A psychiatrist discusses a way to negotiate with spiritual wisdom
By Dr Russell Razzaque
The British public are being treated to an entirely novel view this year; politicians talking to each other. Instead of exaggerating and emphasizing, through loud speakers, the differences between each other, they are actually sitting down and treating one another with mutual respect. Straight after the general election, the Conservative and Liberal Democratic parties started negotiating a compromise program. This form of negotiation is, as the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, himself acknowledged the morning after the election a scenario “unknown to this generation of political leaders”.
The result of the 2010 UK general election was a hung parliament. This means that no one party has an overall majority in parliament, which is something Britain is not used to. Unlike in continental Europe, where coalition governments are the norm because of their electoral system, the UK political system is almost entirely adversarial where one party usually holds all the power and the opposition has none and, as a result, vehement confrontation tends to be the order of the day. The weekly clash of Prime Ministers’ questions - the world’s first prime time reality TV show - is the most visible manifestation of this.
The sight of our politicians apparently growing up over night to engage in mature adult conversation with each other is truly refreshing and one that much of the public are reacting to favourably.
The impulse to descend back into the confrontational default is, however, never too far from the surface. After all ours is a system that goes back several hundred years. The key to success in this new form of adult politics, however, is almost a spiritual one; it’s all about honouring the tribal instinct within while at the same time remaining anchored to the calm centre that sits within us all.
This is where negotiation can indeed become a form of spiritual practise for anyone engaged in it - especially politicians. The fact is that there are two dimensions to all of our personalities; one part - whether we call it the ego, lower self or, as I prefer, the outer self - that wants drama, material reward, excitement, popularity and pleasure, and another part - our higher self as some refer to it, or inner self as I prefer - that is detached from the roller coaster of the outer realm and that is our core centre of peace, acceptance and stillness. We constantly bridge these two parts of our inner world - the part that wants change, and the part that is acceptance - and progress is only really possible when we are able to embrace both these contradictory elements of our inner world.
This is why, If the negotiator is able to simultaneously remain in touch with the side of his/her self that yearns for change and fast impatient action, as well as the deeper layer of the self that maintains an acceptance for all that is, genuine expansion can occur in both the outer and inner worlds. It is for this reason that all negotiated progress is incremental. Just as it should be.
This is what progressive political change is all about and it is a great relief that this time Britain’s politicians have been forced by the public to practise it.
Dr Russell Razzaque is a London based medical doctor & psychiatrist. If you liked this article you may benefit from his online self help program. Sileotherapy is a combination of internet therapy and self improvement.