Updated: Jul 8
In my youth, I enjoyed playing the game of horseshoes. This lawn contest was usually played by two people, or teams of two, using a u-shaped bar that was almost twice the size of an actual horseshoe.
Players alternated throwing or “pitching” the horseshoe-shaped bar at stakes in the ground which were around 40 feet apart. Though I wasn’t particularly skillful in my approach, I had fun all the same.
On one occasion, while visiting someone in a rural setting, I was able to play this game using actual horseshoes—instruments designed to protect horse hoofs from wear. The smaller the horseshoe, the more challenging the game became.
In adulthood, building upon my knowledgebase related to horseshoes, I learned about horseshoe theory. Describing this concept, one source states:
In political science and popular discourse, the horseshoe theory asserts that the extreme left and the extreme right, rather than being at opposite and opposing ends of a linear political continuum, closely resemble each other, analogous to the way that the opposite ends of a horseshoe are close together.
I’m not sure that the term apoliticism applies to me, as it describes apathy or antipathy towards all political affiliations. I care about some political topics though I do not take part in the political process.
I’m neither indifferent nor hostile to political matters. Therefore, and for lack of a better label, being interested though uninvolved in politics may best be characterized as apolitical—which is what I consider myself.
Sloppily figuring out how to articulate my approach to political issues is hard enough, let alone beginning to express on what side of the political spectrum I fall. I’m not a Democrat or Republican, though I hold some leftist and some rightist viewpoints.
I loathe socialism and communism, yet fascism isn’t something to which I’m warm. This begs the question as to whether or not I’m moderate or conservative in my perspective.
It isn’t obvious to me that binary thinking is of much use when dealing with complex systems such as humans, social and political structures, or life as a whole. Having rejected far left and right principles, why must my views be compartmentalized by a this-or-that perspective?
While I wasn’t a skillful horseshoes player, I at least had fun pitching horseshoe-shaped bars at stakes of a determined distance. Horseshoe theory isn’t as fun to me and the dynamic landscape of sociopolitical matters is sometimes accompanied by crucial consequences for many people.
Moreover, those of us who opt not to take part in the political process will inevitably be judged by members of the Left and the Right. The Left will declare that I’m a “bootlicker” while the Right will label me a “fence-sitter.”
The inference from both left and right perspectives is that I should, must, or ought to endorse either side, or else I’m worse than an opponent. I’m apparently a person who selfishly plays it safe without any skin in the game. Truly, I’d rather play horseshoes than politics.
As I’m socio-politically homeless, I have an opportunity to view how left-wing and right-wing members treat one another. It occurs to me that though there are stark differences in their ideological perspectives, there appears to be a “uniparty” system of governance in our nation.
Political parties in the United States (U.S.) seem to give a home to those interested in power and control. People supporting this scheme of bureaucratic rule are offered shelter while those of us watching from outside, as the divided house metaphorically burns, are castigated by those suffering within the structure.
In a post entitled Unconditional Other-Acceptance (UOA), I discussed how—from a Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) perspective—I’ve learned to tolerate and accept others for whom and how they are. This isn’t an easy task for me.
While I recognize that Jane Democrat and John Republican stand in opposition to my decision not to support their partisan positions, I don’t encounter such people without self-disturbing beliefs arising within me. Yes, even REBT practitioners experience irrational beliefs.
Still, I dispute my unhelpful attitude about Jane and John in order to achieve a healthier narrative that leads to UOA. While I’d like not to be judged for choosing not to back the Left or the Right, Jane and John are under no obligation to appease me.
Unconditionally accepting myself as a fallible human being allows me to consider use of the same helpful standard regarding others. I have control over myself and little influence over others, as I strive not to distress myself with imagined notions of how others ought to be.
How might this practice apply to larger issues, such as those within the circle of concern—things about which I may be concerned though over which I have no control or influence? This is where unconditional life-acceptance (ULA) comes into play.
Addressing ULA, one REBT source states, “Unconditional life acceptance is the healthy emotional state of disappointment, displeasure, and annoyance that we experience when we are frustrated by life and hold the flexible attitude that life does not have to be as we want it to be.”
If I were to say to myself that the Democrat and Republican parties must not behave in a manner that is contrary to my rigid demands, I would likely suffer when these partisan groups function in whatever manner they do and which is in opposition to what I want. Therefore, I would upset myself with a belief.
Flexibly, I could instead tell myself that while I’d prefer for political parties and the government to do as I wished, they aren’t constrained by my desires. As such, I can let go of the notion that things ought to be any other way.
Some people repudiate ULA, because they consider it to be a form of surrender to matters believed to be controllable or subject to influence. However, ULA simply acknowledges unpleasant matters rather than demanding for things to be different.
We cannot change the past. Likewise, we have no control over whether or not the sun will explode. In the same way, though we as individuals may have some influence over political parties and the government, we have no command over absolute outcomes.
This doesn’t mean we simply resign to the tyrannical rule of authority. Wars of yesteryear in the U.S. were waged to effect change on a macro level.
Armed conflict is a drastic measure and one hopes it would be used only as a last resort. Many steps prior to that, simply experiencing disappointment, displeasure, and annoyance while being able to tolerate unpleasant authorities may better serve one’s interests and goals.
Undoubtedly, politicians, political parties, and other governmental figures will behave like horse’s asses with their political gameplay. Though I was unskilled at horseshoes, some of these sociopolitical figures demonstrate remarkable ability to pitch our nation into chaos when aiming for calamitous stakes.
It is by acknowledging my helplessness in changing or significantly influencing the contest of national downfall that I find peace. Alternatively, deluding myself otherwise would simply lead to unnecessary distress.
Growing up in Texas, it wasn’t uncommon to come across horseshoes and occasionally pitch them for fun. The stakes were low and even if I wasn’t particularly skillful, I enjoyed the challenge of the game.
Later in life, I learned of horseshoe theory. Stakes are high with sociopolitical contests and although I have interest in observing the gameplay, I have no desire to participate.
Though a smaller horseshoe makes for a more challenging game of horseshoes, a national-sized horseshoe doesn’t make gameplay easier. In fact, the complexity of circle-of-concern politics can be incredibly difficult to endure.
Being socio-politically homeless, I’m able to separate my wellbeing from the catastrophe of a home collapsing in on itself due to the metaphorical fire of political discord. Effortlessly, I could disturb myself with fear, anger, sorrow, and disgust while watching such destruction.
However, I choose to practice ULA as a means of controlling the only person who would be disturbed by foolishly engaging with the game of annihilation—me. Although I acknowledge that the U.S. is currently in a miserable state of affairs, I don’t needlessly suffer due to the circumstances.
Even when I’m judged for not running into a home engulfed in flames while extremes of the Left and Right hurl flaming horseshoes in my direction, I can tolerate their bickering and pointless insults. Likewise, I can unconditionally accept political parties as they fling national fiery arcs at other nations.
Make no mistake about it, I don’t like or love that these matters occur. However, I use ULA to keep from getting burned by what I believe about these issues.
To put a final point on the tormenting of metaphors contained herein, I can’t change a horse’s shoe, because I’m not adept at doing so any more than I’m skilled at playing horseshoes. Still, I can change my beliefs and remain disappointed rather than angered regarding sociopolitical matters.
Regardless of your position on the political spectrum, I’m here to help people with diverse associations, opinions, and walks of life. Are you prepared to learn more about how ULA may better serve your interest in goals?
If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.
As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.
At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!
Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW
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