CEO Insights

The Truth About Cleaning a Swamp (It’s Messy.)


When my dad was superintendent of schools, many moons ago, a friendly art teacher painted him a picture of a few easily identifiable alligators strung up by their necks, indicating that it was “time to drain the swamp.” Probably, most of us get this kind of a picture in our minds when someone comes into office saying, “I’m going to drain the swamp.” We think of which alligators need to go and what changes should be made, but we forget that the swamp has its own eco system with ripples that spread far and wide.

Alligators aren’t the only animal in the swamp. And as soon as you step into those waters, the mud starts swirling, it gets difficult to see clearly, and all the swamp creatures start to panic. There are a whole lot of creatures, some quite beautiful and beneficial that live in the swamp. Their whole lives depend on not stirring the waters. So they panic. They make noise. They flap their wings. They get confused and maybe they begin to fight back.

Donal Trump was elected to drain the swamp. To bring change to a very polarized, and in many cases, unethical and corrupt system. Yes, it’s full of alligators, but it’s also full of some really committed people wanting to do the best for the country. And of course there are those that just want to keep their jobs and don’t really give a rip. Clashing values and ideas, many good and many not so much, are being touted and defended and attacked all at the same time.

So why are we surprised at the chaos that seems to be flooding the news these days? Why are we shocked when a variety of opinions are exposed? We have stirred up the ducks who were resting quietly in their nests and they panic and start flapping their wings to get away. As they try to fly, we all just start shooting randomly, whithout really aiming., and there’s a whole lot of collateral damage.

We elected this president to bring change. Change is messy. As a therapist, working with couples and families, and businesses, I find that any time a crisis arises, things come out in the open that were easy to not talk about before, and the conversation gets messy and confusing and hurtful and scary. All kinds of previously unspoken opinions are soon flying all over the place because people get scared. They fear for their jobs, their identity, and what has become familiar, even if that which is familiar is not all that beneficial or healthy.

If we want to make changes, we need to give people the opportunity to speak their beliefs and hold off on the knee-jerk shotgun approach: “That doesn’t make sense to me: Bam!” “I disagree with that: Bam!” “How could you think that? Bam!” “You’re an evil jerk: Bam!” We are responding to the haters in their own language: hate. We see disagreement as an attack and we become instantly defensive, driving all parties back into their own safe corners where everyone agrees with them, making our county more polarized than ever.

The world needs strong leaders, with a well developed internal locus of control, deeply and securely grounded in intergrity and searching for truth. Not what each individual believes to be true, but real truth, which in most cases involves a view from a variety of vantage points.

What is currently being exposed is that, apparently, most people ( if the news and social media are any indication) don’t have that strong internal locus of control. Our country is beginning to look like a bunch of 6 year olds in a brawl. It resembles a soccer team of 5 year olds that don’t actually understand how to hold their positions yet and they all chase after the ball like we glom onto the latest drama. We forget that if we just detach a bit and pull away from the politically correct jargon and popular cause of the moment, that we are able to see all sides of the argument, and are better equipped to give a thoughtful answer or response, increasing the chances of finding a solution that works.

We need to renew our values and inner strength, and that is not done by throwing stones because we are offended or angry. It comes by developing and strengthening the characteristics of wisdom, compassion, creativity, love and self control. This takes time and effort, of course, but it is the only way that we will be able to make the changes that we say we are seeking. We need to slow down and listen to the wisdom within each one of us, before we destroy each other with our reactivity.

Marianne Clyde, LMFT, best selling author of Zentivity™: How to Eliminate Chaos Stress and Discontent in Your Workplace and founder of the award winning Marianne Clyde Center for Holistic Psychotherapy and Be the Change Foundation.


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