Trumped by Trauma

A survival strategy

You and I, and every other human being, experienced feelings of overwhelm, fear and shame as children. At times we felt powerless. It is impossible to avoid.

Every one of us is also influenced by the deep patterns held in the people who came before is – our ancestral field.

This combination of recent past and long past is within us all. It is the human condition.

Donald Trump’s rise and fall from power is the result of a natural process seen in many who have experienced developmental trauma that includes feeling powerless as a child and who are also influenced by deep family patterns.

A response to trauma. A survival strategy.

When you look below the surface of the man who is the outgoing US President – and beyond all the celebrations and frustrations about the end of his regime – you begin to see that his life and work are orientated around the traumas he experienced, and the mental and emotional frameworks he seems to have put in place to survive them.

One of his most frequent experiences was powerlessness, and so, it appears, he made a deep inner choice to move towards positions of power so he would never have to feel that vulnerable again.

This is perhaps the strongest appeal of explicit authority – a position of power: it appears to offer protection from unbearable feelings of vulnerability and powerlessness.

Getting into apparently unchallengeable positions of power is a common defence, a survival strategy against feeling powerless ever again.

So, to understand the man and in particular his relationship with power – rather than take sides with or against him and fuel the endless repeating patterns connected to ideas about ‘right and wrong’ – we must understand a little more about what he comes from and, in particular, how he learnt to survive it.

It is the strategies we develop to survive our childhood pain that set up the patterns of our behaviour for life – as leaders, as parents, as leadership coaches.

“I’ve always believed that, deep down, Donald is a terrified little boy.”

Mary Trump, Donald’s niece, clinical psychologist and author of ‘Too Much and Never Enough’

The ancestral field

If you want to think and work ‘systemically’ you are, by definition, thinking and looking from a multi-generational perspective. After all we are all born into an ongoing family drama in which each generation passes on something to the next.

Donald Trump was born – like all of us – into a complex family system. His ancestral field had difficulties and resources in it, just as yours does. You’ll already know that his maternal grandparents lived on the remote Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides off the wild west coast of Scotland. They lived there not because they liked the scenery, but because they were thrown off the land their people had lived on for hundreds of years (the mainland) by the English government in order to make it more profitable.

Their daughter, Mary Anne MacLeod, who would later become Donald’s mother, understandably felt trapped and so moved, aged just 17, to America in 1930 to find better opportunities in the land of the free, as it was already known.

On his paternal side, his grandfather escaped German military service by travelling, aged just 16, to North America. Long story short, he ended up running a series of barber shops, then brothels and, having made a small fortune from trading in sexual services, he invested that money in a low-rent housing business in New York. He died of the ‘Spanish flu’ in 1918 leaving his young son, Donald’s father, grief stricken but loyal to his father’s survival strategy – the accumulation of wealth through property. And perhaps his views about the value of women.

That is a very brief glimpse of the field of the family system young Donald emerged from. But he also, like many of us, endured childhood wounding and complex developmental trauma as well.

“To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain perpetually a child. For what is the worth of a human life unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors?”

Marcus Tullius Cicero

The family system

When Donald was barely three, his mother nearly died as the result of an emergency hysterectomy and she had to go through several operations to save her life over a period of weeks and then months. For a while it seemed she wouldn’t survive.

“Trauma is not what happens to us but what we hold inside in the absence of an empathetic witness.”

Peter Levine

All children, especially those under five, will feel overwhelmed and powerless by sudden separations and fear of abandonment. Especially if the separation is from the mother and especially if the father is in shock, denial or not well resourced to take care of children.

A break in the bond with the mother is the most painful of attachment traumas, one with long-lasting impact. Some of those who experience a disconnect from their mother can grow up to have an ‘attachment style’ that may be described as avoidant, disorganised or unregulated. However you describe it – an attachment trauma; inner splitting; disassociation – it is a natural response to trauma, designed to protect the vulnerable sense of self. How we respond to our experiences of disruption in childhood soon becomes our deep patterns for surviving the challenges of life and work for years to come.

“What cannot be communicated to the mother cannot be communicated to the self.”

John Bowlby

Donald was nearly five years old before his mother could be present again. He kept his distance when she returned, just in case.

