How do we mitigate polarization, existential fears, and other factors contributing to stressors in political work?
Theory and solution focus: This paper holds suggestions for those willing to consider preemptive mediation in a wide context; even institutions. It is for those who wish to install helpful effects for the work of those involved in professional politics. The paper draws on a selection of socio-psychological management and communication theories and practices, the readers may put these into the context of their wider learnings.
A research question:
Is it possible to apply the learnings of management theory and psychology to mitigate stressors – that may work against the democratic process- affecting those working professionally in the field of politics?
Can we see this as preemptive mediation? That is a way of forestalling some conflicts and lead to more harmonious coworking and increased speed in attaining effective and applicable solutions.
A deeper look
This paper is written and put forth as an encouragement, to individuals and institutions involved in mediation, those involved in politics and political science, in psychology and other fields that may be an influence on the planet to further the cause of our existence, they are hereby all encouraged to consider preemptive mediation deeply.
When stress turns negative
The stressors in politics may both be stressors as recognized by more rational thinking (Flinders et al, 2020) and as may be more subconscious; that can then have an effect on cognitive motivation and collaboration outcomes (Greenberg, Pyszczynski, and Solomon, 1986; Kruglanski, 2004; Lecky, 1973; LeShan, 1996).
Will mitigating the stressors of people professionally involved in politics help mitigate some of the effects of unhealthy radicalization, polarization, and fear in politics and other connected factors that currently pose a serious risk to democratic processes worldwide (McCoy, Tahmina & Murat, 2018)? Can this then be preemptive mediation in action?
Is it possible to get to the participants – professionals in politics? Can we benefit them by accessing an enabling narrative that connects to “communicative technologies” that supports and strengthens the process by mitigating stressors: here; the democratic one?
Why is this needed and important?
There are real dangers currently threatening democratic processes worldwide (McCoy et al, 2018). They are built in part on fear and fear reactions that work against democratic processes and effective decision-making (Amsel, Harbo, & Halberstam, 2015). These fears can irrationally influence decisions and collaboration. There can be decision-making biases (Fiske, 2004) and factors leading to rapidly increasing polarization (McCoy, Rahman, and Somer, 2018), as well as other behavioral influences that affect solution orientation negatively. These can be based on or embedded in common cognition mechanisms that can hinder clear views; such as those contributing to ‘closed-mindedness’ and ‘jumping to closure’ (Kruglanski, 2004). Discussion would then be forestalled and lead astray if these cognitive factors are not mitigated.
Hindrances to effective solution making or ‘political work on behalf of society’ can be viewed as so serious currently as threatening the whole democratic process.
Should we as preemptive mediators be concerned about fear and stress in politics?
Some of the hindrances to democratic solution making can be embedded in ‘stressors’. The stressors make life difficult for those working professionally in politics and can work against good judgment and effective collaboration (Flinders et al, 2020). In all too common cases fears may even divert attention from issues that generate a sense of ´threat’ and might be ‘most important’, such influence then stalls or disrupts solution making completely (Greenberg, Pyszczynski, and Solomon, 1986) – and can pose a serious risk to society at large when determining outcomes in politics. Yes, we ought to be concerned!
Why would effective mediators help?
Hindrances can be viewed as being based in part on denial mechanisms aimed even by the subconscious to protect people’s (here; working in politics) sense of self when under stress (Lecky, 1973; Leshan, 1996). These can, as is known, affect humanity at large as discussed in ‘Terror Management Theory’ (Greenberg et al, 1986) wherein it is asserted that cultural norms are in part maintained to work against existential threats (the fear of death) to the detriment of outcomes in social processes. Mediation is known as being viewed to be a process that surfaces information, including fears where applicable.
If ‘denial’ is ‘a norm’, something that happens constantly to avert the feeling of overwhelming fears, it may very well be a cornerstone in increasing polarization. This happens for instance often when ‘others’ with different ‘world views’ cause ‘negative reactions’, such reactions can very much jeopardize sensible solution making (Amsel et al, 2015). Especially when the issues under consideration can be seen to have to do with the ‘others’ more than ‘self’, and the ´self´ aims to brush them aside by not being aware, not listening, not considering, and so forth. Any mediator who has worked with potential divorcees knows this.
