Donald Trump almost daily displays to the world a deep-seated need to be loved. The media brings this to our attention often, and late-night comedians often make light of his childish efforts to win this love. If he was merely a child on the actual playground, or some bloke in the neighborhood, most of us would recognize this neediness and try to offer validation when we could. Teachers, monitoring the playground would soon refer him to counseling knowing that this deep-seated need for love needed attention “now” rather than in adulthood. But, of course Trump is cavorting about on the adult playground that we all cavort about on and his childish need for love cannot get the respect that it would deserve if we were still on a literal playground. Mature “limits” need to be set by his “family” (the Republican Party) but they appear to have the same deep-seated existential insecurity and cannot say “no” to their errant child.
Love is a subtle thing. In my clinical work, it was often a core issue though always presented as some behavioral problem the unconscious intent of which was to get the validation (i.e. “love”) that was missing in early childhood. In my 20 years of practice, it became apparent that the more a child had to demand love from others, the more it belied the lack of it in the depths of his/her heart. I learned to note to myself, “This student did not learn to perceive himself/herself as lovable in early childhood, learning that performance of some sort was needed instead.” And, the more we have to “perform” for love the more we convey to the world our intrinsic self-perception of being unlovable. For some, this “performance” will mean seeking attention or power often in the form of bullying others. Others will seek it in compliance with the expectations of others. But with either approach, or any approach between those two extremes, the individual will be announcing to the world, “I am not loved. I am unlovable.”
The Christian tradition often poses a problem relevant to this issue. In its over emphasis of the transcendence of God and the attending need to “submit” to this all-powerful external source of approbation, the immanent dimension of God is dismissed completely. The task for this and all spiritual traditions is to address this contradiction and at some point hopefully arrive at the conclusion, “Oh, I’m okay as is! Oh, that what is meant by God’s forgiveness! That is what Grace means!” But this requires interior work and cannot be found in a passive stance toward the spiritual endeavor. The significance of “working out our own salvation with fear and trembling” is usually overlooked and we cognitively assent to a distant, disembodied God forgiving us which means that the interior guilt and shame remains and keeps us enslaved to this alienated deity and our alienated self.
Poet William Wordsworth understood this and summarized it so beautifully in this section his “Preludes”:
Dust as we are, the immortal spirit grows
Like harmony in music; there is a dark
Inscrutable workmanship that reconciles
Discordant elements, makes them cling together
In one society. How strange, that all
The terrors, pains, and early miseries,
Regrets, vexations, lassitudes interfused
Within my mind, should e’er have borne a part,
And that a needful part, in making up
The calm existence that is mine when I
Am worthy of myself! Praise to the end!
ADDENDUM—This is one of three blogs that I now have up and running. Please check the other two out sometime. The three are: