Congress – America’s Biggest Dysfunctional Family

Congress doesn’t work anymore because it is like a dysfunctional family.

A family in which there is a string of successive fathers, who try to do something for the family -to make it like they want it – while bringing their own wounds and dysfunctions to the group. A family in which there is no mother at the head of the family. Where did she go? Who took her? Who got rid of her? Where in the world is she? Her absence leaving the dysfunction that comes of abandonment. Even if she was barred from the family.

A family in which the siblings have learned to fight with each other . . . some of them while pretending they’re not fighting; some of them under the guise of friendship; some of them fighting in public view while being close in private; some of them trying to win; some of them trying to make the others fail; some of them fighting to the death, albeit figurative death . . . to date. None of them seeing what they are doing to each other. All of them blind and uncaring about what they are doing to the family. Fighting for what they want . . . the family be damned! The consequences be damned!

And that’s what our members of Congress are doing. They’re acting like the children in a horribly dysfunctional family. They’re in adult bodies. Some of them even have adult personas. But some of them, many of them, looking and acting like children right out in full view. Meanwhile they are all (or almost all) regressed children . . . as young as the age at which they were wounded in their own early lives. We have regressed, wounded children running our Senate. We have regressed and wounded children attempting to do the business of our House. We have regressed and wounded children claiming to lead our country.

When we are wounded as children, we get stuck at that age, that point in time, that developmental level. We may grow around the wound, but the wound is left there in the center. We may create defenses that help us seem to develop around the wound, but the defenses don’t dissolve the wound. Until we actually heal the wound, we will consistently, under stress, regress back to the level of that small child — mentally, emotionally, in some ways even physically.

No amount of bandaids will heal the wound. No quick fixes, no matter how simple or how sophisticated, will heal the wound. No amount of managing of behavior, thoughts, or feelings will heal the wound and help the development to continue. The dysfunction will continue, even expand and escalate . . . until we heal the wound to its root.

Our Congress is a dysfunctional family. A family of wounded children. The family needs therapy . . . both as a family and every member of the family.

But…is it just our Congress that’s a dysfunctional family?

© Judith Barr, 2010


In my work as a psychotherapist, I work tirelessly to help people either birth or reclaim their voices.  It’s not that they can’t speak. It’s that they are unable to speak up – for themselves, for someone they love, or for something they believe in. 

Perhaps that ability was squashed when they were babies, before they barely birthed and found their own voices – literally and emotionally.  When they cried – the way babies speak – someone was triggered by their crying and got frustrated, angry, or even abusive.  Or perhaps they were two years old, saying ‘no’ as a way of finding their individuated, own unique selves, and again, someone was evoked by their expressing themselves. That adult someone mistakenly thought the child was trying to control him or her and decided “I’ll show them who’s boss.”

Children can be scared out of using their voice – out of speaking their minds and their hearts – by the threat or actuality of attack or abandonment. When that happens, the work of healing to use their voice is deep, touching, and very real.

In thirty plus years doing this work, I would say every single person I’ve worked with has experienced this wound and needed to do the healing to have and be able to use their voice well and without abusing it. Not because these people were sick, but because they were wounded in relation to their own voices.

Watching our country over the past years, I would say many, many citizens in our country are suffering from the same wound. Some who don’t speak up when they need to.  And some who speak up so abrasively, even so abusively that you might mistakenly think they had no problem with their voice at all.

This shows up in our elections. It shows up in our disagreements about important controversial issues such as healthcare, a woman’s right to choose what happens with her body, and prejudice about people who are different from us. And most recently, it is showing up in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision that a corporation has a voice – a limitless voice – through unlimited use of its money to fund campaign ads for candidates of its choice.*

It is bizarre to give a corporation voice that in the constitution was meant for human beings.  It is bizarre to give a corporation such unlimited voice in elections, and especially under the guise of protecting first amendment rights to freedom of speech. That in itself will likely squash people’s individual voices, especially those of politicians running for office.  That is one of the potential consequences of this decision. But that’s not the voice I’m most concerned about today.

Today I’m concerned that I haven’t heard enough voices of individual citizens expressing themselves about this ruling.  Usually when something that has this much impact occurs, many of my clients talk about it in sessions.  They discuss their feelings about it, and they explore what it brings up in them. Something it would serve us all to do.  Very very few are exploring this event. My colleagues usually speak up about something like this . . . I’m not hearing any talk about this other than passing comments right after the decision.

