I have to admit I’m kind of fascinated with watching politicians these days. Not so much because it’s like being in the monkey house at the zoo trying to figure what’s going on in the minds of the inhabitants…….OK, that may be involved a little bit. But my fascination is really because  I see actions unfold that violate every principle of good coping we try to develop in this blog.

I mean, we’re talking lousy coping techniques using personality defense mechanisms, suspension of reality, avoiding life……..you name it, they’re all there in a beautiful psychology lab for viewing. Want some examples?

Listen carefully to how supporters respond when they hear criticism of 45. Typically their response will include one of the following words: Obama or Hillary. That’s right! They behave like the 18-year old brought before the judge for drunk driving. The kid says, “But Your Honor, you should see all the laws my old man breaks when he’s behind the wheel!”

Dad’s behavior is your best excuse, kid? It’s great rationalization that helps the kid avoid admitting he was wrong. But the fact is, when we justify our behavior by pointing out the terrible actions of others, we are showing we have no defense for what we did, but we sure aren’t going to admit it.  That’s pure denial, self-defeating avoidance, lousy coping, and a firm step down the road to depression.

How about this for avoidance: The Democrats got so mad that the Republicans worked in private on a health bill (precisely what Dems did in 2009), that they took steps to obstruct regular business on the Senate floor. This action is like spreading rumors about a co-worker who is working privately on a project and won’t tell you about it. So you go on the attack: “Hey, Joe, is there any truth to the rumor that [co-worker] is in trouble for lying to the boss?” Yeh, displace your hypocritical guilt onto others. Get the rumor mill started against your enemy. Lousy coping!

Here’s projection avoidance. Have you ever heard a reporter ask a Democrat or Republican why nothing is getting done? The reply is totally predictable: “Nothing is getting done because the other side of the aisle is not willing to work with us.” Wow, it must be comfortable living in a world that is so simplistic. Good luck in coping with the real world! Why not admit that what you’re criticizing in others is precisely what you don’t like seeing in yourself?

The adolescent Tweeter-in-Chief? All he wants to do is campaign, not govern, in an endless search for self-glorification. That’s the ultimate denial of current reality: “I must keep my ego strong to hide my insecurities from others. I must stay in my comfort zone or I might fall apart.” Perpetual campaigning in the comfort zone might work for him, but for us mere mortals, if we lock ourselves in our comfort zone we’re asking for problems down the road. Imagine parents afraid to act like parents, so instead they interact with the kids like they’re college buddies. “My kids love me!” Lousy parental coping and everyone is going to suffer.

Don’t emulate these people because they are terrible role models. As a first step, don’t be nasty to those who disagree with you when you’re on Facebook or Twitter. Express your opinion but show some respect for others. My wife recently saw a post with a profanity-laden speech supporting 45. She posted a reply objecting to the profanity and received a nasty reply belittling her for having her head in a hole. Why so nasty? What would be so hard about writing a reply more like, “I agree that the profanity did not add anything and was unnecessary. Still, the speech was good because it pointed out the problems we have and I believe DT can solve them.” Civility, courtesy, and respect for others are always conducive to self-respect and good coping.


  1. I would like to comment on your statement about your wife who” recently saw a post with a profanity-laden speech supporting 45″. I am the person you are referring to who belittled her ” for having her head in a hole”. That speech had nothing to do with our president whom she referred to as a “buffoon”. It was from the opening scene from an HBO series called THE NEWSROOM on June 24, 2012. I just feel like you didn’t have all of the facts on your comment.


  2. This was a very interesting read about how politics govern the way people behave, the way others react to each other, and how politicians can never come together to form a “united” approach to solving current issues. The reality is that there will always be others who think differently from us. Although this is not the issue, the problem is how people react to the news and politics. Regardless of what political ideology a person holds, there is one core topic that has continued to stay relevant throughout the past several years. That topic is the discussion of race in America. Something that both Democrats and Republicans can come together to agree on is how significant this topic has been in the past 5 years. In the field of psychology, cultural competence is not just a courtesy but it is a right. The way that we speak to one another is extremely important and does not only reflect how we ethically perform our jobs, but in all areas of expertise. Without having to get too political I do not agree with how our president has disrespected women in the past. Women such as Rosie O’Donnell, Meghan Kelly, Carly Fiorin, and many more have been subjected to inappropriate slander on live television by our own president. Do you think it is okay to disrespect the women of our country and the mothers of our children? I think not. I do not believe that people should be disrespected by anyone (let alone someone in office). In the short, we should learn how to always respect one another’s opinions and confront opposing arguments in a professional manner.
    This post was interesting, and I found the title “Politicians Are Lousy Coping Models” as a perfect fit for the content described. If I was caught sharing a different opinion as someone else, that other person should not react by insulting me and acting out immaturely. In short, I am an adult who should be treated with the same level of respect as those around me expect for themselves.


  3. You’re correct that race has remained a core topic of discussion that has remained relevant over the years. In fact, the racial debate raged in colonial times ever since the first slaves were brought to this continent. Also, most people do not realize that many of the compromises reached while debating the Constitution in 1787 were based on race, even though the words slavery and slave do not appear in the document. Most of the Founders knew two things quite well: First, if the slavery can were not kicked down the road as far as possible, ratification of the Constitution would be impossible. Second, the slavery issue was a smoldering tinderbox that would inevitably explode and threaten the Republic.
    Your comments on disrespecting women are right on! I would add two variables to the equation that are usually overlooked: First, many men, for reasons owing to their upbringing, view women as sex objects. Second, many men think they must compete with women, but their insecurities make competition a personal ego threat because they fear losing to a superior opponent. Their anxieties motivate them to try and demonstrate their power over women, often expressed (because of their view of women as sex objects) in molesting actions (a pat, tickle, grope, squeeze, grasp).


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