“What we name it matters little to me, since the origins, nature, and destiny of call-it-what-you-will are forever hidden from us, and no one can credibly claim to know its true name. But that we name it matters a great deal. For “it” is the objective, ontological reality of selfhood that keeps us from reducing ourselves, or each other, to biological mechanisms, psychological projections, sociological constructs, or raw material to be manufactured into whatever society needs — diminishments of our humanity that constantly threaten the quality of our lives.” Parker J Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness
Our self-hood, true nature, integrity, or, self-esteem (call “it” what you will) is a collaborative effort and integration of our inner self with our outer world. Just as is in nature, we cannot separate our inner life with the outer world in which it is placed. “Everything” as John Muir so famously said, “is connected to everything else.”
So what does Donald Trump have to do with “it”, –– my (or your) spiritual life? Our selfhood? Our integrity?
On second thought,–nothing.
I confess to recently watching the 1997 Titanic movie again starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. We witnessed a variety of passenger’s responses, dramatized as the ship began to sink: denial and then ask for another cocktail, accept the inevitable in various ways, bully others (the main bully played by Billy Zane admitted a willingness to do anything to get what he wanted), keep outward appearances at all costs, share their gift (in this case music) to alleviate other’s suffering, get stuck in shame and blame (the captain went down with his ship but couldn’t help others), become their best heroic selves, panic, focus on only saving themselves; basically let fear turn them into bullies, heroes, or wimps.
Trump is a bully (for more read: Portrait of a Bully). Those who participate in his dramatics and posturing because his message resonates with them, or, simply like to be entertained, or, are easily gas lighted, become bullies themselves. (See The Duel article in The New Yorker by Ryan Lizza.) History has shown us how disastrous this dynamic of bullying a nation can be for us all. (For more on gas lighting see: How Bullies Bully).
Is there a sinking ship?
Is Donald Trump likely to win the Republican vote?
Initially I had hoped he would win. Because at first I was in denial that it was even possible that he could win the presidency. I believed (forgive me my stupidity) that if he won his party’s vote than the democratic candidate would be a shoe-in for the presidency.
Then I thought of what has happened within my state of Wisconsin, with our voting in Scott Walker (twice), another classic bully. Bullies will do whatever they need to do to get what they want, and keep what they have.
In one of my young adult books: Spiritual Journaling: Writing Your Way To Independence (2006), I wrote about young adults attraction to dark and apocalyptic movies: “Why do the machines take over, or the aliens destroy cities? Sometimes we humans prevail in these stories only by rebuilding a new world from the one that was destroyed. How is it we see ourselves destroying what we have?
It makes sense to me now that we envision the future as a black hole that sucks in everything beautiful. We are in Utopia now. There is enough of everything to go around today. If we shared the way we were taught in kindergarten we would all be fine. But we don’t share. We are not cooperatively waiting in lines either. We are pushing the person in front of us. There are bullies running the recess grounds! We are being naughty students and getting away with it. We’re in the Garden of Eden, and we don’t appreciate it. We know that at some time we will have to go to detention hall for all our wrongdoings–but like little children, we don’t want to ruin our fun now. So we project this awareness of impending detention (doom and disaster) into our movies and stories about the future.” I go on to encourage the young reader to participate in rethinking the future and perhaps even write a Utopian story.
There are many ways we respond to the bullies and sinking ships in our lives.
“Not knowing who or what we are dealing with and feeling unsafe, we hunker down in a psychological foxhole and withhold the investment of our energy, commitment, and gifts… The perceived incongruity of inner and outer-the inauthenticity that we sense in others, or they in us-constantly undermines our morale, our relationships, and our capacity for good work.” Parker J Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness
Donald Trump is as an example of a person who has lost touch with his inner self. He has what Parker J Palmer refers to as “the empty-self syndrome.” This empty self is constantly and chronically hungry but the host lacks utter awareness of his own hunger. This is what makes Trump, and so many other bullies now and historically utterly dangerous. They lack the ability or aspiration to an inner reality from which the outer becomes manifest. Furthermore, they are out of touch with both their shadow selves (such as their hunger, their fears and doubts) and their true capacities as human beings (their most heroic self).
So what does Trump have to do with “it” for me, for us who claim the spiritual path of selfhood?
We are already being bullied. We must admit that from the get-go. Then we need to recognize if we are becoming bullies ourselves to get our seat on a “life” boat, or, are we giving up, denying that our efforts can make any difference (sip on the metaphorical cocktail as the ship sinks), or feign indifference, or, righteousness ourselves? Trump is running for presidency, yet he is able to spin hatred, animosity, cruelty, and divisiveness like a game show host. He gets away with encouraging hate crimes because he is entertaining? Or, is it because our “capacity for good work” has been utterly undermined?
But what can one person do?
To save ourselves and as many “souls on board,” we have to act now, and we have to start with (or return to) our own inner life. We have to face ourselves, as it were, ––our inner beauty and inner beast. Earnie Larsen who lived and taught in Minneapolis when I lived there in the 1990’s spoke most about “stage two recovery” for addicts and their families. This stage two recovery was about owning our part in the bigger story:
“Once we began to realize that the “afflicted person” is not the only affected person, it became clear that for any kind of normalcy to be regained (or gained for the first time) everyone in the family system must be seen as either part of the problem or part of the solution.” Taken from, Stage II Recovery: Life Beyond Addiction
I wholeheartedly agree that even on a larger scale, we are either part of the problem or part of the solution. And to be part of the solution, we must live our life aware of our ‘it,” our inner life, our self-hood.
When we can accept and can be open about our “brokenness,” we make a safe way for others and ourselves. Bullies are not only disembodied from their brokenness but from their wholeness and capacities to work for good as well. Trump is a dangerous man because his brokenness and dividedness resonates with others who are out of touch with their inner world of emotions, brokenness, and ultimately a sense of self-hood (it).
Of course living life from within means being aware of our emotions, our beliefs as well as the shadowy (broken) parts of our nature. When we consciously relate to our inner self, and live conscious of our inner landscape of emotions and beliefs, as well as own our shadow self, we will be of better service to others. We will be part of the solution. We will know our capacities for good work. And we are less likely to be bullied.
We must not, as bullies do, disown or skip over our more shadowy aspects.
I am aware of many shadow and broken aspects of myself. Some I have written about in the past. If I were to deny this shadow aspect of myself it would likely come out in ways that cause myself, or other’s harm. The vulnerability that goes with knowing myself and “being” my full self with others brings a richer and paradoxically, safer experience for all concerned. If I am not hiding any part of myself, I am not frightened of being “found out.” I am already “out.”
Bullies do not allow for such vulnerability. They are deeply afraid of being “found out” but they lack a workable awareness of such fears. They live armored in denial of the inner life. And therefor continue to bully their way through life.
Because, we are inevitably bound to one another, living on the same ship as it where, I choose to stay alert to the inner shadow self and the outer bully. I choose to live my life, as best I can, tuned in to “it”, my inner life and selfhood. And I will maintain this awareness because, as Parker J Palmer writes in A Hidden Wholeness: “The divided life may be endemic, but wholeness is always a choice.”
What to do if you’ve been the Victim of a Hate Crime: Contact The Human Rights Campaign
Discover you inner capacity at the Center for Courage & Renewal. And if you live near the Madison area check out the upcoming year-long zero point circle: The Courage To Be Yourself Bring forth your greatest potential through personal and collective explorations.
For more like this article read: The Zero Point Agreement: How To Be Who You Already Are