What Is This NY Times Focus Group Focused Upon?
Conscious politics, as presented in these pages, is about looking at our political landscape through a particular lens. Sometimes the lens makes things look radically different and sometimes the differences are more subtle. The whole the point is to inspire more effective, efficient investments of our precious time and energy in service of advancing our politics to a place where most of us are actually satisfied that our system is fair and that it meets our collective needs. No biggie.
Long before I developed an obsession with conscious practice I moderated consumer focus groups for a living. It was work that bridged me from being a corporate executive to being a therapist and, for sure, made excellent use of a skill set I’d acquired and developed. So today, these days, when I see mainstream focus group projects about politics through my permanently-affixed conscious lens, I tend to perk up. It happened last week when I came across a big-production piece on the front page the New York Times titled “What Happened When 7 Trump Voters and 6 Biden Voters Tried to Find Common Ground.”
This is not a journalistic criticism of the Times as I am not a media critic. It’s just a compare-and-contrast critique of some of what was done with this installment (the 16th) of a larger project of theirs. The fact that we are talking about a single focus group is bothersome as we typically conduct a number of groups in any particular study to see what patterns emerge across them. But beyond that design discord, the content of the project — what they asked and talked about — felt painfully stuck in the old, both-sides paradigm. There was a lot of questioning about if/how we can all get along and why we don’t, a process that (hopefully) unwittingly makes the Times complicit in perpetuating what’s not wanted by focusing on what’s not wanted.
From the introduction: “We have to understand why we disagree rather than merely stew in those disagreements,” Deputy Opinion Editor Patrick Healy writes. Disagree! Instead of striving to understand why we’re all disagreeing so much — an ostensibly unwanted dynamic — good conscious practice guides us to begin with what’s desired. What would we have if we didn’t disagree so much? What would our politics look like then? It’s the law of attraction — via intention — that guides us to focus on what we want if what we have is other than that. I took us down this road in last month’s free conscious politics training by starting a round robin of intention-setting, each person offering a thought about how things might be in our best vision of what we want, one after the other after the other for about 15 minutes. It was a challenge because of how unaccustomed we are to talking in terms of what we want. Standard fare in the world of consciousness training.
Either way, anger is a potent vehicle for showing us what we do want and inspiring us to spring-board from it into intention.
It was also a challenge for participants in that the more clear the vision became of what was desired — foot on the gas — the more doubt that it could ever be achieved rose to the surface. It’s pie in the sky. People are idiots. I don’t believe it’s possible. I can’t see how. Other foot on the brake — more standard fare. But we can’t be rich if we believe money is the root of all evil. We can’t be in a healthy relationship if we believe we don’t deserve to be. We can’t have politics that work for all of us if we believe we can’t have politics that work for all of us. Conscious practice encourages us to keep our foot on the gas of what’s desired and get our other foot off the brake when we see that a belief or set of beliefs we harbor is what’s in the way of our having what we want. We control that. So we either give up what we want or we go all in making sure our beliefs align with what we want. Changing beliefs from not-serving to serving, from it’s impossible to everything is possible is a significant and doable part of consciousness training. And, bonus, you’ll notice this approach transcends stewing in disagreement.
Again from the introduction: “…a mix of Biden voters and Trump voters who started with something in common: They all echoed the movie ‘Network’ in saying, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and not going to take this anymore.’ In that shared outlook, could the participants find common ground?” Oy. First of all, the participants didn’t individually all spontaneously say that. As later reported, when presented with the quote, all “responded affirmatively.” Either way, anger is a potent vehicle for showing us what we do want and, when used properly, can inspire us to spring-board from it into intention. Yet again. In this sense, conscious practice would be guiding us — in exactly the same way for exactly the same reasons — not to stew in what we’re collectively angry about and certainly not to ruminate about what each particular person is angry about but, instead, to focus our attention on what any of us would prefer to see and experience. The law of attraction is still always on; intentions still matter.
“Our intent wasn’t to have some big American group hug but to better understand some of the opinions, assumptions and emotions that drive polarization,” said the Times. So what did we learn from knowing about these voters’ opinions, assumptions, and emotions? Um, nothing more than what we see and hear on the daily, if you ask me. Conscious politics practitioners already know that polarization is a natural part of the shift in consciousness that’s underway; it’s a given. We already know we each have the right to every opinion we have and assumption we make. The point is, if the Times did the exact same focus group conscious politics-style, its audience would be investing much more of its precious time and energy talking about — and thus creating — what it wants.
NOTE: It’s almost time again! You and yours are, as always, invited to The Conscious Politics Free Monthly Training where we flip the script and talk about what you want to talk about. It will take place on Tuesday, August 16 from 5:00-6:30pm Pacific / 8:00-9:30pm Eastern and whatever that translates to where you are.