From cracks in our democratic process, social inequities, to climate change, we need to act now to fix these issues. Ignoring them will make it hard avoid the "point of no return." We must alter how we communicate if we are to have any hope for a bright future.
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Donald Trump’s behavior encouraged the development of a generation of people inclined to hateful identity politics and bigotry, while trying to also dismantle our country’s institutions and natural resources. Aftermath is a guide about how we can heal, with ideas on how each of us can help bridge the divide that has only grown deeper since Election Day in November 2016.These problems emerged in part due to the way Trump constantly shifts blame. This behavior is known in psychoanalytic circles as projective identification, a phenomenon people employ who unconsciously dislike something about themselves. Instead of taking responsibility, they blame those feelings, thoughts, or actions on others. Trump is an expert at this, and it's hurting all of us.
To heal will take time, patience, and a willingness to take stock of our viewpoints and square them with divergent ones. It’s not so unusual anymore for families and friends who find themselves on opposite ends of the political spectrum to refrain from engaging in any sort of meaningful conversation for fear that such discussions will ruin already fractured relationships. It shouldn’t be that way.
Though rooted in psychoanalysis, Aftermath gets at the essence of projective identification as nurtured by Trump, and how we can combat its prevalence in order to once again engage in thoughtful, meaningful debate with those on opposite ends of the political rainbow without resorting to violent rhetoric.
We must demand that our leaders engage in a process that incorporates a respectful way of communicating between and among people. Aftermath shows the way.
What he actually does
When people disagree with Donald Trump, he summarily dismisses and discounts them. He doesn't appear to be able to consider different points of view. He also gets rid of things he doesn't like about himself by projecting them onto others. He then accuses the receiver of his projections of having his discarded qualities.
Who uses this defense and why?
This defense mechanism is used by people who demand to be in control and who have to be right all of the time. Deep down, they are insecure and don't like certain aspects of themselves. Instead of dealing with these issues, they project them onto others and then accuse them of embodying these disagreeable qualities.
What happens to the receiver?
Being the recipient of projective identification can ravage one’s sense of self. Here's an example: When person A unloads an unwanted quality, feeling or thought onto person B, that person doesn't understand what has happened. Person B often feels stunned. Projective identification is like a silent invader that you don't notice until it's almost too late.
Donald Trump's followers
Trump cultivated a following among conservative, rural, working and middle class, white Americans in large part due to his charisma. By casting himself as an outsider, he added heft to his position by creating the narrative that his ideas were anti-establishment and developed with the common man in mind.
Donald Trump's dislike of immigrants
Why he dislikes immigrants may lie in his own upbringing or in the backstory concerning his mother, Mary Ann Macleod. She was an immigrant who came to the United States in 1930 at the age of eighteen to escape from her impoverished life. Mary Ann’s story provides an interesting prism through which to view Trump's behavior.
He will not accept responsibility
On February 2, 2020 when asked how the federal government was preparing for the impending arrival of the coronavirus, Donald Trump dismissed the possibility of an epidemic and failed to take responsibility for any part of it. Trump’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic is rooted in unconscious projective identification.
Trump attacks when challenged
The insults against people of color standing up for their rights has only increased as the national movement for Black Lives Matter (BLM) has gained strength. As the visibility of this group grows, so do Trump’s scattershot attacks because he projects his insecurity and things he doesn't like about himself onto others.
The worsening jobless rate According to the Pew Research Center, the jobless rates increased more in two months this year than they did during the last recession which lasted from 2007 to 2009. This is due to Trump's refusal to take a strong leadership role in the pandemic saying instead that it will just "go away." It didn't, and now over 237,000 Americans are dead.
Mental illness plus global warming
Research indicates there is an increase in the rate of mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and suicide due to global warming. While Trump isn’t responsible for climate change, his rejection of the Paris climate treaty and other rollbacks has not instilled much hope in Americans who know that climate change is real.
Why we don't talk to each other
Informed debate feels like a relic from the past—but it needn’t be. In this book I explore why it is important to engage in thoughtful debate as well as ways to structure meaningful discussions without the exercise turning into a hateful and degrading experience. As Dr. Louis Cozolino says, and I agree, we all have an opportunity to edit our lives.
Building Mental Resilience
We can heal ourselves and work towards saving our planet by developing and then strengthening our mental resilience. This requires flexibility and the ability to bounce back. In other words, we need to be able to deal with people who have different opinions than ours even if they have criticized us in the past.
Though challenging, healing can work
It has been done in situations fraught with far more animosity and hatred. This process took place after the Rwandan genocide when residual aggression was transformed by leaders who helped people deal with their pain and rage. This required the aggressors to acknowledge their wrongdoing by owning up to what they did.
Changing the game by mentalizing
We have become pros when it comes to talking at each other instead of talking with each other. Calm, respectful, and informed debate feels like a relic from the past. But, this needn’t be the case. It can be difficult talking to people who adhere to extreme and different beliefs, but we can re-train ourselves to listen and engage in thoughtful exchanges.
Children hear Trump's lies
Trump has set poor examples for children: how to succeed by lying, deceiving others, and bullying your way to the top. Our children have witnessed Trump’s use of projective identification by seeing what occurred with the migrant children in cages. His distain for them is an attempt to rid himself of his heritage.
Moving past the current moral morass
The path ahead is hardly smooth. We’ve got a lot of work to do if we want to become better citizens and participants in democracy. We must be willing to look beyond groups of like-minded people and listen to others. We need a leader who embodies the traits that we want to emulate. In this book, I define these important characteristics.