Existential fears – mediation – life and solutions
Existential fears or factors related to cognitive processes as ´closed mindedness´ (Kruglanski, 2004) are also embedded in this larger context. That larger context with its broader spectrum of issues may fuel what is considered a serious and an ongoing crisis in democracy (McCoy et al, 2018) – see the next section – showing us that there may be enormous benefits in mitigating them, and plenty of work to do for will be preemptive mediators.
People need help with communicative processes as events and things needing consideration are encountered that may be too much for peoples’ sense of self to tolerate (Lecky, 1973; LeShan, 1996). It is maintained by Kruglanski the social psychologist (Kruglanski, 2004), in line with ‘Terror Management Theory’, that stressors or fixed attitudes of mind can easily make people ‘jump to closure’ bringing less optimal solutions, and make them shut out other individuals as relevant information sources or collaborators.
The serious risks facing democracy itself in the world
Increasing polarization in politics and society (McCoy, Rahman, and Somer, 2018), lack of trust in democratic representation (Butzlaff & Messinger-Zimmer, 2020), and increased volatility as seen in the ‘rise of radical challenger parties´ (Kriesi, 2020), and the storming of the US Capitol this year are among the first things that come to mind. All these and all such can be further fuel on fears and difficulties (stressors) as seen in narratives based on feelings of doom alluding to the death of democracy circulating currently. Such outlook is evident in a 2019 report from ‘The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance’ quoted here to provide a glimpse of current existential threats:
“We certainly cannot and should not ignore the contemporary threats to democracy such as the blatant disrespect for the norms of multilateralism, extreme inequality resulting in the capture of politics by elites, persistent corruption that continues to rob ordinary citizens of opportunities of service provision and better quality of life; conflictual identity politics, intolerance, and societal polarisation aggravated by social media and spurred by populistic politics that promise quick and simple solutions to complex socio-economic problems and more. Added to these pressures, are global development threats, such as climate change and its perils; fears of a looming global economic slow-down exacerbated by a trade war between the US and China, and global insecurity—not least exacerbated by terrorism from external and internal forces.“ (International IDEA, 2019). Another article furthers the assessment by stating that remedies are needed that take seriously a conception of democracy as a social and cultural practice rather than only as a means of selecting leaders (Laughlin, 2019). Will mediators help? How about your institution? Are we tired of concepts about concepts and do we want thinking and actions that move reality and help with solution-making?
Hereby it is good to ask the reader – what in your mind is cultural practice? And how can preemptive mediation be envisioned to be of good use? Can the thoughts of this article enrichen your possibilities and approach?
Fears produce stress and hinder collaboration
Fears and cognitive motivations that are counterproductive are very serious and can effectively hinder the well-being of those who work professionally in politics, and their collaboration and decision-making as it pertains to society at large.
When the issues seem overly serious the psyche can work to direct from the ‘serious issues’ to something that seems less threatening (LeShan, 1996). Denial mechanisms assertively can be so strong that they may even make people brush serious issues completely away in illogical ways (Kruglanski, 2004; Leshan, 1996) and work on the “important” issues can effectively be stopped. Such fears can lead to the outright rejection of applicable data and verifiable truths (LeShan, 1996). It ought to be rather easy to see how such reactions and cognition may make the democratic process fully jeopardized, especially when people holding such fears may appear to behave perfectly professionally as when the fears are subconscious.
Are we open to working at solutions? Does mediation as a preemptive process help?
For Kruglanski how ‘open’ or ‘closed minded’ people get in interactions has to do with their motivation; where he specifically draws out the person’s need for certainty as a motivating factor and refers to it as ‘need for closure’ (Kruglanski, 2004). How ‘open-minded’ people can be had in part to do with how well they can tolerate stressors. This is in line with how those who have looked into behavioral motivation describe possible avoidance of what threatens a coherent sense of self (Lecky, 1973) and effects of ‘catastrophic anxiety’ that may be partially or fully subconscious and thwart peoples’ ability to tackle issues or work collaboratively for solutions (Leshan, 1996). Kruglanski and those involved with the other school of thought ‘Terror Management Theory’ have highlighted that people may even have a strong need for avoiding closure when issues may be felt to be overly threatening (Greenberg et al, 1986; Kruglanski, 2004).
