We are a little more than a year into the Trump Administration, and the US President shows no sign of slowing down. His behavior – erratic to some, predicable to others – and character (vanity fueled by obsession with, well, what is he not obsessed with?) have propelled a global audience into a compulsive cycle of: ‘He said what?’; followed by either withering criticism, or loud guffaws. And guess what. Trump wouldn’t have it any other way.
If you love him, great, be happy for him and grateful he became President. But try to avoid insulting immigrants, harassing women, or bragging about the size of your guns, car, private golf club, or male member, you know, all the things you laugh about when Trump says them, but would never say yourself, right? But what if you don’t like the President, or his policies? What then?
Compassion is the answer. Seriously. Show compassion towards Donald Trump. Before you dismiss the idea out of hand, consider how you have reacted to him over the past year. Have those responses made you any healthier or happier, or helped you sleep at night? Have you instead grown more bitter and angry? Donald Trump isn’t going to change, but your reactivity towards him can. And by altering this you will make the world a better place.
Let’s conduct a thought experiment for a moment (one grounded in centuries of Yoga and modern cognitive science). At first Trump was a mild annoyance as a Presidential candidate. Then he won the election and became your nightmare. Now you spend at least 30 minutes a day complaining about his policies, and hating his tweets. You’ll do this again and again, and again, for the next 3 years: complaint followed by hate, followed by hate and more complaint. A habit will form, without you even being aware of it.
After 3 years you may get your wish if Donald Trump is defeated and is no longer President. Then you will celebrate like never before. That will last exactly a week, after which you feel an emptiness. The complaining starts again, the hating is back. Only this time it is directed against your mayor, or your Congressional representative, or your mailman. And it feels wonderful. You haven’t noticed that the habit has become an obsession, not with Donald Trump but with anger. Now you are addicted. Without putting too fine point on it, you have become similar to the man you so loath.
Don’t believe me? Can’t happen to you right? Just look at the number of Republicans who have decided against running in the next electoral cycle, just two years after the man they complained about and hated, Barack Obama, has been defeated and left office. You’d think they would be ecstatic! Republicans got what they wanted: ‘Ding dong! The witch is dead’. But the reason many of them have given for not seeking re-election is some form of excuse from: ‘Washington is broken’/’we cant get anything done’/’I don’t like my job’.
What about people that voted for Donald Trump, are they happy? You wouldn’t know it, since all the world’s problems can no longer be laid at Obama’s door (although many do still blame him). The fault now now lies with Fake Media, and government regulations, even though the Republicans are now running it. This could be exactly the mindset you’ll have after three years have passed. You’ll look for something else to complain about, and hate. Unfortunately, anger and hatred are fast acting drugs that give you a brief feeling of elation, but corrupt the spirit and lead to emptiness in the long term.
So what to do? Try compassion. Trump is a man filled with self-doubt, who uses vanity and anger to cover his insecurities, over and over again. Instead of falling into that trap yourself, recognize Trump and those like him as people deserving of compassion rather than hate. Why? Because the only person who can change Trump is Trump. By hating him we fuel his vanity and anger. By feeling compassion we give him a chance to change. More importantly, we become better people instead of angrier ones, who are more compassionate and less frustrated. And since the world is composed of billions of us, not just the US President, the more compassionate we become as a group, the better the world we live in becomes, despite the Donald Trumps.
This answer is gleaned from one of the oldest treatises on spirituality: the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali. Compiled about 2000 years ago, it offers a glimpse at how to maintain a healthy mindset, and simultaneously change the world around you.
1.33 In relationships, the mind becomes purified by cultivating feelings of friendliness towards those who are happy, compassion for those who are suffering, goodwill towards those who are virtuous, and indifference or neutrality towards those we perceive as wicked or evil.
Act on it – just for a day even – and observe how you feel when next you go to sleep. We already know what the alternative is.
Here is the other half of the equation, if you happen to love Trump. Not a problem right? Wrong. You probably still hate Obama and Big Government, and now you are bound as Trump supporter to hate the media, universal health care, minorities and anyone else who doesn’t agree with Donald Trump.
Sure, every once in a while, like Trump, you look back and feel a little pride at having beaten Hilary, but basically you have seen how complaining and hating can raise someone to the Oval Office, and you think that might work for you too. It won’t. Need proof? Do you actually feel better now that Obama is no longer in office? If so, why are you still complaining? Maybe you are just as addicted to it too. So what to do?
See 1.33 above. You get to feel goodwill towards Trump and indifference to all others. You can try and feel friendliness to Trump, but honestly, does he seem like a happy guy? Anger and hate might win you the Presidency, but it won’t make you happy. In the end, love or hate him, you can only make choices about your own mindset, and what your reactions to Trump will lead to.
One only needs to look back on the life and Presidency of Richard Nixon for an example of someone who became the world’s most powerful person, and yet felt completely alone with his regret, his anger, and his complaints. And how do we feel about him now? Love him or hate him, it’s hard not to feel compassion, even pity, for the embittered man he became. My point is, you will come to compassion when you are done hating anyway. Why not start today instead of waiting 30 years?
Chris Parkison is a recovering lawyer and full time yoga and pilates Instructor. He lives in Washington DC.
Featured Image by Daniele idini.