Donald Trump’s “Dysfunctional Family”

When our unconsciousness begins to speak to us, the messages are sometimes subtle over a period of time until we finally “get it” and start paying attention.  But then other times the unconsciousness strikes us abruptly, like a thunderbolt from the blue and then we are sometimes stunned or even devastated.  But in either case the human tendency is to deny this irruption into our safe little world of delusion…and “delusional” describes all of us…and to shore up our defenses and shout more loudly the soothing self-talk that comforts us daily.  As W. H. Auden put it, “And Truth met him, and held out her hand; and he clung in panic to his tall belief and shrank away like an ill-treated child.”

Donald Trump represents a voice from the Republican Party’s unconsciousness.  He is behaving and speaking with reckless abandonment, fulfilling the role of the identified patient in a dysfunctional family who “acts out” and announces the conflicted dynamics of the family that is trapped in its Ozzie and Harriet world.  In my clinical practice, my task was twofold: a) stop the “acting out” of the identified patient and b)get the family to own its own role in a dynamic that was often overtly pathological.  Needless to say, often one or both of the parents did not appreciate this approach to their child’s treatment.  For the unacknowledged anguish of the family had forced the identified patient to articulate its pain with word and deed and the parents  were not willing to admit that.

Donald Trump offers the Grand Old Party an opportunity to get real, to get honest with itself.  For example, one of the things that Trump is currently admired for by the base of the party is that, “He tells the truth!”  Well, yes he often does but without the decorum and respect which would make him more palatable to the upper hierarchy of the party.  But if this hierarchy would learn from this unconscious gift they have before them, they could start being such “politicians” and be less blatantly dishonest.

My favorite example…and there are many…is the climate science/global warming issue.  The base of this party is proudly skeptical of science and therefore of the overwhelming evidence that global warming is a critical issue.  But realizing that their base would disapprove if they acknowledged this, the Republican leadership and current candidates for their Presidential nomination glibly shrug their shoulders and report when questioned on the issue, “Well, I’m not a scientist.”  They could easily just simply answer the question but it would be politically inexpedient so they humiliate themselves and their party with this lame response.  And the same dishonesty has often been demonstrated on the issue of whether or not President Obama is a Muslim or was born in Kenya.

Paying attention to the unconscious is often just gut-wrenchingly painful.  But listening to this dimension of our experience, to a gut-level intuition, parallels with closely with  what Christians like to call heeding, “the Spirit of God.”  But  heeding the “Spirit of God” is not just listening to the whims of our heart that we are comfortable with, those  that confirm our pet theories and belief systems. It requires us to pay attention to those that rattle our cage.


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