Fear – something we can help each other with?
People may appear to be ‘together’ and have outwardly professional behavior while their psyche is working nonstop to keeping them from being aware of their own ‘catastrophic anxiety’ – terror; leading them to avoid discussion, listening, and effective solution making.
Here we unearth a phenomenon that may definitely shape how people can communicate with others for problem-solving – especially where the stakes are high and the stressors as monumental as in politics (Flanders et al, 2020). Currently, psychology has increased in its theoretical capacity to deal with measures related to emotions, even the subconscious, and their relation to decision making (Lerner, Li, Valdesolo & Kassam, 2015).
This article’s proposal revolves around seeing if these factors composed of stressors and fears [conscious or subconscious] can be mitigated by interventions that strengthen people and give motivational direction; will we find ways of doing preemptive mediation?
Bringing out the hypothesis
Is it possible through interventions to counter dangers to democratic processes? When the dangers lie in cognition, outlook, and communication patterns the hypothesis is that we can! This outlook on possibility has been present in the interventions of behavioral psychology as well known through the work of Aron T. Beck (Beck, 2019) [as with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy], and related schools of thought as seen in ‘Acceptance and Commitment Therapy’ (Harris & Samuel, 2020). Those therapies work at mitigating fears so that people can behave more rationally and have more well-being. Why not aim for more well-being in politics and better solutions?
What type of interventions?
Here three interventions are proposed as possibilities. They are based upon a narrative built from management theory and psychology coupled together with ‘communication technology’ that can be tested out. The aim is to foster a focus on values and cognitive motivation to strengthen democratic processes through effective communication as available through various branches of learning in modern times.
These interventions can be directed at ‘professionals working in politics by professional mediators which can think of ingenious ways to offer their preemptive services or by the appropriate institutions that can utilize their knowledge base and access.
Results – do we want data?
It would be great to apply quantifiable measure baselines before and after interventions to see how the relevant cognitive factors [for instance as discussed by Kruglanski, 2004] and stressors [as indicated by Flinders et al, 2020] have changed.
Stressors in political work are asserted to be counterproductive to collaboration and thus to democratic processes. Relevant concepts might appear in the large context in things as: ‘polarization’, ‘narrow mindedness’, ‘jumping to closure’, ‘sense of threat’, ‘sense of losing self-coherence’ with more.
What types of questions are we aiming to answer? What type of discussion do we generate? Can we increase the relevance of mediation for society at large?
By doing this work we will aim to answer questions as ‘Can sharing certain information and practices regarding motives and specific communication/ collaboration techniques decrease the risk for “closed-mindedness” and mitigate markers for polarization?’
Can we decrease participants’ sense of threat or existential fears?
Will such interventions help foster a more solution-based outlook and effective solution outcomes?
Will interventions mitigate the common stressors seen in politics (Flinders, Weinberg, Weinberg, Geddes, Kwiatkowski, 2020)? And strengthen the democratic process?
Further on ‘stressors and threats’
Stressors are now asserted to negatively affect work performance as seen in research on medical doctors (Tyssen, 2019; Yates, 2020) and recently politics have come evermore into the discussion in thought on stress and work performance (Flinders et al, 2020). Common stressors are considered very relevant to politics in general and have been shown via testing of physical cortisol levels to be a strong factor in voter participation (French, Smith, Alford, Guck, Birnie & Hibbing, 2014), even bringing out a recommendation from the researchers that “politics is only one part of life and taking extreme steps to get people involved in politics may not be worth it if medical and psychological welfare is adversely affected“(French et al, 2011). Now ponder that amazing quote for a moment.
