Friday, December 5, 2008

Rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic

Prorogue...did any of us know what that word meant 2 weeks ago?

The government will apparently spend the next several weeks in limbo, as all the politicians stick out their chests and proclaim themselves most capable of leading, and point their fingers at the opposition and criticize. Weeks of huff-puffery where politicians are all spending enormous amounts of energy trying to get into power, keep others out of power, and generally explain how they are misunderstood, and the opposition is unethical, inappropriate, and maybe even evil.

All of this while the latest economic news is quietly announced. The unemployment rate is going up faster than expected, manufacturing plants are closing down, people are out of work. We're heading into a period of financial stress as a country, and the politicians are so busy scrapping there is little energy or focus on "the big deal".

Kinda reminds me of something we see in family therapy. When I talk with a family about it, I will comment that rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic might be helpful, needed, or aesthetically pleasing, but completely inappropriate given the tragedy that was unfolding. Remember the movie where "the bad guys" create a fire in a garbage bin, and everyone rushes over to the emergency and looks to see what is happening and rush to put out the fire? And meanwhile, the crooks are on the other end of the town breaking into the bank?

We look and laugh at how dumb the townspeople are to not see the ruse. And then we do it in our families...we spend time arguing with our kid about how clean his room is or what color her hair is while we don't know how lonely and confused they are. Or we fight with our spouses about the bills or the laundry, and don't really connect to hear how terrified s/he is about the latest medical bills. Or a child receives lots of attention for an eating disorder which successfully detracts attention from her parents' miserable marriage--and when they are both worried about her, she can relax just a little 'cuz at least they aren't fighting for the moment. They unite in battling the disease. Everyone is locked into looking after the issue of the moment rather than dealing with the real issue--the issue of the moment may be a important, but pales in comparison to what is really going on.

Dealing with the "real issue" is important...if the townspeople can figure out the pattern, not allow themselves to get distracted, they arrest the bad guys, and the town is safe from the distracting fires and from the bank robberies.

Make no mistake--finding and dealing with the real issue is challenging--requires courage, and sometimes requires enormous discipline as the issue of the moment can seem to be so compelling. Look around--dig a little, and see if the problem really is "the" problem, or a necessary/helpful/tricky distraction. Find the guts to notice the real deal in your own family and deal with it--gently but bravely.

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