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Can We Unify America Again?

American map photo A healthy person needs to be centered. In psychoanalytic terms, people need to have a strong ego. They can’t let their id (their impulsive side) or their superego (their compulsive side) run things or fight with each other about running things. The id wants to drive the car at full speed. The superego wants to drive with the breaks on. The ego needs to step in keep both of the extremes of the mind in check.

A country also needs a strong center. Extremists of the left can’t be allowed to speed things beyond control and conservatives can’t be allowed to slow things to a halt. Nor can they be allowed to endlessly fight with one another. Moderates and centrists need to be in control.

Right now radical liberals are in charge of the liberal movement and the Democratic Party. Right now reactionaries seem to be in charge of the conservative movement and the Republican Party. Radicals and reactionaries do not want unity. They don’t want a center. They want for their movement and their ideology to dominate. They want to eliminate the other side.

A healthy individual is an integrated individual. The id and superego are integrated with the ego. A healthy couple does not take extreme and stubborn positions. When the members of the couple communicate, they communicate with empathy and in a way that brings resolution. When members are extreme and rigid, they communicate in a way that brings more strife. Unhealthy couples want to be right, not to resolve things.

Unhealthy couples take extreme positions and are convinced their partner is not only wrong but dangerously wrong. One couple with which I worked a few years ago was just such a couple. Each member thought the other was raising their kids not just wrongly, but was totally messing up their young sons.

“All you ever do is give in to them,” she would tell him over and over. “You’re going to turn them into spoiled babies. They’ll end up as addicts!”

“And all you do is stomp on their balls!” he would yell. “At least I provide them with a little caring.”

They were both stuck on their extreme positions. I tried to persuade them to let go of their defensive attitudes and meet in the middle, but they were reluctant to do that. “You’re such a loser!” she would trash him. “And you’re such a Hitler.” They were a divided family, just as we are a divided society.

In order to unify America we will need to eliminate the divisiveness that engulfs us. President Trump and his Republican Party used “Make America Great Again” as their campaign slogan, but to make America great they need to unify it. They need to distinguish between moderate Republicans and Reactionary Republicans. Similarly, the Democratic Party needs to make a distinction between moderate Democrats and Radical Democrats.

Moderates (of either wing) strive for unity. Like moderate couples, they want to find a resolution to America’s problems and form a strong center, which keep extremist tendencies in check. Moderate liberals and moderate conservatives may not agree with one another, but they need to respectfully disagree. They need to be interested in having a respectful dialogue, a give-and-take dialogue that leads to compromise and resolution.

Extremists on both sides have demonized the other side to such an extent that we have a country more factionalized than it has even been since the Civil War. Right now the radical liberals appear to have the upper hand, but at another time the reactionary conservatives may gain the upper hand. Neither wants to take its foot off the gas peddle. Neither is able to look at itself objectively. Neither is able to see things realistically. When people are angry, they tend to have a “my way or the highway” mentality.

Moderates do exist, but they are not able to stand up against the angry fierceness and vindictiveness of the extremes. Indeed, moderates seem to have become terrorized by the riots, threats, name-calling, harassment and other punitive actions of the extremes. People lose their jobs and reputations because of this angry and punitive mentality and find themselves under siege, as in a war.

If the moderates of the two existing parties can’t do this, then perhaps we need a third, centrist party to come in and clean up the mess. A third party would have the advantage of not having to contend with extremism in their own party. A third party could start fresh and therefore perhaps get things done quickly and expediently. A third party would be the ego of our society, acting as a mediator of the societal id and superego.

Can We Unify America Again?

Gerald Schoenewolf, Ph.D.

Gerald Schoenewolf, Ph.D. is a licensed psychoanalyst in New York and has been practicing for over 37 years. He works with adults, couples, families, adolescents, and children. He has graduated from three psychotherapy institutes and received a Certificate in Psychoanalysis from the Washington Square Institute in 1981. He has been an Adjunct Assistant Professor of psychology at the Borough of Manhattan Community College since 2002 and has authored thirteen books on psychotherapy and psychoanalysis as well as four novels and a book of poems and drawings. More recently he wrote 20 screenplays (winning four first-place awards at festivals) and produced and directed two feature films.


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APA Reference
Schoenewolf, G. (2019). Can We Unify America Again?. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 25, 2019, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/psychoanalysis-now/2019/01/can-we-unify-america-again/

 

Last updated: 3 Jan 2019
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 3 Jan 2019
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.