And why the solution to reclaim your control is mindfulness.
This is a post about mindfulness. The reason the topic is around the current President of the United States, Donald Trump, is that the president is an excellent example of how…
- An external force can influence us.
- Make us give up self-control over our responses.
- Reflectively react in the opposite of mindfulness.
It’s also why our daily exposure and interactions with the 45th President of the United States is a perfect opportunity and reason to build mindfulness skills to help us manage our lives with the president and overall distractions in our lives.
What is mindfulness?
For me, it’s nothing that involves crystals or new-age energy. Learning mindfulness and being mindful is a form of mental discipline. Like a workout for the mind, it’s to simply train it to center itself in the present moment and not get pulled in past or future moments where emotions like fear, anxiety, anger, or regret rule us and our actions.
When being mindful, you can sense and understand the stimulus and the feelings they may attempt to incite, but you learn to separate the feelings you have from the emotional response you may feel compelled to execute. Learning to separate feelings and action, gives you self control of your mind or others who may seek to manipulate you.
In the world that currently exists around Donald Trump, I see (not all, but many) friends and co-workers reacting to the latest tweet, or TV coverage looking pained and obsessed by a dizzying array of events on a daily basis. It’s a rollercoaster of outrageous to crazy to embarrassing events that I find people of both political parties reaching for the Pepto Bismol.
Even beyond politics, bad things happen in life. I think what seems to pain people the most of the daily chaos of the Trump Administration is the feeling there is no control or rudder of stability.
ANYTHING could happen tomorrow. It is as if you are being carried down a river of outrage and warped reality with nothing that level sets standards or creates consistency. Caught in that flow, many are desperately trying to reach a branch on the shore to hold on to keep being dragged downstream further from reality or their values.
I don’t feel that way. While keeping up with government and issues like most responsible Americans participating in a democracy should, I’ve been able to avoid falling in the toxic and self-destroying mess of the rage, cruelty, incompetence, victimization, fear and daily tweet chaos caused by the gravitational forces that orbits President Trump. I’ll explain.
In this case, I’m focusing mostly on Trump and his engagement with the media and people through the media. But I do have to talk a little about politics to level set my explanation and point of view. For me, I gave up political loyalty years ago. For me, parties are more about lifestyle brands. Brands, while effective, are an often easy way for lazy or tired people to adopt scripts to tell them what to do or who they are.
For me, I usually classify people into two classes. Sheep people, who (either from feeling tired, overwhelmed or lazy) seek thought leadership and identity scripts from others rather than writing their own).
The people who supply those scripts are wolves. Wolves like politicians, advertisers, con men, are only happy to provide those scripts to manage thought and build consent for a future call to action (Buy this, vote that) that benefit them.
Trust me, it works better and cross-party. But here I’ll use Democrats and Republicans in this case to help you track the event.
With that said and to complete my full disclosure by saying I personally am not a fan of Donald Trump’s policies nor impressed by his knowledge of business and world affairs. Most of his claims would normally be washed away by anyone with a sense and acceptance history (particularly the 1920s) and command of the facts.
While many presidencies have played fast and loose with facts, the Trump presidency is openly hostile to them if they fail to fit the preferred narrative. Instead, Trump surfs the rough waves of populism. Populism is often birthed from a failure of or lack of listening from the political system to the point voters want politicians to funnel their anger and fear more than contemplate policies. Essentially the mob mentality comes to politics.
While I don’t respect many of these policies I do respect Trump’s almost mystical power and what allowed him to ride the political winds of populism, fear, and resentment to take the political stage.
Trump can control and move the attention of the masses.
The media who once saw him as clown or celebrity sideshow originally fed his access and platform for attention, but his power has exponentially multiplied with his control of the bully pulpit. It’s his superpower that “Trumps” any other skills he has and makes him almost unstoppable.
Except this power isn’t a power. It’s an illusion. But an illusion that his audience, right or left, must be willing to play along with in order to work. Both do.
When a mind accepts an illusion, it’s as good as the real thing because the mind treats it as real. If you believe a prison wall in front of you is made of 10-feet thick concrete, you may not bother to try to break through it. Even, in reality, it’s a paper-thin wall made to look like a concrete wall.
