The sinister and dark emergence of Donald Trump upon the world scene has been frightening, fascinating, intriguing, amusing and all-consuming to many people, not least of all myself, over the last 9 months.
I have seen world-renowned psychology professors denounce him as a malignant narcissist, as paranoid and delusional. Others claim that these labels are inaccurate and that you cannot diagnose someone without interviewing them extensively – which is complete nonsense.
I have seen him supported and vilified.
I do not intend to spend this entire blog discussing the pros and cons of this terrifying human being but I’d you just want to say one thing about him.
Through all of my 35 years of working on myself and trying to grow myself as a human and spiritual being and all of my years of working with clients, it is very clear to me that this man has utterly trashed the notion that treating other people with respect and dignity is key to our evolution and development as a species.
This is not to say we are respectful all the time.
I could line up many people who would tell you of the times in which I have treated them with disrespect.
These judgements are unavoidable. When we act out of our integrity in order to support ourselves or to protect ourselves when we are threatened, those who are against us will judge us as disrespectful.
Not to mention the fact that our humanness leads us to behave in disrespectful ways when under threat.
This is to be expected.
It is normal.
A Litany of Disrespect
Donald Trump however is a consistent litany of the most outrageous disrespect for human beings who don’t fit into his white supremacist model.
I am not using this label loosely. White supremacists have a very strong tendency is to support Adolf Hitler. Not a kind man by any stretch of the imagination.
You may be doubtful as to the accuracy of this label as applied to Trump. Just check out the background of Steve Bannon, one of his senior advisers.
I have never seen a first world leader with Trump’s capacity to insult and judge others. Apart from Hitler and Stalin of course.
I recently saw a social media post citing the 21 specific occasions in the last 6 months where Trump said that “no one has more respect for women than I do.”
People who respect women don’t have to say it.
If you listen to his language and his tone they are the antithesis of great leaders such as Mandela and Ghandi.
That a great country like the United States has spawned a man such as this, as a leader is extraordinary to say the least. Of course greatness is time limited.
What happened to the Greek, the Roman, the Persian, the Mongul, the British Empires?
I have great faith in that country and as I watch and listen to the courageous and perceptive critiques of this man, I trust and hope that he will not last long and that the lessons will be the learned around how this nation got to elect him as their President.
Too Nice…Too Nasty
I have noticed over the years that most people – and I’ve done this myself – have a tendency to be too nice or too nasty in their relationships. When we meet a psychopath who is a charmer, we know intuitively that something is wrong, something is missing, their charm is out of alignment with a lurking malignancy.
But we forgive.
We give them the benefit of the doubt.
We are too nice!
And do we pay for this…yes!
I see the same thing happening with Trump. Many good and decent people say, “Give him a chance.”
If your house is burning down, you do not say, “Let’s see if the wind blows it out!”
You get out of the house!
A Sea of Judgements
Putting Trump aside, I want to narrow down this discussion from the sociological and political, to the more personal psychological realm.
I want to share with you, two of the most fabulous lessons I have learned around the capacity that we all have to judge others and ourselves, and how to manage this dangerous and yet self-protective trait.
We live in a sea of judgements.
Inside our heads and on the outside.
The first great lesson I learned is about the outside. It happened 25 years ago.
I was at the Buddhist Retreat Centre in Ixopo in Kwa-Zulu Natal.
It is the most exquisite place.
Alan Paton described the hills there in Cry the Beloved Country as “More beautiful than the singing of it.”
Indeed they are.
This retreat was being run by an amazing Sri Lankan man named Godwin Samararatne. We were all sitting around with him, having tea one glorious summer afternoon. Sitting under the trees, looking out at those beautiful hills, we were discussing suicide, the in’s and out’s, the why’s, the sadness and pain and suffering of it all.
Someone in the group turned to Godwin and asked, “How is suicide viewed in Buddhism?”
He replied, “It is considered unskilful.”
