By Barbara Eisold
Blank Screen? No way! Not even close. I am told daily that my politics are writ too large on my face.
But, blessedly, I can still listen.
Immediately after the election, I HEAR: Panic!
A woman, Mid-West born, comes shivering to my office. In the subway a “crazy white man, took aim with his arms, threatening to shoot all the black people, screaming as he did so that they would die! Everyone, regardless of color slunk away, terrified,” she says. Then she gets up and puts her coat back on, freezing, although my office is oh-so-warm.
A young woman, an artist, American born of Hispanic descent, comes to therapy feeling “unsafe.” Her job situation has become frenzied and insecure, she tells me. Her friends seem confused and unreliable. Her health insurance is about to expire, with renewal possibilities up in the air. She feels so besieged that she cannot focus on her art. Above all, she and people she knows, also of Hispanic descent, suddenly feel “as if we don’t belong. My family feels Trump is telling them: ‘get out!” Myself, I feel,……. alone, The Other, with no place to turn.” She bursts into tears.
Immediately after Inauguration: Rage!!!
“All I have in the bank will go to taxes,” a young woman tells me. “I am so poor!
I don’t want to give my money to those rich neo-con psychos! It’s unjust! I want to live my life!”
Following Inauguration: Broken lines of family communication, worry, concern:
A young man tells me how worried he is about his aged, sickly father. In his family, only his father had voted for Trump. Over Christmas, the disappointment, fury, despair of his siblings seemed to beat his father down. Saddest of all, the privilege of special communication he had enjoyed with his dad was gone. Under this new order, his father was isolated and alone. The good son wants to make amends but finds that hard, given how angry he is that his father voted for Trump.
A married woman comes to my office in a flurry. Trump’s win has ended communication between herself and her husband, she declares. She loves her husband very much, she says. She married him because he is smart and deeply caring. But she is a Democrat and he …….not only comes from a long line of Mid- Western Republicans, but listens to nothing but Fox News. He believes the NYTimes tells lies! “Give Trump a chance!” he keeps repeating. Worst of all, the political divide has left them nothing to say to one another. This has never happened before. What should she do? Please, she needs to understand!
And Pro-Trump? Yes, reported by a conscientious supervisee:
His patient, a diminutive man, reported pushing a large, African American woman on the bus, someone who blocked the aisle. The woman, angry, pushed back. A screaming match ensued. With this, the patient launched into a diatribe: “She had been planted there by …… ???” here words failed him. “They do this all the time! Now with Trump, this kind of thing will end! Those people will be put in jail.” Pausing for a moment, the patient added, ‘ I supported Trump. Of course, you did too.” With this, my supervisee reports, he put his hand on his knee and looked at the man with what he knew was not a supportive expression. Suddenly the man blushed. “Could you not have voted for Trump?” he exhaled, embarrassed. A few moments passed. “ No! No way you couldn’t have voted for Trump!” he opined. And the session continued. My supervisee, meanwhile, wonders, did he do the right thing? For the first time ever, this man, his patient, actually took in the facial expression of the “other” and interpreted it correctly. Would it have been better to acknowledge this and thus reveal his own political beliefs, my supervisee asks, or better to have said nothing and keep up the psychotherapeutic arrangement as he had been taught? He does not know.
To tell the truth, I don’t know either. My own feelings on this subject are presently very confused. Clearly, I have work of my own to do to figure them out. Meanwhile, I congratulate him for being better able to hold professional boundaries than I can, at least right now.