Psychobabble Politics

Being a therapist, I often encounter clients who come in using terminology that they hear in the popular media. Terms such as ‘chemical imbalance’, ‘anger management’, and even the word ‘therapy’. People often throw these terms around and end up not saying much of anything.

 Ask a person in ‘therapy’ what they want to change and you’ll often get a blank stare and some more psychobabble. The language of change requires the use of verbs , and I know I am really into a potentially productive conversation when I start to hear clients use verbs to describe changes and how they are going to occur. And hearing only  one verb usually predicts a lack of change. For example,  someone who says they are going to stop drinking won’t convince me. But if they say they are going to stop drinking and do x and do y and do z instead and talk to a or b person if they are tempted,  I am going to put my money on them.

In this context I present this article to you .  Here is an excerpt:

One of Obama’s many maneuvers involves a form of nominalization. Nominalization, in effect, takes a verb and turns it into a noun. As a consequence, an activity is — as Obama’s guru 60’s radical Saul Alinsky would say — frozen. When accomplished, Obama has been able to take important processes or means, freeze them, and then hold them out as ends in and of themselves, for which he can then be congratulated as performing better than others.

One  “means into end” abuse of Obama’s lies with the word “bipartisan.” Obama has used the word to suggest he is uniquely blessed with the skills to bring people who otherwise would find it difficult to “come together” to satisfying compromises. Without the approval of both sides, obviously, a result would not be bipartisan. So “bipartisan” as used by Obama is suggestive of a skill and process in which he is skilled.

Yet “bipartisan” has developed into an end in itself. And far from meaning compromise, what Obama actually demonstrates by the term is the giving to some of the opposition the ability to air their grievances and suggestions, nothing more. He is more than happy to show the cameras he has Republicans in the room but, after all, he won the election. A bill is bipartisan not if a large number of Republicans vote in favor, but rather if Republicans are physically given access to appear at some portion of the process. In a situation where Republican votes are generally meaningless, bipartisanship has devolved to refer to an invitation to a party or session. Consequently, the process of actively engaging Republicans and incorporating their positions has turned into an end signified by simple physical participation in photo opportunities.


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