A New Year of Better Endings: “Overcoming Schismogenesis–Go for the Win-Win.”

In America and the world today, I can think of no more helpful Better Endings topic than “Building Bridges,” so that will be the theme for the blog this whole year. Please see the Monthly Topics tab for our list of topics we will address.  Generally I will  introduce a topic on week one, then the next two weeks I will share my own and others’ stories pertaining to the topic, and week four I will present a Better Endings approach to the topic based om insights gained throughout the  month.

For January, let’s get started with the topic of: “Overcoming Schismogenesis–Go for the Win-Win.”

The insightful psychological anthropologist Gregory Bateson, in his book Steps To an Ecology of Mind, wrote about the psychological dynamic principle of schismogenesis. He explained this as being in effect when two people or two opposed groups of people get into an argument that becomes more and more heated, each side “digging in” more and more deeply to diametrically opposed or binary points of view. Each party in the argument holds to their truth as if it were absolute, insisting that the other’s point of view is patently false and unfounded.

“Fake news!” each might proclaim about their opponent’s ‘facts.’ The wedge widens with each new round of the argument. It is as if both parties or groups are inhabiting distinct ‘thought worlds’ that exist at polar-opposite or perhaps in parallel worlds of Reality.

Does this sound familiar? Try watching a left-leaning newscast then switch the channel to a right-leaning rendition of the same ‘news’ story. This polarizing of worldviews creates what is tantamount to a civil war of ideas, each side certain they are right because their side of the argument has become established over a long period of time and is reinforced by like-minded, equally entrenched folks.

It is probably nearly impossible to overcome schismogenesis by continuing to mount opposing arguments. Bateson suggests that the two parties, such as a husband and wife caught in such a headlock, should back off, separate for a time and agree to revisit the situation at a later date without holding to either of their original positions. They need to find a win-win solution that involves each side giving ground and compromising for the sake of preserving the deeper relationship.

images are from pixabay.com

What can we agree on? What do we both want apart from our differences? Is there a way we can build a bridge to arrive at a new, fusional sort of solution that meets the common goal even if we must sacrifice more partisan objectives?

Let’s construct a hyptothetical.  Spouses argue over whether to stay in and cook (one party to do the cooking) or going out (the cook wanting that option instead). Cost is involved; but the cook is tired from working all week too. Perhaps the solution is EITHER that they go out but to a less costly than usual restaurant and share the expense, or they have fun making a meal together, sharing the load.

So, try it out! Let me know if you are able to build a bridge in your own relationships. Go for the Win-Win and everyone gains!