Politics as a workspace
Research on ‘workplace politics’ has shown a correlation with distress and aggressive behavior (Vigoda-Gadot, 2002). Researchers have pointed out that despite the singular importance of the work of politicians, little work has been done considering their wellbeing and psychological health (Flinders et al, 2020). Flinders et. al, 2020 have proposed a specific ‘taxonomy of stressors’ as being relevant to professional work in politics where they consider both unique and universal stressors. They for instance highlight the ‘lifestyle stressor’ where long working hours, impact on family and leisure time are mentioned. These findings include negative effects of big workloads being reported by 78% of members of the Australian Federal Parliament, and problems with physical symptoms of stress as regarding sleep, headaches, and digestive problems being reportedly higher for people working in politics than managers with comparatively similar seniority levels (Flinders et al, 2020).
The findings coupled together with the reality of altogether too common existential fears may be more a part and parcel of working politics than almost any other profession. Politics shape the lives and welfare of nations, so these are very serious issues!
Can preemptive mediation help mitigation of stress and negative effects of cognitive factors that are asserted to work against the democratic process?
We look at how brief interventions may have large potential in mitigating current threats to democratic processes that have a psychological origin.
This paper proposes trials with 3 separate interventions, to show possible preemptive mediators (you the reader) examples of what may be useful. First based on ‘compassionate communication’ (Rosenberg, 2015), then ‘coaching’, specifically ‘team coaching’ (Clutterbuck et al, 2019), which drives at a shared understanding of a common ‘vision’ as emphasized to be central for professional management by management gurus as Warren Bennis (Cummings, 2017), and thirdly ‘talking circles’ which are a methodology to foster shared understandings, empathy and growth in personal communication capabilities (Mehl-Madrona, 2007; Pranis, 2005).
The hypothesis is that these interventions will all have a favorable measurable effect decreasing the present ‘stressors’ and will help towards ‘cognitive motivation’ that is deemed productive for collaboration – the democratic process.
The narrative A. and communication technologies B. (the interventions) as described in more detail below will lead to decreased measures of those factors that can threaten the democratic process and increase the wellbeing and effectiveness of participants.
‘Management’ in politics
‘Management’ in politics has been thought of as fracturing from different ideological basis (Clare, 2010) and is often showcased in a discussion based on a ‘dualistic symbolic classification’ (Forth, 2010) embedded in the paradigm of the left-right spectrum (White, 2010) now by some considered to be redundant or braking because of more intensive ‘fracturing’ with still more emphasis on ‘us vs. them’ (McCoy et al, 2018).
Would it not be great to apply the learning of management theory to politics?
Why not apply the learnings and theories regarding communication and mediation? Why not apply what works and take learnings from one field and move them to another?
A rigid view of politics as based on ideology rather than people and issues can be viewed as outdated and nonproductive. It can be also contrasted with a more ‘open minded’ (Kruglanski, 2004) focus on social interaction as exemplified in management capability or solution focus when based upon ideas and practice fostering ‘common wellbeing’; Carl Rogers and many others have shown how companies treating people as people make more money than those who are autocratic or worse (Rogers, 1977). Hence, allowing people to have different opinions not focusing on ‘ideology’ or talking to people as ‘ideology’ rather than humans can for instance greatly facilitate process solutions.
Common wellbeing and success bear relevance to values as correlated to ‘management style’ by the psychologist Abraham Maslow and management theorists (Ballard, 2006; Cummings,2017). It can be considered a bad management style to think that we can solve issues by labeling people and ‘trapping’ them in boxes continually based on ideas about ‘ideology’/’politics’ or ‘interests’ rather than allowing for a communicative process between humans to arrive at solutions.
There are examples of theories on motivation which we can relate to cognitive motivation (Kruglanski, 2004) and to the ‘democratic process’ as it has to take into account the coming together of groups of people and solution making that factors them in. Such focus or capability is emphasized in the works of Warren Bennis that has to do with management and leadership; the real running of things (Cummings, 2017). Also, the relevant work of Abraham Maslow (Ballard, 2006) who laid out a theory of behavioral motivation and values which he and others also extensively have connected to management theory and practice (Maslow & Stephens, 1998; Bridgman, Cummings & Ballard, 2018). Arie W. Kruglanski the social psychologist has done extensive work showcasing how cognitive motivation affects collaboration (Kriglanski, 2004). Highlighting for us the relevance of looking into such motivational factors in relation to the democratic processes as a process for solution collaboration i.e., getting things done, rather than as a game of what ‘ideology’ can be put up against what other ‘ideology’.
