Learning to Love Trump

Heart sunI’ve been reluctant to write this blog. Mostly because I’ve been having fun rallying around my anger toward what Trump  represents and the obliviousness of those who support him. But most of all, I’ve discovered a community on twitter that I’ve enjoyed engaging in. I found a strange correlation: those Christians who also oppose Trump seemed to be like minded with me on many areas of spirituality and theology. Low and behold I found this rich land of like-minded Christians who daily joined together in the battle against those things that Trump seemed to stand for and propagate. Even more surprising is that I discovered other voices outside the Christian circle that I found a great deal of commonality with- strange bed fellows!

But I’ve been nagged by the tone and seductive nature of some of the content of those tweets. I think there must be a place for caricature and parody- perhaps mostly because I enjoy them so much. But when does it cross to being mean-spirited? When does it become attacks upon a person rather than a rally to think deeper and protest more loudly? A group that rallies around anger toward a particular person or group is a mob. It works because anger is a powerful glue and having an object for that anger makes us feel safe and powerful, but the “righteousness” of our anger does not justify our actions.

I do not think this is a black and white issue, but we often become the very thing we hate. As a therapist I have witnessed countless individuals become the very parent they despised. The psychological mechanism by which this occurs is probably beyond this blog and perhaps beyond your interest but it is a real danger. I think we need to make sure that the only difference between our actions and interactions is the content of our message.

I’m concerned about change and I know that change occurs more through relationship and connection than it does through debate and apologetics. Carl Rogers, founder of Person Centered therapy, observed clinically and experimentally that people do not move toward change until they feel known and understood. He did much to work toward an operationalized definition and protocol for love.

In my work with clients and my own experience, I have found that love is incredibly empowering. I will have a husband come in and talk about how controlled and beat down he feels by his wife. He talks about walking on egg shells, not understanding what gets her mad and wanting a set of skills to make her happy. He feels disempowered and wants to find a way to fix a problem. I invite him back into relationship with his wife. Rather than crisis management and trying to find ways to avoid pain, choose love and look to find ways to make your wife feel valued and loved. When it becomes a goal rather than an avoidance of conflict, it is empowering and changes who he is. He is no longer trying to tick items off a checklist, but seeks to be different and engage his wife differently. Love is always a choice and as such becomes empowering. It transforms shoulds into wants- no longer something I have to do, but something I want to do.

Love is empowering because we let go of the need to dominate and win. Our interactions move from win/loss, dominate/ be dominated into an interaction for which we have complete control. When I love someone they no longer have control over me and I’m actually freed up to see the best in the person or persons before me. Hatred requires the psychoanalytic defense of “splitting.” Splitting occurs when we see things all good or all bad. This is a powerful defense that theorists believe occur in infancy, most likely due to the cognitive limitations of the child brain. It is powerful because it is an emotional defense that short circuits our ability to reason. I’ve see it in couple’s counseling where all of a sudden in the midst of an argument one spouse splits the other “all bad.” All the good memories and good qualities of the other person are ejected and as a result anger, hatred and paranoia emerge. Every bad memory gets brought to the surface; there are actual neurological principles for why this happens. In that moment, it takes incredible strength of will and energy to pull the good back into the situation. But the problem is that splitting distorts reality. No one is all bad.

Anger, unforgiveness, and hatred tie us to another person; it is an intimate and powerful relationship that deeply affects our emotional life, our sense of ourselves and our world. I have personally witnessed hatred and unforgiveness lock individuals into relationships they desperately wanted out of.

So, I want to love Trump because I want to be a loving individual, not an angry, hate filled person. I want to see people as people, not two dimensional cut outs. I want to be free, not bound. I want to feel empowered to work toward things that help people, not get caught up in winning a war. I want to engage because I cannot impact this world without connecting with those who are different from me.

I hate much of Trumps policies, his words infuriate me, I hate that I can no longer have rational conversations with people that hold differing views on Trump. I hate the polarizing effect that he has had. The list goes on of my frustrations. But they do not have to preclude my choosing to love Trump and fight to find things to love about him and care about him.

When we consider life as a Christian I believe that we must place a greater emphasis on the process than the product. We are not an end justifies the means people. So how we do things is more important than the results of those things. This is not a plea for perfection and I’m trying to skate the line of Black/White, All or Nothing thinking. Recognizing that there is a gray and not trying to put all of life in a box, I would make the case that 1 Corinthians argues that great deeds done without love are meaningless and love is clearly defined there. So a litmus test might be simply, am I being kind, am I being patient?

I don’t find love easy but I do find it freeing and rewarding when I enter into it. Love is a greater motivator than anger and anxiety. I’m honestly not sure if I really love Trump yet, he frustrates the hell out of me, but I think I’m getting there.

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