Transmuting The Donald


I must, if honest, express some gratitude to Donald Trump and the forces that led to his election. This heretofore unthinkable event has allowed, no, the better word is forced, me to examine a deeply established pattern of psychological and spiritual suffering within the synapses of my mind. This pattern has been pushed to the surface of my consciousness where I have had no choice but to see it and to take steps to change it.

Let me first acknowledge that Donald Trump presents a very real existential threat to peace and freedom. He is incompetent and by any legitimate definition of the term, insane. That threat is real. However in my lifetime I have experienced the presidencies of much nicer, smarter, and saner people who have nonetheless pursued policies of empire, war, and economic exploitation. The public face is no guarantee of progressive policies. Whatever the face of the president, there is little or nothing I can do, given the current system of governmental power and privilege. The deeper damage being done to my psyche by Donald Trump is in the realm of my mind - in the world of my conscious and unconscious fears. It is in this world that the real price is being paid in health, happiness, and creative functioning. Good news! It is in this world that I actually do have the power to change things.

Donald Trump is the archetypal Bully. He is the kid on the playground who weighs 300 pounds and carries a set of brass knuckles in his back pocket - and you know he is nuts enough to use them whether the teacher is around or not. His whole aim is to get his way by inspiring fear, and he is very skilled at it. He gathers around him a gang of simpering sycophants who mitigate their own fear by taking his side and hiding in his shadow. The rest of us try all sorts of strategies in order to get through the day. Some of us give him our lunch money and get out of the way. Many of us try to get the teachers to, for god’s sake, do something! They don’t. Some of us try to stay in the shadows and last until summer, then beg our parents to move to a different school district. The common advice from parents usually takes the form of “If you stand up to a bully, he will back down.” Yeah. 

Whether it was in grade school or later on in life, most of us have been scarred by the Bully in one way or another and are left with unexpressed rage, fear, shame, frustration, and feelings of impotency. As a result we sometimes cower and knuckle under. At other times we lash out in vitriolic fury at the slightest unrelated provocation. We might take the bully’s side in order to feel protected; or we might join our own “gang” at work for the same reason. Most of our strategies simply fuel the suffering cycle that the Bully archetype forms within our minds, keeping the process firmly in place. 

My own suffering cycle looks like this: 

1. I try to stay balanced and go about my daily life of creativity and simple pleasures.

2. A piece of “news” slips into my day with Trump’s face on it. (Note there are many other triggers for the “Bully” cycle.)

3. All my buried fears light up and I begin to hunt down more “news,’ projecting every sort of disaster.

4. Repressed shame and impotency appear, assuring me of my powerlessness in all things.

5. The natural responses of anger, frustration, and outrage take the stage, followed by pure white-hot rage.

6. My whole life tilts and creative work, relationships, and simple pleasures suffer.

7. Depression is the inevitable offspring that now turns up.

8. I return to my abstinence from news about things that are not actionable for me. I resolve not to let things bother me and I settle down a bit. BUT…

9. The synapses in my brain are patterned, programed, literally addicted to the energy hit the bully suffering cycle provides, SO…

10. Before long I unconsciously scan for another bit of “news” to get my hit.

11. See number 3. 

Simply making this cycle conscious helps a great deal. It lessens the time I spend stuck in any one part of the circle. It also helps to develop strategies for intervention at certain stages. For instance, when the initial hit occurs I can remind myself not to follow it down the rabbit hole of the compulsive gathering of internet misinformation. I can acknowledge the initial hit of fear but abstain from following it around the circle. 

Another place where intervention helps is by using my Qigong practices to “burn up” the anger, frustration, and rage. These feelings are simply energy coursing through my body and certain Qigong movements focus on the heart and the belly where internal “fires” actually transmute damaging energy into internal healing and into actions that help my community.

Intervention can actually occur at any stage. Even if I get caught and have to let the cycle burn its way through, I can still transmute the energy and become more skilled at catching it early on. The “Bully Suffering Cycle” does not have to dominate our lives. Donald Trump is an archetype, a symbol, and much of the damage he causes is the internal damage done to those of us (actually, all of us) who have this cycle in place. Our first place of engagement with Trump has to be within our hearts and minds. When we can transmute the energy he triggers, we will be able to see clearly, without reactive mental chaos. We will be able to act effectively and powerfully without wasted outrage. We will be able to heal ourselves and our society with patience and compassion.