Something happened on a mass scale that had a cataclysmic impact – the election campaign and the outcome of the election that Trump is President of the United States, sending ripples through time like a never-ending tsunami.
Trump is President. There can be no denying it anymore. There are those, more than half this country, so impacted – traumatized – they now having to adjust to a new reality thrust upon them. All of a sudden, everything is different and nothing can be taken for granted, certainly not the assumption of safety. Life as they knew it is no longer.
Whatever might have been considered to be their general state of wellbeing is now replaced by pervasive dis-ease; there is a lingering and ever-present threat – the sense that something really bad happened, something really bad is happening, and something really bad is going to happen.
Millions of people are walking around shell-shocked. There is a pervasive sense of powerlessness and demoralization, of being forced to bear witness to a horrifying unfolding. Internal upheaval and confusion, heightened anxiety and depression are some of the tell-tale signs of the traumatic impact. Immediate and far-reaching effects will continue in the aftermath of the announcement coming on January 20, “Trump is President.” We understand retrospectively that these effects had been building for the past year (during the campaign), and then there was the shocking upset. These effects are just beginning to set in, but will become more deeply entrenched and severe over time, left untreated. It may be fitting to begin thinking about this cataclysmic event and its impact on the majority of America, and for millions of others worldwide as the ‘Trump Phenomenon. The ‘Trump’ phenomenon is somewhat of a clinical anomaly given that it stands as an historical, political, social and cultural asterisk. It’s as if all of a sudden war was declared and you were and called to the front lines to fight for your life. We are seeing a wide range of symptoms, as well as variation in the severity of symptoms and varying levels of diminished of functioning – mentally, emotionally, spiritually and relationally. Some are more or less affected than others, and we’re all affected in different ways.
On one end of the spectrum are those reeling from shattering disillusionment and internal discombobulation. They may be subliminally aware that their lives have been turned upside down and are spending the brunt of their psychic energy trying to reconcile with the fact that a narcissistic sociopath in the White House? They see their country suddenly taken over by a corrupt, demagogical force. Who is going to protect them? Who is going to lead them? Who is going to represent them? The pilot of their plane is heading into a mountain. No one knows when or where this death ride is going to crash. There is nowhere to go, nothing to do but count the days of impending doom and have gratitude for the light of another day.
On the other end of the spectrum are those who register the magnitude of this event and are adjusting by taking a stand; and for many of them, it’s the first time in their lives they’ve been so inspired to act on their own behalf. They have discovered a sense of purpose, of what matters most and is most important to them, and feel compelled to speak up, driven by the force of their minds, hearts and souls, readying themselves for a fight to replace the pilot.
Here’s where mental health professionals are being called upon to chime in with some answers, direction and restoration. There are a number of questions that must be addressed. Is there such a phenomenon as, Trump Adjustment Disorder? If there is a legitimate basis for an altogether new diagnosis, is it treatable, given the number of people struggling/adjusting at the same time for the same reason – Trump is President? What are the requisite criteria to make the diagnosis - Trump Adjustment Disorder? What would a treatment plan regimen consist of? Symptoms to look for, or diagnostic criteria indicating Trump Adjustment Disorder include:
a heightened sense of powerlessness, hopelessness, fear and foreboding,
lack of safety,
isolation and alienation
increased anxiety and depression;
all of which diminish functioning in all realms of life. What would treatment for Trump Adjustment Disorder consist of?
To begin with, there would have to be a conversation regarding the existential issue of responsibility and what it means to be alive; that being alive means awakening to the fact that when are alive, you are conscious and consciously affected by whatever happens around you. With consciousness comes the responsibility to act based on how you are affected. You are aware of how you feel, what is true and best for you when having to decide on a necessary course of action, especially at a time of crisis when drastic measures must be considered. You learn that being fully alive means taking responsibility through conscious action - purpose-driven action. At this point in the process, it may no longer be possible to keep your head in the sand or take your comfort zone for granted.
Perhaps the only way to restore sanity, grounding and wellbeing is to give voice to what you believe in and value most, and share your struggles and challenges adjusting to the change, to feeling less safe and secure with the powers that be representing the antithesis of the values you’ve lived by up to this point.
There is a silver lining: for many people, challenges of this nature are growth opportunities, when they are forced to confront with an overwhelmingly difficult situation and emotions. The treatment for Trump Adjustment Disorder is similar to the treatment of any other trauma or adjustment disorder. We know that self-expression and sharing our pain, i.e. fear, powerlessness, confusion, etc. has a relieving and releasing effect; and the nourishment derived from bonding and connecting with other people is inherently healing and restorative.
Certainly, Trump Adjustment Disorder is treatable. Let’s consider a four step process:
Stay Active (not passive and silent; take a stand, speak up).
Engage (have conversations, ‘compare notes’).
Connect (so you know you are not alone. Find common ground and purpose. Derive the nourishment understanding provides.)
Mobilize (act in unison until you see a change in direction).