I have just returned from a trip to North America. It was an interesting time to be travelling there with the presidential elections looming. I had been invited to teach two Voice Dialogue workshops - one in California and the other in Mexico - and took the opportunity to visit old friends.
People who are interested in Voice Dialogue tend to be politically left of centre. It was no surprise therefore that when conversation turned to the two presidential candidates there was much anguish and disquiet about the prospect of a Donald Trump victory.
"Have you heard what he just said about immigrants?" "Did you see how he behaved towards that woman?!" "He's a bully, misogynist and racist!!!" "How could we possibly entrust the highest office in the land to someone with those attitudes?!!"
I joined in the chorus of criticism. I revelled in the judgements, condemned the man as totally unfit to be a presidential candidate and denounced the "deplorables" who supported him. I found myself savouring each new bizarre utterance from "The Donald". My sense of outrage was delicious. When I saw the October cover of the Mexican Letras Libres magazine, it confirmed my prejudices: 'Fascista Americano' - the new Hitler!!
Surrounded by my like-minded friends, it was easy to get swept away by my self-righteous indignation. Our collective Primary Selves held the values of tolerance, understanding and inclusiveness. In Donald Trump they were seeing their opposites - our in-the-shadows, Disowned Selves. And through their eyes what they saw was abhorrent.
As part of my trip I visited the creators of Voice Dialogue, Hal and Sidra Stone. When the election inevitably came up for discussion, Hal shared a recent dream he'd had. In the dream he was inside a house that he knew well. There was a door which usually led into a beautiful garden but, to his surprise, when he went through it he found himself in another room instead. He was shocked to find that the room was full of Trump supporters. Hal asked what they were doing in his house. He hadn't agreed to them using this room. The organiser responded by showing Hal official papers which gave them the right to hold the rally there. Hal then accepted their presence in his house.
There is a difference between judgement and discernment. When we point the finger of judgement, blame, condemnation and criticism there are three fingers pointing back towards us! Our Judgements invite us to look at the disowned material lurking in our psyche - in this case, our own inner Trump supporters rallying somewhere deep in the basement of our house. If we have the courage to do this - not an easy task! - our judgement changes to discernment. Our intense, visceral reactivity softens, our stance becomes more solid and balanced, and we are not so easily destabilised. We can stand in firm opposition to Trump's rhetoric and behaviour without being polarised by it.
Distasteful as it may seem, imagine taking a homeopathic pill of "essence of Trump". What benefit might that bring us? Maybe it could help us speak our mind clearly without worrying about what others might think; or it might help us to have the courage of our convictions, to stand up and be counted; or to believe in ourselves and feel entitled to ask for what we want, however impossible it might seem. The gift of embracing our disowned Trump-like selves will be different for each of us. Remember, it's just a small homeopathic dose - embracing does not mean becoming!
And there is more that Donald Trump has to teach us.
On one of my workshops I was discussing conflict in relationships with the group. I made the observation that all conflict arises out of vulnerability that either we are unaware of or that we do not feel safe sharing. To illustrate my point I showed the picture of an upset child with blond hair. "Oh my god!" exclaimed one participant, "He looks like baby Trump!!"
In that moment, something shifted in me. I suddenly saw the Inner Child, the little, vulnerable Donald. Trump the combative adult might be totally unaware of its presence in his psyche. But I have no doubt that protecting this vulnerable child has been the unconscious motivation driving his Primary Selves to seek the presidency.
Money, prestige and power - these are three ways commonly used to defend ourselves against the discomfort and pain of our innate vulnerability. I can only speculate about what unaddressed pain lives at the core of Trump's being. The more important question is how in touch am I with my own younger Selves, my own vulnerabilities? How well am I consciously taking care of them? Or am I unconsciously relying on my Primary Liberal Selves to do it for me?
Watching the president-elect meet with Barak Obama I thought he looked a little lost. I fantasised that a little part of him might be anxiously saying, "What am I doing here?!" Looking at him, and our reactions to his way of being, through the framework of Voice Dialogue and the Psychology of Selves, might we even find it in our hearts to feel some compassion for Donald John Trump? If so, the way we oppose his world view, while firm and resolute, will look, sound and feel very different.
The black actor Brandon Victor Dixon demonstrated this eloquently in his address to vice-president-elect Pence at the end of a performance of the hit musical Hamilton which Pence attended:
'Vice-president-elect Pence, I see you walking out, but I hope you will hear us just a few more moments. There's nothing to boo here, ladies and gentlemen. We are all here sharing a story about love.
'We, sir, are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our children, our planet, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights. We truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us. All of us.’
'We thank you for sharing this wonderful American story, told by a diverse group of men and women of different colours, creeds and orientations.'