Is Donald Trump the Mirror of America?

It’s impossible to read, watch, or listen to any media today without being bombarded by Donald Trump news and his latest tweets and actions. Some believe he is the savior of the working class. Others believe he is leading our country to disaster. Some believe he is bridging the divide between the U.S. and her adversaries. Others believe he is a dupe for the Russians.

As a psychotherapist and healer for more than forty years, I believe that Donald Trump is a mirror to America. He taps into different aspects of our collective personality, both the good and the bad. If we want to deal with Donald Trump and get our country back on track we must do some healing ourselves. Carl Jung said, “Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakens.”

I was waiting in line at the Western Union office to send some money to my daughter, Angela. I was late for an appointment and I was in a hurry. The person ahead of me was a Hispanic woman who clearly was having trouble understanding English and following the instructions of the clerk.I found myself thinking thoughts that I would have despised if I heard them from Donald Trump. “Why can’t she step aside and let me take care of my business? And why doesn’t she learn English if she’s going to live in America? I was horrified by my own thoughts. The woman finished her business and hurried away. I suspect she could feel my negative “vibes.”

My rational, liberal, mind could be empathetic and know this woman was just trying to send money to her own family, the same as me. But my subconscious was channeling the latent racism that I carry inside me and that is so much a part of the life in the United States. I’d like to think that I’m immune to these thoughts and feelings, that I’m better than that. Yet, here they are embedded in my psyche.

Since I had that experience, I started to ask myself, what other qualities that I see in Donald Trump need to be healed in me. Here are a few I’ve noticed.

  • I often shoot from the hip and blurt out words that hurt or upset my wife and others.
  • I often think I’m right and that others are wrong.
  • I pretend that I know more than I do.
  • Though I can be nice and helpful, I also have a mean streak that can wound.
  • I like to hear myself talk and often cut others off before they finish what they’re saying.
  • I can become obsessed with success.
  • When I’m making money, I feel more manly. When I’m not, I feel like a wimp.
  • I like to win and be on the winning team.
  • I forget the privilege I enjoy as a white male.
  • I believe I’ve become a success because I work harder than others, not because my privilege has given me a head start.
  • I lie to cover my inadequacies.

I recently heard about a doctor named Hew Len. He worked at Hawaii State Hospital for three years. It was a ward where they kept mentally ill people, who were angry, depressed, and suicidal. Many had committed crimes and were violent. Psychologists quit every month. Staff called in sick a lot, or simply quit. Yet Dr. Hew Len was able to do what no others had achieved.

Within a few months, the patients who had been shackled were being allowed to walk freely. Others who had been heavily medicated were getting their medications reduced. And those who were thought to require lifetime institutional care, were leaving the hospital. Staff began to enjoy working there and soon the whole environment had gone from one of failure and fear to one of love and healing. Soon all the patients were able to leave the hospital and the ward was closed.

What was the magic formula for Dr. Hew Len’s success? A new form of therapy? New drugs? A breakthrough in brain science? It turned out, the answer was “none of the above.” He did something that seemed on the surface to be of no value. He never counseled with the patients. He never even saw them. He did two things:

  1. He read their charts and examined the problems they exhibited.
  2. The problems he saw in them, he worked on healing in himself.

I learned about Dr. Hew Len in a book by Joe Vitale, ZeroLimits: The Secret Hawaiian System for Wealth, Health, Peace, and More.

Vitale asked Dr. Len what he was doing that was working so well.

His answer, “I was simply cleaning the part of me that I shared with them?”

He went on to tell Vitale that this ancient system of healing required that we each take total responsibility for our lives, including the “others” whose lives cross our paths.

Here’s how Vitale summarizes Dr. Hew Len’s approach:

“Total responsibility for your life means that everything you see, hear, taste, touch, or in any way experience is your responsibility because it is in your life. That means that terrorists, the president, the economy—anything you experience and don’t like—is up for you to heal. They don’t exist, in a manner of speaking, except as projections from inside you. The problem isn’t with them; it’s with you.”

I’m not sure I can embrace this philosophy fully, but I do know that I have a lot more success changing myself than I do changing someone else. I also know that my engagement in social action that I think will make things better in the world, works best when I do it because it makes me feel good, not because I think I will change others.

How might our world change if we focused more on changing ourselves than trying to change others? If, in fact, we are all connected, perhaps changing ourselves for the better is the quickest way to change others for the better and create a better country and a better world.

Donald Trump may be a mirror for some of the qualities we don’t like in ourselves, but he also brings out the best in people. I am heartened by the healthy response I see emerging—women taking to the streets, people in support of science, millions in support of human rights and support for immigrants, and now people standing up for the rule of law and an honest, transparent government. When the body is under attack, our immune system surrounds the offending intruder and brings about healing. Let’s hear it for healing power of “We, the people.”

I look forward to your thoughts and comments below. You can also join me on Twitter. 

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  1. Cliff King says:

    I too have looked at my own life in this manner. I have realized that I tend to voice my thoughts..some good, some not so good. I have been quoted as saying ” if I want your opinion, I will give it to you”. America wanted change…they got it. With Pres. Trump, more change is coming. He is a businessman…look at what he has achieved in life. I think we as American citizens needed to have some change, I think some just weren’t ready to admit it to themselves. I myself had to look at things in my life and examine what needed to be changed to better myself and those around me.

  2. Jack Weber says:

    Thanks, Jed. I usually look at issues, whether they be inner subjective states or external issues, both externally and internally. So, while it’s great we can all do the shadow work on ourselves a la Hew Len, Dr. Len worked with patients who want to get better, I would assume. Mr. Trump & Co. are not such cats.

    So, I proceed by working on myself, and working outwardly towards getting the man out of office and opposing his measures that are unjust. Your own inner shadow confessions are always appreciated; I share some of them myself. I imagine we all do; it’s what we do with them that matters, I think—do we act on them, or merely notice them with our better judgment? I vie for the latter. 🙂 Cheers…Jack

  3. Jay Gordon says:

    Before Trump came on the political scene, I was confident I was incapable of having pure hate for anyone.

    I was wrong. I am so sure he is risking the destruction of America, if not the entire planet, that I keep a stash of high quality chocolate for when I hear a missile is en route from North Korea. I am determined to die with a smile on my face.

    Sadly, I am not nearly so noble as those of you who sense you may share characteristics with him. If I felt I had any genuinely common aspect of personality with him, I’d start researching suicide websites.

  4. The older I get, the more common bonds I feel with humanity, even those who seem to be doing great harm. There is a lot to be fearful about in what Donald Trump is doing, but there is also great hope that we the people will survive and thrive (but it doesn’t hurt to keep a supply of good chocolate, just in case).