It’s 14+ months before the 2016 Presidential Election. It’s already been going on too long. Many are overstimulated by the candidates’ and the media’s hype. The overstimulation feeds both numbness and hysteria. And however disconnected from their true selves people were before, they get more and more disconnected with each step in the election frenzy.
What we once thought was a sacred process – and could still be if we utilized it well – has instead been misused and abused and turned into an election frenzy for all of us.
So here we are in September 2015 … well into the fever pitch of the election process and we’re over a year away. Everybody’s surprised about Donald Trump. Everybody’s talking about Donald Trump. Many are concerned about Donald Trump. And Donald Trump is a concern.
He’s lied. Everyone’s talking about Hillary’s lies. But who’s talking about Trump’s lies?
He’s treated women terribly. He’s made blatant racist statements about Mexicans and other immigrants.
He’s mocked foreign countries who are either our allies, like Japan, or with whom we need to collaborate, like China. He’s ridiculed individuals in our own country … Senator John McCain, many of the other candidates running for president, and who knows how many others.
He’s made claims about what he would do as president. Claims like those related to immigrants. Claims like those related to people of color and of other races and nationalities than he. Claims like those related to immigrants that are impossible without violating the Constitution. Claims that no matter how they might be carried out, would be inhumane … would violate any sense of dignity … and would belie our thinking of ourselves as a civilized nation.
His misogyny is legendary. From calling women “pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals,” to saying about Megyn Kelly that “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes–blood coming out of her wherever,” as a denigration of her intelligence and ability based on her menstrual cycle, to calling her a “bimbo” and a “lightweight.”
When confronted on what he’d said, Trump denied it and held those who had accurately understood what he’d meant as the problem – “I was referring to nose, ears. They’re very common statements. And only a deviant would think of what people said.” And then he’s turned around and claimed he “cherishes” women. He has, in this instance and at other times, refused to take responsibility for what is actually his responsibility, blaming it on the other person or people. And lying – to others and perhaps himself, too.
When talking about Jeb Bush having mentored Marco Rubio, Trump said: “If I were Bush and I brought somebody along … and all of a sudden the guy, the young guy that I brought along, said: ‘I’m running against you and it’s not my turn but I don’t care because I’m really anxious, I’m really driven’ … I would really go after that guy. I’d say ‘He’s the most disloyal guy. He’s a terrible person. He’s horrible and I hate him.’ ” And then he went on to mock Bush’s and Rubio’s being friendly at the first GOP debate.
This reveals so much about Donald Trump. More than possible to fully do justice to the revelations right now. But for starters … it shows a glimpse of an inability to truly be in a mutual relationship; a vindictiveness, vengefulness that is unwarranted and undermines relationship; an inability to hold more than just one way – his way. And it shows, beneath all his bluster and whatever ability he has developed to make money, just how young and unmatured emotionally he is. A perfect example of what I’ve taught and written about again and again – the child still alive in the grown person; the child driving the show, whether we’re aware of it or not. All these qualities have been, are, and would be dangerous in a leader.
This is not an exhaustive list, but even this list … he thinks he can get away with. The problem is he has been getting away with it. Not only getting away with it, but his support has been growing in response to it. And the problem with that? The problem is not Trump alone. The problem is us! All of us. Those of us who think we’re in the clear because we fight against him, see through him, turn away, sickened or frightened by what he’s doing and how it’s affecting us and our election process … all comforted by the belief that “we’re not at all like him.” And those of us who are disillusioned by our government and thus can be easily roused and seduced by him.
We can look at this phenomenon through many lenses. Today let’s look at it through this lens: the lens of acting out! It will show us why he’s going up in the polls after he acts out time after time.
In depth psychotherapy, we don’t stop at the behavioral level of healing. But we do draw boundaries around people’s behavior to help make it safe for them to explore their thoughts and feelings, no matter what they are. So someone I work with will, for example, make a commitment not to hurt or kill themselves or someone else … so that it will be safe to explore those kinds of angry thoughts and feelings. Making such a commitment doesn’t stop the thoughts and feelings. It isn’t meant to. It’s meant to draw an inviolable line between the thoughts and feelings and the actions. That is what makes it safe to have the thoughts, have the feelings, and bring them out in the open in therapy to talk about them, explore them, find what in the person’s history caused those thoughts and feelings to emerge, and heal that wound to the root.