Donald’s emotional separation from his mother lasted for decades and was never fully repaired or recovered.

After all, it feels too risky to reconnect and trust someone who disappears, most especially if it is your mother.

If the family environment is not one in which that is understood, then an inner split can occur and the personality can fracture. Defence mechanisms emerge and get stronger, more entrenched, over time. And you look elsewhere to have your needs met.

Little boy Donald’s reaction and the internal defence mechanisms he put in place are natural and need, if we are to see him with compassion as just another human being, to be understood, resourced, supported and healed, not judged as right or wrong.

Other attachment and developmental traumas continued in several different ways through his childhood, school and beyond. He was bullied at school and then, as he himself has described, his father set him and his siblings, in particular his older brother, up against each other. There was an implicit and later an explicit competition between the sons for who was the favourite, who would inherit the three-generation male-line property empire.

Donald watched his father humiliate and bully his older brother Freddy for years.

When Freddy couldn’t tolerate it any longer he left the family business to become an airline pilot, so his father “dismantled him by devaluing and degrading every aspect of his personality” (Mary Trump). It then became Donald’s turn to try and survive his father’s search for an ‘invulnerable’ son and heir. He had already learnt that leaving the family business would mean leaving the family – and that showing feelings or other signs of ‘weakness’ about that or anything else would be a very dangerous road to go down with his father.

As this powerful combination of generational and attachment trauma combined to entangle him, his choice was bleak: risk exclusion forever if he left like his older brother, or be bullied and threatened, if he stayed. There was shame in either choice. So he agreed to the unwritten rule of belonging in his family system: ‘I will stay in the family (business), to survive…’ and perhaps: ‘It’s us Dad, against the world – and the rest of the family.’

Belonging is the deepest human need and we will do anything to meet that need.

Like any of us might, he chose what felt like the safest, perhaps the only option. His other option was to escape and then be systematically destroyed and de-humanised by his father.

He found a way to survive.

“Children are traumatised in the context of relationship. Trauma has a pervasive and long-term influence on their self-concept, on their sense of the world and on their ability to regulate themselves.”

DeAngelis

Reflection point

What are my own ‘survival strategies’ designed to avoid my own wounding and how do I manifest those strategies in my behaviours as a leader, a partner, a parent, a leadership coach?

Deep patterns

Response strategies and patterns, designed to protect our very survival, go in and stay in. They form a key part of the many deep patterns of behaviour which can influence our whole lives. The way Donald responded as an infant and young child – to the ancestral patterns, sense of abandonment by his mother and then the overwhelming, shaming judgements of his father – became his default response, for life.

As it would have done for you or me in the same circumstances.

This doesn’t excuse what he has done in life, in business and then as a President; it simply puts those behaviours, reactions and actions in a much larger context from which we can begin to look with less judgement, with insight and with understanding: beyond limiting ideas of right and wrong.

Instead of right and wrong, think of it as loyalty or disloyalty, and remember that our deepest loyalties, inevitably, come from the systems in which we have belonged and depended on – in the case of the family system, for life itself.

Our compassionate and conscious awareness does not stop us from taking a stand against the behaviours, calling them out. In politics or in organisational leadership. It’s the inner attitude that changes and makes the difference in how we speak and then how we are heard.

All behaviours make sense when seen in the context of the system to which they are an act of loyalty. They protect belonging.

Our compassionate and conscious awareness does not stop us from taking a stand against the behaviours, calling them out. In politics or in organisational leadership. It’s the inner attitude that changes and makes the difference in how we speak and then how we are heard.

Three needs

The kind of developmental traumas that are well documented in the many accounts of Donald’s life deepen when the pain and shame cannot find a safe relational field in which they can be held. A relational field that meets our three human needs.

We all have three deep needs that are present from birth. If these needs are not met they create fragility, behaviours and defences throughout life and life at work.

The three needs are: the need to belong in a loving family system; the need to be recognised as a unique human being and the need to feel safe.

At some level most of us know how vulnerable you can feel as an adult if a childhood need for safety, recognition or belonging were not met and you then get ‘triggered’ in a way that connects you to the original experience and the suppressed feelings.

