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Why Don’t You Agree With Me?

This is where most frustration begins, not in someone thinking differently than you, but in the fact that you can’t understand why they think that way in the first place. Think about politically-charged conversations you’ve had (some may have happened over Thanksgiving dinner) and think about venting sessions with your friends or coworkers. Amidst all the ranting and raving and finger pointing, the fundamental question going through your mind is, “Why don’t you think like I do?”

It’s perfectly human. We are encapsulated, autonomous beings roving around the planet in our own little shells. It is difficult to imagine the world outside of our own perception. Jacques Lacan had a theory for that moment when we realize a world exists outside of ourselves: it’s called the “mirror stage,” and it is an essential part of our psychological development. It is the realization that we are not a brain attached to visual sensors experiencing the world for our own amusement. It is the first step toward empathy and understanding. Yet, not all of us remember that we, like the people we’re arguing with, are sacks of meat and mucous navigating the world as best as we can.

When we become frustrated, we are forgetting that realization. We swim in our own thoughts and feelings and forget that others swim in similar pools. We ask, “Why don’t you think like I do?” but forget to ask the follow up question: “Why do you think the way you do?” Opinions are formed in combination with the three “E”s: education, experience, and economics. These three are the scaffold onto which our entire worldview is formed. They connect, intertwine, and sometimes contradict themselves while, at the same time, justifying who we are, what we do, and how we approach the world.

And for every person, they are different.

I don’t know if cats have a mirror stage. Probably not, since everything is about them.

Instead of defending your position, instead of writing off someone who thinks differently than you (exception: Nazis, fuck those people) think about their three “E”s and how they differ from yours. Ask why they have come to their conclusion. Ask what solutions they see for the issue at hand. Don’t put yourself in their shoes; that is an impossible feat. But try to see the scaffolding behind their argument. See the structure they have built. See them as you would see yourself in the mirror, an individual with a limited experience of the world. 

Keep education yourself. Keep experiencing the world. Keep…something to do with economics. But above all, keep listening and keep talking. 

Life is not just a reflection of yourself.

Heather Flyte is a graduate student in English Literature at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania. She is currently writing her thesis on the transfer of imperialism in the translation of Japanese folk tales. She is a non-traditional student who has previously worked in journalism and web development and plans to pursue doctoral work in Composition and Rhetoric.
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