Trump as a mirror

Currently we are watching Donald Trump as he prepares to be a president. We look at him, his actions and his demeanor. We see how he treats people who oppose him. We watch how he is with his emotions. It appears that he is simply reacting and expressing them, with no apparent attempt at hiding or controlling them. For some people, the lack of hiding emotions is a form of honesty. There is very little apparent mask: all is visible as it is, even the basest aspects of human mind. For others, however, watching Trump causes a lot of cringing. Many feel appalled, outraged, and distraught. And judge him.

How does judgement feel? Is it a happy state? Does it bring joy to one’s day? Is it a fruitful state for working? Does that state of mind bring happiness with loved ones? Of course not. It is mostly a state of  suffering. There might be some enjoyment, though: judgement may also imply a feeling of superiority. Superiority, then, is a form of gratification of the Self: I am better than that person. And that can feel pretty good. Who would not like to be better than the next person? Even more fun if that someone is immensely successful. Hey, I am a better person than the president-elect of USA. That makes me pretty good, right? And it feels great to be a good person compared to someone in power.

But at the end of the day, the gratification is short-lived. Just when we are feeling good, someone blunders in the traffic and we get angry, and retort something stupid. And then we feel as a lousy person. It is a form of suffering to be thrown about in these states of mind. So, is there any alternative? Surely one cannot just be happy when mean things, or disrespectful things are said by a person in power. We would like to be able to respect our leaders. To look up to them. To see our best qualities in them. If we have a leader who is near-perfect, then surely we are pretty close to perfect as well?

But instead, the mirror that now faces us is far from perfect. Yes, a mirror. The president-elect mirrors us our own qualities.  At first we may be appalled that he even reveals his emotions, by acting them out. Aren’t you supposed to hide them? Mostly, however, we are reacting to the emotions and actions themselves. We cannot really stand looking at all that ugliness. It triggers so much emotion in us, and we don’t want to get those emotions triggered.

Strong reactions, such as anger, being appalled, or disgust, are a sign, a red flag to pay attention to. At first it appears that we are reacting to something that exist outside, in the world. However, most of our emotional responses are re-enactment of something old. It is as if a program starts.

We are generally unaware of these programs within us. They only become apparent when they repeatedly appear in our life in ways that create unhappiness. So, with every emotional reaction we need to ask: Did my emotional reaction lead me to a better place? Was I able to live a fuller, happier, more fruitful life because of it? If the answer is YES, the emotion was appropriate to the situation. But if it was NO, then it is an old program, not an situation-appropriate response, and we would be better off without it. The mirror of life shows us the programs of our own mind. The mirror is there, but do we have the skill and presence of mind to observe it?

What good is a mirror if we cannot change the reality that it reflects?

Fortunately, when we bring our hidden qualities to consciousness, already this act diminishes their power. Often these qualities are something we consider as negative traits – which is exactly the reason that we hid them in the first place. They were hidden, but life has a tendency to bring everything hidden to the surface. The hidden in us wishes to be revealed. It guides us to circumstances where we will experience a mirror that reflects us back to ourselves. Sometimes the mirror needs to be an exaggerating one – otherwise the small details would not be seen. Trump is that kind of a mirror. He exaggerates some of our worse qualities, so that by reacting to them, we may become more conscious of ourselves.

How can this moment be turned into one that makes a difference? We cannot really change anyone else but ourselves. Everybody is at the same predicament. We would like to change Trump, or our boss, or our spouse. But in the end we have only power to change ourselves.

Working with judgement

Self-forgiveness
Self-Forgiveness (unnamed painting by Anna-Mari Valopaasi, 2017)

Judging someone is a form of saying that they are not good enough. Not worthy, not worthy of respect, not worthy of love. Or that they should be punished for whatever the error, imperfection or evil was that they did. Retribution may be demanded. Grace is not allowed. It is a form of inner tension. Judgement creates tension also in relationships. It is not conducive to love. How to let go of it? How to release that inner tension that causes the judgement program to run, over and over again?

Recognizing the Judge within

Judge is one who does not forgive. It points at the person who is in error, who has wronged, or made a mistake, and judge. They stand on a high horse. Visualize the Judge, and see that this Judge is actually part of you, an inner state in you that every now and then surfaces to react to things within and to things outside of you. It is ok to have a Judge within you -many of us do. But it is not a happy life, living with a Judge inside. Not happy for oneself, and not happy for those around who from time to time get to experience the Judge. Perhaps one’s marriage or work relationship or friendship would be happier if that Judge were less prominent.

For those who wish to work to diminish the power and frequency of the Judge appearing, here is a practice that I offer. It has worked wonders for me.

The release

First, let your body relax.

Create a safe space for working with your mind, with whatever are your own means of creating safety. For some, it is a prayer to some divinity, to the Unity, to Universal Love, Oneness etc, depending on your own path. I usually request that whatever happens is for my highest good, and for the highest good of all beings. This can be considered as a request that I make to my own multidimensional mind, the totality of it. In addition, I ask for all help, and allow all help that is for my highest good.

