counterdependency for more information. It can be self protective measure, or becomes its own toxic condition with others.
There are techniques on dealing with all of this. This information is all about definitions on how you can set boundaries. Once you understand it and choose to change your behavior, based on those boundaries, it is your choice on whether or not you get out of toxic communications of opinions, beliefs or propaganda. My go to method is to leave the argument, distance myself from the people, and if called for call out the issues listed above. I am not attacking, just their method of verbal assault. Because it is definitely not a discussion nor will it be civil discourse. Too often when it gets toxic, the abusers has their co-dependents attacking you. Out of sight out of mind, and those that will need healing and help after they too become victims, won’t have the thought of you contaminated. It is tough, to just walk away from letting insanity, lies and deceit fester. The only thing it will do is damage you. In workplace situations, do what you can, play the games in the articles, and usually get yourself out of there and be appreciated somewhere else. And get out before you become the same as the victimizers. That is hard to do.
There is a personal acquaintance that I am developing a friendship with. The issue of the Honduran asylum seekers were brought up. The association of these refugees were made to like an army, an invasion force, and people coming into one’s personal home and taking everything. I tested those assumptions. They were all knocked down. The political facts, the false equivalences were presented and were summarily dismissed. Then I was asked for more arguments, that is sea-lioning. I said so, and the opinions and assumptions are based on external propaganda that was inciting hate and fear. I didn’t mean to, but, I dismissed them being his own personal hard felt beliefs and opinions. I truthfully gave my opinion of the sources of those assumptions. But I also drew a line and exited the argument. Also I said anything I say or do in regards to that discussion would only excite that fear and anger that those arguments, rationale of those hard held opinions. Fear and Hate are unquenchable fires, the only thing one can do is not feed them.
This has taken me literally decades to develop the discipline, and practice along with the self awareness, to not allow myself to get drawn into an unwinnable conversation. It wasn’t a discussion or an argument. My choice of ending that discourse on my part was hard, but in my own defense necessary. Don’t attack the speaker, attack the method, the lack of of facts, or the source of them, and get the hell out. The testing of their assumptions, feelings and opinions will be personal enough and will make the person feel attacked. Assumptions, feelings and opinions that a person doesn’t check for validity, it reflects what they feel and take for granted about themselves. Seeing and hearing that, don’t attack them, you call them beliefs and opinions you don’t share, and get the hell out of the conversation.
Hopefully with boundaries and discipline with self awareness, the toxic rhetoric avoided, you will change or define how you will discuss things with people. If by setting an example, and boundaries, this will at least for you improve what acceptable conversations would be. This is a perfect example of not falling into a level beneath you. Why, you set boundaries, and with self discipline and self awareness, you set boundaries for your self and bar that must be met when dealing with you. It has over the years helped me stave off a lot of people playing these mind games on me, wittingly or not.
Today is so difficult to have civil and meaningful discourse and discussions, that presages the fall of a great society, into isolated squabblers that others can manipulate. It is my hope the readers of this will endeavor to set examples in our society, so we can start the journey toward healing ourselves and our society.