New Jersey Governor Puts Civility Before Politics

Lessons From Healthy Family Dynamics

Dr. Linda Miles, LMFT

Oct 31, 2012, 14:42 ET from MILES AND ASSOCIATES

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Oct. 31, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- New Jersey Governor Chris Christie gave the country a model of civility when he put the populace of his state ahead of politics by complimenting President Obama on his actions during the storm crisis.

As a Marriage and family Therapist for over 35 years, I have worked to help families find healthier and more productive ways to deal with stressful times. As I view societal dynamics I find myself wondering why politics has become so dysfunctional. I believe we can do better. In these trying times of unemployment, economic downturn and international tensions, we can choose to be better or choose to be bitter. Governor Christie showed us how to be better.

A review of characteristics of healthy and dysfunctional families reveals better strategies for us as a nation. Compare these dysfunctional and healthy approaches to four important societal dynamics: taking responsibility, dealing with conflict, problem solving and dealing with stress. The dysfunctional approach to the dynamic of taking responsibility focuses on shame and blame rather than expressing ideas and feelings about larger issues, while the healthy approach is for individual family members accept responsibility for their part of the problem and figure out how to best correct the problem. When dealing with conflict, a dysfunctional family does so by using criticism, contempt and defensiveness, putting up walls and looking for scapegoats. Conversely, healthy families deal with conflict by facing the issues and fighting fairly, which involves learning from mistakes and developing more effective problem solving strategies. When problem solving, dysfunctional families are disrespectful of others and use the language of putdowns, while healthy families work together to solve problems and provide mutual respect, even when they do not agree on ideas. Finally, when dealing with stress, high anxiety leads to dysfunctional families turning on one another, while healthy families help one another.

Now take a moment and consider these dynamics along with the dysfunctional and healthy approaches and apply them to our political system today. Is the political discourse in America the behavior of a dysfunctional family or a healthy family? Can Gov. Christie inspire the Congress to face issues and solve problems?

As Americans, we are now faced with a choice of our own – to be bitter or to be better. What choice will you make?

Dr. Linda Miles