By Deepak Chopra, MD
As Donald Trump’s campaigning becomes more unruly–some might say unhinged–the likelihood of him reaching the White House diminishes by the day. But Trumpism is a different story. The ingredients that go into Trumpism fall into the category Freud dubbed the psychopathology of everyday life. To use a broad brush, Freud saw human nature as a war of suppression that is never won, while the possibility of becoming a free, rational, productive person was never achieved. In other words, the psychopathology of everyday life must be considered a constant despite our aspirations and ideals.
It’s a gloomy view of human nature but one that Trump’s ascension underscored. He has no impulse control. He follows the dictates of appetite and ego without regard for others. In the face of problems that require patience and reason, he gets restless and impatient at best and reckless at worst. If we look in the mirror, we can see ourselves in this pattern of behavior, but it belonged, in normal people, to childhood. As adults we take sides in the war of suppression, choosing either to become mature, which means being in control of our Trump side, or letting our demons run, which is pure Trumpism.
The real problem is that even the best societies will never extirpate Trumpism, because our divided selves contain anger, resentment, selfishness, anxiety, and aggression. To the extent that we let these feelings get the better of us, we participate in the psychopathology of everyday life. Trumpism considers this a desirable way to live, but that’s a rich man’s folly. He can bankrupt a casino after running it into the ground and walk away whistling. The workers he laid off can’t do the same.
We find ourselves witnessing a revolt of the resentful led by the very type of person they have every right to resent, but that’s how unreason works–it is detached from reasonableness. In social psychology, it’s well known that if you give someone all the proof needed to show that their viewpoint is factually incorrect, such as showing a supporter of the Iraq War the pattern of mistakes, bad decisions, and untruth surrounding that conflict, they come away more stubborn in their original support. Trump doubles down on his most toxic behavior–attacking the judge, retweeting an anti-Semitic posting, praising Saddam Hussein–for the same reason. The more he is rationally shown the error of his ways, the more vehemently he will cling to his irrationality.
The worst news, if we look to the future, is that the right wing has endorsed and encouraged the psychopathology of everyday life. Society’s dead weight of bigots, racists, sexists, xenophobes, and religious fundamentalists forms the so-called base on the right, when to any rational, normal person they reflect the negative aspects of human nature that should never be encouraged. As a result, there has been a through-the-looking-glass morality on the right for decades, which praised those who adhere to conservative “values” when they were actually signs of psychological abnormality.
If a society is lucky, the eruptions of everyday psychopathology are containable; when societies run off the rails, full-blown chaos is set loose. If current trends hold, America will have dodged the bullet this time. Reasonable people are rejecting Trump en masse. But it would be even better if Trumpism could be healed rather than rejected and suppressed. This is where the aspirational side of human nature enters the picture, for we aren’t steam boilers running on a pressure gauge. We are creatures capable of continuous evolution to a higher level of consciousness.
That’s what Trumpism challenges in the long run, a state of consciousness that can adapt to changing conditions and evolve. The changing conditions are no mystery: ISIS, globalism, hacking, cyberterror, lone wolves, climate change. These tags ae shorthand for an emerging new world. Can we adapt ourselves to it, solve the biggest problems, contain what must be contained, remain free in our own country, and promote a better life around the world? Or do we surrender to Trumpism, even though our rational nature knows that to do so means disaster? A great deal depends on our decision as a country, but even more on our decision as individuals, because it’s the individual who sides with the psychopathology of everyday life or doesn’t. If enough of us stop engaging Trumpism with a recoil of revulsion and turn our attention instead to restoring normality–which President Obama has dedicated eight years to–America has a chance of returning to its best aspirational identity.
Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism. He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. The World Post and The Huffington Post global internet survey ranked Chopra #17 influential thinker in the world and #1 in Medicine. Chopra is the author of more than 80 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His latest books are Super Genes co-authored with Rudolph Tanzi, PhD and Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine. www.deepakchopra.com