In-Sourcing Blog

Another cup of tea, Vladimir? A teaspoon of sugar, Donald?

Politicians can learn so much from my brave clients who face complicated issues with candor and composure, understanding that the interpersonal relationships being brought to light do not have to devolve into a contest with a singular winner and a vanquished loser.

In therapy we can peer into the past, seeing ourselves as infants, the center of the universe initially, but then, as development continues, competing for parents’ love and attention, using behavioral and emotional strategies to draw Mommy and Daddy’s attention back to us. Eventually, with ‘normal’ development, we learn to accept and make room for others

But often there’s a residual feeling that we have not had enough attention or affection when we were young, and we reach adulthood feeling as though we missed out on a parent’s love. The effect being each new relationship becomes a competition to recapture validation and absent love. As we grow into adults watching that scenario play out, we realize how relating to others in this way becomes an unsatisfying seesaw between ‘victories’ and ‘defeats.’

If only politicians would recognize the destructive results of that willful interpersonal style!

Sadly, it’s the cruel definition of ‘zero sum’ that characterizes politics: “One person’s gain is equivalent to another’s loss, so the net change in benefit is zero.” This is the metaphorical pizza where if I take a slice, that’s the amount you must cede. Take it one step further and if one person gets more, the other person gets less.

Apply the definition to a relationship, be it diplomats, or couples, and the problem surfaces; to get what’s wanted, one side or the other must give up an equivalent amount. I shake my head in dismay, watching the world’s leaders caught in a non-stop game of musical chairs, circling each other in a frantic race to avoid being the loser left out in the cold when the music stops.

We watch it in Congress every day, intractable angry voices hurling personal insult, politicians cemented in ideology, negotiating with ‘winner-take-all,’ zero-sum mentalities

I hereby offer them the client’s chair in my office, with a nice cup of Yogi tea and a pro bono session to explain how relationships fail. The kindly saying on the teabag is the perfect way to start, “One who brings happiness to others, will find it.”

Another cup of tea, Vladimir? What does your tea bag say? “Compassion has no limit. Kindness has no enemy.” I think to myself, if our politicians and government officials are going to act like children, I’ll ask Illinois Senator Dick Durbin to record this kids’ nursery rhyme into the Congressional Record:

Love is like a magic penny,
hold it tight and you won’t have any.
Give it away,
and you’ll have plenty.