Then, let the mind relax, and be in a state of open awareness. Sink deeper into relaxation. Lying down at this stage may be a good idea.

Next, bring the Judge to the focus of consciousness. Ask gently that the Judge within comes forward. Bring also the issue being addressed. Be as specific as you can. List in your mind everything that you remember being judgemental about.

State to yourself: I forgive myself for everything that relates to this, including all its roots.  Then actually forgive yourself that act. Whether or not you have done the act, does not matter at all. Just forgive it anyway, as if it were in you. Try to imagine it in you, pinpoint it in you. Try also to make the forgiveness as real as possible. Forgiving is an act, not a thought.

Once you have forgiven yourself, forgive everybody else for the same thing.  Think of concrete people who you forgive, first. Next, extend it to everyone in general.

Finally, ask for Grace, and accept it, receive it.  Grace is there for the asking, and comes to all those who ask.

Thank yourself and any help that you received during this practice.

Unless you are a very forgiving person already, starting to forgive, even in your mind, is not very easy. It may be a good idea to start with an easy topic, a minor issue. Over time you may wish to apply this to more severe infringements. You may want to start paying attention to moments of being judgemental in everyday life. Was it the leadership of the country, the actions of the press, or perhaps the school system that triggered your judgement? Forgive that. Always forgive it first in yourself. You cannot forgive another person unless you forgive it first in yourself. Once it becomes a habit, you can practice this everywhere. Just the forgiveness part is good in itself.

Practice means that you get better over time, when you practice. You extend the muscles of your mind. This kind of results may then ensue: The actions that before triggered your judgement, do not trigger it any more. You can still see that they may be actions you do not choose nor work actively for. Or actions that you will oppose, with force if need be. But your anxiety related to them will reduce. Your life starts to get a little better. A little brighter, and more relaxed and happy.

Questions for pondering

Can you find judgement within yourself? How does it show in your life? What does it cause, or has caused in your life? How did you act in judgement of someone? What came out of it? Did it bring happiness?

Background

The basic notion of working with your emotions, and the importance of complete relaxation I have learned from Tara Rokpa Therapy and Tibetan Buddhist mind training practices. However, since I have only some basic understanding, I’m not qualified to teach their methods.

Forgiveness is one of the antidotes in the Ho’oponopono method of practicing with your mind – that is where I picked it up. I have not come by a good written sources, so I learned it from some videos, and then modified according to my own experiences. In addition to forgiveness, Ho’oponopono contains three other antidotes, namely love, compassion and thankfulness, which I have found useful when working with other emotions.

The rest of the practice I have put together over time from various sources. Creating a safe space is important for being able to relax, and to not be disturbed. Grace was something we discovered with a group of individuals, as necessary in certain situations involving judgement and bad deeds. Sometimes forgiveness just is not enough.

Lets discuss about the practice

Please write in the comment section!

Do you use this or some other related practices yourself?  What kind of results do you get? Have you observed benefit for your life, or the lives of others?

Do you perhaps teach such practices? Or do you know of research regarding such?

2 thoughts on “Trump as a mirror

  1. The kind of process that you describe in this blog post can be helpful and useful in many situations — I have used something similar myself fairly regularly since I started working on my own healing in 1990. That said, working against one’s tendency to judge and striving after forgiveness are not a panacea: we need to use such approaches judiciously, beginning with thoughtfully analyzing if they are appropriate for the situation.

    There definitely are situations for which this type of approach is not appropriate, and in my opinion using Trump in the headline and as the main example in the beginning of a post like this is a mistake. Because he and his cronies behave in ways that a person who strives to be ethical, socially conscious and genuinely compassionate must judge and must not forgive.

    When a person or group really is out to get one or one’s near and dear (and Trump and his ilk will literally be the death of more than a dozen people I care about, and thousands whom I don’t know, if not opposed successfully), to have a chance of defending oneself and / or escaping and thus surviving one MUST judge. As RealSocialSkills wrote in 2014:

    “For marginalized or abused people, being judgmental is a necessary survival skill. Sometimes it’s not enough to say “when you call me slurs, I feel humiliated” – particularly if the other person doesn’t care about hurting you or actually wants to hurt you.

    Sometimes you have to say “The word you called me is a slur. It’s not ok to call me slurs. Stop.” Or “If you call me that again, I’m leaving.” Sometimes you have to say to yourself “I’m ok, they’re mean.” All of those things are judgments, and it’s important to be judgmental in those ways.

