Bill Eddy and Psychologist Don Saposnek’s recently published book a book called, Splitting America: How Politicians, Super PACs and the News Media Mirror High Conflict Divorce. When my sixteen year-old son was recently preparing a speech on the Constitution, I decided that I would order it for his reference (and of course, for mine). I have long thought that before every new session, everyone elected or re-elected to Congress should have to attend the full 40-hour Interest-Based Negotiation class at Harvard’s Program on Negotiation. I just cannot understand why rationale adults, supposedly in the business of solving this nation’s problems, bicker and behave like undisciplined children. After reading this book, my son commented that he thinks our forefathers at the Constitutional Convention in 1797 were able to put their personal agendas aside to work for the good of the new country, but the current members of Congress cannot. While I know throughout our history there have been conflicts in our government, it does seem that it is getting worse, or at least the conflicts have been getting uglier and the polarization greater in the past few years. Eddy references J. Packer of the New Yorker, who sadly recalls that not so long ago (the 1970s), there was one common area in Congress, referred to as the “inner sanctum”, where Republicans and Democrats had lunch together; now, after a number of incidences dividing the parties into “tribes”, that dining room is mostly empty. With page-turning stories that are recent enough to still be familiar to us, Eddy takes us back and gives us a recent history and political science lesson on why this has happened. Eddy and Saposnek apply what we know about high conflict personalities in divorce to our representatives in government. They quote T. Millon in Disorders of Personality: DSM-IV and Beyond, defining “‘splitting’ as the psychological term for truly believing certain people are absolutely all-bad and others are absolutely all-good, with no gray areas in between”. They explain why, like some divorce cases, the parties (or politicians in Congress) would rather the “whole house burn down” so to speak, than have the other side prevail on any issue. Eddy gives us great ideas on how, as an electorate, we can protest the media’s propaganda, much like the grass roots movement to take cigarette commercials off the air, and educate ourselves to elect the kind of candidates who will be able to brainstorm and negotiate solutions for our nation’s problems rather than being the cause of or escalating our nation’s problems.
While less than 150 pages, this quick read will be a new favorite for those who already have books or tapes from the “Bill Eddy Collection”. (www.highconflictinstitute.com) For those of you who are new to Bill Eddy and his “collection,” please also consider reading and recommending to your colleagues and clients High Conflict People in Legal Disputes; It’s All Your Fault; Splitting: Divorcing Someone with Borderline or Narcissistic Personality Disorder; and BIFF. These books can be ordered from www.hcipress.com.