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Changing For Good: Relationship Lessons From The Words of Dr. Martin Luther King

Dr. Martin Luther King
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that."
Dr. Martin Luther King,

by Jude Treder-Wolff, LCSW, BCD, TEP
     February is Black History Month, and an opportunity to reflect upon Dr. Martin Luther King's unconventional and seemingly counter-intuitive approach to oppression and injustice and apply it to our daily interactions at home and work. He spoke stirringly about peoples' real and immediate suffering while inspiring them to work toward change they might never see in their own lifetime. He communicated with clarity and force about long-standing wrongs while encouraging civil, collective movement toward a new way of thinking for all of society. "Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism," he said, "or in the darkness of destructive selfishness."
      Intimate partnerships and family life are a mini-society in that both are created by intricate weaving of our actions and choices with those of others. Both contain the energy to support or block the pursuit of our dreams and realization of our better selves. Struggles for social change and in personal relationships are more often between “old and new’ than between “me and you,” and have the potential to take us from dark to light, like Ebeenezer Scrooge, or dark to darker, like Darth Vader. “The arc of the moral universe is long,” said Dr. King, “but it bends toward justice,” encouraging oppressed people to think beyond their hurt and anger and envision themselves as playing a larger role in reshaping the world. 
              The nature of interdependency is a balance of benefits - psychological safety, support, and life satisfaction, according to numerous studies – and sources of conflict. Our need to be right can interfere with respect for others. Our need for power – or simply the fear that someone else will take advantage of our vulnerability - locks us into battle-ready positions from which we will tend to perceive any disagreement or disapproval as a threat. An underlying fear of loss can turn normal differences of opinion into pitched battles for control.
     But as the Civil Rights movement demonstrated, the seeds of transformation are sown through conflict. Dr. King's visionary approach sought to transform and uplift the whole rather than satisfy resentments, which is probably why we may feel tremendous resistance to applying it in real time. We may have grown comfortable staying small, feel safe in woundedness that justifies indulging the “inner wimp” always ready to run or the “inner warrior” always ready to rumble. But small shifts in our attitudes can make large differences. Simply opening our awareness to what others experience as a consequence of our actions can generate good will in a relationship. Respectful communication, especially in disagreements about hot-button issues, pays off in the ability to come up with long-term strategies when ‘live-and-let-live” is the only solution. And we don’t have to be some sort of “relationship genius” to do this, although it helps to want a transformed relationship more than we want to “win.”“Everybody can be great because anybody can serve,” according to Dr. King. “You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve... You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

Jude Treder-Wolff will perform her solo show CrAzYToWn: my first psychopath at Broadway Comedy Club, 318 W. 53rd St. New York, NY on Feb. 18 and 25, 2012. Click here for more information.
How do you know that nice, helpful guy in the next cubicle is a psychopath? You don’t. Some people can lie better than the rest of us can tell the truth.In Crazytown, real-life therapist/performer Jude Treder-Wolff takes you down the rabbit hole of belief that led to her being blind-sided by reality. It’s a comic take on an over-eager therapist getting over herself (when nothing else seemed to be working). And these days, when our phones are smarter than we are, and we can meet, fall in love, shop for a ring and get some counseling with someone and never meet them in person – it’s a cautionary tale about how authentic a completely fake person can be



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