By many accounts Donald’s father could be brutal and controlling – his own survival strategy perhaps – but his manipulative, de-humanising behaviours were all Donald knew about ‘leadership’ and ‘authority’ at home, and in business. They were his normal. Then, as a business leader and as a President he very nearly managed to normalise the brutality, manipulation and derision he experienced as a child and young man.

This is a pattern you can see in many leaders – and several world leaders.

Reflection point

Were my own needs for belonging, recognition and safety met in my family of origin? How did I respond and what survival responses and strategies did I develop to balance those needs which were not fully met?

The comfort of familiar pain

Some people who experience childhood trauma hide away, keep themselves small. Others search for leadership, some for global leadership, and so make themselves big. As if to say ‘When I grow up I’ll be in charge of everything.’

It is a search to recover control and feel less.

The idea of being in charge of everything and everybody appears to offer the ultimate protection; finally, a safe harbour. You need only think of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to see a vivid illustration of this. When he was a young man he said that he wanted “to be ling of the world!”

It is being ‘in control’ – rather than ‘responsible for’ – that is so appealing to the adult who felt powerless as a child.

The search is to never feel vulnerable again. They imagine they will become unassailable, in a position in which it is impossible to feel vulnerable. The price for this position is loneliness.

Many world leaders are in lonely positions of power precisely because they are victims of deep wounding in a relationship system in which they felt powerless, unseen or unsafe.

However, the feeling of loneliness is one they are used to, so it is a price they are willing to pay.

But if the ‘position of power’ is taken away it can make them feel very vulnerable indeed – the very feeling they are trying to avoid.

And then you might see them acting and speaking as if they were that powerless child again.

A question of power

So, it can be important to ask the question: where does a desire for power through position comes from? And hold it in our minds when working with others.

Are we seeking positions of power in order to quell inner feelings of powerlessness, or are we – as leaders and leadership coaches – occupying those positions in a way that is resourced and resourceful for others in the system?

reflection point

What is my own relationship with power through position?

Outside in, inside out

We can pick up trauma patterns from our forebears in the past which then lead us to experience more pain and confusion in the present. This combination is held within us and can be surfaced and bought into our consciousness by external events in the larger social fields we all exist within – as we have seen with the rise in anxiety, depression and suicide during the pandemic.

However, when we are also in a position of power and great influence, our own traumas can get passed the other way, into the social fields we influence, into society itself. In the individual we are reflecting on here, three deep patterns that are held in his systems – racism, sexism and violence – appear to get amplified quickly.

The traumatic patterns and defence strategies in the person and their system and the trauma and defences in the social systems combine; outside in, inside out. It’s a ‘perfect storm’ of trauma as we have seen perhaps in 2020, where there was a significant rise in homicides across the US and an extraordinary amount of firearms bought. More than in any other year since records began.

A record 16.7 million guns were bought in the US in 2020.

In major cities across the country the murder rate was 53% higher over the summer months than the same period in 2019 and 15% higher across the whole country. The issue of racial injustice came to the fore. That is a trauma-based dynamic held in the field of the history of the entire country but also in the family system of the man who was President.

A traumatised country puts a traumatised man into the most powerful position and more trauma is created.

“Whenever a living beings’ inherent power is blocked – by emotional or physical means – rage is the energy that arises. This is in order to restore the natural undeniable inclination towards aliveness.”

Sarah Ross PhD

Survival strategies

Psychotherapist and professor of psychology Franz Rupert describes how the traumatised child splits into three parts: a traumatised part, a survival part and a healthy part. It is the survival part – whose job it is to keep the traumatised part (now unconscious and stuck at the age around when the trauma happened) away from the conscious awareness of the healthy part and deny it exists – that we see in our ‘difficult behaviours’, language and attitudes.

The four key survival strategies are denial, suppression, control and avoidance.

One of the common signs of this kind of trauma-induced splitting and the layers of defences against it is extreme optimism, mixed with suppressed anger and depression, finished off with a sharp focus on winning.

“Winning is easy, loosing is difficult – for me at least”

Donald Trump, November 2nd 2020

Those who have suffered chronic trauma and are not resourced to heal it may live their entire lives in a defended state of half-truths and fantasies that serve to protect from the awful, unbearable feelings.

Perhaps Donald is, as Franz Rupert puts it: ‘someone who tries to deny and repress the reality of his experience of powerlessness.’

