How about a little sympathy for the therapists? Can’t you summon up a little empathy and even compassion for people who have been listening to patients express extreme anguish over the election?
After all, their advanced education did not have a course on how to heal Trumpophobia. And now all of their patients are suffering from it. What to do? What to do?
Somehow or other their standard fallback question-- How does that make you feel?-- seems even more vapid than usual when their patients are drowning in a sea of negative emotion.
Are you telling me that you do not feel their pain? How could you be so insensitive?
I have said it before, but why not repeat it here. Many therapists are feeling overwhelmed because their patients are, for once, getting out of their minds and into reality. We can’t have that.
All of a sudden, therapy patients want to talk about real world situations, about political realities, about the election campaign, about the Donald and the Hillary. And, when all is said and done, how many therapists know enough to have an intelligent conversation about anything other than how it makes them feel.
Truth be told, and I hope that all therapists learned this somewhere along the line, one of the best antidotes to anxiety is information. That would be, cold hard facts. Arguing about opinions and even feelings in the absence of facts throws you into a morass—one you will have serious trouble getting out of.
But, that would mean that therapists will have to do some serious work. They will have to read and study the election. They will have to spend some of their precious time with Nate Silver and Nate Cohen, with the Wall Street Journal and The Economist. Being opinionated will no longer cut it. They will need to turn their attention to the real world.
Think of the indignity!
Too many therapists too often ignore the real world that their patients live in. When they try to plumb their patients’ feelings they are telling them to withdraw from the real world, the world of markets and complex political negotiation.
Therapists seem to unable to help their patients navigate between Scylla and Charybdis, to organize and plan their lives, to develop the skills needed to succeed in business or a profession. They think that it’s all about feeling and that if your mind finds its happy place you will naturally know how to negotiate a contract or even to play golf.
Lest we forget, more sophisticated therapists tend to wallow in outdated Marxist claptrap. They have a grand vision of human history and they analyze everything that goes on it terms of said vision. Whether they got it from Marx or Hegel or even the great Nazi philosopher Martin Heidegger, they are happily detached from the real world and from any facts that do not confirm their bias.
Anyone who tries to deal with real world problems using that template will quickly be struck dumb.
And then there is the relationship damage. Many people have recently discovered that their opinionated selves are living with other opinionated people and that they are having serious relationship conflicts over the election. If you are seriously uninformed you are going to be opinionated. If you are opinionated you will find facts to be threatening. Any fact that appears to contradict your beliefs will destabilize your mental and emotional equilibrium.
Truth be told, this happens when people hold to certain dogmas—those of the Church of the Liberal Pieties—because they want to belong to a group. Anything that threatens their group membership threatens their social being. And we cannot have that.
They end up not knowing how to compromise or to negotiate. In that they resemble our current president—you know, the one who decided that Republicans were an enemy with whom there was no need to compromise. And, the one who quakes in boots at the notion of fighting a war against the great unnamed foe, Islamist terrorism, but who happily declares culture war on Islamophobia and the other deadly sins recognized by the Church of the Liberal Pieties.
Negotiation is a skill. It needs to be developed. It might need to be taught. It is not your birthright. If you, like our current president, do not know how to negotiate you will create ungodly messes in your life. If you cannot negotiate everything will become conflict and drama.
I am fairly certain that if you go to the average therapist the last thing you are going to learn is how to negotiate. You will certainly not learn how to respect differences of opinion. You will probably even learn that people who think differently are sick... and sorely in need of therapy.
You will learn how to self-actualize at a level you never imagined possible. You might even find yourself achieving supernormality, becoming sui generis, one of a kind, someone who is so unique in your individuality that you are not like anyone and that no one is like you.
This will make you asocial and dysfunctional, but you can always try to capitalize on it by becoming a celebrity.
You will not learn to split differences, to respect differences of opinion or to negotiate. In that, amusingly enough, you will be a step behind Michael Moore. You know Michael Moore, the populist radical leftist demagogue who stood up for the displaced American working class, by making popular movies. Do you know that Michael Moore has just come out with a film about Donald Trump?
In it Moore returns to Michigan and faces an audience of Trump supporters. The people Moore was defending against capitalism and imperialism and class oppression have found their hero in Donald Trump.
While drooling over the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency, Moore makes clear that he understands where Trump supporters are coming from. He gets their grievance. He does not feel contempt for them and does not look down at them.
Frankly, if you are going to negotiate differences of opinion you cannot begin by treating those who oppose you as bigots or as yahoos. You cannot dismiss other people with contempt if you want to find a middle ground.
Therapists, dare I say, do not really know how to do it. You will find it hard to believe but I suspect that they do not even feel any empathy for Trump supporters. They cannot find common ground because they are foot soldiers in the war against Trump, but most especially the war against political incorrectness.
Sorry to say—and consider yourself trigger warned—but there is another hidden and repressed reason why therapists are so discombobulated about Trump.
Therapists have been at war against shame. They think that shame is bad. If it feels bad it must be bad. They keep telling people not to feel ashamed of their bodies or their actions.
Since the time of Freud they have wanted you to overcome your sense of shame, your sense of propriety, your sense of decorum. Down with decency! They do not want you to shame others for their bodies or their behavior. They want you to ignore what everyone else thinks about you or how anyone sees you. They want you to be yourself, openly, honestly and shamelessly.
One understands that therapists rarely indulge in anything that resembles coherent thought, but is it not obvious that Donald Trump embodies what they have been encouraging their patients to become—perfectly individuated, unconcerned about what others think about him, open and honest in expressing his sexuality. Trump engages in the most vulgar comments about women and feels no shame about it at all. He never apologizes!
Of course, it’s not all good news. Trump has also bragged about sexual assault. His treatment of women seems more to be about what he can get away with than about propriety and decorum. Here is the crux: we know, because Confucius told is, that if you break down the sense of shame and decorum, if we no longer want gentlemen and ladies to follow the rules of courtship, then the only way to control bad behavior is to prohibit it and to punish those who transgress.
It describes where we are at now. Trump is a product of his times. Not only in the sense that he speaks crudely and acts even more crudely and rudely. But that he keeps saying that it’s about what he can or cannot get away. When culture warriors banned courtship and dating, they did not think about the consequences. Maybe they should.
People who have been touting the gospel of shamelessness should be thrilled with Donald Trump. Now, if only he had a tad more empathy. But, I suspect that there’s a pill for that.