I was completely knocked out, because I come from a good first world Western tradition which views suicide as a bad thing. It’s wrong, it’s terrible it’s selfish it’s overemotional and impulsive.
It should be condemned.
Here I was being confronted with the possibility that it could be viewed in a completely non-judgemental way, like handling a conflict badly, or buying something expensive impulsively which you can’t afford or anything for that matter that is simply, well, unskilful.
Nowadays I wouldn’t even say that ‘unskillful’ is accurate. I have written about this previously in more detail.
Now I would say that suicide is simply an expression of all hope for a better life, for some measure of happiness, simply…gone.
People who try to kill themselves feel really guilty about it and they are judged for attempting do it. For most people a family who has a suicide in their history need to hide this fact because there is a stigma attached to it.
It is deeply judged.
Most of us are filled with judgements and we judge each other for everything, from hairstyles, to accents, to dress codes, to attitudes and beliefs systems, religious beliefs and rituals, sexuality and the way it expressed, the list goes on to infinity.
The point of my story is that to begin to look at the judgements you make about others as unskilful, has the potential to soften them and relax you, to open your heart.
When I heard Godwin refer to suicide as unskilful it made me realise how much of the time I used to spend in judgement of the world. Of course I still do, but his attitude inspired me to soften my approach in many areas of my life.
You might argue that at the start of this blog I was judging Donald Trump and the answer is yes, to some degree – I’m not totally free of judgement, yet – however I’m really not interested in getting angry about how bad he is, which is creating a lot of indignant emotion that is added to the judgement. What I’m really interested in is the fact of his potentially destructive nature to the United States and the world rather than getting angry and emotional about how bad a leader he is.
The Terrorist in Your Mind
The second incident that I want to talk about is one from the work of Byron Katie, a truly amazing woman and spiritual teacher.
She is working with a woman who was at ground zero in 2001 on that infamous day of 9/11.
The woman describes how the event traumatised her for seven or eight years thereafter.
She lived in terror that the terrorists would return and was very angry and scared and depressed in a way that totally disrupted her life because she believed that they would come back and cause further harm.
In Katie’s work there are four questions and then there is what is called the turnaround, which is really about owning our judgmental projections.
So the initial phrasing of the problem was these terrorists shouldn’t have destroyed the Twin Towers.
The turnaround was, I shouldn’t be destroying myself with my endlessly self-persecutory thoughts about terrorists.
What is so beautiful in the teaching contained in this story is that Osama Bin Laden and his buddies collapsed the twin towers, but they only did it once and in the 16 years since then there has been no major terrorist attack in the United States.
But – and here’s the kicker – this woman was reliving the bombing and was terrorising herself thousands and thousands and thousands of times while the terrorists stayed away.
She was far more of a danger to herself than the terrorists were to her or to New York or to the United States of America.
Just by the way, there is a really strange quirk in human nature. Motor vehicles are monumentally more dangerous than terrorists, yet few people fear them.
Life is a mind game.
Back to 9/11.
The woman’s realisation that she was more of a danger to herself than the terrorists were to her, transformed her.
The problem wasn’t the terrorists.
The problem was what she was doing to herself with her judgemental thinking.
Don’t for a second believe that the problem is unique to this woman.
We all do it everywhere.
I had a client recently, upset and anxious that the service providers for his business were going to “hammer” him with price increases.
He starts off judging the service provider and then in his endless ruminations, he is hammering himself mentally and emotionally over and over again. This is deeply destructive.
He said that he would feel betrayed if prices were increased based on previous contracts and conversations. This may be true but can you see that he is betraying himself over and over again in a more devastating way than the service provider could ever do.
The same applies when somebody has hurt us. We ruminate over and over again in our minds and terrorise ourselves, hurting ourselves over and over again about what they have done and instead of taking responsibility for doing this to us we go on blaming them and not only in our heads but in our conversations with other people.
In my Self-Esteem work I talk a lot about finding love on the inside not looking for it on the outside.
So, is your enemy really on the outside or on the inside?