Surviving Trump


May you live in interesting times.

~ Traditional Chinese curse


As we near the end of this horrible, terrible, not-very-good week I find myself having more and more conversations with friends and clients whose mental health took a nosedive on Tuesday.

They are angry, or anxious, or depressed, or grieving, or bewildered, or all of the above.

One client sent me an email describing these feelings, asking, “Should I worry?  Or is this the new normal?”

I answered, “I don’t know what the new normal is.  But if Facebook is any barometer, you’re not alone.”

That fact has actually helped me more than anything else.  Yes, I spend way too much time on Facebook.  But this week it really helped me to hear how many people were upset by this clusterfuck of an election.  And it helped me to go there and gnash my teeth in public.  Misery doth love company.

But I’m also a therapist, and Monday starts a new interesting week, and I expect to be faced with a good deal more misery to come.

Hence this short guide to surviving whatever the hell comes next.  


1. Don’t eat garbage.

Garbage means whatever makes you sick.   Sick means angry, anxious, depressed or hopeless.  Listen to your feelings, and go in the direction they point.  Change the channel.  Avoid Fox.  Avoid Facebook, or at least block anyone whose postings dismay you.  Move to another seat, away from the bigmouth who’s gloating.  That’s not rudeness, it’s self-defense.  Feed yourself good stuff instead.  Good food, good music, good friends.  Spend time with like-minded people, those who feel the way you do.  Even better, take a vacation from politics.  (They’ll still be there when you return.)  Walk in the woods or on a beach.  (Alongside the majesty of nature, politics shrivel in significance.)  Drink wine.  Drink hot cocoa.  Watch Frank Capra movies.  Read good books, ones that expand your mind and soul.  Or trashy novels that provide delicious escape.  Bake cookies and eat them with cold milk.  And if you have grandkids, play with them more (which is just what I’m doing right after I finish writing this).  


2. Throw the OFF switch.

On the projector in your head, I mean.  Yes, terrible things may happen, and no, we don’t want them to.  But they haven’t happened yet.  And obsessing won’t prevent them.  If you must do something, do something constructive.  Get political and work to elect progressives.  Send money to Planned Parenthood.  Join a Black Lives Matter march.  Go out of your way to be friendly to the Muslim woman you meet in the produce aisle.  Stick a safety pin in your collar.  (Unaware of the Safety Pin movement?  Scroll down to the bottom of this page.)  You’re not helpless; there are many opportunities to do good, and to feel good doing it.  But the one thing you should not do is sit in a corner listening to the insane chatter of monkeymind.


3. All politics are personal.

This is something I know but keep forgetting when I go on Facebook and encounter Trump supporters.  I forget that we believe what we believe, love what we love, hate what we hate and fear what we fear for subjective reasons.  That my political opinions, like a lawnful of dandelions, have roots sunk deep in my personal history, experiences, relationships, aspirations, disappointments and woundings.  Deep stubborn roots, many of them hidden even from myself.  That my unawareness of these roots only strengthens my faith in my own rightness, and your wrongness if you disagree with me.  Hence my self-righteous anger at you.  And hence the saying “In politics, as in love, we are often astounded by the choices of others.”  I’ll try harder to remember all this next time I’m astounded.




For more info, Google #safetypin or search

for Facebook posts under that hashtag.

The safety pin drawing at the top of the page

is by Jessica Jacks-Turkus.

7 responses to “Surviving Trump

  • Laura

    It seems like your prescription, withdrawing into your bubble, where everyone thinks like you, is what causes the shock and feeling of displacement when you’re forced to realize that – gee – everyone doesn’t have the same opinion, the same experience. If diversity is valuable, how about diversity of opinion? Maybe this caused the Dem’s loss in the first place. No one appeared to be listening – except Trump.

    • Steve Hauptman

      Point taken, Laura. But I was writing from the perspective of someone whose job is to help people (often people in significant emotional pain) get better at distinguishing what they can control from what they cannot. They are often people with blurred boundaries whose histories have led them to focus obsessively and self-destructively on what I call externals — people, places and things beyond their control. This external focus tends less to enlighten them or broaden their perspective than to cripple them emotionally. For them, survival often depends on shifting their focus and learning to take better care of themselves.

      • Laura

        I’m pretty sure those are my people! What I’m hearing is the projection of imagined future outcomes, which are somehow personalized – and the emotional reaction to those imagined future outcomes. Doesn’t that create a bubble that keeps reality out?

  • leb105

    1) Be curious about what is actually happening/happened. It’s valuable information about the world you inhabit – it’s not “a repudiation of everything you believe in” – it’s not about you.
    2) Look out the window and notice that the sky is not falling! You and your loved ones are intact, and very little in your life, your actual life, has changed, since Tuesday.
    3) NO ONE KNOWS what the future holds. We don’t know whether these events will ultimately be positive or negative. They could lead to a great awakening! Don’t make yourself miserable with fear-driven imaginings. 4) Be here, now. Live your values!

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