Letter to Joe Nocera
(Columnist for New York Times)
Dear Mr. Nocera,
I am a psychotherapist who sees the personality and communication dysfunction of Washington DC as the same dysfunction I see in my therapy office, only on a larger scale, with a much broader ripple effect -- with the power to help or harm millions of people. I also recognize that we as citizens of the U.S. hold our representatives to much different standard of accountability than we do people in our own families.
Specifically, we set the bar so much lower for our representatives in Congress --- we are like the children of alcoholic parents who have simply accepted the insanity as the norm and adjusted our expectations accordingly. With that we simply live in a sort of survivor mode, not even considering the possibility that we might have the power to change anything.
I think we could all use a little therapy in this matter. With that in mind, I have created a blog on OpenSalon called Same Page, specifically reflecting on how we might work together to improve upon at least some of our national dysfunction. Closing in on 60 years on this planet, I am not naïve. I understand that where there are human beings in relationship, there will be dysfunctional relationships. I teach my clients that expecting perfection in ourselves and in other people is a waste of time, but that the only way to make things better is to determine how we are part of the problem so that we can be part of the solution.
Just as Congress will is getting nowhere fast with their current approach to governing, we as citizens will accomplish nothing as long as we sit on the sidelines complaining, pointing out how ridiculous “they” are being. Another thing I teach my clients is that we do not have the power to change other people, that we can only change ourselves. We cannot control others, but we do have the important power to influence others. We can do that only when we decide to come off of the sidelines and get in the game.
Same Page is my way of getting in the game. I am looking for nothing more than an opportunity to influence others, government representatives and constituents alike, to think less in terms of winning and losing and more about the extremely important work of problem solving. I promise: the same rules of respectful, healthy communications that apply to our marriages and families and work places, apply to the men and women we have elected to represent us in Washington.
Finally, what I hope to do with Same Page is the same as I do with clients in my office: help to move beyond the easy points of agreement in the abstract (that respectful communication is essential to healthy relationships), taking the next steps into exploring how we can apply these principles in practice. Concepts don’t heal us --- only taking right action can do that.
I write this to you, Mr. Nocera, because you are someone hard at work, doing your best to be part of the solution. Thank you for that.