My friends, I’m going to ask you courage.
Imagine spending some time watching TV, news …
A feeling invades you gently. Your throat tightens. You breathe a little less well. It’s fear. “Terrorism, unemployment, cancer, natural disasters …” Your mind is focused. You can’t turn off.
A second feeling appears when you finally switch off. A feeling of heat rising. You feel stronger. It’s anger. You think: “All rotten, corrupt, inflation, scams …” The anger shrinks without you noticing your space for reflection and your thoughts become certainties. This fear and anger bring out a new thought: “the others”. Without them everything would be fine.
Then you realize what you are thinking. And a malaise wins you. Shame. You know that you should not think like that.
You connect to the internet to try to understand, am I alone to react like that?
And you observe two things. On the one hand, the medias despise what you think and feel, and on the other, a smiling woman kindly tells you that all of this is normal, you are just right-wing, very right. What are you doing?
Of course, you are tempted by the reassurance of an identity. To be part of those who will protect you, those who are like you, who understand you.
Fear and anger are powerful weapons to convince and politicians have long understood it.
In addition, two emotions form a balance to regulate our social interactions, our place or our status: shame and contempt. He who is at the top of the balancer expresses contempt for staying in the upper position and the one below is feeling shame that paralyzes him.
Shame is a fundamental emotion that helps to regulate deviant behaviors in relation to the group. It is an unbearable emotion and we are all trying to avoid it. Whatever the price. It will create a movement towards the norm and create a strong need for identity in relation to the group. It plays a dominant role in the psychology of nationalist voters.
It is fundamental to understand that scorn reinforces shame.
In the aftermath of the elections, an American Frenchman was interviewed by a French journalist and he explained that he voted Trump in response to the terrorist threat and the lack of reaction from politicians. At the end of the interview the journalist insinuated that he was drunk and tired because he was repeating the names of some Brittany cities. The emotion is there. Contempt.
And this contempt reinforces nationalist ideas. He crystallizes them.
The psychology of compassion helps us to understand and to come out of criticism and shame towards responsibility.
Compassion is a motivational process that develops the ability to think, confront and relieve suffering (of others or of oneself).
Fear, anger and stigma are part of being human. It is always easier to judge than to think deeply and we all fall into this trap. In a threatening situation, we seek support and compassion in our close group and we lose all compassion for others. They are no longer humans like us but enemies.
It’s necessary to move away from contempt and to treat the nationalists with a sense of responsibility. A serious dialogue is necessary to be able to hear, to recognize the suffering and needs that are real. It is only through a dialog of Compassion that the suffering of everyone can be heard.
Isabelle Leboeuf is a Psychologist, Psychotherapist
In her therapy practice she integrates Hypnosis, Cognitive Behavioral Therapies and Compassion-Focused Therapies. As she continues to work toward her PhD in Psychology, she is studying the links between Compassion and Positive Social Emotions from the point of view of both experimental psychopathology and clinical applications.