What Does the Government Shutdown and Mental Health Have in Common?

My girlfriend Donna, the writer, is always coming up with ideas she wants me to write about on my blog. Last summer we were watching “Under the Dome” together and she said, “You should write about these crazy  characters are on your blog.” OK, so that was last week’s post on psychopaths vs psychotics, and yes, it included a reference to some of the characters on “Under the Dome.”

This week she said, “You should write about how crazy Congress is for shutting down the government.” She added: “I don’t know much about it, but I’m sure they’re crazy, with big egos, and that sounds like a good blog post.”

I tried to tell her that I wasn’t like her —  I can’t just write on command. Ideas for blog posts and how to tie current events to mental health themes just sort of comes to me. But OK, the more I lightly contemplated on it, the easier it was to see a connection between mental health issues and Congress. I guess it wasn’t that much of a stretch.

What strikes me as odd about politics is how acceptable it has become to be critical, obstinate, cantankerous, and openly hostile to your co-workers.  At any other organizational setting in our culture, it would be considered anti-teamwork, anti-collaboration, anti-cooperation and against the good of the whole to berate, degrade, and disrespect those we work with. Sports teams have team spirit, corporate offices encourage synergy, and the motto of many social and religious organizations is some variation of “all for one and one for all.”  So you have to ask yourself, what’s wrong with politics?

Over the years, I’ve counseled a number of high powered executives, well-respected engineers, and accountants, even scientists, who all had a similar problem. They were excellent in their jobs, but their home lives were in the pits.

Why? Their wives complained that they tried to run their homes the way they ran their businesses, e.g. get the job done and who cares about feelings? Wives were told what to do, not negotiated with. Wives were made to feel like employees. Husbands were into power and control. Wives were belittled and made to feel like their opinions weren’t important.

I had to teach these men (yes, mostly males) that what worked at work, did not work at home. And I assured them I also had my doubts that this type of top down, domineering and aggressive management style was probably not working at work either (many, if not all of them, were extremely unhappy at work too). For the record, these are the traits of a person with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.

I have a number of techniques I’ll give to these couples, but at the top of the list is always — for the husband – from this day forward, in order to correct an imbalance, your wife is the rightest person on earth, and you are the wrongest!

I quote an old study back from my early days as a therapist. It was a longitudinal study that looked at couples when they first got married, and then again 20 years later, to see who was still married. The study concluded that the number one criteria in a successful marriage is that the man gives into the woman. The women don’t get off the hook either. The second criteria? Women don’t nag, but use humor, to get their way.

If a man in marriage counseling can take this study to heart – surrender, give-in, negotiate, compromise, and if his wife holds up her end, they have an excellent chance of being happily married years later.

In my office, when men are able to do this, we save the marriage. When they can’t – the women usually leave them and look for someone who can, or she decides that being alone is better than being treated like an employee.

Could this be what’s wrong with Congress? Can’t surrender, compromise, give-in, or negotiate? If so, are you listening Congress? Just take a few tips from research on happy marriages and I think you’ll rethink your relationships with your partners across the aisle.

We invite you to join the rest of the culture and live positively in the future. What do you say? – maybe we could save the government. And while we’re at it, maybe we could save a few of your marriages too!

Sanity now!





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