What's Up With That? ~ Katy Byrne

Katy Byrne Katy Byrne, MFT is a Psychotherapist in Sonoma, editor and animal lover. Her private practice specializes in: life transitions, couples communication, eating issues, moving forward, conflict resolution and the kitchen sink.


Circling the drain 

Posted on January 15, 2022 by Katy Byrne

Bending over the drain in front of my house, shoveling dirt and rocks away so the rain could flow through, my neighbor’s huge bulldog, all bulk and muscle, bolted between my legs. I jolted, standing straight up, fluttering an embarrassed request, “How about some help with the drain?” He chuckled, walking the dog away. The next day – a dazzling new ditch carved out there! 

Maybe the dog bumped into me for a reason. Could Carl Jung have been right about synchronicity, that meaningful coincidences matter.? 

Running errands later, I found a book in a darling little outdoor library: Conflict, How Productive Disagreement Leads to Better Outcomes. In the news there is nothing but conflict, so I scratched dandruff from my pandemic scalp. Opening it, I was skeptical. Then I found the story about how Wilbur and Orville Wright raised the roof with their disagreements. Later Wilbur wrote about the way they bickered:  “No truth is without some mixture of error, and no error so false but that it possessed no element of truth.” 

Ivonette Miller, a niece of the brothers, wrote that they were adept at “arguing and listening.” Also, their trust in each other and relentless focus on the same goal helped. The night the Wrights argued about how to fix the well digging problem, Orville did not sleep. The next morning the airplane was finally formed. Was this book landing in my lap for a reason?

So, how can we successfully rally around conflict, fighting and deep divides? Can’t we, the people, at least agree that we want to stop circling the drain? It wasn’t always easy with my neighbor but we’ve hung in there for twenty-five years and shared an aim – peaceful coexistence. Can’t we the people at least agree on a few basic things like safety and respect for life?

If we’re circling the big drain in the U.S., is there any way but down?

“American Facism,” screamed the Chronicle.“The most revolutionary thing we can do at the moment, then, is abandon our political tribalism, which is rooted in another era, learning to compromise with one another, rally behind a forward looking vision and do the work to become the place we claim to be.” 

In the Washington Post, Barbara F. Walter, a political science professor at the UC San Diego, says: “We are closer to civil war than any of us would like to believe.” She lays out the reality: “No one wants to believe that their beloved democracy is in decline, or headed toward war. But, if you were an analyst in a foreign country looking at events in America …you would go down a checklist, assessing each of the conditions that make civil war likely. And what you would find is that the United States, a democracy founded more than two centuries ago, has entered very dangerous territory.” 

Could more discourse and a deeper dialogue, more understanding of each other’s views, dig us out of this ditch? Socrates was big on questioning, and disagreement. He believed that the best way to dispel illusions and identify fallacies was the exchange of arguments, on the town square of Athens. 

Then again, look what happened to him.


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