Congressional Divorce


Congressional Divorce


The word “dysfunctional” has been used, misused, and overused for what seems to have been more than half a century.   We hear it used mostly in reference to individuals indicating mental illness, maladaptive family systems, relationships, and conflict between groups or individuals.  Defined by the dictionary, dysfunction reads: Abnormal or impaired functioning, especially of a bodily system or social group.


Most people would not need a definition of the word “dysfunctional” as it has been used so often that it has become common knowledge that it is a label that no one would care to have placed on them.  I prefer to shy away from buzz words, catch phrases, and the usual psychobabble that permeates social communication and see the word simply as something that is “not working” as the result of two or more people who are unhappy. 


Sound familiar?  It’s Dr. Glasser’s definition of what society, and those in the psychiatric delivery system, are calling “mental illness.”


 Someone in a group, society, organization, relationship, family, or culture is behaving in a way in which others disapprove or in an unusual way of behaving.  And rather than take measures to improve their differences or resolve their conflict, they choose to rely on the Seven Deadly Habits and External Control to get them to behave the way they want them to behave.  It doesn’t matter who started it because when one person or group begins to utilize External Control, the other person or group retaliates in like manner.   It soon becomes a war of overpowering one person’s or groups External Control with their more powerful use of External Control.  


Nowhere is this more evident than in the last eight years in American government and politics.  Neither party is innocent.  External Control is being used on both sides of the aisle.  The result:  The loss of previous working relationships between party members, defiance towards each party’s legislation, loss of respect, and a system that has become stagnant.  With the help of the conservative entertainment  complex, it has boiled over into our nation’s citizens where anger, blaming, criticizing, and threatening.  The vitriol is even worse on the internet than in congress.  If Congress were a marriage, there would be domestic violence, the marriage would be over, and a divorce imminent.  If this were a family, everyone would be in counseling and put on psych meds.   Inasmuch as anger is so outwardly displayed and not being suppressed, any so-called benefit of antidepressants would be ineffective anyway.


It seems to me that  the external control belief of American society (and others), is that if someone belittles you, criticizes, blames, punishes, threatens, nags,  and complains to you and you don’t respond or retaliate in some form of like manner, that you are a whimp, a whuss, a coward, or some other disparaging word.  And in politics, anyone who doesn’t respond to such behavior is considered weak, lacking courage, and not a leader.


We are a nation with an insecure need to be “We’re number one!”  and we’ll smash you if you get in our way.  We see it evidenced in sporting events.  In fact, sports have become the opiate of the country.  Teddy Roosevelt suggested walk softly and carry a big stick.  But today, the idea appears to be yell and boast loudly and kick ass.  Bullying has now become commonplace in many areas of social life.


I can recall my own reaction when the conservative entertainment complex became popular years ago by using the Seven Deadly Habits on the opposing political party.  I couldn’t believe that no one was responding to dispute or stand up against their claims.  And then it started happening in society and in Congress and still no one seemed to be standing up against the diatribe. 


Choice Theory was not known at the onset of this situation but in fact, it was being practiced by those who didn’t respond without knowing it was Choice Theory.  They were taking the high road and assuming that those who chose the low road would implode.  I didn’t recognize this at the time as I found myself wanting to somehow shake up the members of my own party and get them to “stand up against these accusations.” 


And then I learned Choice Theory and realized that by not playing into it, people who weren’t reacting were simply choosing to not try to change others and also choosing  not to behave or react to  someone else’s unhappiness.  They were actually utilizing both of the resolution choices of Choice Theory.


But alas, the overall masses that are so embedded in External Control and the Seven Deadly Habits began to rise above common sense.  The low road users far outnumbered the high road users.  After being criticized by their own people for not standing up to the bullying of others, External Control begat External Control and the power struggle engulfed the nation.  Both sides of the aisle began saying and doing things that drove them farther and farther apart.  The country became polarized with anger and hatred.  Candidates began treating each other in ways that drove them apart not only from one another but from society as well.  Both sides are behaving dysfunctionally.  It seemed as if the one who yelled the loudest and carried the biggest stick would be the one to get elected.  This is why so many were disappointed after the first debate and others reveled. 


We need to come together again as Americans, as citizens, who all want the same things in life which ultimately is happiness.  Like a marriage or family, this can only happen when both sides work together to make it happen.  And while I would be the last person on earth to advocate any “trickle down” theory, I don’t see any change happening until our leaders agree to treat one another with respect and employ the Seven Caring Habits of Supporting, Encouraging, Listening, Accepting, Trusting, Respecting, and Negotiating.  Mental Health is, indeed, a public health issue.  After more then 250 thousand years of humanity and 236 yrs as a country, we have not advanced to any stage of improved people skills.  We still don’t know how to get along with others without making things worse.


Common sense is that which we know to be true.  If what you say or do will harm your relationship with someone else, common sense would declare, “why do that?”  The answer:  Power. . .   the need to be right and to make the other person wrong.


Relationship and marriage psychologist, Harville Hendrix describes this need to be right as protecting one’s sense of self.  If I see it your way, I will have to surrender my way.  If I feel your experience, I will have to invalidate mine.  If what you say is true, then what I say *must* be false. There can be only one center of the universe and that center is me!  Hendrix goes on to say that if you put your perception of reality aside for the sake of weighing the other person’s reality perception, then defenses will be lowered and then each will not feel threatened by the other.  Then the other person will be more inclined to see your point of view or be more willing for both of you to acknowledge parts of each other’s reality.  By each other giving up their centrist positions, they can connect.  (Thanks to Bette Blance, in Gold Coast, Queensland for posting this info on Facebook via The Bewellbuzz).


Only by learning that we only need to be right for our own perspective and allow others to think and act differently than ourselves; by not criticizing or trying to change anyone, and walking away before our differences become more difficult can we begin to avoid conflict and all of the anger and hate that often results.


Congress could use a lesson in putting the Nation in the Choice Theory Solving Circle and asking each side of the aisle, “what are you willing to do for the sake of the  Nation” and not “what can you do for the sake of your party,” nor “what you won’t do.”


Once our country’s representatives work towards resolving their differences by choosing behaviors for the sake of our nation and not for the sake of their own agenda will any resolution and advancement toward the success of our nation and citizens be reached.  Otherwise, we will remain Dysfunctional.

1 Comment

  1. Dr. Ken Larsen

    Thoughtful piece. As usual you have brought insights from Choice Theory into practical application in our life together. If this stimulates just one conversation about what we have in common as members of the same species, then it will have been a candle lit in the darkness of our confusion.

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