A mind is a difficult thing to change: Part One--Intro
When I first started this blog, one of the things I was sure I'd do an awful lot of writing about is what it means to change one's mind on a topic as fundamental and emotional as politics: who does it, why they do it, how they do it. I thought I'd explore the ways in which "changers" differ from those who don't ever change, and the repercussions changers face among friends and family who often consider them to be pariahs. I even thought that, if a bunch of these people ever migrated to my blog, it could function as a sort of combination support group (sorry, it's the therapist in me!) and clearing house on the topic of political changers and what makes them tick.
Somehow I haven't gotten around to doing any of this until now. Hmmm. Procrastination. Whatever. But I hope to finally start tackling this vast and unwieldy subject, bit by bit. I'll be thinking this through as I go along, so please bear with me.
Of course, the political change I know best is the one I've already made--from liberal Democrat to whatever it is I am now (what I call "neo-neocon," as a sort of joke). Nowadays, "neocon" is a term used most often as a pejorative, but its actual definition is something like "liberal hawk" (see this article for a more complete explanation, containing one of my favorite definitions, "the kind of right-winger a liberal wouldn't be embarrassed to have over for cocktails." Or, in my case, dinner. I'm much bigger on dinner. Especially if it's any kind of ethnic food.)
Way back when I was in graduate school getting my Master's degree, my fellow therapists-in-training and I (Democrats all, by the way) were forced to think long and hard (and to talk and talk and talk and write and write and write) about how it is that people change. Therapists are change-agents by definition, and it helps if a therapist actually believes that people can change. But every therapist knows a bitter truth, and that is that true and fundamental change is both difficult and rare, and that it is often exceedingly painful for the person who changes, and for everyone around him/her. The old standby about how many therapists it takes to change a lightbulb ("one, but the lightbulb has to want to change") is not only true, but insufficient--it would be great if wanting to change, and talking to a therapist about it, were all that was necessary for the desired change to occur. But of course it's not.
I not only spent years thinking, talking, and writing about how people change, but also trying to help people accomplish it--and, sometimes, actually even succeeding (although maybe they did it in spite of my help--one never knows).
But all clients who come to a therapist want to change--or, at least, they pay lip service to the fact that they do. So they start ahead of the game, because they are strongly motivated, motivated enough to pay a substantial sum (or have their insurance pay it) to a total stranger to whom they also must tell their deepest--and sometimes most shameful--secrets.
Political change is different. I think it tends to happen against one's will, often very much against one's will. The changer is dragged kicking and screaming to a different point of view by something--but what?
I'm not aware of any studies done on the subject, although I certainly haven't done an exhaustive search--unless you count reading a bunch of blogs written by people who've done this very sort of changing. These blogs appear to attract an audience with a high percentage of people who've undergone a similar political transformation. Changers seem to want to talk about it a lot with each other, much like those in 12-step programs, and there are a lot of jokes about that on these blogs ("recovering liberals" and the like).
Some of what I write here will be based on what I've gleaned from those blogs. Some will be based on any research I might be able to dig up on the subject (suggestions are welcome). Some will be based on--well, my thoughts on the subject.
To be continued....
[ADDENDUM: For Part II, go here.]