In effect, we can start looking at people and how they feel and communicate when we do no longer get overly hung upon labels regarding ideology. This can help us when we think about politics and deal with politics and allow us to apply our knowledge about communications from another context. Perhaps, if not taking it too far, the human tendency to label others based on ideology may be a trial at both learning and understanding but also of brushing the ‘others’ aside. In fact, it can be a trial of the psyche to mitigate fear by labeling others to ‘not have to’ listen to them or take them into consideration. Yet, this labeling is still a stable political theory and discussion.
Is it then possible that professional activity in politics can be thought of based on ‘professional management’ practices and solution focus i.e. utilizing the socio-psychological factors that are also relevant in business management? Rather than removing politics from people via thinking based on ideological fractions which may pose risks associated with polarization and other relevant factors?
Would more of a process view help us if the hypothesis is correct to introduce methods and narrative that can increase tolerance to the stressors modern democracy is facing? The stressors then being those present in what affects well-being of professionals working in politics and what threatens the democratic process itself based on common cognitive factors.
Aims for preemptive mediation?
Might it be good to prove the effects of preemptive mediation in connection to the modern scientific paradigm? Let us come to suggestions:
It would be wonderful to gather relevant quantitative data for a benchmark based on applicable methodology pertinent to psychology, and then introduce interventions in three separate undertakings or more [can be repeated] that will be embedded in the same ‘narrative’ that has to do with behavioral motivation and the values driving behavior; people need to hear of what is possible and find it interesting enough to act on.
It can be decided upon to introduce interventions at intervals to see if that strengthens perceived effects. Then we can keep up with developments through further follow-up testing. We will also run self-assessments for participants.
The interventions can be performed in more than a single country and in fact, the effects of any research would indeed benefit from such activity or could at minimum encourage it.
Will the interventions help safeguard and strengthen the democratic process based on the data we gather? What will the participants’ self-assessments reveal?
Ongoing quantitative fieldwork can be utilized. First in order to have benchmarks and then to check on effects.
Further on the quantitative work
It is possible to build measures on sliding scales for self-reports in relation to the ‘taxonomy of stressors’ brought out by Flanders et al. 2020 and work with relevant methods to get at more subconscious aspects that can influence wellbeing and work as the factors drawn out by Kruglanski, 2004 and those derived from the ideas of Greenberg et al, 1986.
For instance, there are numerous assessments to get at existential fears or ‘death anxiety’ that are derived from ‘Terror Management Theory’ (Iverach, Menzies & Menzies, 2014). We can possibly utilize such assessments along with others to get at underlying fears that may be more or totally subconscious.
Much used scales aimed to find out about peoples’ perhaps most salient fear include ‘The Death Anxiety Scale’ and ‘The Collet-Lester Fear of Death Scale’ or ‘The Multidimensional Fear of Death Scale’ (Iverach et al, 2014). In this, we can utilize a combination of assessment tools as we best see fit. Such measures have been combined in use with other assessments as the more general ‘Symptom Checklist-90-R (Iverach et al,2014), to estimate peoples’ psychological wellbeing. The thing is how this could be done with consideration and care for the people working in politics. Any approach regarding this necessitates people that have the appropriate education and skills which might be working with mediators on the issues. Such people may be organizational or political psychologists, statisticians, and others with the appropriate skills.
Factors pertaining to measurements can be built from the ‘taxonomy of stressors’ in political work (Flanders et al, 2020) and the ideas of Kruglanski and a ‘fear of death scale’. They can be expanded especially in light of ‘work in politics’, and collaboration (democratic process). These can be related to parameters on tolerance, empathy, solution focus [self-reporting], polarization, and measures on priorities regarding values. Are the values for instance those deemed helpful for collaboration across groups? Can there be values that rather lead to a shutdown in cognition on issues that cause ‘catastrophic anxiety’?
Can we aim to measure data that shows the level of stress/fear (Flanders et al, 2020) as we think it will be best defined in relation to relevant literature and research? We need to see how the interventions help mitigate the stressors and otherwise influence cognition in ways that support democratic processes.