We are victims, not of Donald’s traumas, but the way he learnt to respond to them. To his survival strategies.

This is why he warrants understanding and compassion, not derision and judgment – he had enough of that as child. The more he is judged and belittled, the more he will defend and then attack – as you can hear in his language every day. He is saying now what he was unable to say as child.

Thought for the day

How do I judge others for the behaviours that result from their survival strategies?

The defended self

If an individual suffers systemic and developmental traumas, those traumas become embodied. And that person will do anything to try and prevent it all from happening again and will willingly loose contact with themselves to help ensure this, to protect themself.

If we suffer enough pain and frustration, we actually want to disconnect from ourselves. It is better not to have a sense of self if it is that painful, so we turn instead to others to find out who they would like us to be. But the defended person has many rivals because survival is a highly competitive game with ‘winners’ and ‘losers’. In Donald’s case perhaps, he found business, then TV and then the theatrical grandstand of American politics.

Any substantial platform will do if being on it supports the identity and sense of self. Life becomes a performance and we see the persona, not the person underneath.

“Donald has always needed to perpetuate the fiction that my grandfather started, that he is strong, smart and otherwise extraordinary, because facing the truth – that he is none of those things – is too terrifying for him to contemplate.”

Mary Trump

“That’s why I’m so screwed up, because I had a father that pushed me pretty hard.”

‘Think Big’ by Donald Trump

reflection point

How do I resource my inner leadership authority?

The show must go on

This double bind of inner splitting to defend and loss of contact with self is doubtless very painful, but that pain is also deflected away, ignored, projected onto others and defended against, and so it goes on.

Inner life is sacrificed for an outer life where all the pain and conflict inside gets rejected and projected onto others. The world of reflection and learning, the idea of ‘healing’, ‘therapy’ or ‘coaching’, is all considered off limits, is only for ‘weak’ people and ‘losers.’

The feelings that deeply defended people are, very understandably, trying to avoid are vulnerability and shame. However, they show their inner turmoil, their intolerable feelings, in their language and behaviours. These often include difficulties with collaboration, fear-based living and decision making, a conflictual and often litigious approach to negotiations and a great difficulty in seeing themselves as others view them.

You can perhaps see this in Mr. Trump: it comes with a tendency to take yourself very seriously.

Everyone else is the joke, not you.

The lack of humour and lack of humility go hand in hand. This is all a vital part of the protection and defence of course, and its purpose is poignant: protection of the fragile sense of self.

Thought for the day

Have I really accepted that my own personal and professional development journey is one of life-long learning, not a quick fix?

Projection out

Finally, the projection of inner turmoil onto others is a striking trademark of the defended self, combined, as it often is, with hyper-vigilance.

You may remember how Donald campaigned for the death penalty for five young black men who were falsely accused of raping a woman in Central Park, back in 1989. Taking out a full-page advertisement in four newspapers, he demanded, in capital letters, to ‘Bring back the death penalty’. Some years later it became clear that he himself has been accused of rape on multiple occasions.

The projection of harsh punishments for others, that at some level they believe they may deserve themselves, is common in those who have split inside.

Years later, when he goaded crowds of people to chant ‘Lock her up!’ about Hilary Clinton. Was he perhaps talking about the part of himself that ‘knows’ he should be imprisoned?

reflection point

What punishments do I secretly think others should suffer from for their ‘bad behaviour’ and how do those relate to a part of me I cannot yet see or tolerate?

Embodied defence

So, being high-profile in some way, being ‘in power’, looks very attractive, because it seems safe and likely to attract attention and admiration. However, as the wounded person climbs the ladders necessary to achieve this, they will usually separate from themselves and their own bodies. This process, of unexpressed emotional and psychological pain being expressed through the physical body, is called somatisation.

You see this in corporate life, where it is often combined with extreme competence and/or extreme control, and you see it in the entertainment industry and politics. Inner life is sacrificed for outer success and adulation – but the body keeps the score.

The unconscious pull is to avoid shame through seeking fame – at any price.

The inner tussle of controlling an outer image, a persona, whilst denying the inner experience shows up in the physical body and the way the body is shown to others. That potent battle – fake tan and white teeth (suddenly darker and whiter immediately following January 6th 2021) on the outside, obesity on the inside – shows up in this case, perhaps.

