Who is the President’s psychotherapist?
On Wednesday, July 24, Ghanaians observed the first anniversary of the demise of President John Evans Fiifi Atta Mills, the first Ghanaian Head of State to die in office.
It is instructive to note that one year after he kicked the bucket, many Ghanaians are still asking the question: Was President Mills simply a victim of bad company – people who cared more about their parochial interests and less about every other matter, including the health and life of the President?
That is the issue to which I wish to draw the attention of the current President, Mr John Dramani Mahama, and indeed all individuals who have presidential ambitions, as well as other leadership desires.
As a leader, the quality of one’s relationship with others is as important as one’s intellectual capacity, worldview, physical features, etc.
This is why, as President, one needs a great appreciation of psychology plus ready access to psychotherapy to enable one to deal with the emotional challenges resulting from the numerous issues that crop up by the minute.
I have always wondered if our leaders receive psychological services as much as they get physical health care while in office.
Psychological service or psychotherapy here refers to professional help that will enable the President to better handle his emotional problems and mental health.
We must note that many physical health challenges are triggered by mental or emotional snags. It is, therefore, sad that in Ghana, reference to mental issues is literally an abomination.
I know that President J. A. Kufuor was always in the company of a physician. I also learnt that he even had a Japanese-trained masseur, who offered him the needed massages to help relax his over-worked muscles. However, I do not know about a psychotherapist in his medical team.
Frankly, I did not know anything about the late President Mills’s medical team and I doubt if he had a personal psychotherapist. I also do not know the members of President Mahama’s medical team and again, I doubt if he has a personal psychotherapist.
We must be as concerned about the emotional and mental wellbeing of the President as we are about his physical health because at all times, the Number One Person in the country needs sound mind and body to lead us in a positive direction.
Renowned teacher and psychotherapist, Richard Casebow, states that psychotherapy and counselling must not be seen as treatments for the mentally ill but as learning opportunities for everybody to find out about themselves and their potentialities especially when it comes to relationships.
And we know that the President has many relationships that affect his judgement and management style.
For any President, relationship with others are central to his success as a leader and even vital to his life as an individual.
We all need people to depend on at times – ‘no man is an island’ but we do not need people who, for instance, will ask us to trot in the sun when we are sick in order to prove a point to our political opponents.
The President depends on a lot of people for almost everything and that involves trust and trust depends on our understanding of a situation, people in general and the people or person in particular with whom we are concerned. And that is a matter of psychology!
Our understanding of people in general starts not just with our understanding of people in particular but with how particular people have understood us. It is important for people who aspire to be leaders to know and understand themselves and how they have been understood by others.
The fact that the people around you are saying everything is fine does not necessarily mean that things are on course. As Nigerians say; “Shine your eye, Mr President!” because all too often, the understanding by others has at best been incomplete.
In moments of distress, the psychotherapist can find the words that will encourage the President to talk, think and even depend on others in a way that he (the President) understands – in a way that is meaningful for him.
After his advisors have spoken, the President should dwell in his own thoughts in order to think things through for himself. This will make him stay alive to the possibilities of his life, living it as fully as he can, in all its dimensions, in all its triumphs, as well as its disasters. That again, is a matter of psychology!
And as clinical psychologist, Alex Lickerman, said, “it is crucial that our politicians understand the scientific methods of psychology”.
Certainly, foreign policy experience, a firm grasp of the principles of economics, a bold and confident leadership style, and the ability to get people to work together are all critically important, but all of these abilities spring from an understanding of and ability to leverage the principles of human psychology.
Lickerman posits, and I agree with him, that as a result of our politicians’ distinct lack of psychological expertise, we have experienced — and will continue to experience — a number of significant policy failures.
How can a policy achieve its purpose if it is not grounded in a correct understanding of human psychology? And how can the President be said to be healthy when he is emotionally challenged?
Over to you, Mr President!
By William A. Asiedu