My sister voted for Donald Trump. She and I have been in ongoing digital dialogue throughout this recent election cycle. I can’t tell you how challenged I have been to listen to her with kindness and compassion when she is clearly blind, ignorant, selective in what she pays attention to, and in deep denial. Much the same way she feels about me! I call her Sister Cherrypicker. She calls me Captain Confabulation.
More than 100 years ago, Sigmund Freud, a neurologist by training, noticed that many patients came to see him displaying a disturbed capacity to deal with life challenges primarily due to unintegrated, unconscious childhood trauma. Unless these earlier experiences are surfaced, made conscious and worked through, many are doomed to “repeat the repressed material as a contemporary experience.” Viewed through this lens, we apparently have a nation of massively father-wounded citizens.
The Homefront Fallout of War
My sister was two-years-old and I was four, when our war-wounded father abandoned the family. While we didn’t have words to clearly articulate it, this abandonment generated enormous everyday stress on both our young vulnerable nervous systems. To this day I find myself extremely rejection-sensitive where male relationships are concerned.
I also have great concern for my sister and the effects of the early abandonment upon her. As this study shows, it affected each of us quite differently. To date she has had to endure considerably more pain and suffering than I have, much of which I can trace both to the study above, and to the age difference at which our core wounding took place. A two-year-old’s brain is much more vulnerable to the stresses of father abandonment than a four-year-old’s brain (the stresses adversely affected our older sister most: she died from COPD many years ago).
If Freud is right, and my sister’s support of and vote for Donald Trump is actually a “compulsion to repeat the trauma,” we can expect that the policies he advocates for and puts in place as president will be those that essentially operate against my sister’s best interests – a form of father abandonment all over again (I’ve long ago accepted the fact that not just Trump, but all politicians work against my best interests – a fully integrated, compassionate, inclusive world).
The Freudian Solution
What to do? A number of articles I have read recently suggest that, because of the way the brain is designed, Democrats in this week’s election would have been much better served by doing more listening and less talking? Which is essentially what Freud’s “talking cure” was about. Would it have changed the way Democrats polled and campaigned? Would it have changed the nature of the relationship they developed with voters? In my estimation and in the estimation of people like Michigan representative Debbie Dingell, Michael Moore and Bruce Springsteen, it absolutely would have.
Neuroscience tells us that we have far more neural resources devoted to receiving energy and information (dendrites) than we do for sending (axons). As neuroscience writer, naturalist and poet Diane Ackerman notes (100 Names for Love; A Natural History of the Senses), “Axons speak and dendrites listen.”
Unfortunately, for Democrats, they completely overlooked this psychological quirk and, as the recent election results so clearly tell us, they did far more speaking than they did listening. This is mostly what politicians do; it’s what they’ve been trained to do. Rather than ask Beautiful Questions or make it safe to speak truth to power or facilitate Deep Inquiry, they spend most of their time telling us about themselves and their vision and their great plans for the country and the rest of the world. The primary problem is: nobody older than 5 or 6 believes them in the least.
As I told you above, I mostly failed in listening to my sister. I repeatedly received what she said and then proceeded to offer her my great wisdom about why I thought she was wrong, crazy and stupid. Fortunately, my sister is smarter than me and has an extraordinarily forgiving heart. She’s a model for what I aspire to be when I eventually grow up.
P.S. Interestingly, immediately after the election my listening books have had a significant upsurge in sales! 😉 If any Democrat wants a free handy poster to print out and hang on your future campaign office wall, go here: Listening Poster. I’m happy to make any of the books available to the Democratic party at a bulk discount! Less of a discount for rich, white male Republicans, however.