by Sam Buntz
In my dreams, I behave much like Donald Trump. For starters, there is little continuity between what I may be saying or doing and the last thing I said or did. As in a classic Trump press conference, nothing bears any clear cause-and-effect relationship to anything else. One moment, he’s praising a stack of Trump Steaks, and the next he’s threatening to throw CNN’s cameraman out the door. Then he’s talking about Marco Rubio’s propensity for flop sweats, while shaking drops of spray from a water bottle to illustrate his point. Similarly, in a typical dream, I will be back in high school Spanish class, taking an incomprehensible test in the nude, before suddenly smashing the front window of a K-Mart with a brick and getting arrested by a police officer with a falcon’s head.
The anti-logic of dreams governs Trump’s actual existence: he senses no sequential relationship between anything that happens in his life, whether he’s giving a speech or tweeting or eating breakfast—he can’t quite remember the last thing he did, and he’s only wildly, flutteringly conscious of what he’s doing now. He’s running on pure impulse. My dream-self can relate.
No. Scratch that.
I can relate.
My Freudian Id surfaces in dreams, and acts out. Primal sensations of aggression, terror, buffoonery, lust, and humiliation (often self-induced) explode out of my subconscious and play before me in lurid and disturbing splendor. When I see Trump defending his dick-size during a debate or claiming that Ted Cruz’s dad killed JFK or that “second amendment people” might want to assassinate Hillary, it strikes me that he is my Id. He is my dream-self brought into the wide-awake world.
When I watch Trump stoke an arena full of boy scouts, raving at them about a housing developer’s sex life as Rick Perry and a uniformed scout master stand behind him with frozen smiles, I feel like I am watching a video that was somehow taken inside my head at 4 a.m. A Tibetan Buddhist phrase, “the dreamlike nature of existence,” comes to mind and seems particularly pertinent.
This is why I have a hard time feeling emotions of hatred or even genuine dislike for Donald Trump. Oh, I strongly disapprove of him. Intellectually, I recognize that he represents modern decadence in its quintessential form. Yet, he’s too much a part of myself to viscerally despise. Instead, I have only bizarre, confusing empathy – like the empathy you might feel for a feral child who was raised by lemurs in an isolated jungle and knows no human language. The same incoherence exists within my own being. I can’t deny my dream-self, even if I usually manage to suppress it to a fair degree. Like Prospero from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, I need to say, “This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine.”
I would argue that my attitude towards Trump does not betoken my own instability and impending mental collapse. To the contrary, it is essentially healthy, sound, and in line with the theory and practice of Jungian psychology.
According to Carl Jung, each of us has a “shadow,” part of the personality we refuse to recognize as our own. The shadow represents things we don’t like about ourselves and which we consequently bury within our unconscious mind. However, according to Jung, this process of repression allows the shadow to gain control over us. Since, we refuse to allow ourselves to know the shadow, we remain oblivious to its designs and its capacity for exercising influence over us. The shadow becomes “blacker and denser” the more we deny its reality.
However, if we acknowledge the shadow, and bring it into the light of consciousness, it stops dominating us. We don’t need to take arms against the shadow or struggle against it with our willpower—we just need to see it. The more clearly we observe it, the less its influence can harm us. In a societal dimension, this would mean recognizing the problems or blind spots in the establishment’s way of thinking, which made the rise of a Trumpian candidate inevitable. It would mean recognizing one’s callous indifference towards so-called “flyover country” and confronting one’s corporate-oriented conception of social good.
Yet, it’s incredibly hard for people who do feel authentic hatred for Trump and for his supporters to acknowledge their own inner Trump. I mean, I understand the difficulty – but when you go on Twitter or Facebook, you see the consequences: many of Trump’s most vocal opponents are as deranged and terminally unreasonable as he is. Their blanket accusations are made in the same intolerant and un-empathetic spirit, hectoring and bullying without any self-reflection. Again, refusing to acknowledge the shadow gives the shadow power over you. You become what you despise.
Because Jungian analysts are hard to come by these days, a simple solution geared towards cultivating a rich sense of compassion for one’s enemies would help. If you can feel compassion towards Trump, you can feel compassion towards your own shadow self. Hell, if you can attain that lofty goal, you can feel compassion towards anybody.
A professor of Buddhist studies at Columbia University, Robert Thurman (father to Uma), has a solution based on a form of Tibetan meditation. During the Bush Administration, an interviewer for The New York Times asked Thurman what kind of meditation he practices. Thurman replied, “Usually, some form of trying to excavate any kind of negative thing cycling in the mind and turn it toward the positive. For example, when I am annoyed with Dick Cheney, I meditate on how Dick Cheney was my mother in a previous life and nursed me at his breast.” The interviewer responded, “You mean you fantasize about being breast-fed by Dick Cheney?” to which Thurman rejoined, “It’s a fantasy of releasing fear and developing affection. It’s a way of coming back to feeling grateful toward him and seeing his positive side, finding the mother in Dick Cheney.”
The form of Tibetan Buddhist meditation Thurman alluded to is based on the idea that we have all been reincarnating for so long that each individual has been both child and mother to every other individual in one lifetime or another. By meditating on this relation, one learns to feel compassion. One could imagine being suckled by Dick Cheney or, alternatively, one could imagine suckling him, in order to provoke this feeling. Quite naturally, the same goes for Donald Trump.
William Blake once said, “We become what we behold.” If we insist on holding a raving maniac within our mind’s eyes for a prolonged period of time, we are going to take on the qualities of that raving maniac. They will seep into us the same way a marinade gradually permeates a block of tofu. But if we acknowledge the maniac within ourselves, we can see that he is just a manifestation of a greater, non-maniacal self. As Thurman recommends, we can find the mother or baby within that maniac.
There’s still time. Dive within. See your shadow. Confront your inner nature and fully integrate it…
Breastfeeding baby Trump is your only chance.