I am a human being. Nothing human can be alien to me.
~ Terence, Roman Playwright
“What do you Think About Trump?”
I was an Inglenook Retirement Home in Brighton, Colorado spending time with my dad and his buddies at their 9:00 am coffee klatch. The conversation began with commentary on Michael Wolff’s new book and delved into other political topics before Bob, the professor, asked me this question.
While I’ve been keeping close tabs on our President’s actions and feeling varying levels of sadness, grief, disgust, and disappointment, I hadn’t taken time to put my thoughts together about Trump in several months. The hail of judgment between Trump and all those that oppose him creates a great deal of “fog” in my mental space. Marshall Rosenberg stated that all moralistic judgments are “tragic expressions of unmet needs.”
The tragedy is that the “judger” has a need underneath their words that is more likely to be met by connection that the separation judgment fosters. It seems that we are living in a swamp of separation that keeps us from coming together to get our needs met!
So here are a few of my thoughts that appeared when the fog lifted and I pulled myself out of the muck…
Protecting Himself from Fears of Not Mattering
When I imagined what might be under the President’s behavior, the word “insecure” arose in me. His verbal outbursts, his twitter rants, his fear of being poisoned, his unwillingness to apologize or empathize, his frequent blaming and name-calling all suggest to me that he is protecting himself. I imagine that he walks around in a hyper-vigilant state ready to respond to any slights with as much force as he can muster.
What might Trump be afraid of? That his reactions are SO intense, suggests to me that there is a very important need underneath them. My guess is that he fears that he doesn’t “matter.” “Mattering” or believing that we are a valuable person is one of the most fundamental needs motivating our behavior. When this basic need is at risk of not being met, it is very difficult to see outside ourselves to connect with another’s experience. This is what I experienced during depression.
From Protection to Connection
With all my energy turned inward, I was uncomfortable around others. I feared that my worthlessness would be seen (and confirmed) by others which left little space and energy to understand and connect with others. Unlike Trump, I aimed my “aggressive” or “protective” behavior at myself rather than others by withdrawing from others and imagining suicide. Like Trump, this behavior didn’t work. Since I’m still around, I am especially grateful that I did not engage in the self-destruction I considered. And, I really wish that our President found ways to meet his need to matter so he would cease his other- (and self-?) destructive behavior.
When I got to a better place using a myriad of tools including time, therapy, medication, and more recently, daily love from my wife, my energy did a 180 degree term. Without the compulsion to keep my self safe from “not mattering,” my energy turned outward to being in relationship with others and helping them be happy. I am deeply grateful to know I beautiful and that I have gifts to share with others.
Will our President ever get to “a better place”? Is there one for him? What would happen if his defensive/aggressive/protective behavior was no longer necessary? Would his energy shift? Could our President begin to Communicate with Heart?