These lines, these boundaries between having feelings and acting on them are protections that our children need their parents to teach them and help them with. But most children don’t receive this from their parents. Most parents don’t give this to their children, usually because they never received it themselves. Or don’t give it to their children in a healthy way, again because they never received it from their parents. The result is that too many people all over the world are starting more than ever to act out these feelings when they emerge.
Please note: I am not excusing this, just explaining the root cause. It is something that needs to be healed in all of our societies all over the world.
But at the same time as I and my colleagues are working deeply with people and with great commitment to heal to the root and transform this deep wound and its consequences, there are others who are – consciously or unconsciously – taking advantage of that wound and using it for their own purposes.
Dictators have done that and used the wounded to kill in their behalf. Hitler did it in World War II with people who, like him, had been raised in abusive families and thus would respond to his seduction and his cause. ISIS does that with disaffected young people who have their own early wounds and can be lured into the cause. Donald Trump’s cause is “Making America Great Again.” And people are being drawn and seduced into joining.
Significantly, people enjoy Trump’s behavior because he is acting out his thoughts and feelings and then justifying his acting out. On some level people like that he’s doing it and getting away with it. Perhaps they think and feel the same things but feel they don’t dare act out on them. So they secretly – or not so secretly – get off on his doing it. Or perhaps they like that he’s doing it and getting away with it, because then they see it as his giving them permission to do the same. To act out and get away with it. So they are, in effect, ripping off permission from his destructive behavior … permission to act out in kind. In the ways I’ve mentioned above and others as well.
An actual example, an older Hispanic man was recently beaten by two white males in a Boston area neighborhood. The perpetrators justified their actions saying that Trump was right, illegals need to be deported. After first responding to hearing of the beating with “It would be a shame,” Trump then justified their actions, distorting them and normalizing them: “I will say that people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate.”
Hitler could never have come into the power he had without citizens in collusion because of their wounds and their lack of awareness. ISIS could not have come into the power it has without members in collusion because of their wounds and lack of awareness. And Trump (and people like him) will never come into power without our collusion because of our wounds and lack of awareness and refusal to do our own work.
Whether we’re acting out by “ripping off the permission” he’s giving to lie, bully, mistreat women and other people, be obviously racist, and more … or we’re acting out by not taking action at all … believe me: Donald Trump by himself is not the problem. He will only be a real problem if we don’t do our own work with all that’s going on, with all that he mirrors for us within ourselves, and for all that he triggers in us from long, long ago that we have a choice whether or not to act out today. That we have a choice whether or not to explore today. That we have a choice whether or not to work through and heal today.
If we do not pierce our denial, collusion, and whatever else we need to take care of within us … if we do not see the reality and respond to it in a healthy, constructive way … it will be we who cause the harm that comes. It will be we who give Donald Trump or someone like him the permission to carry it out.
© Judith Barr, 2015
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP MAKE OUR WORLD SAFE
FROM THE INSIDE OUT
Acting out is a huge problem facing our world today. We all need to learn how to draw, and commit to, boundaries when we are tempted to act out on intense feelings rooted in our childhood experience.
First we need to learn that our impulses to act out are in response to our young and intense feelings being triggered by something in the current day within us or around us.
Second, we need to learn to be aware of both when we are tempted to act out, and also when another’s acting out is tempting us to normalize and justify our own acting out.
When you see, hear, or read about Donald Trump or another public figure, acting out in a destructive way, what feelings arise inside you? Are you shocked and horrified? Are you afraid? Are you secretly glad the person is acting out that way? Perhaps because you would be too afraid to? Maybe because you wouldn’t be able to get away with it and s/he can? Or is there a hidden place in you, deep down, where you admire and agree with the words and actions of the person acting out? And perhaps make excuses for him/her? Are there times when a public figure’s acting out makes you feel “better” about the times when you act out?
Join me today in committing to explore our own inner reaction to the acting out of others … to draw a boundary when we ourselves are tempted to act out our inner wounding in destructive, harmful ways … and to not stop there, but rather to follow through and explore, with the help of a caring, integritous therapist, the real roots of the feelings that cause us to act out destructively. And in doing so … help create greater safety and lasting change in our world!