Hit Bottom and Bounce Back: Healing our divided country

I once had a therapist friend who viewed everything through her therapist lens. She’d come from Pittsburgh, then a steel town on the decline. She diagnosed Pittsburgh as depressed, not only in an economic sense, but in mood and attitude too.

She moved to Joliet where I met her, and after about three months, made the same diagnosis of the Illinois version of a steel town in decline. The symptoms? Lack of hope, discouragement, focus on the negative, a helpless attitude of victimhood, giving the past more credit than the present. Well, that’s pretty dismissive, I thought, even though I could almost see her point. She moved away after three or four years. I hope it wasn’t to another city in decline.

We moved a few years later to an energetic suburb full of activity, not depressed at all. And since then Joliet has moved too, now the home of Amazon facilities that allow me to receive packages the same day, and numerous other companies wanting to be at the crossroads of the Midwest.

If cities can be diagnosed, then countries can too. It’s taken me a while to have anything constructive to say about our national situation, but this makes sense to me: we are addicted to hate, blame, and outrage and it is not good for our character or our country. I know from my work in addictions that it is never the worst thing to hit bottom, to see a boatload of evidence that we need to change some fundamentals, and that we can make that choice. It can be cleansing in fact, and clarifying. It can provide a bounce.

We have become so hypersensitive, so defensive, so anxious, so blaming, so uncaring about the needs of others not like us, so frozen in place. And I don’t mean the politicians – I mean us regular people on Facebook and Twitter, in the neighborhood, around the dinner table. When did we all get so sure that we are right and everyone else is not? When did disagreement have to become hatred? When did we become so filled with fear of ideas, of each other? Do you have friends you don’t want to see any time soon because you’ve witnessed the rage and contempt in their hearts daily for months on social media? I do.

Egged on by news networks and politicians both building their own power bases, we have come to believe that we have a binary system – two sides to every issue, the right one and the wrong one. And the wrong one isn’t just wrong, it’s evil.

I’m hoping that as we bounce back, we will rediscover things like compromise, mutual respect, problem-solving. That we will want to bring our country back to health with care and love. Maybe we can stop yelling and start talking. What will it take? Term limits? Emerging leaders with positive messages? South Africa-style truth-telling and reconciliation? Finding out best selves? It’s way past time.

As I was about to post this, I came across the words of fellow CN blogger Bob Schneider, a different take on a similar theme. You might like it: American Politics Needs Couples Counseling.

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