Numbing-Avoidance of Feeling—For those who tend toward conservatism, feeling makes them feel vulnerable and out of control. Most likely their family growing up didn’t allow for feelings and so they have no real practice on what to do when they feel a certain way. It was as if the family “feeling thermostat” was set to 55▫ and everyone called it “warm.” When conservatism comes along, it makes us feel better and comforts us against any unpleasant emotion.
Black & White Thinking--Rigid Thinking—Conservatism is not about moderation. We have trouble being moderate in most things. It’s like conservatism kills all the “reasonable brain cells” or “grey cell” leaving only the black or the white, the all or the nothing.
Blaming—The conservative feels that “they might be somewhat at fault, but they are sure that other people are more to blame” for whatever is happening in their lives. Even when the have a legitimate complaint, the blame gets them stuck, causing them to not take responsibility and find a solution. The problem is that they don’t look as to how they contribute to the problem and, additionally, this gives them a sense of entitlement to practice their beliefs.Sounds pretty accurate, doesn't it? Where did I get these quotes, you may ask? Answer: From a website depicting the personality traits of a drug addict. Other than swapping the words "addict" with "conservative," etc., and a couple of trivial edits, the above are direct quotes from that website.
When you base a set of ideas on lies, there are only so many things you can do with them. Essentially, you can (1) confront those lies and begin to replace them with the truth, or (2) you can remain in denial about the lies, trying to convince yourself that they are true by using more lies. Drug addicts do the latter. That is why one of the first things that must be done in addiction treatment is to get the addict to confront the fact that he or she is living a lie, and abusing the drug is maintaining that lie. Then and only then do they stand a chance of being able to rebuild their lives.
We constantly struggle with how to deal with the Far Right. Do we stand them up? Do we at least pretend to hear them out? To accurately answer that question requires first characterizing what the psychological effects of conservatism--which I take to mean the libertarian-in-name-only extremist form of conservatism that has plagued the Right. I do believe that not just comparing conservatism to an addiction but calling it an addiction gives us an excellent starting point for answering the question of how to deal with them.
One last word, to those who find this comparison offensive or overstated: To minimize the devastating effects that conservatism has on people is akin to minimizing the devastating effects that drug abuse has on people. In some circles, that is referred to as enabling. To make inane comments such as "both sides do it, so it's really all the same" enables conservatism. To try to reach middle ground with an addict ("ok, you can drink, but only every other day") enables the addiction. There is little if anything to compromise here. Extreme conservatism is an addiction, with all its devastating effects. And I do not mean that as a metaphor.