Now that the elections are behind us and we are looking forward to the New Year, we patiently wait with anticipation on how Congress will conduct itself in the coming term. As you know, relations between the parties have been at its all-time low. Bickering, threats of filibusters and outright contention have permeated the chambers.
In my book “The Pathway to Love” I talk about the four phases of a developing relationship. Relationships pretty much work the same regardless of whether they consist of two people or two parties in a political system. The same challenges exist as two life forces try to work together and move through the phases of a developing relationship.
Congress is definitely stuck in phase two. It is easy to get caught up in needing to win, needing to be right, and becoming paralyzed in deadlock. You may relate, feeling that no matter what you try, you simply can’t find a way for you and your significant other to see things from the same perspective, or at the very least, find a way to resolve your differences that results in a workable solution. You find yourself arguing about the same thing over and over again. You find yourself strategizing on how you can get your other “party” to understand the importance of your position and act accordingly. And finally, when all else fails, you become resigned, wondering if this relationship can survive or even if it even should. Sound familiar? Well, I can tell you that the Democrats and Republicans are feeling the same way. We Americans are feeling the same way. And we’re tired and worn out and in need of change.
In honor of all relationships—yours, our Congress’, and our international community—I offer some thoughts on how to break the deadlock. I don’t know if I can affect world peace but I will impart what I know about relationship dynamics and creating connection out of contempt.
You, your loved ones, and Members of Congress need to
Put aside the need to be right or win. Instead, no matter how painful it feels or how long it takes, each person or party needs to listen and learn from the opposing person or party. This requires asking question after question until each party has a full understanding of what is important to the other and why. This inquiry needs to be comprehensive and in-depth. Each party needs to put aside any past conclusions and approach the conversation with a fresh view and an open mind. Even if you don’t agree with another’s opinion and perspective, you can find understanding and empathy for why this perspective is so important to them.
Understand that in every crazy idea, there is an opening for brilliance. If you dismiss the message based on the messenger, you will miss some great ideas. Be willing to listen and separate out how you feel about the general approach and philosophy from the pearls that just might be glistening within the dialogue. It is also important to remember that most great ideas come from brain storming sessions—where there are no “crazy ideas”, only ideas that trigger other ideas until that one brilliant idea surfaces—that brilliant idea that resonates with everyone—the one idea that no one could have ever conceived without the participation of the opposing point of view.
Open up the system. Closed systems become stagnant and toxic. Americans need to bring new life, new members, and new ideas to Congress. Congress may need to invite outside consultants, thought leaders, and other voices to generate solutions that work. You may need to bring clergy, therapists, or other experts to help break the bubble that you and your significant other have created so that new ways of relating can be achieved. When you are stuck in deadlock, the system needs to be busted!
Create something bigger than your two opposing views. When two parties are deadlocked in fighting over who is right, it becomes imperative to find a higher common ground. The easiest and most powerful way to do this is to find a greater purpose in which to unite. Focusing on a greater purpose and vision makes it possible to let go of hidden and individual agendas and find ways to work towards higher goals. There certainly is no shortage of higher goals when it comes to our country. And I’m sure there are a multitude of higher purposes for your relationship. Let go of your ego, let go of your version of what the “we” should look like, and create a unified vision based on something bigger than you could ever have imagined on your own. Be bold.
Concede that the deadlock is here to stay. Sometimes a relationship is simply “un-workable.” If two people or two parties or two countries can’t do the work, then it may make more sense for the relationship to end. In the case of Congress, maybe the time for our two party system is over. Maybe it is time to completely transform our process for electing officials and open the system up to a non-party system. In the case of countries, for those that can’t get along and figure it out, maybe the international community needs to step in and find a temporary solution until they are able to do so on their own. In the case of your relationship, maybe your differences are so severe that the impact on you and your significant other just too toxic to justify perpetuating the cycle. Sometimes it is best to call it quits and concede that at this point in time you are simply unable to break the deadlock. Sometimes parting ways is the best solution.
Be patient. This process takes time. Just making a new inquiry into understanding requires time and patience. It takes time to let go of resistance. It takes a new kind of leadership to carve out a new and untested path. It takes courage to consider that there is another way that you haven’t considered. It takes faith to trust in the process and allow it to evolve.
So here’s my challenge to Congress. Break the deadlock or call it a day. Create something new or make room for those that can. Be willing to lose for the sake of the bigger win. We’re counting on you.
For those who believe your relationship is like Congress, I offer the same challenge. I also offer help. Sometimes it is absolutely necessary to bring in an outsider to help break the deadlock. Please don’t hesitate to contact me. You don’t need to struggle alone. This may be just the right time to heal past wounds and create something new. Take advantage of the opportunity receive the support and guidance you deserve.
As always, I’m here to support you in creating strong and powerful relationships.
Julie Orlov, psychotherapist, speaker, and author of The Pathway to Love: Create Intimacy and Transform Your Relationships through Self-Discovery
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