Sunday, March 11, 2007

Abusive relationships and the politics of our times 

Many years ago I did some basic counselling training and learned a few things about personal relationships.

Where one partner in a relationship is emotionally manipulative it is easy for the other partner to fall into the trap of trying to second guess the first. To shape what they say and do in order to provide in advance what the manipulator wants. This classically puts them at the manipulators mercy as they can shift expectations and keep the other off balance.

I have seen this in terms of my own experience and of the experience of friends.

This sucks the manipulated dry. They become lesser people in the relationship and forget to bring their own riches to share in life. Part of the answer is to assert oneself and refuse to be defined by the limits of the other. Not always easy.

Politics is an odd business, of competition and relating. In a way, differing political parties have abusive relationships with each other –in the psychological sense as well as the invective sense. A danger is that parties (just as with individuals) become obsessed with ‘second guessing’ others and so diminish their own ability to bring riches to the public table.

For a largeish but minority party such as ourselves the second-guessing definition trap is a serious danger. A small party can hide in a niche of purity, or dance in a private tango around other peoples expectations.

We cannot, we need to explore and bring together a variety of riches, which combines and contrast with a complex of other public offerings by big players. Other people will have frameworks trying to define us in terms of those others, because it simplifies their own second guessing. This second guessing in part includes trying to fit us into other moulds, which is why ‘coalition talk’ can be so destructive.

In my more reflective political moments I am not too bothered about comparing myself to what Cameron or Brown may be up to, and actually I feel healthier concentrating on what I think can do well rather on what I think others do badly.

The political positions our opponents take will shift all over the place over the next year or so as they each grapple with the post-Blair realities.

We cannot do their guessing for them.

We need to do our own thing so that if, by future electoral chance, we can force our agenda to the table it is our rich agenda not some pre-digested set of scraps.

I do admit that my reflective political moments do not fill all of my political time!

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