The Power of Paradox

Do you recall that old expression of “reverse psychology” as used to reference such things as how to get a toddler child to eat his spinach? Order him not to eat it for it would make him too big and powerful. Or how to stop a teenager from smoking cigarettes by ordering him to smoke the whole pack at once in order to practice adult inhaling. Crazy stuff like that? Always sounded too good to be true, but made for an interesting fantasy.

The field of counseling psychology has long considered this a kind of “strategic” formula for working with oppositional and defiant clients otherwise considered unworkable or untreatable. The great Austrian analyst, Victor Frankl, used the term “paradoxical intention” to suggest there are indeed times when ordering the opposite seems to have the best chance for success. Order the couple complaining of sexual frigidity or impotence to refrain from sexual intimacy for the next two months, or the individual complaining of insomnia to refrain from any sleep for the next two nights. This amounted to a kind of “reverse psychology” when trying too hard had made things worse in the first place. Trying too hard in opposite direction became known as using “the power of paradox.”

Jesus, per the New Testament Gospels, reportedly used this very strategy to spread the word of his healing abilities. Tell no one what you have just seen, was sometimes his strongest advice.  And his least taken prescription.

So I got to thinking the other day about who it is that has the power to influence the policies of our current US President. This, afterall, seems to be a man who seeks his own direction at all costs. No one, whether we’re talking personal attorneys or party officials, can get away with telling him what has to be done. To such strong advice, he typically responds with “we will see what happens.” Translation: “I will do what I want to do when I want to do it.”

There are those in our country who look to the assigned special counsel of Robert Mueller as one who has some actual power over our President. But I’m not so sure.

From my own perspective, the only person who really has actual power over this President is our previous President. That’s right. President #44 seems in my mind to have the greatest power over the behavior of President #45.

Were #44 to privately call and advise #45 to, for instance, be very careful not to submit to any non-scripted interview with [special counsel], I think we might begin to see the power of paradox take shape. Were #44 to further advise that under such a circumstance, #45 must plead the 5th Amendment or else claim amnesia if asked to reveal any sensitive information under oath, the paradoxical behavior of #45 might actually take place. And for #44 to then go public with a televised pronouncement such as, “I have no doubt that [45] will weakly lose such a contest if he agrees to be interviewed by a strong champion like [special counsel],” would pose real power over the behavior of #45. As would such a public statement as, “when I was President, I’d maybe not have had the courage to meet alone with such a [special counsel] in an oral interview unless by subpoena and only then if I could have pled the 5th or else have conveniently forgotten when asked an incriminating question.”  Or perhaps another public statement such as, “knowing #45 so well as I do, I would most definitely expect him to fire the special counsel rather than cooperating with any request for an unscripted interview under oath.”

In short, the bigger deal #44 might privately make over why #45 has to avoid cooperating with the Mueller investigation, while then publicly stating this as a matter of protection against some exposed weakness and defeat, the more power he would actually have to drive #45 away from such avoidant behaviors.

And so, for my own part as a private U.S. citizen voicing my own opinion in accord with my 1st Amendment rights, I hereby order President #44 to under no circumstances say anything directly about why #45 should refuse to truthfully answer this special counsel’s personal inquiry. In fact, #44 should refuse comment if ever asked to publicly advise his successor about how to best protect himself from further scrutiny in the matter of this alleged, by #45 and his attorneys, Russian “hoax.” That is my final prescription as #44’s personal advisor.


A prayer for the people

Dear God, you have heard my prayers oft’ repeated asking you to help break our hearts by that which has first broken yours. Today our hearts are broken. But not as badly as yours.

Our hearts are often broken by the suffering of your children around the world who are poor and oppressed. But not as often as yours.

Our nation of the United States of America has been made great by those very occasions when we have welcomed ashore those who are tired, poor, and yearning to break free. Yet today, we are facing one of the greatest ironies to be found within our own history as a nation.

We have most recently celebrated your coming to the world in the body of your Son Jesus, for his own declared purpose of proclaiming good news to the poor and freedom for the captives. This was in fulfillment of your law and prophets so terribly misunderstood by the ancient nation of Israel and among his own people. He came to help break the hearts of your people by that which had first broken yours. The great irony was that his own nation was soon divided between those whose hearts were newly broken by their new understanding of your law and prophets as fulfilled by your Son Jesus, and those whose hearts remained hardened by their continued misunderstanding.

This same great irony now plagues our own divided nation, dear God.

We, too, as in the days of Jesus, are divided between those whose hearts are broken and those who remain hardened by their continued misunderstanding of your law and prophets.

If we ever caught onto the plot in the first place concerning the Christ of Christmas who clarified your divine understanding of your law and prophets to mean, “So in everything do unto others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12), we have in significant numbers lost it despite that Christmas season now barely behind us. And those who have lost this plot have sown division within our land and your world at large by their support of a President who would proclaim bad news to the poor and oppression for the free.

This has broken your heart anew, Lord, and so I pray anew that you will help break an even larger majority of hearts within our nation. Break our hearts so badly that we might work in unity to overcome those whose support of this President would continue dividing us. Break our hearts so badly that we might grasp anew the very plot by which your story becomes our story. Break our hearts until Americans of all races, religions, creeds and classes will finally do unto others what we would have others do unto us………….. if we were your world’s tired, poor, and huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Break our hearts until we, too, can understand the very purpose for your coming to earth as the Christ of Christmas. Amen.