Don’t Be Fooled

The purpose of this article is to offer the idea that institutions – governments. schools and organized religion, among many others – have never had the power to change human nature. Institutions, however, do foster changes in behavior – that’s very different from human nature – but that force often proves short-lived. The failure of communism is just one example.

In a high-functioning society, each individual is expected to take responsibility for his/her own well-being. People who are unable to do so should be cared for. Naturally, we must rely on certain institutions to protect us – police, fire, military – to be sure. We need other protections from bad behavior, such as the FDA and USDA. We need safety inspectors and standardized guidelines to govern the manufacture and sale of potentially dangerous products and materials. No one can do everything for himself. The problem comes when people decide that institutions should take care of them in every area of their lives.

If you disagree that you are responsible for your well-being, and, instead, depend on institutions to give you the life you want, you will probably encounter problems. Institutions, just like people, will not always perform to your expectations. They will let you down sooner or later.

Please consider the following three real-life scenarios of people who do not quite get the idea.

An old friend of mine, who does not share all of my political views, has told me that if only his preferred political party obtained more power all over America, everything would be alright. He maintains that the opposing party is causing all the trouble in America and around the world. For him, the ‘right’ politics is the solution to the world’s problems.

Secondly, an extremist member of Congress recently recently said that, if the policies of her wing of her party would be enacted, they could get rid of greed and corruption. The same assumption is being used by this congresswoman as by my good old friend.

Thirdly, a high school student, working as a checker at a local supermarket, recently told me that he hoped to go to law school and then enter politics, with the intention of making the world a better place.

If you know something about history, you know that, at no time since the dawn of humankind, has any individual or group succeeded in getting rid of greed and corruption. There is no evidence that one political party is more ethical, moral or right than any other in our country, at any rate. Rare exceptions do exist, when we consider World War II, for instance. Further, no evidence exists to prove that organized religion has done anything to change humankind’s tendency to do bad things.

Why would a psychotherapist write about such a topic? In today’s troubled world, misplaced confidence in institutions has led to violent conflict. People all around the globe are encouraged to believe that they are good and right and the others are evil and wrong. Depression and anxiety are rising, not merely due to the pandemic, but also due to a toxic political atmosphere that permeates our country and many others. Family members and friends are driven apart because they’ve dug in to their positions, and are more devoted to the institutions that represent them, than to their relationships. It is nothing short of  tragic.

This misery can be avoided, if we will review our priorities and if we can relate to others with respect, and value the people in our lives more than we value our belief in institutions. This takes some serious soul-searching and the courage to look at oneself honestly.

Lots of people are struggling these days. If you are among them, and if you have lost something in the process … friendships, faith or hope … please do not hesitate to reach out. It would be an honor to be of service. The phone number is (219) 309-3928.

Thanks for reading!