Conservative Hostility, Hysteria, and Personal Construct Theory

I have always found George Kelly’s Personal Construct Theory on how we see and construe the world, interesting. I particularly like his specialized definition of hostility:

Hostility is the continued effort to extort validational evidence in favor of a type of social prediction which has already been recognized as a failure

While for a time with the collapse of socialist illusions, the liberal left suffered from this. It seems to me that after the post-1989 triumphalism of conservatism, they have been suffering from Kelly’s hostility for some time and it is getting worse. Their constructs of reality do not allow for climate change, for the massive post 2008 failure of the free markets, for the growing income inequality that is invalidating the idea of social mobility, and above all the rise of China is totally inexplicable given their view of the world.

So as might be expected, while the conservatives I grew up with were relatively stolid, well mannered, sensible people. The conservatives today are frankly hysterical and paranoid. They rant about climate change conspiracies, black helicopters, liberals taking their guns away, the EU as a sort of Stalinist institution. In sum, they are exhibiting hostility in Kelly’s sense of the word, because their fundamental paradigms, their constructs of how the world is no longer receive validation and that is really scary for them. So let’s have some compassion for conservative hostility but let’s hope they get real soon.

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About creativeconflictwisdom

I spent 32 years in a Fortune Five company working on conflict: organizational, labor relations and senior management. I have consulted in a dozen different business sectors and the US Military. I work with a local environmental non profit. I have written a book on the neuroscience of conflict, and its implications for conflict handling called Creative Conflict Wisdom (forthcoming).
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