Trigger Warning: Donald Trump's Mental Health
I've spent a good chunk of my life forgetting and then remembering and then forgetting and then remembering again that most people don't want to change their behavior and, more importantly, if there is evidence of even low-level mental illness then they very likely physically cannot change their behavior. It is actually not possible. This is terrain over which a person may have no conscious awareness or an area in which they likely will never possess gained insight. They couldn't change, even if they tried.
In most cases, no amount of articulation of the behavior, however neutral or gentle or kindly brought to the surface, will do anything other than ignite defensiveness. No matter how gently the behavior is described, the person describing gets cast as the bad guy, the bully, the 'instigator' in the eyes of the person with the mental health issue and by the people who enable the behavior. In the best case scenario, the describer gets shunned. In the worst case scenario, the describer gets physically or emotionally abused.
What I've learned is that venting about it to someone else doesn't alleviate any stress from the situation. It never helps. Venting doesn't provide solutions, as there seemingly are no solutions. Gossiping about it only creates a weird stagnation that feels toxic. Because, frankly, gossip is toxic.
Just as the person's behavior is out of their control, so too is their behavior out of my/our control. And, in the bigger picture that is as it should be, for when we are able to actually create a balanced system then we find we do not require to be 'in control' of other people.
In my experience I've really only ever found that removing myself from the situation or from the person is what works, even if the removal is only temporarily. I need and I take my space, be that in mental or in physical retreat. I shrug it off when I can, ignore it if I'm able, or I leave.
Facing the dysfunction directly and out loud in my experience has only ever backfired miserably and has never achieved any beneficial outcome. Nobody feels good afterward and the situation remains unchanged.
I've observed that this presidential campaign and election has made it so that technique of removing myself isn't available in the way I've utilized it before...in the classic accounting of 'what happens on the micro level happens at the macro level', I'm seeing enacted on a large scale some of the specific power play dynamics that I experienced during my childhood and it's uncanny to now observe how numerous people cope with being presented with that timeless indirect order to submit to another person's mental illness for the perceived safety and security of the group...if retreat was my go-to for responding to an untenable situation, how do I remove myself entirely from a mentally ill person who has 60 million enablers, a military at his command, a public relations industry that protects his lies, billions of dollars at his disposal and the support of the nation's police departments?
And, no, moving to Canada is not a viable answer. That option is still retreat and I'm/we're looking to do something different.
Through this past election cycle I've gained more insight into how often I've removed myself from situations I've deemed unbearable because the alternative that presented itself seemed only that I submit to living a mutually agreed upon lie that the person stirring up conflict did not need to be held accountable. And, as much as I honor and respect the problem-solving skills of my past child self, I'm learning what different options are out there.
Because, as a strategy, retreat isn't working anymore. Every time I/we retreat into ourselves, we clip off some delicious, curious, creative and intelligent part of ourselves from the world. We curb our spirit.
And yet, straightforwardly describing Trump's behavior and making pleas for change clearly does not achieve anything other than up the ante for him.
I say this out loud as a reminder to myself and to us that when we rightly and accurately describe our President Elect's behavior as driven by mental health issues and instability, we ought not to be surprised when we provoke only defensiveness from the very people we'd like most to listen to us. We ought not to be surprised when we are collectively cast as 'bullies'. If only for the sake of our own mental health I suppose we ought to continue our public descriptions of the behavior, but for the sake of that same mental health we ought not to expect different results from him or from his enabling supporters.
Millions of lives are at stake from suffering physical harm at the whims of his instability, and yet being honest out loud about his mental state clearly isn't doing much to bring safety to these same groups. We need to find and provide alternative options without feeling as though we are backing down or, worse, submitting to the collective dysfunction.
Even as I type this, though, I think of the thousands of people armed powerfully only with prayer, their collective will and their spirit as they continue to face down assaults from a militarized police force. The people in the north in the Dakotas are providing us with a template for addressing the collective mental illness that is our dependence on oil and comfort. Prayer that is directly connected to spiritual action provides a route towards actual balanced power.
I suppose we can't pray for someone else to change; but we can pray for the internal strength to face the collective lies with honesty and with direct observation.
And, it will take strength to endure the onslaught of collective defensiveness.
We can't pray for someone else to change; but we can pray for the many things we are thankful for, the things that the mentally ill person cannot muddy up.
And, there are many things to remain thankful for.
We can't pray for someone else to change; but we can pray for groundedness within the slipperiness of it all.
And, the ground will remain slippery even as we can remain grounded.
In short, we can pray towards our own center.