From a distance, my choice is simple / From a distance, I can entertain
So you can see me, I put makeup on my face /But there’s no way you can feel it, from so far away
I’ll be your clown, behind the glass / Go ahead and laugh, ’cause it’s funny
I would too, if I saw me / I’ll be your clown, on your favourite channel
My life’s a circus-circus, ’round in circles / I’m selling out tonight

‘Clown’ by Emily Sande

Becoming heavy, carrying excess bodyweight, can be a sign of a deeply defended and disassociated person. It is as if to say, “I’m covered in protection, so you can’t reach me, can’t hurt me.” And, “Finally, I am safe from you and from everyone.”

“The bodies of traumatised people portray snapshots of their unsuccessful attempts to defend themselves in the face of threat.”

Peter Levine

In the case of Donald Trump perhaps it might be something like: “I am protected from and ‘bigger than’ all of you, now including my father, mother and older brother.” You can think of these inner, unspoken words as ‘life sentneces’ for that is the affect they have. 

Reflection point

What unresolved emotional traumas does my physical body hold and show to me?

It’s existential

In the search for an answer to the question we all ask ourselves, ‘who am I?’, the defended person seeks the answer outside themselves and so can get caught up in an unconscious process where they create external objects to find the answer that actually lies within. Books about themselves, eponymous businesses and, in Trump’s case also buildings with his name on. This perhaps confirms to him that he exists and is ‘bigger than’ others, in particular his father.

In this highly defended place, where your sense of yourself is almost entirely built on an outer image, you live in a world of ‘win or lose’ and you hardly know who you are if you are not competing, not winning.

The highly defended person must win, or make it look and sound as if they are.

For this reason loosing the most powerful political position on earth is not just the end of a political career but a deeply personal existential crisis.

And you will do anything to survive. Anything to avoid feeling the emptiness inside. Whatever it takes, you are ‘all in’ and this requires focus.

“People complain that Trump has a short attention span, myself included. But when it comes to his own re-election he has an infinite attention span.”

John Bolton, US National Security Advisor 2018-2019

Loss of positional power can trigger the deepest survival patterns – and the deepest private fears – to really show themselves. It becomes a battle, a battle for survival of the self. But as the self has been partially or wholly abandoned along the way – persona over person – it is a battle that has to be won, otherwise the whole existential frame, the sense of self, collapses.

Belonging

We humans are attracted to a similar level (and kind) of trauma as our own. This phenomenon is, like most of the deeper dynamics in human relationship systems, a mostly unconscious process. This invisible but magnetic process can make strangers feel somehow familiar, comfortable, safe.

Many of Trump’s supporters declare love for him, as if he were in their family, and they in his. They recognise his reference points but also perhaps his inner unspoken wounding masked by outer confidence and that creates a deep connection and powerful sense of belonging.

All this because they feel safe, seen and recognised, not over-looked and forgotten.

Loyalty

One of the common ways to show you belong is to mimic the behaviours of the system or person you are being loyal to. Put another way, you stay loyal to the survival strategies of the one you follow, and then show them in your own behaviour too.

You can see that in organisational life, and you could see this in the weeks leading up to the 2020 US elections when Trump supporters re-enacted his bullying and ‘macho man’ behaviours – the ones that Donald himself had learnt would win and keep his father’s attention – when they overran Democrat rallies shouting, remonstrating and laughing at Joe Biden supporters.

These are just the behaviours Donald endured as a child – bullying and shaming – and just the behaviours he learnt secured his belonging within his family system.

The deepest loyalties come from belonging, and Donald’s behaviour is a good example of this. He had to prove his loyalty to his father in order to protect his belonging.

“Donald has evaluated all of this country’s alliances, and all of our social progress purely through the prism of money, just as his father taught him to do.”

Mary Trump

The deepest loyalties come from belonging and Donald’s behaviour is a good example of this in his loyalty to his father, something he had to do and to show in order to protect his belonging.

But Donald is also unconsciously loyal to his other ancestors, just like you and I are to ours.