And I’m concerned that I’m not hearing or reading very much about it in the media. It hasn’t come up on my internet news page since the day after the decision. And I haven’t heard it on the news to which I’ve listened since that same day. 

I shudder to think what such voicelessness can create in our country.
Actually, I shudder to think what voicelessness created an environment in our country in which such a ruling could be made and people would be quiet about it.

We have a lot of healing to do to move from being a voiceless people to a people who will and do use our precious voices to speak up for truth and justice . . . consistently, effectively, and impactfully.

Where is your voice?

*From MSNBC: “In a landmark ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday struck down laws that banned corporations from using their own money to support or oppose candidates for public office. By a 5-4 vote, the court overturned federal laws, in effect for decades, that prevented corporations from using their profits to buy political campaign ads.”
( )

(c) Judith Barr, 2010


A few nights ago, I saw the movie, Frost/Nixon. It was a profound movie at a crucial time in the life of our country. There were moments when the theater was absolutely silent and still – save the monologue or dialogue on the screen. More silent, more still than at any movie I’ve ever attended.

People told me afterward that many of those moments, they were thinking – Bush. The similarities were consistently in my awareness.

For me . . . I was moved by the humanness. For me . . . I was left in tears . . .
For the former president . . . who was so deeply wounded, he wreaked havoc in our country and our world. Richard Nixon, yes. But also George Bush. And who knows how many other presidents. And foreign leaders, too.
And for us, the citizens, who elect presidents who are so deeply wounded that, without doing their own healing work, will most assuredly wreak havoc in our country and our world.

My tears . . . our world would be so much healthier, so much safer, so much kinder, so much more life supporting and nourishing of our positive potential, if we would really find out about the candidates who plan to run for president – their childhoods, their wounds, their psyches, their hearts – before we vote for them . . . and cry for those who are wounded, cry for those who are too wounded to be president . . . instead of electing them.

This doesn’t mean someone who has seen a psychotherapist or been helped with depression is too wounded to be president. Actually, someone who has really deeply worked with a good psychotherapist may well be even more healthy and able to serve well as president than someone who has never acknowledged his/her wounds and done the work to heal them.

My tears . . . our world would be so much healthier, so much safer, so much kinder, so much more life supporting and nourishing of our positive potential, if we would truly find out about our own childhoods, our own wounds, our own psyches, our own hearts and cry for ourselves and our woundedness. . . instead of pushing ourselves into positions in which we act out our wounds and our defenses against our wounds, wreaking havoc in our own lives and the lives of those around us –
in our families, our neighborhoods, our churches and schools, our communities, our countries, and our world.

If we would do this for ourselves,
we would also do it in relation to our leaders.
We would insist on this as the fabric of our culture.

© Judith Barr, 2009

Welcome To PoliPsych . . . Where Politics And Psychology Meet!


Imagine being empowered by the union of psychology and politics!
Imagine utilizing the joining of psychology and politics to heal not only your own life, but also the life of our country and our world!

Have you felt helpless and powerless when you thought about politics, government, and the world situation?
Have news and events in the political arena brought up raw, intense feelings for you?
Have you wanted to help the world situation, but then thought “I’m only one person . . . what can I do?”

Most people think of politics only as “here-and-now.” But I can tell you from hours and hours of experience with clients, colleagues, friends . . . politics, both for those who are directly involved in the political arena and for the average citizen, is intrinsically interwoven with our individual psychological histories.

Those in the political arena are, after all, human . . . with wounds from their own childhood which, if left unexplored and unhealed, can affect how they use their power and how they govern. Only by working with their own childhood traumas can people in office help ensure that they are able to use the power of office for the good of our citizens, our local communities, our nation, and our world.

As citizens, with our own positions of power in our lives, often when we read or hear about political issues, scandals, actions, or appointments, deep feelings are triggered in us. Our voting choices are often colored by our own inner life, and the experiences of our childhood. When something happens in the world of politics, whether it be something we are happy to see happen or something which causes us sadness or anxiety, we may begin to look outside for solutions to the world’s problems, assigning blame or praise, or the responsibility to fix things . . . rather than using the world of politics as a mirror of ourselves, to help us, and our world, heal.

This blog is here to help you navigate the world of politics through the lens of psychology. In this blog, I will explore with you both the psychology underlying political events . . . and also how to use the actions of our leaders as a mirror to ourselves, to heal and transform our individual perceptions of politics and our individual lives . . . and in doing so, help to create the healing we would all love to see in our world.

(c) Judith Barr, 2009