Thursday, October 3, 2013

The GOP's unhealthy obsessions

“The White Whale swam before him as the monomaniac incarnation of all those malicious agencies which some deep men feel eating in them…all that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up in the lee of things…all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all evil visibly personified, made practically assailable in Moby Dick” Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Obsessions are unhealthy. When Ahab’s obsession ran its course, the Pequod sunk to the bottom of the ocean. Ahab and every member of the ship’s crew, except Ishmael, drowned.  That was certainly not how Ahab saw his obsession resolving itself but obsessions seldom do.

Republicans in the US House of Representatives, including Cynthia Lummis, have stalked the Affordable Care Act since it was enacted. They’ve been obsessed as a crazed suitor and they’ve created an obsession among their base.

Not to be overly dramatic, but their obsession could be seen as a form of “domestic terrorism,” which, by definition includes actions intended “to intimidate or coerce a civilian population and to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion.”

Terrorism involves threats of harm to innocent people in an attempt to get your way over a matter with which your victims have little or any influence. The kind of terrorism with which we are more generally accustomed involves death and bodily injury. This is different. Lummis and her House colleagues have used the threats to seriously harm the economy, put people out of work, reduce the value of their savings, and refuse to pay the nation’s legitimate debts in exchange for getting what they have not been able to get through the democratic process.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a commonly used psychiatric diagnostic system in the US, defines obsession. "Obsessions are persistent ideas, thoughts, impulses, or images that are experienced as intrusive and inappropriate and that cause marked anxiety or distress...the content of the obsession is alien, not within his or her own control, and not the kind of thought that he or she would expect to have." Terrorism is a tool for satisfying extreme obsessions.

The GOP is diagnosable. They’ve voted 40 times to repeal Obamacare knowing those votes aren’t even symbolic. Their Obamacare obsession includes continual invasive urges, resulting in significant fear, distress, or discomfort. Yet, as with the target of most obsessions, repealing Obamacare is not within their control. Thus, they resort to holding the nation hostage to achieve a result otherwise unattainable by them.

One fellow Republican called them “lemmings with suicide vests.”

Psychiatrists recognize the damage caused when obsessions are not controlled. One of the recommended strategies is to focus on your greater mission. Those who understand the pathology believe if you're able to care about your most important mission you'll find yourself more firmly anchored, upright, and balanced when a wave of obsessive thoughts threatens to carry you away.

Perhaps if these politicians could focus on what is right for the nation rather than what is right for their party?

Professionals urge obsessed folks to accomplish tasks that help put your obsession behind; turn to something you've been neglecting, e.g. your job as a congressman.

Finally the seriously obsessed are advised to listen to what others say. If friends express concern over your obsession, they're probably right. Be open to these messages. Your base isn’t always your best friend. You’ve expended a lot of energy convincing them your obsession is their problem. If you’re going to recover, you’ll have to come clean.

I know what House Republicans are going through. My 3-year-old grandson recently lost his favorite toy, Captain Hook. He became obsessed with locating it. We searched to no avail. We didn’t lose it, had no control over where it was…but he was obsessed with finding Captain Hook. So, Grandpa explained to him that sometimes you don’t get what you want. He was good with that and went on to something else.

But then he’s a three-year-old, not a Republican member of Congress.

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