Still another news day of intractability and personal insult, politicians cemented in ideology, negotiating with ‘winner-take-all,’ zero-sum mentalities. I shake my head in dismay, watching them 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.
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.”
It’s the very opposite of the cruel definition of the ‘zero sum’ game they play, “One person’s gain is equivalent to another’s loss, so the net change in benefit is zero.” 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. 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.
Politicians can learn so much from my courageous clients, who come to understand that interpersonal relationships do not have to devolve into a contest with a winner and a loser, and no in between.
It is not easy to 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 growing up, 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.
In therapy we can watch that scenario play out and grow to realize how relating to others this way can become an unsatisfying seesaw between ‘victories’ and ‘defeats.’ If only politicians would recognize the destructive results of that willful interpersonal style!
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 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.
With Love and Light,
Arlene Englander, LCSW