“Looking inward before lashing outward is good for the world.” Tim Ferris

The face of our own social network is changing. Maybe your feed is a mess. When people challenge our belief system our reaction isn’t based as much on “I’m right and you’re wrong” as its based on “Don’t tell me I’m wrong.” We get emotional and defensive.

I typically react by doing and saying nothing. Sometime I lay in bed and let these things stir in my head and heart. How do we stay positive when so many ‘friends’ are unintentionally challenging our belief systems?

A study from the University of Southern California shows that when our political beliefs are challenged, brain areas that are involved in shaping our personality and emotional response to threat light up. The brain enters an ’emergency mode’ and we feel threatened — attacked on a very personal, emotional level. The brain then promptly shuts down and refuses any evidence that goes against what we hold to be true.

The team surveyed 40 liberal voters’ opinions on a range of political topics as well as their opinion on a series of nonpolitical topics. The researchers then scanned the participants’ brains using MRI while systematically attacking all the points on which they reported having a strong view on. Then they tested the strength of participants’ opinions again. A clear difference emerged between the political and nonpolitical beliefs. Participants showed a greater emotional response to the political arguments — the more attached a person felt to a belief, the more their amygdala and insula lit up, and the more they resisted the arguments against it.

Essentially, it’s the same effect as getting mugged! We go into emergency mode because the core of who we are is challenged.

How solid are your beliefs? We all have soft spots, that when challenged, we tend to get more defensive. On this week’s show, James Munsey, my new co-host brought up a great point. When we were kids, we didn’t have social media we just had real life friends that tend to be just like us.

Something we didn’t have to deal with until recently is that we are now confronted with alternate views on many subjects. Considering an alternate view is having to consider and alternate version of ourselves. We are saying to ourselves, “Maybe I’ve had it all wrong. Maybe I’ve had me all wrong?”

What Should You Do?

“You can either tear down arguments or tear down people,” Abe Loper told us on the Great People Show this week. The atmosphere is so tense, perhaps you don’t want to offend a friend or others. Or maybe you’re at the point of ‘I need to do something.’ “Give them something to think about rather than try and change their opinion. If your mind is so made up that you are willing to unchanged it you are in a bad place. Two people can both be wrong but both can’t be right.”

If you are confident in your beliefs and own your state of mind, someone challenging your belief system should not phase you. Engage. Reach out. Invite them to a cup of coffee. I doubt they will accept. But maybe they will.

Things in this world are bringing out the worst in us. It’s so personal now. We have to keep ourselves in check to remain on the right path to greatness.

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