In this podcast I show how many of psychological dynamics that I’ve been discussing this year—especially those involving the role of trauma in development—apply in my own personal life. I do so by reading an essay I wrote 10 years ago called “Saying Goodbye” for a collection called The Face In the Mirror: Writers Reflect on Their Dreams of Youth and the Reality of Age, edited by Victoria Zackheim. The essay is about saying goodbye to my terminally ill father for the last time. For the text of the podcast, please go to the source.
When someone feels aggrieved, that person is usually feeling betrayed and helpless and often responds with envy and anger. Trump voters often felt a sense of grievance about being left out and left behind – economically and culturally. This feeling generates envy and a need to blame others, in their case, liberals and people of color. It’s important to empathize with Americans who feel that the system has given them a raw deal and who identify, as a result, with similar messages they get from Trump.
Patriotism, the connection to transcendent notions of the nation state, can be used for political purposes. It draws from childhood needs for attachment and security. Conservatives in the U.S. have been more effective in this effort and have used images of the “demeaned Other”—racist and ethnocentric stereotypes and dog whistles—to satisfy the longing people have to belong to a community.
Poverty and harsh social environments make people physically and psychologically sick. Among the many reasons for this is that economic privation directly triggers our stress response system which causes harm to our brains and bodies and leads to maladaptive “solutions” like alcohol and drug addiction, depression and narcissism. Of special importance is the fact that inequality itself causes stress through producing enormous “status anxiety” in everyone but especially in those near the bottom of the hierarchy. Societies like ours that are so unequal produce higher than normal symptoms of social and emotional suffering. Inequality itself is a toxic affront to our bodies and our spirits.