Questions our gathered data will assumedly answer
Do participants gain strength to tolerate stressors? Will that help with tolerance towards others with different ideologies and views? Could collaboration become better (with less stress) and generate workable solutions faster or better?
Will the participants’ overall identified stressors be mitigated?
Will the primed solution focus based on specific ideas and methodologies be helpful and hence contribute to the strengthening of the democratic process?
Is this work all something valuable for society and the discipline of mediation? Especially can this be considered to be preemptive mediation?
Building a database
The approach can involve generating a statistically built reference or a database through this methodology via testing. Measures of ‘professional capability’ towards solution focus in politics can potentially be drawn up. In this way ‘professional management’ in politics as a concept and reality as seen in business management literature with relevance in psychology is highlighted with the view of strengthening the democratic process; via the chosen interventions that counter factors that work against it.
This may become an international database if circumstances will allow for such a venture.
The research and interventions connected to our hypothesis
First, we make “measurements” with the relevant quantitative methodology to have benchmarks to work with. What stressors and attitudes etc. that are relevant are measurable in the professional participants in politics?
Then we introduce three separate interventions (or more) for professionals in politics and follow up on their effects via further measurements to get at changes.
We begin each intervention with a narrative that embeds the intervention. The aim is to see how the narrative in connection with the intervention can shift peoples’ benchmarks.
The basic intervention can be to present a narrative rooted in the ideas of Maslow (Maslow and Stephens, 1998) and Bennis (Bennis, 1993) on management especially as they are connected to the ideas of different management styles as exemplified in Maslow’s discussion on so-called management “x, y and z” where Maslow drew upon the work of other theorists. The ideas have to do with management’s view of people they work with or oversee and are connected to ideas about values and other factors affecting behavior. Theory x subscribes to that people need close supervision and are not to be trusted, theory y subscribes that a climate of trust is essential for effective work and can be fostered. Theory z subscribes that people can manage with wellbeing and psychological blossoming in mind (Hoffman, 1989). We can theorize about how such values also have a bearing on collaboration in light of the work of Kruglanski.
Why introduce narrative?
The brain and cognition are developed in relation to the senses but also from stories wherewith humans generate structure, meaning, and memories (Mehl-Madrona & Mainguy, 2015). Stories or narratives provide for context, and can alleviate stressors and mitigate threat; they do this in part by shifting focus or modulating awareness of possibilities (Mehl-Madrona et al, 2015). Can the narrative not affect cognitive motivation (Kruglanski, 2004)?
The idea is that the narrative will prime participants towards aiming for z management style behaviors based on B-values (Hoffman 1989; Maslow & Stephens, 1998) and decrease parameters that are deemed counterproductive to democratic processes and solution focus. We can measure the effects of narrative in relation to the experiential impact of each intervention. Does the narrative help with learning and shifting behavior towards more effective communication styles?
Can this then be seen as a part of preemptive mediation?
Is it in your view (the reader’s) possible to enlarge views on mediation to allow for creative approaches based on a preemptive framework? Can you be further empowered to help counter current existential dangers?
Can processes be highlighted rather than content to open people to learnings that mitigate stress and foster better communication?
With the same narrative mentioned (A) as a starting point, three separate research projects can be undertaken.
The research idea presented here for inspiration is that the stated difficulties may be mitigated in part in the lives of individual participants (people working in politics) via rather simple interventions. Those foster the utilization of technicalities in communication and collaboration and are based on three distinct but potentially supportive methodologies (looking at process rather than content). These ‘techniques’ have grown out of humanistic psychology, the human potential movement, and management theory and practice (see Anderson 1983, and Bennis 1993 on historical emergence). The ‘techniques’ would be introduced in connection to a narrative as mentioned above which is provided for appropriate context and engagement.
The first recommended ‘communication technology’ is based on a process inducing “empathy”, “stating observations” and “making clear requests” (Rosenberg, 2015). The process is put forth to induce understanding and feeling for any other human being by thinking from ‘needs’. It is to foster a sense of security and solution focus and effective collaboration.
