Walter Jacobson, M.D.

Walter Jacobson, M.D.

Posted January 31, 2010

Published in Lifestyle

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What Can Our Political Passions For President Obama Tell Us About Our Personal Relationships?

Read More: anger, change, compromise, growth, President Obama, relationships, resentments, success

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The following commentary is a generalization. It doesn't apply to everyone, but it does appear to be an extremely common scenario disturbingly prevalent in our country today. Equally so, the generalization doesn't apply solely to those who don't care for President Obama. It is equally true of those who passionately favor him.

For the sake of this commentary I have chosen to focus on those who don't currently care for him because of what I observed this past week during and after his State of the Union address which appears to validate the point I'm trying to make. That being said, here we go:

People who don't like President Obama, for whatever reasons, are either unwilling or unable to discern the good in him and the good that he has to offer our country and the world. They paint him with a broad brush, negating anything he says or does by perceiving it in a harsh light, by interpreting his words and actions to fit their perceptions that he is dangerous and disingenuous.

Not wanting to give up their passionate position about him as a person and a president, they stay fixed in their views, even when the facts challenge their perceptions. They are not interested in facts because facts would force them to change their mind about him. Facts would force them to soften their stance and take a more compromising position, which they just don't want to do.

They don't like him. And that's that. And even though finding a way to perceive him in a better light would likely lead to changes that would benefit them, they're just not going to go there. They will go against their own best interests by staying fixed in their ideological prejudice.

They're not going to give him the benefit of the doubt. They're not going to try to see anything from his point of view. They're going to hang onto their biases and resentments, fueled by their fear that should they let down their guard and embrace him in some way, it will lead to their ultimate downfall, which isn't true, but nobody can tell them that.

They listen and watch the political pundits and media outlets that confirm their suspicions, reinforce their fears, and fuel their anger. And they denigrate, deride, invalidate and neutralize the pundits and media outlets that offer opposing points of view, regardless of any facts that are presented which clearly, if one is willing to look at facts objectively, have truth on their side.

These all or nothing polarized positions, from those who love him or hate him, from those who are either Democrats, Republicans, Conservatives, Liberals, Libertarians, Progressives, Ultra-Conservatives, Independents, etc., are seriously hazardous to the health of our democracy, our economy and our humanity because they prevent a meeting of the minds. They prevent cooperation and compromise which are critical for growth and positive change that is healing and meaningful.

As long as all these different political factions stay fixed in their ideological morass, we will get nowhere. There is little value in insisting on sufficiently distorting reality to defend an agenda that is too self-centered to allow for reconciliation and repair.

The same can be said for our personal relationships.  When we are angry and resentful towards our partner, we see everything in terms of the past, in terms of what they have done to us, how badly they have behaved, how unloving and inconsiderate they have been and still are.

When they make efforts to change, to be more loving and receptive to our needs, their actions and words fall on deaf ears. We are entrenched in our anger and hurt, such that it prevents us from perceiving them in any positive way.

Everything they say and do is filtered through our rage and resentments, such that regardless of them saying or doing something that might be different from their past words and actions, we distort all of it to conform to our biases, to confirm our negative feelings towards them, and to reinforce our anger and our sense of victimhood.

All of this keeps the relationship fractured and impossible to repair.

As long as we stay fixed to our polarized position, we will never be in a frame of mind to see our partner's positive perspectives and efforts, in which case, if our goal is to stay in the relationship and make it something positive, loving, satisfying and enriching in our lives, we will never open that door to see their point of view, give them the benefit of the doubt, and reconcile our differences for the greatest good of all concerned.

As long as we stay stuck in our judgments, unwilling to see anything they say or do in a positive light, we are shooting ourselves in the foot. We are sabotaging our own dreams of future joy and peace of mind. We are making ourselves the victim of the relationship long after our partner has done their share of victimizing us.

If we want our relationships to heal, to prevail and to thrive, whether they be relationships with our President, our boss, our associates or our loved ones, we must stop this self-destructive behavior. It is childish. It is petulant. It is self-indulgent. It is a no-win scenario for all concerned, especially ourselves.

It's time to soften the heart. It's time to put aside old judgments and resentments. It's time to forgive and forget. It's time to accept and nurture.

Additionally, we have to be willing to be the first one to make the effort. It is critical that we be the first one to make the effort, regardless of whether this is perceived as an act of weakness.

It's not an act of weakness to be the first to extend the olive branch. It's an act of strength, because if we wait for our partner to wake up, smell the decay, and make the first move towards defrosting the impasse in the relationship, it may be too late, the relationship having reached the point of no return to a more loving and prosperous time.