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  • Reverend James Squire

A Porsche Empathy Voting

One of the absolutes in decision making regarding the upcoming midterms is that who you vote for says more about you than anything else because of the importance of empathy in your choice. One of the teachers of doing therapy, Richard Chessick, Professor Emeritus in Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at Northwestern University, wrote two books, How Psychotherapists Heal and Why Psychotherapists Fail.

People forget that they bring their psyche and soul to the voting booth along with their political self. What heals is when we are able to treat another with empathy and unconditional positive regard. What doesn’t heal is when we fail to create an emotional climate to deal with past conflict patterns that can be created to work through your past for a better future now. People don’t realize that the therapist is paying attention to what you say, but the most powerful change agent is not what the therapist says so much as what he has done correcting negative experiences from a person’s past. The Hippocratic code says that “healing is a matter of time, but it is also a matter of opportunity.”

When you vote for a candidate, you bring your whole self to that moment in the voting booth not just your political self. Let’s just look at Fetterman and Oz as an example of the above and follow some of the teaching from Dr. Richard Chessick to create healing.

How empathetic are you as the voter? A simple example that I used in my ethics class was would you leave a note on the windshield with your contact info if you scratched a Porsche while parking your car. Some said yes and some said no. The no(s) said that if he has the money to buy a Porsche, he should have the money to fix it on his own. I then asked would you leave a note if you had your car was scratched and no one left a note for you. Some in the class had that happen. Almost all of the class said, “Yes, I would leave a note as they put themselves in the position of the owner of the Porsche.” They did because they had other experiences with scratches on cars that promoted their empathy.

So, what is there about either Fetterman or Oz that helps you to get into their shoes? What if someone in your family had a stroke? What if you dislike people in general who have a smirk on their face like someone else you know? What if you only care about someone who will be able to speak well right now? What if you knew that Fetterman’s impact by his stroke would get better sooner rather than later? What if you have had experience with slick people who you didn’t like or did like?

When you vote for a candidate would you likely give the candidate time so that he could make use of the opportunity? People who are empathetic don’t interrupt and dominate during conversations or debates. Think Trump!

How much do you pay attention to what the candidate has done in the past and the emotional climate that you sense surrounds them? What candidate says what he will do? What candidate has a track record of actually doing things that you value? Who would you like to spend an evening with who would create a climate for you to feel comfortable and empowered? Which candidate feels real? In your past do you feel that you know a person is authentic and real when you are with them? Is it all about them? Is it about their concerns for you? Is it all about demeaning the other candidate? Are they consistent with their message over time?

What separates the person who you will vote for produces a particular personal climate with their words and actions. One of the overlooked issues of beginning therapists is that they are more interested in getting the words of the exchanges with the client right. When I began my training, the focus was on writing verbatims which are documents that cover the words of an exchange. They are like a movie script. That is important but what becomes equally important is not only their words but also the “safe” climate that they create with the client in their sessions. Ultimately that is what changes people in bringing their baggage of the past to be changed for the better even with the simple issue of voting. When you leave the voting booth, you should feel good about your choice if not empowered by empathy, unconditional positive regard, and a commitment to “healing that is a matter of time, but also a matter of opportunity.”

As you leave the voting booth, do you feel that you have been given a significant opportunity in that time spent considering your choice? I think that Richard Chessick would agree with the statement if you are a Christian to “Preach the Gospel. Use words if necessary.” That is what a therapist should feel as he or she is leaving the voting booth or reaching out to another who has come to them for help. Actions create a healing environment perhaps more so than the actual words spoken.

“It's the economy, stupid” is at the heart of political speech? “It’s the climate for healing that counts when opportunity and healing meet that is at the heart of healing speech when you bring your whole self into the voting booth. Voting is the bedrock of our democracy and is so important that it focuses on healing as well as the economy. It’s an awesome responsibility!

So, would you leave a note on the windshield of a Porsche that you scratched when parking? The psychological dynamic mixed with your faith will tell you a great deal about you!

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