    You can’t protect yourself from people who mean you harm without judging them.” [1]

    For our love for ourselves and others to be authentic and genuinely compassionate, it sometimes needs to be unapologetically fierce. Niki Massey, a friend of mine who died in October partly due to Republican health and disability policies, is remembered with love exactly because she judged when it was appropriate to judge. Greta Christina, our mutual friend, wrote about Niki:

    “[H]er writing always showed kindness and compassion. It wasn’t the quiet, soft-spoken compassion that holds your hand and brings you tea and reassures you that everything’s going to be okay. It was the compassion that sees people in pain and flies into a rage at the people causing it; the kind of compassion that reassures you that no, you’re not imagining it, things are bloody well not okay.” [2]

    Moreover, forgiving someone who, a) shows no remorse for even their most harmful behaviors and b) continues behaviors that are actively harmful to you also after you explained to them in detail how those behaviors harm you, is not healthy. It is self-destructive.

    Forgiving an active abuser or oppressor (and Trump and his cronies have amply demonstrated that they are both) is more likely to lead to the continuation of one’s own or someone else’s victimization than to healthy boundaries, effective defenses or a successful escape. To cite my friend Neurodivergent K’s blog post in 2012:

    “I’m an Atheist, but I was raised with “you sin (fuck up), you go to confession (apologize), you do your penance (make amends), then you go and sin no more (do your best to not fuck up again).” Only after that are you absolved (forgiven). That model works pretty well for us secular folks too. I highly recommend it. …

    Here’s the thing: these people aren’t sorry. Not one of the people or groups I’ve been sustainedly angry at has made even a perfunctory, much less sincere, apology. If someone isn’t sorry, I sure as shit am not forgiving them. No. You work for that. If you done fucked up, and I assure you, these groups or people have all done fucked up in concrete ways and know what they are, you apologize and you try to fix it if you want forgiveness. That’s how it works.

    If you forgive someone who isn’t sorry, then you are giving them license to hurt you again. It took me a long painful time to learn that “good people” aren’t always good people and that people who others say are looking out for my best interests often are against my best interests. Every single iota of self preservation and self respect I have says “if there is even the slightest chance they will do it again or will escalate, never forgive.” Forgiving would be deep self betrayal.

    Not forgiving people or organizations who aren’t sorry … is self care for me.” [3]

    Finally, refraining from judging someone, who is not harming us but is harming someone else is an act of siding with the harm. As European progressives we should be keenly mindful of this especially now.

    “The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict … [an individual] who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it” – Martin Luther King Jr. [4]

    [1] http://realsocialskills.org/post/91609471897/nonviolent-communication-can-hurt-people

    [2] https://thehumanist.com/magazine/november-december-2016/fierce-humanism/niki-massey-humanist-voices-dont-get-heard

    [3] http://timetolisten.blogspot.fi/2012/10/forgiving-people-who-arent-sorry-not.html

    [4] http://organizingchange.org/here-is-how-moral-leaders-approach-neutrality/

    Like

  2. I have now re-read the post a second time and it really makes me uneasy. A bit like I would feel if I saw someone sitting on a keg of gunpowder, unaware of it’s contents, and lighting a cigarette. Like I want to scream and holler and wave to get their attention yet am also afraid to startle them lest they drop the cigarette and thus cause an explosion.

    Why I’m uneasy: Are you really, truly sure you want your second ever blog post to give a fairly strong impression of that you sympathize with or feel sorry for Trump? Or that you think people are wrong to judge Trump, the US mainstream press, or the US school system? You write from a European / Nordic point of view, but you don’t SAY that anywhere, and it is not readily apparent, either.

    After the first few weeks, the people who stumble over this blog post won’t necessarily know you, aren’t your Facebook friends, fellow alumni or work colleagues, and have likely not read anything else on your blog. Thus they will react to this blog post based solely on what is said in it — they won’t necessarily read the comments first, either. They may even react based on the first three paragraphs, as people often do. They may not react here, they may reference to this blog post, with cherry-picked quotes, on fora you have never heard of.

    If you read the text presuming that the writer is someone living in the US (or Canada or Mexico, which are also directly affected by many US policies), how does your impression of the text change? How would you feel if someone praised this blog post saying e.g. “See, there even is this liberal woman who understands that judging Trump is not right! Shame on you, ‘progressives’, you should be more tolerant, like she is!”? What kind of attention might that bring to your blog?

    Maybe most importantly: the Internet does not forget. This blog post could come back to haunt you at the most inopportune moment, framed in a way you never intended.

    The practice that you describe here can be a good one in my opinion, if it is used for things that are not actually harmful in a way that has not been corrected and apologized for. Heck, I would be a hypocrite to claim anything else, seeing as I learned relaxation exercises in high school and have been doing various meditative practices more actively for decades myself. Your interpretation of this type of practice deserves to be discussed based on its own merits.

    Using Trump as your main example is not in the least needed to explain the practice. In my opinion his name drives the reader’s attention away from the main points of your post. I warmly recommend that you take this post down and file it under Lessons Learned and rewrite it referencing a problem considerably smaller than Trump.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s