Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Unconditional Positive Regard . . . With Boundaries

I have started and stopped this particular post several times. I want to come up with a creative way of saying this, but I’ve resorted to just calling it like I see it. Dealing with tyrannical type leaders is like working with clients with personality disorders.

Personality disorders are something that I’ve come across quite a few times. These types of disorders are difficult for the individual, their families, and the professionals who work with them.

Now, one of my operating principles as a mental health therapist is to have unconditional positive regard for all of my clients. I would not claim to be perfect at this skill, but it is something I honestly try to do with the individuals I am fortunate enough to work with, regardless of what disorders or difficulties they might be dealing with. It is important for me to also look at what other skills I might need to use in order to best serve my clients. For individuals with personality disorders one of those skills is really firm boundaries.

Here is an example. I used to have an office downstairs. It was also across from a men’s bathroom which had the slight benefit of being able to track down some of my client’s because eventually most people need to use the facilities. But, I often kept my office door closed; the bathroom door was kind of busted and sometimes closed far too slowly. Boy, did I digress, but I mostly shared it just because I think it is funny.

Anyway, having my office downstairs meant that if clients wanted to meet with me they usually had to ask if I was available through the secretary upstairs. For, the majority of my clients if I was available I would say “sure” and just meet with them then. But, for clients with personality disorders I would insist that they make an appointment. Why? Is it because I am a meanie doughhead? Well, that might be possible. But, really it was to set up really clear boundaries. See, I would have some of these clients that would make an appointment and then not keep it, then show up some other time and expect to meet with me. Then when a new appointment was scheduled they might miss it again, and then repeat the whole pattern. By not making myself available I would help the client learn that manipulation would not work with me. It was not easy, and sometimes I got some attitude thrown at me, but in the end it certainly helped to define the professional/client relationship in appropriate terms. And, we could work together to better resolve issues that they were dealing with.

So, I look at leaders like Ahmadinejad or Kim Jong Il or Chavez and see dudes that likely could be diagnosed with personality disorders but at least in terms of foreign policy should be treated as such. It is important for our nation’s leaders to have positive regard for other nation’s leaders, but it is important to make considerations of appropriate boundaries that in the end will make for a better relationship for both countries.

There is no reason to let North Korea continue to test weapons and just hope that sending them a strongly worded message will do any good. There needs to be really firm boundaries set. Sanctions are probably a good idea. But, just assuming that if we are nice enough they will see the light and change is ridiculous. Sometimes, the kindest thing to do is to be firm.

The United States needs to show it's strength, for our own safety but also for the benefit of other nations.


Sarah J said...

Perfectly worded. President Obama and Hillary Clinton could really use a mind like you on their staff. Oh, and I agree wholeheartedly with everything you said. Firm Boundaries!!

Eve said...

There is a reason Reagan said "Peace through strength". We will never be seen as a strong country if we don't say what we mean and mean what we say. Good post! Thanks.