Peter Kane – Relationship Theorist and author "The Monogamy Challenge"

What Can We Learn from Donald Trump?

Wow, this is a crazy election. I have always enjoyed teaching about how the political world reflects other relationships and how we are evolving (or not) as humans. Relationship dynamics are somewhat universal and our core issues usually are acted out in multiple spheres. Our political preferences will likely mirror the way we view other relationships. What we believe most deeply about ourselves will also effect multiple areas of our lives. For example, low self-esteem will effect our business and personal lives in a similar way. If we are defensive we will likely express it in most or all of our relationships. Our relationship patterns might look different from one area of our lives to the next, but I usually find that if I am talking with a client about a relationship dynamic in one area (like work) it is usually helpful if I ask them how that issue may be similar to the issues they have in their personal or love life. We may not know immediately, but we can usually make connections and by doing so, get to a deeper understanding of both areas. This is also true with our political preferences — we can learn a lot about ourselves by looking at what we prefer and by what we resist.

But why Donald Trump? How did we get here? We can also further understand this if we use a diagnostic principle. What is the one thing that explains the most symptoms? In medicine, this would mean looking for the one illness that explains the most symptoms. In our personal lives this would mean looking for a core issue that explains multiple areas of our life. What is our core belief or self-esteem issue that effects our personal and business relationships?

How then, can we most simply, and therefore accurately, explain the appeal of Donald Trump? People are angry and they want change. This is understandably human, but is it optimal for us to vote in anger, or allow our anger to dictate relationships? Anger is a protective emotion and is very tied to fear. We are scared and therefore protective. When we feel fear, we guard, and when we are guarded, we attack. We think we are justly protecting ourselves and we don’t see that we are blaming and attacking.

This human tendency often results in our blaming the status quo for our concerns and looking for a quick fix. This is usually a component of all elections. The challenger of the stratus quo tries to appeal to the desire for change. In this case, the challenger may be out of control and lying about how bad things really are, but he has struck a nerve. Vulnerable voters, who feel that times are hard have listened to the exaggerated myths of an angry Donald Trump and our election has become a cartoonish blame game. Even if this nerve is struck in only a minority of voters, it is something we can all learn from.

Our politics are showing us all something about our anger and our fight or flight responses in relationships. Anger is a valuable instinct when used for self-protection but it can also be misplaced. We tend to blame people when we have difficulty owning up to our own problems. We also blame when we have difficulty self-soothing and comforting our fears. It is as if when we feel hurt in a relationship we only allow ourselves to feel it for a fraction of a second before we react defensively with fight or flight. To heal, we need to learn to feel and comfort our vulnerability from within instead of looking outside of ourselves for a quick fix.

One of the most challenging aspects of creating successful relationships is to learn to take responsibility for our own behaviors instead of being a victim and blaming the other. Other peoples shortcomings do not occur in a vacuum, they occur in response to other factors, including our behavior. Improvement comes one step at a time, by taking responsibility for our role in a problem, not from quick fixes or lashing out in anger.

I pray that we all continue to take responsibility for our feelings and our lives. This does not mean we are alone — that is another topic. We can self-soothe and take responsibility, and be connected. What we need is connection.

Next, I will share about Understanding People’s Ambivalence About Hilary Clinton and why people dislike authoritative women. I honestly think that virtually everyone’s perspective is skewed by how patriarchy has conditioned us to be uncomfortable with authoritative women!

Love, Peter

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Peter Kane - Counselor • Coach • Relationship Theorist | 425-802-2050
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