You can perhaps see his entanglements and connections with people who were thrown off their land and into low-rent, poor quality accommodation – his maternal grandparents’ fate. You can see a deeply unconscious connection to and rejection of immigrants and the movement of desperate people across borders – his maternal grandparents’ and paternal grandfather’s story. A similar entanglement with ill-health, germs and anything that could make him unwell is present – his rejection and distance from his mother and her long time away from him in hospital, and his paternal grandfather’s death from the pandemic of 1918.

You can see the connection to the deep pattern in which women are consigned to domestic and sexual ‘duties’ and not as resourced or equally valued as men. Where sex is used by men to confirm position and is another expression of their power. And you can see how deeply the belief that money is the best resource and sign of strength, above all others, is so deeply held in the system.

Loyalties, survival responses and deep patterns are handed down through the generations.

In this case perhaps, there are generations of men trying to find a safe place and way to belong in the world. Trying to find another man to look up to, trying to find a safe father figure.

Instead they find what is more familiar. Each other.

“He was envious of leaders like Putin, Xi Jinping and Erdogan. They are big guys and they do big guy things and he wants to be a big guy too.”

John Bolton, Former US National Security Advisor

Reflection point

To whom or what am I unconsciously loyal?

The shadow in the mirror

Nobody escapes some wounding as a child from the potent mix of people and events in their childhoods, in particular from their first two relationships systems: their family-of-origin and school systems. Everyone develops different ways of trying to survive the inevitable painful experiences. Very often by shutting them away.

In that way many of us are no different to Donald, and before judging others we must first take a look within: at our own shadow, the part we deny and exclude. We all have an inner perpetrator we’d rather not admit to or acknowledge.

We may have been better resourced to deal with our challenges, existential threats and overwhelming experiences, but that doesn’t make us better than Trump, just better resourced.

If we are not well supported and resourced to process our traumas then we shut them away. However, what we shut away and deny we project onto others – and for many people Donald Trump represents the parts of ourselves that we have denied and then projected.

In this way we can ensure Trump inhabits our disowned parts and makes us feel better about ourselves. And then we take sides against him and have lost the point.

If we are to embody the stance of the ‘applied philosophy’ that is systemic coaching and family system constellations, working ‘in the field beyond ideas of right and wrong’, we must find within us a way to look at ourselves – and then others – with compassion.

To do that we must include our own trauma in our field of view so we can locate the source of our own unresolved grief, shame or overwhelm. And we must re-include what we have rejected within us, what is too hard for us to look at. Then explore who and what we are loyal to.

All this takes time but makes for a rich inner life and a feeling of being resourced, combined with humility and respect for everyone just as they are.

This is the challenge and reward of life-long learning and is where inner change can begin.

End games

Many people who exclude their trauma, who choose not to look at it and walk towards healing, continue to use the same survival strategies for life. They, or perhaps we, carry a series of inner ‘life sentences’ that might include ‘Better I never look inside and keep up appearances outside…’

‘If I do anything else (admit mistakes, take responsibility, see reality) it is too terrifying, intolerable and surfaces my vulnerability, so I will stay in defence mode.’

“Trump cannot win this election. But he will do everything he can through the courts and his political allies to question the legitimacy of the result. We will enter unknown territory in the history of this country.”

Sidney Blumenthal

Donald couldn’t fight his way out of, or fly away from his original traumatic experiences of belonging, so a part of him froze inside and a part built an internal boundary, a wall to defend against ever feeling so lost and powerless again.

We see his inner constellation, on the outside, in several ways – very often hidden not far under the surface, in his language.

“It’s a great feeling to have closed up the border with this wall.”

Donald Trump, August 18th 2020 at ‘the wall’ construction site, Yuma, AZ, USA

Now, as he feels powerless again, he will perhaps start a fight, taking half the country with him on a crusade against feeling his own terror. It will be better, he will feel, to project that terror back out and let the people, his people, fight for him.

Better a war on the outside than the terror of one within.

The only other choice is surrender, an inner surrender. But when you’ve lived most of your life in survival mode, doing so is too unfamiliar and dangerous to consider. Better the comfort of familiar pain.

“For the first time in his life he is faced with an undeniable loss, out of which nobody can help him. He is facing something utterly intolerable.”

Mary Trump, Channel 4 news, November 6th 2020

Trump is at a crossroads. If his previous pattern repeats, his familiar survival response, he will stay and fight. As if for his life.