Where and how the mind focuses, controls perceptions, actions, and outcomes.
Trump’s, “superpower,” works very much like a magician or an illusionist. He has mastered the power of distraction and controlling the mental focus and narrowing the attention of others. Thus controlling the user’s perceptions, actions, and outcomes.
This is the standard operating procedure for magicians. Often the key to a good illusion with hand tricks is to get you to focus and look where you think the trick is happening when, actually, the scheme that makes the trick look magical is really happening somewhere else.
If you look at Trump’s efforts at the 50,000-foot level, you can see, he really doesn’t do a lot.
Most of his policies are positioned as a continual state of “in progress” or a repeated set of value-signaling actions with displays of stagecraft to remind his base, “stay with me, this is happening.”
But the deep serious work and progress that would approach any “mission accomplished” never really comes. An immigration raid here to remind us that we (the administration) are working on immigration. A speech that we and China are going to get back together with a “great deal.” Yet tariffs, on the average, are increasing. North Korea firing more missiles than disarming. Iran. Restarting the nuclear program. The wall. And credible sources believe that tax cuts did not work as intended. If you look at the news, we are farther on these topics than the start of his administration.
Except for tax legislation and judges, nothing executed that had to go through the normal or debate legislative process.
Trump’s ability to misdirect is what allows him to manage the lack of progress.
In fact, Trump manages situations in the way a child that doesn’t want to eat food on their plate manages their plate. Trump, like a kid, moves food around on this plate instead of really eating it.
Show craft and misdirection steps in as progress.
To continue with the plate analogy, using distraction methods like a Twitter rant, or harsh policy announcement and lately racially-charged statements, Trump grabs our attention and focus to a narrow place. Such a focus that he, in the plate analogy, has the power to make you focus on whether the food on his plate is sliding over as progress or the space he created from sliding it over is progress or action.
But again, the sum is that nothing on the plate has really changed. Just moved around.
Here’s how this drives Democrats crazy.
Though debatable, (like just sheep with difference scripts) Democrats pat themselves on the head for being smart. A self-satisfying belief they “know the truth.” A truth that can be verified in a manner similar to the scientific method.
News organizations work the same way. Though it doesn’t seem like it, when engaging Donald Trump that focus is a dangerous flaw.
It’s important to seek the truth. And stand up for truth. But in the same way, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink, you can’t force someone outside of your self to accept facts. Especially when accepting those facts embarrasses them, or threatens their identity or goals.
But “smart” people try to.
That need and focus on affirming truth among those around us, creates a version of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in those types of people. Like an OCD sufferer who sees an object not aligned in a certain way, the truth-affirming obsessed see a bald-face lie and it feels like the same obsession. The “truth” is out of alignment and they feel compelled to have the truth affirmed. They will obsess and want to “fix it.’
Compulsive truth disorder.
So when Trump says something, extremely exaggerated, hateful or untrue, certain people and news will obsess over it like that object that’s just a little off from the position they are comfortable with. They’ll want to correct it.
But in doing so, they’ll keep talking about it. They’ll obsess over the minutia that proves it’s not true. They’ll seek comfort in the shows on CNN and MSNBC where people are talking about why and what Trump said isn’t true.
As I said in previous posts. Cable news has been more reality entertainment than news for decades. Which is one reason, they initially welcomed Trump for color commentary before his presidential campaign.
For those turning to it for their Trump OTD of whatever he’s done or said that day, it’s really a self-soothing process. I need validation from the host or the panel that I’m not crazy. But it doesn’t matter. He’s won by getting your focus.
Your obsession with asserting a shared truth or value signaling outrage is exactly what Trump wants.
That compulsive need to reaffirm truth keeps you focused on him. As media also tries to reaffirm truth, they cover him and his position on the issue. Donald Trump gets the precious blood that keeps him alive, focus and attention.
And focus that benefits him in many ways.
- He’s popular (defined as a lot of people are thinking about him which is different from being liked).
- People become exhausted with being obsessed about trying to correct all the lies and exaggerations. And like Lucy on the conveyor belt, some start to get by. So lies and scandal get to live on mostly unchallenged as public attention focuses and shifts to the next outrage on command.
