Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Child in wolf's clothing*


I will feel sorry for Donald Trump if he loses the upcoming election. This is not because I want his vainglorious ego to be fed and justified by the ultimate win. It’s that I am aware of the sad, boyishly lost – even disintegrative – place that is the psychic core of such a person. So many of us can sense there is something quite different about his character; different, even, from the more multi-faceted and gyroscopic (self-balancing) ego of well-known Narcissists. He seems to be a simple binary-code program with a single brain circuit: win not lose, and one emotional drive: contemptuous and predatory superiority. The program is solid-state, unchangeable. Were all zeros to come up – a loss as magnificent as the presidency – the program would crash, if only for a moment. In that collapse would appear the abysmally lost center-without-meaning, without identity, which is what I would feel sorry for.

Our world runs on adult personalities that, according to depth psychology, are derivative or “unreal” selves, self-medicative houses of cards. We grown-ups live on a high-altitude plane – airy thoughts and beliefs and mythologies, all the routinized systems of civilization, deeply blind assumptions of our “arrival” to maturity – while slogging through, trapped in an underground pool of gasoline, our childhood. If we picture the powerlessness and anxiety and injustice of those days – and worse, if we remember the ungiven and the never-had which had to be left behind – it will be obvious why we must escape, ascend to the high tower of adult mastery. The problem is that the air coming in our tower window is smoky, obscuring, often suffocating. It will not leave until we put out the fire far below.

If a psychotherapist sees, x-ray fashion, the “inner child” that we all carry, there should be some good purposes in doing it. One of them is, you will grow healing compassion for yourself: You will see that you did not make mistakes, you had learning experiences. You owned pain; your parents attributed guilt. Bleeding, or extreme behavior, is a good way to show injury, though it dirties your parents carpet or wrinkles their composure. Two, seeing the child core is the best way to have care and understanding for others: When you really see the always-alone or unloved child within your wife’s, or even your boss’s, or even a criminal’s, pouts or screams or aggression, you are holding (or just appreciating) the whole person not just the surface and groping self. And, you may grasp the roots of someone’s delusions and convictions. Why would he feel “good” about a racist demagogue, why would she want to screw the rich on principle, unless they’ve been so hurt in childhood to lack empathy or need revenge, to see with blurred vision types not individuals?

But there is also an undermining factor, a sort of solvent. I’ve come to know my child self too well, that still – half a year short of Medicare – chews his fingers, “lacks initiative” (the words on my seventh grade report card and on my Report Card of Life), sometimes sneers down at people to feel better about himself. Is it good to know these are actually the abortive child’s characteristics that are still frozen in time, not some interesting or quirky trait of the adult?

It is also deflating to see all the amazing childishness – rampant, insightless, proliferous, insane! – that is locked into our definitions of history, society and intercourse. I have lots and lots of money. I will build a wall to keep an entire country out. I must look the feminine or masculine ideal. I must keep my eye on other people’s problems, their celebrity. All the television pundits chewing on one already-chewed sound bite day and night. Candidates’ “surrogates” robotically agreeing, a priori, with every uttered syllable and id-based emotion of their hero – and the pundits’ endlessly questioning them anyway. Into this world a therapist may want to lobotomize himself, just to believe that what you see is what you get. When in fact the truth is much deeper and much worse.

We are audience, now, to a bizarro-world talent show where the players dress up well and maintain false maturity not to spit, “You’re a goddamned idiot!” A show whose subtext is: Give a disturbed narcissist ultimate power. This is our time, child immanent in the adult, ideas the mask over our child’s rage, rage the corpse of hurt and hope. I have to wonder if, in Mr. Trump, we are wanting to breathe again, stomp and scream again – the primitive, colorful little boy or girl who had to turn into thinking and conforming too soon. That might feel very delicious, to rage and feel redeemed. But who will feel sorry for us when we lose?

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* This more public-oriented, generic article was written for, and submitted to, one of the web news outlets that solicits blog posts. I cant say I expected it to be published, as I dont know how to write public-oriented and generic.

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Comments are welcome, but I'd suggest you first read "Feeling-centered therapy" and "Ocean and boat" for a basic introduction to my kind of theory and therapy.