Saturday, March 18, 2017
Having spent more than three decades providing depth psychotherapy, I’ve observed a few universals of human behavior. Luckily, they are backed up by social science research. For example, dialogue helps. Intimacy is enhanced by shared activities, even more than interest. As Eric Berne wrote in his book Games People Play, people make love or make war, play verbal games with one another, or build a boat together. In other words, it matters little if your lover likes museums and you like hiking. If you compromise enough to spend time doing one or both activities, you will grow closer. Also, being open and vulnerable draws persons together. We all want to be seen and known, despite our fears. Remember the Winnicott quote I offered up a few weeks ago?
It is a joy to be hidden; it is a tragedy not to be found.
International relations mimic interpersonal relations. After all, they consist of groups of people (societies, nations, etc.) in relationship with one another.
That brings me right to the Trump budget. I just brought up the pie chart on the internet. It is an inedible, revolting, even disgusting pie. It adds some 10 percent to the defense budget, seven percent to homeland security and six percent to veterans’ affairs. Notice how those three areas alone concern defensiveness. The US defense budget is already greater than the next greatest EIGHT countries combined! Ain’t that enough? The motto of the US Department of Defense is “absolute mastery of every conceivable battlefield situation.” Wow. Kinda admirable; kinda problematic; definitely impossible.
Yet another central feature of intimate relations is management of resources. If your boyfriend spends 100 hours a week working, and another 50 hours a week fishing, he won’t have much time to spend with you. Having a strong defense for a country, like having reasonably sound ego defense mechanisms, is a good thing. But like the hypothetical boyfriend just described, we certainly are already prepared enough, and consider what gets trumped (pun intended) by the proposed budget:
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) loses 31 percent of its budget, the US’ various aid programs drop by 29 percent, and the Department of Labor drops by 21 percent. One need know little about the complexities of international relations, or intimacy for that matter, to appreciate the problem. Slashing the EPA means more polluted air and water to poison our own people; cutting international aid is like hating your neighbor rather than loving her; reducing funds for labor means hurting our own workers–the very people who brought Donald Trump to office in the first place. If you seek peace and harmony, the pie needs a major change in recipe. The current ingredients may well kill us all.
When will the madness stop?
I shall devote a separate blog posting to the health care bill which, in many ways, parallels these same themes. I think the country would benefit from replacing ALL senators and congresspersons in one fell swoop, allowing for a fresh start. Instead of addressing the insanity, these likely well-meaning leaders waste hours and hours on hearings about nonsense, or rumors, or Trump’s tweets. All the while, the budget proposal itself communicates this to the world:
We will make our military stronger despite its already absurd level of strength.
We don’t really care about anyone but ourselves, and not much for the latter either. We’ll deprive 24 million people of the medical care they will need even more urgently after drinking and breathing more polluted air and water.
We don’t care about our own workers.
What a message to send.
If you consider Taosim a model–only one of many–for peace and harmony, consider paragraph 46:
When a country is in harmony with the Tao,
the factories make trucks and tractors.
When a country goes counter to the Tao,
warheads are stockpiled outside the cities.
There is no greater illusion than fear,
no greater wrong than preparing to defend yourself,
no greater misfortune than having an enemy.
Whoever can see through all fear
will always be safe.
And all this from 400 bce!
I am seeing, like my fellow depth psychotherapists, an increase in fearfulness in many who consult me. The fear is existential, not imaginary. In other words, real world events–populism, isolationism, the greatest number of refugees in human history, perverse levels of self-interest, and more–are really what we are communicating. Really, truly. We should all feel ashamed and, sadly, even frightened.
Personally, I take some comfort in the Hegelian idea of thesis, antithesis, synthesis. The ninth circuit now slapping down the second executive order related to immigration heartens me. I hope an antithesis will soon emerge, and even Trump supporters will realize, well, he behaves like a clown. The President of the United States getting his information from Fox News? Really? The guy has access to more real, intelligent information than any of us, and his thoughts are informed by any specific media source? It’s breathtaking.
I read and write and treat patients like crazy, trying to make my little contribution. Worry does nothing. You may also find some comfort through addressing our country’s contribution to an increasing global imbalance. Meanwhile, and consonant with my last blog post, remember the moment.
I can hear the sound of my fountain burbling, of the birds singing. I can see the muffled sunshine illuminating my modest backyard. A greedy squirrel keeps trying to eat the birdseed, but my dog Lucy stands ready to chase it off. Now that I’ve drawn connections between depth psychotherapy and international affairs, I realize the same dynamics playing out right here in my small backyard.
Submitted with love and hope,
Berns, E. (1996). Games People Play: The Basic Handbook of Transactional Analysis. New York: Ballantine Books.
Hegel, G. (2009). The phenomenology of spirit. J.B. Baillie (Trans.). New York: Digireads. (Original work published in 1807).
Mitchell, S. (1988). Tao Te Ching. S. Mitchell (Trans.).New York: Harper.
Winnicott DW (1965). The maturational processes and the facilitating environment. The International Psycho-Analytical Library, 64,1-276. London: The Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis.
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