The second ‘technology’ is a coaching methodology that highlights solution focus both regarding individuals and teams; smaller groups with a mutual vision (Clutterbuck et al, 2019). The ‘vision’ and communication style are to foster clarity and mitigate ‘uncertainty’ and stressors.
The third ‘technology’ is ‘talking circles’ which help to slow down communication for deeper shared understandings and definitions and group cohesion or mediation between different actors. The methodology can also be used at faster pace for organized meetings (Mehl-Madrona, 2007; Pranis, 2005).
Research in biological psychiatry has indicated that learning can mitigate the influence of anxiety/pressure upon choice i.e. help with decisions and professional functioning (Hartley and Phelps, 2012).
The hypothesis here is that narrative A. and communication technologies B. will lead to decreased measures of those factors that can threaten the democratic process and increase the well-being and effectiveness of participants.
Peer-reviewed articles can be published in relevant professional journals depicting this journey based on fitting quantitative research parameters. It is a wonderful thought to expand the horizons of mediation and have a sense of wonder for the possible avenues of preemptive mediation!
Empathy assumes the reality of the stressors involved in political work, noting that they may become so much as to impacting cognition negatively and solution making as well as collaboration with other people: especially if the others are in some way considered “outsiders” or “threatening” (Fiske, 2004; Kruglanski, 2004; LeShan, 1996). The understanding that narrative matters in relation to biology is highlighted here (Mehl-Madrona & Minguy, 2015). Both to embed the ‘technologies’ (giving rationale) and as the narrative connects to peoples’ need to maintain a gestalt or a world view – a coherence in the personal psyche (LeShan, 1996), a self-consistency (Lecky, 1973), and has to do with the cognitive motivation that affects collaboration (Kruglanski, 2004).
What happens when ‘preemptive mediators’ (individuals or institutions) will have gotten people professionally participating in politics involved? Will participants benefit from accessing an enabling narrative that connects to “communicative technologies” that support and strengthen the process; here the democratic one?
Why do I write this?
I have an MSc. degree in Economics and Business Administration with a specialization in International Marketing (communication) and Management from the Department of Management, Politics, and Philosophy of CBS Denmark. This education opened my eyes to the socio-psychological factors of management. I entered politics in 2013 and ran 3rd in municipal elections in 2014 on behalf of a then-new political party; even a ‘radical challenger party’ (Kriesi, 2020). At the time, the party had around 3,5% in polls. A year after I started, I was elected the Chairman of the Executive Board of the party nationwide. I, along with a few people had the main influence on the party’s inner structure and work divisions both at the time and shaping it towards the future as the party was new.
The party received 14,5% in the Parliamentary elections in 2016 making it one of the few European ‘radical challenger parties’ to survive its first years and enter more mainstream national politics.
I have applied some of the proposed B. solutions in politics with observable effects. Most notably did ‘talking circles’ take hold both in a slow and fast format, they very much helped mitigate serious conflict and fostered the democratic process for people with different ideologies and opinions. The first two methods mentioned helped with awareness and willingness to consider personal motivation in collaboration and democratic work. The main difficulties encountered in collaboration seemed to me to be very connected to the psyche of people. Some of the structures and methods that I participated in introducing when engaged in politics I am convinced have helped the said party survive; it still being an active force in the Icelandic Parliament.
My very interesting experience in politics leads me to believe that the democratic process is seriously disrupted by psychological factors connected to fears as those mentioned in this paper. I decided to remove myself from politics and learn more about mediation because of this fact. In 2017 I moderated discussion at a “Congress on Iceland’s Democracy” at Berkley Law in California where I presented many of the ideas connected to what is discussed herein as discussion leads. The leads were well received and deemed by the experts present.
I believe that the issues at hand are important and that research and preemptive mediation can help work towards mitigating the effects of unhealthy radicalization, polarization, and fear in politics. I the author of this paper would be very interested in hearing from people if and when these ideas stimulate action, projects, and generate results.
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Industry and other reports & conference papers
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French, J.A., Smith, K.B., Guck, A., Alford, J.A., Hibbing, J.R. (2011), The Stress of Politics: Endocrinology and Voter Participation, Paper prepared for presentation at the Annual Meeting of the International Society for Political Psychology, Istanbul. July 2011.