Meanwhile Trump’s biggest followers, keep their energy by not getting in the weeds of Trump’s ideas, policies or tweets. It’s why you often hear the phrase, “we take him (Trump) figuratively not literally.” While those with Obsessive Truth Disorder, do just the opposite and obsess over the literally.
As there’s so much to try to correct in detail, the bigger idea Trump claims, filtered, often gets through and floated to the top by the winds of outrage of his opponents.
The (physically impractical) wall. Finding 11 million illegal immigrants or tariffs (taxes on consumer items).
They are all unfeasible. For those who disagree with his policies, the focus should be on the bigger picture.
But like moving food on a plate, Trump is able to outrage and get his audience focused on how the food is being moved and not if it’s disappearing from the plate.
Trump’s skill is about controlling the focus and attention of others. Mindfulness is about keeping it for yourself.
When we have to watch cable news or respond to every notification that says “Donald J Trump” tweeted, we are all playing his game.
Pulling our attention from our present to focus our attention on him. Or when there is bad news on some topic he doesn’t want to talk about, like clockwork, he’ll tweet or start a fight with traditionally third-rail issues, or say something that shifts the public attention in a different direction.
Your outrage and reaction to his outrage and misdirection traps mean you’re being affected by external forces. Which means he controls you.
As I said earlier, being mindful is not letting every stimulus force and uncontrolled response or an emotionally driven error. Like road rage. A driver may cut you off. That doesn’t mean you have to get out of your car and bash their head in. Same with Trump saying an idea that seeks to outrage (or if you are a fan excite). You can’t try to react and swat at everyone.
Using mindfulness, learn not to react to everything Trump says. Instead, back to our child not eating their food metaphor, wait or demand for Donald to actually take food off his plate. To show and produce true measurable results. What is our situation “presently.”
Make that (accountability for results) the standard instead of an emotional fight with him in the weeds of thought outrage and offense. Ignore him or stay focused on what really matters to you in the bigger picture until he does.
When you control your actions and attention, you’ll kill his oxygen supply. Attention. Don’t think you’re destroying him by blowing up in outrage. It’s the opposite. Why…?
One: the part of his base that loves trolling the opposition orgasms and loves him more when they see you mad and obsessed and…
Two: it’s like the movie the Andromeda Strain. That part where they were going to nuke the town with the virus, but at the last minute found out it thrives on radiation. Donald Trump lives on attention and emotional chaos. He’s more of a reality show brand on wealth and power and TV show producer than a problem-solving businessman. He’s depending on that attention and the focus on his perceived but questionable wealth and success to open a lot of doors and shut down questions.
Trump is seductive because he is channeling the fears and concerns of those who look to the past (safety and nostalgia) and fear (look at the changing world that seems to be passing them by). Both modes, past and present are what mindfulness seek to avoid. When we move from the present, we drift into emotional states that can control us and our reasoning. Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” speaks to both those modes and the emotions from them.
Being mindful and present gives you a greater sense of calm. That doesn’t mean that if you disagree with his policies to condone them or be quiet. Just like if someone cuts you off on the road, you don’t laugh it off, or not condemn or speak out. Just don’t go to the place that clearly shows that a person’s actions are controlling you. Instead, you act and move forward with control and focused purpose.
That generally means no million-person hacky-sack protests or any other self-soothing actions that coddle or validate emotions from your past and future states. Focus on deliberate committed actions, like voting. Or if you are a fan on the president, keep focused on keeping his feet to the fire to drive policies that will actually improve your life (like farmers to better manage trade policy, not just make you feel good or self-soothing resentments.
Mindfulness is knowing your feelings, accepting them and having the power to act in the present beyond the influence of your emotions. Instead you act based on your true wants and workable goals.
And that is the pitfall of a Donald Trump or any person (of any politician party or group) that sells. They are skilled at massaging our emotions and getting us to be caught up in how we feel over what we truly want and will make us truly happy.
See how our obsession and attention with truth is exactly what Trump depends on to control media narratives and drive his opponents crazy.