Walter Jacobson, M.D.

Walter Jacobson, M.D.

Posted March 27, 2010

Published in Lifestyle

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What The Abusive Health Care Reform Name-Calling Can Teach Us About Our Personal Relationships

Read More: abuse, communication, healing, health care reform, personal relationships, trust

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Last week, amidst the health care reform debate and vote, a segment of protesters, having felt betrayed by their government, filled with rage, resentments, and distrust, verbally assaulted a number of government officials with abusive name-calling.

Fearing for their future, feeling powerless to influence the process in the direction they desired, they converted their anger and frustration into hateful personal attacks that had nothing to do with the issues at hand.

Rather than stick to the issues and address their concerns in a manner appropriate to a democracy and a civilized society, rather than putting their passion into rational protest that reflected their legitimate concerns, they lashed out viciously, like an angry mob of ignorant neanderthals.

Certainly, it is very gratifying to the ego, in the moment, to rant and rave, giving full expression to our rage, displaying our personal power in all its glory.

Unfortunately, it's a false sense of power being displayed because it serves no constructive purpose.

If shooting themselves and their cause in the foot was their desire, then, by shouting their hate and venom, they were extremely successful.

But if what they really wanted was to get those people to change their minds and represent them and their interests, then, by calling them horrible names (which tends to polarize positions and make people intractable), they failed miserably.

Their actions served not only to degrade themselves and devalue their collective voice in regard to the issue at hand, they also fueled long-term consequences, in terms of generating a tremendous amount of hostility towards themselves and their causes in general.

It makes it a lot harder for there to be unity and healing in the long run, which is in everyone's best interests, insofar as the United States needs to remain united.

Now let's use the above scenario as an analogy to personal relationships which are on rocky terrain.

Oftentimes, when partners are angry with each other, rather than address the issues in a civilized manner, sticking to facts, reason, and fair, appropriate discourse, they tend to attack each other, calling each other horrible names, assaulting and abusing each other relentlessly.

This is destructive and counterproductive. It prevents true communication and any hope for true harmony. All of the name-calling causes more resentments, more anger, more distrust, and it doesn't generate a desire for cooperation. It doesn't foster understanding. It doesn't change the other person's mind.

If anything, it makes the other person more defensive and intractable. Additionally, after that particular squabble has ended, the couple, still a couple committed to their union, now have enduring emotional scars from all the hostility, aggression, and personal attacks, which act as barriers to true healing, the restoration of trust, and a strengthened union.

When we are angry with our loved ones, it is best that we stick to the issues, we stick to the facts, we don't resort to personal attacks, and we respect the person even if we disagree. It's best that we remember that our goal is not about winning the battle, so to speak, but about winning the war.

With open-mindedness, compassion, and acceptance, despite strong feelings of hurt, fear, and disapproval of our partner's attitudes or actions, and by refraining from unnecessary personal attacks on their character, we increase the potential of helping our partner change and grow, and the relationship along with it.