25 Jan National Therapy
Violent crime: up. Covid numbers: up. Worker resignations: up. Inflation: up. Political fear levels: up. Natural disasters: up. Carjackings: up. National debt: up.
National mental health: down.
According to columnist Gerald Sieb of The Wall Street Journal, “Maybe it is time for a moment of national therapy.” Let us get a group session started.
There is Hope, Even Secular Hope
A good psychotherapist likely sets out to get to the root of the problem. That process can be long and complicated, no doubt, as there is no easy diagnosis—let alone a quick cure—for most mental health concerns.
For today’s purposes, let’s assume that our national angst stems from a sense that America is in a general and multifaceted decline. Our future appears worse than our past, many would summarize. The “joy” of living in the United States is dwindling rapidly, others would conclude, and it is unclear when or how things will turn around. The therapist then, through skilled use of probing questions, would explore each of those feelings to help the troubled patient discover a healthier outlook.
What could give Americans reasons for hope? There are several things.
First, we all may come to realize that America has declined before and arisen. After devolving into a civil war, our nation survived. After the Depression, the United States sacrificed and led a victory in World War II. After a decade of assassinations, the Vietnam War, and Watergate, we won the Cold War only a few years later. Is it not possible there is a light we cannot see today, but which still is burning within us?
Similarly, Americans perhaps can be counseled to remember that our country has a longstanding ability to change course and reinvent itself. We are an innovative, flexible, well-educated bunch. With our ingenuity, isn’t a source of optimism that our fellow citizens probably will come up with a way out of the current morass?
Yet a third form of hope could be found through this perspective: relative to every other nation on Earth, America has great freedom and power. Disadvantaged people from around the world strive to come here. We are simply loaded with resources. Not only is our economy large, it has a long history of being resilient. Our job markets, stock markets, corporate profits, and consumer spending all seem to get stronger and stronger with each passing generation. Given our attractiveness and strength, couldn’t it be a good thing for us that the rich (i.e., America) get richer?*
*None of the above sources of hope are meant to diminish or replace the assurance of eternal salvation that comes through faith in Jesus Christ. That is the greatest hope of all, by far.
Not long after the terroristic evil of September 11, President George W. Bush sought to soothe American fears with these words: “We saw that Americans were vulnerable, but not fragile—that they possess a core of strength that survives the worst that life can bring.”
Yes, it is that American “core” that our national therapy should seek to restore.
Post Trump Stress Disorder is another possible contributing factor for our national mental health struggle.*
*We are not the first ones to coin this diagnosis of the syndrome actually known as post-traumatic stress disorder, but it does seem to fit America in 2022.
When President Trump was elected in 2016, it was a major, dread-inducing shock for his opponents—including Democrats and traditional Republicans—and that trauma was worsened by events throughout his presidency. Then, when Mr. Trump was unelected in 2020, the loss obviously provoked deep fear in his many supporters—a wound that has gotten deeper in the 14 months since the election. On top of all this, there is severe stress experienced today both by Trump opponents and supporters about whether he will or will not regain the White House in 2024.
For this particular disorder, it no doubt will take multiple therapy sessions to find any relief. But, all of the reasons for hope discussed above do still apply. We can get through even this.
Written by Quentin R. Wittrock, founder of Principle Based Politics.
Look for his posts each week, as this blog will explore and promote the idea of principle in politics, both as to individual elected leaders and our federal government as an institution.