The Strange Inner Life of Liberals and Conservatives

If you are like me, you may have a tendency to lean toward wanting an environment that is free and unrestricted. You want a supervisor who gives you a lot of leeway to experiment and go your own way. You get angry when a leader gets overly restrictive because you cannot expand what you want to do. On the other hand, you may prefer an environment that is highly organized and largely mistake-proof, where things rarely go sideways. You abhor liberal leaders that give too much freedom because it is difficult, in that kind of space, to get things done.

The latter group tends to prefer religion that is more highly structured and certain like in fundamentalist Jewish, Christian, or Muslim religions, whereas the liberal group tends to be more on the mystical side where there are not as many restraints in access to the divine. It is not a matter of the choice of the religion as it is preference for how it is practiced.

When I was recently working through some of my issues around feeling constrained, the process started by me feeling fearful of outside conservative forces. I saw them as a threat to me being innovative and experimental because I have had numerous experiences in the past where the more expansive and innovative I acted in my work, the more restrictive the management became. The conservative management was extremely fearful of rapid expansion of programs. My inner work was to eliminate the fear of that kind of experience happening again. As I processed, the freedom to innovate began to grow as the fear diminished. At some point in the inner work, which is true for almost every issue you may face long term, the work shifted from external people being restrictive to how I learned how to constrain myself from a fairly early age. It was no longer about the bad guy outside of me, but rather the bad guy inside of me. I was the fundamentalist fire and brimstone person inside of myself. Here is how I did/do it. What I seem to do is to out in the future and make the worst picture of future possibilities, and then, I go to the past and remember only negative in the past. This keeps me in a prison or constraint and tension and then I get nowhere. The shift I had to make was to go out in the future and make very positive visualizations of possibilities combined with very positive memories of past experiences. So instead of focusing on the negative future and past, I had to start shifting to a positive orientation to the past and future. It is absolutely incredible what the shift does internally.

If you are on the conservative side upset with liberal thinking and moral laxity, it means that after you clear or detach from the liberal disgust you have, you will begin to feel more organized and have better self-discipline and moral uprightness. At the same time, you will find internally that you are too lax with yourself in one way or another. You are the thing inside that you most hate in others. To get to a place where you are more self-disciplined, you have to understand what you do to yourself to maintain a negative space internally. Generally speaking conservatives try to maintain order at all costs. However, while they are trying to do this, there is an internal ego self that is breaking all kinds of rules and doing whatever it wants. The pressure of trying to maintain order may cause a person to eat too much or start getting lax with substances. There are also outburst of anger toward others because everything is not in its exact place. To be a great conservative, which includes having better self-discipline, a person has to give a certain amount of space to having some disorder in the same way that a liberal has to give space for rules and order so that the baby is not thrown out with the bath water. If a conservative does not give space for disorder, then there is very little chance for growth. Likewise, a liberal, more unconstrained person, without rules can create devastation and chaos.

Here are some questions depending on which side you might be leaning.

How do I feel constrained in my life? Who is constraining me? How do I constrain myself?

How much disorder can I tolerate before I start to get really irritated? Which rules am I following that are too restrictive to my personal growth? How do I get disordered?

4 Comments on “The Strange Inner Life of Liberals and Conservatives”

  1. Richard/Dick, It seems the data shows young people especially are feeeling constrained by the notion of any religion. And this % is steadily growing. What does one of these people react to or react in favor of ? I would say it is the short-term pleasure/ displeasure .. of their social circumstances. IF so, how do you account for motivation to expand or contract your realm of activity? Do you rely on outside socila constructs to determine your areas of activity that you describe in the beginning?

    • There are two important things that come to mind. First, is that people are longing for meaning connection with each other so when you create an environment where intimacy is possible, then it makes it easier to relate to connecting with the divine. And second, is that when people experience awe, they also connect more readily to the divine. Taking people into nature is the main way I do the experience with awe. When I take my grandson out hiking, even the plants tell me how much they love that he is out there among them.

      • “Creating an environment where intimacy is possible” I can’t argue with this. I would say that a very low ration of teacher to student, it doesn’t much matter the methodology, sincerity and kindness will ultimately win the day. Once intimacy occurs, the sky i s the limit, and probably the responsibility. But hey its alll in the family. Families can forgive and keep on forgiving… No, I understand you, you give examples of what you know. the Pew data that we often read and mention in the social portion of feasts about teaching, we don’t use the word “intimacy”. when the person trusts us enough to begin telling storiees of their private life., I think probably something of what you are saying here has alreaddy been playing a general lifestyle theme.. The questioner doesn’t use the “struchured” vs “unstructured” lifesytle vocabulary. their comments could go eiother way. And on top of that I should think mindfully of my own tendenciesbecause I am interpreting their words through these, my, tendencies. If one studiees sociology, or history, I think these tendencies are easy to stand out and be aware of. regarding the current split in the US society, I am not sure how the need for structure, or freedome from structure is showing up. there are some amzzing “disconnects” that are basically emotional and not rational fact structures, I think. There seems to be a “burden of grievances” which conect to all kinds of experiences…. No one that I know is going to reveal “much” of that in a fireside. or over lunch…but over a long time. A travel teacher might better spend te time and energy outside the US community, and save these breakthroughs for the family next door. which brings me to my situation. …..

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