His pain is clear and, like other high-profile people who suffered as children, offers us a useful mirror to look at our own wounding, survival responses, behaviours and leadership.

Clear the way for my crash landing / I’ve done it again, another number for your notes

I’d be smiling if I wasn’t so desperate / I’d be patient if I had the time

I guess it’s funnier from where you’re standing / ‘Cause from over here I missed the joke…

‘Clown’ by Emily Sande

Back to the start

Trauma creates trauma unless the cycle is stopped through compassionate intervention. Donald has built an apparently impenetrable wall around his heart and mind and habitually relies on his survival strategy to defend and protect himself.

As he will see it there is no option but to stay and fight, in whatever way is available. as long as he is not able to see himself as a ‘looser’ he will be able to continue to protect himself.

The father figure he feared so much and then dismissed as he became vulnerable as an old man has been replaced by other male world leaders.

Survival strategies are very powerful, potent and design to endure. So you survive.

Getting stuck in them is much more common than finding your way out which requires a deep desire for different, better, healing. If your survival strategy is to deny your own true identity, because it was not allowed by your parents or caregivers then that sets up a deep pattern that can last a lifetime.

In this case perhaps a pattern of denial that expresses itself on the outside, in what he says and does, so as to avoid the inner split who he really is and who he had to become in order to belong, to survive.  If there is no truth on the inside there can be none on the outside or the world doesn’t make sense.

Donald’s inner world appears to be clear. What was denied was needed (love, psychological safety, recognition as a unique individual) but not allowed, what was on offer had to be accepted in its place. The trauma of not being seen or allowed to be himself by his family perhaps created a fake inner world that we see in his outer persona. Truth is not allowed on the inside so it can not be tolerated on the outside. In that upside down, lonely inner world the virus that has killed half a million Americans is fake, the election result is fake, the idea that he incited violence is fake.

If he allows himself to think differently that would mean his whole life has been fake and no human can tolerate that, so the lie has to be kept up, nurtured and proved time over.

Until and unless we integrate the insights available from the understandings of the dynamics and deep hidden loyalties that emerge as a result of our need to belong, we are unlikely to be able to protect ourselves from people who have been so hurt in this way.

Those who were hurt in similar ways, who also believe and amplify Trumps’ false equivalences will continue to follow him, will fight for him and will die for him. If they don’t then their entire sense of self and meaning making – and therefore their sense of belong – would fall away and that is intolerable.

The fact that there are 70 million people in the US who think in this way simply shows us the extent of systemic and developmental traumas. It runs through families and social systems like an endless river.

Until we face and turn the river and find its source in each case we wil simply be playing with stones and damns hoping for the best, hoping the floods and blockages are a sign of change. They are not.

We must face into family and social-system trauma, particularly when they combine as they appear to in Mr Trump.

But first, we must face our own.

 

 

 

This article connects with others
Becoming bigger or smaller than others has a very significant impact on the flow of life, of love and of leadership. 

Adoption
If adoptive parents make themselves bigger than the birth parents it leads to significant difficulties in the adopted child’s life and work. See here for more on adoption dynamics.

Forgiveness
There are many ideas about the apparent benefits of forgiving another, however it is often a cover-up for a covert change in size in which the ‘victim’ becomes the ‘perpetrator’ and ‘bigger in the way we mean it here. See here for more on the hidden dynamics of forgiveness. 

This article connects with others
Becoming bigger or smaller than others has a very significant impact on the flow of life, of love and of leadership. 

Founder
If a founder establishes a system in an attempt to show their parents, siblings or school rivals that they are ‘better than’ them, they make themselves bigger and that in turn leads to a sense of loneliness. See here for an article on founder dynamics.  

Mother
Your mother is the source of life and it is by accepting that gift from her and seeing her just as the woman through whom your life came, that you can find peace.  See here for ‘Men and their mothers‘ and here for ‘Women and their mothers.’

Please Note: From January 2021 this article and the others in the series will only be available through our new ‘Mighty Networks’ online community HERE.

For the first three months lifelong membership of that online community
will be a nominal £35 to cover administration costs. 

Please note that the fee is charged in US dollars because ‘Mighty Networks’ is a US company.
Exchange rates may vary. Lifelong membership is currently: $35:99 [plus fees of $7:19] = $43:18 until April 2021