Overcoming the Shutdown Crisis: Helping Dysfunctional Politicians with Family Psychology

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post from psychotherapist Dr. Linda Miles. It is a commentary on the government shutdown. Considering the blatant emotional immaturity on display from Congress, I find her musings pertinent. I suspect many of you will as well. -M.P.

I am openly dismayed and disillusioned by the behavior of many of our Congressional officials. Our politicians are exhibiting almost every serious problematic behavior I’ve dealt with as a Marriage Counselor and Family Psychotherapist for over 35 years. In the scramble for political advantage, keeping score has become more important than the welfare of our country. I think it’s time they started dealing with our national problems as mature adults and true professionals.  The behaviors we are seeing match the seven classical hallmarks found in dysfunctional families everywhere: 

1. Shame and Blame

2. Scapegoating

3. Contempt

4. Defensiveness 

5. Gridlock

6. Stonewalling

7. Show Downs.

Finger pointing has become more important than solving the real problems.  There is no respect being given and no meaningful exchange of ideas. Our politicians resist flexibility and are unwilling to try and reach synergistic solutions together.  Energy is devoted primarily to staying in “Attack Mode”. Have we not yet learned better strategies for conducting our political life?  What is it going to take? I believe that political leaders can solve the nation’s problems if they take a deep breath and agree to use the same techniques used by healthy families to overcome conflict everywhere. Healthy families deal with conflict by facing the issues and fighting fairly.  We must demand our leaders conduct themselves civilly, and conduct and maintain healthy relationships with each other.

We must demand effective leadership and honest, open, sincere authentic and meaningful communication. We must demand that our elected officials leaders work together to solve problems, prevent harm, and provide mutual respect, even when they do not agree on ideas. We need people to cool things off and take action to remove the immediate threat of the crisis, we need to see cool heads prevail and keep others from turning on one another. We need people on all sides of the controversies to be willing to listen to each other’s pain and be willing to help one another.

Dr. Linda Miles is a highly regarded psychotherapist with over 35 years of experience.  She has exceptional media skills and experience with hundreds of appearances on radio and television including national shows such as The O’Reilly Factor, ABC syndicated radio, Cable News 12 and WOR Radio.  She is the author of The New Marriage and her articles have appeared in Entrepreneur and Parents magazine and many others. 


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  1. This should be required reading for every elected official in our country.

    And after the Congress and House reads it, they should be tested on it. All those who score below 95 should be sent home…

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