20 Nov Re-Directing Rage
Trump’s victory is without a doubt an unmitigated disaster for many vulnerable communities and individuals. I personally abhor much of what he says and does. However, it would be a mistake for those opposed to Trump, Bannon, and Co. to vilify all those who voted for him, while ignoring the deeper problems that his victory revealed. While Trump has condoned and even courted avowed racists, I think the vast majority of people who supported Trump do not see themselves as racists. In fact, many of these people would probably be much quicker to call out the racists if they weren’t caught up in this divisive political moment in which they feel maligned by the “Left”. People who lump Trump supporters into a one faceless mob are not going to win any allies in their fight to defeat his policies nor his cabinet nominees.
Like all parents, when I get upset with my kids for bad behavior I can raise my voice, cajole, and get angry. While these are not unusual responses to disrespect or lack of responsibility, they are exceedingly ineffective in changing the behavior. The more I work at listening, de-escalating, and empathizing, the more peace we find in our household. Everyone wants to be listened to. No one wants to be disregarded. Certainly no one wants to be vilified or put down. When any of these things happen, we react negatively. You can guess where this is going…that negative reactions cause a negative reaction and so on. How do we break these cycles? The first thing we have to do is slow down and learn to respond to situations rather than react. We also have to start paying attention to these reactions- and come to understand that they often have their roots in issues that have very little to do with the thing we are reacting to in the moment.
About 6 months ago I undertook a 10 week meditation practice (20 min in the morning and 20 min in the evening) called “The Presence Process”. Michael Brown developed this practice based on many different traditions combined with an awareness of the stresses and strains of our modern world. Each week, practitioners are given a different mantra to repeat. The structure of the program leads the participants from the outer world towards their inner world. The mantra in week 3 is,
‘I respond consciously to all my experiences.’ When we enter the presence process we are asked not to react to our life experience but to watch it as if we are watching a play……Being reactive appears to be normal behavior because just about everyone on this planet is to some extent living in a state of reaction. So initially, by being asked not to react, it appears as if we are being asked to act not “normally”.
This section resonated with me a great deal because it dovetails with the speech my father wrote for my wedding. Every few months I read this speech, and I always get something new from it. In fact, it is an essential part of the narrative of our new film “All The Rage”. Near the beginning of the film, we use footage of my father reading it. At the end, I read this speech at my brother’s wedding.
I would like to share with you the secret of successful living — filmmaker’s version.
Central casting has assigned you a role in The Human Comedy. You have to accept the role, but view it as a continually changing and evolving part. Above all, do not hold to the false belief that you are audience, not actor, that you are a watcher of other’s foibles and pratfalls.
You are both actor, audience (i.e. observer of your own performance), script doctor, editor, and director. The script and performance are always being revised — this is a work in progress. The better you understand the comedy and your own behavior as an amusing player — the lighter your touch, the better you become at improving and enriching your performance. Those who deny they have been cast in parts become sterile, inflexible caricatures, while those who embrace their roles and keep working to improve their performances, grow, change, and expand their selves.
Above all, remember the script is not Long Day’s Journey into Night nor the tale of woe of Juliet and her Romeo, but it is The Human Comedy, a warm and endearing script. Play it well and your days will be mostly joyful.
-Words Spoken by David Galinsky, 9/13/97
While it may be hard for some people to fathom, many people who voted for Trump also voted for Obama. A number of those people might feel more comfortable standing up against nominations like Sessions, if they didn’t feel so reviled by the Left. We need to react less, listen more, and work to create allies. Expressing rage creates enemies and we don’t need those right now.