Our two presidential candidates are irksome and infuriating to everyone. We are disgruntled with them. The psychiatrist in me asks the question, why are we so angry and upset with them? The majority of us voted for these two as our nominees. What does all of this say about us? Why have we put up nominees that anger and disgust us?
We had sixteen other Republican candidates to choose from and five other Democratic candidates. So what is going on? Did we not vet them properly? Did we overlook their flaws and problems? Do we like flamboyance? Controversy? Do we just like to gripe? Do we enjoy participating in and listening to the constant chatter about them? Does the hubbub distract us from something else going on in our lives? If so, what? Why are we attracted to people we regard as unsavory and yet support and vote for them? Do we project something about us onto these candidates that they cannot possibly be?
Perhaps we need a psychological dialogue about what is going on in each of us more that we need to rail against nominees we voted for. When emotions are involved, people make unreasonable decisions regardless of intellect or educational level.
In my practice when I see someone unhappy with their mate and considering divorce or a break-up, I ask these same questions. What did you originally see in him (or her)? What accounted for the initial attraction? What I find is that people overlook things that aren’t quite right with the other person. They rationalize that he won’t do that again, or say that again. He just slipped up. He just slapped me once. He didn’t really mean to be derogatory to me.
The other thing people do is project who they are onto others. This is not consciously done. As a result, people tell themselves, he’s really a nice guy (like me). He’s really not all those ugly things he’s said or done to other people. Or, she is really smart (like me). Those dumb things she’s done aren’t really who she is.
Yet others engage in magical thinking: Any nominee who acts outlandishly, brazenly, and irresponsibly, and who thinks erratically, can get the job done better than the more sedate, methodical, predictable and ethical person. Some of us want someone magically to cure our national problems. Now people are unemployed who were previously employed. People now work two and three part-time jobs to replace the one job they had a decade ago. Wages are stagnant. Parents realize their young adult children will not be able to achieve or surpass the parents’ standard of living. Other people are fed up with fiscal irresponsibility and the increase in the national debt. We are a frustrated, angry and worried lot. Emotions are near the surface. We gravitate toward the people who vow to create a magical fix.
Too many people delight in the reality television show the national political scene has become. Like a boxing or wrestling match, it lures us in with its theatrics in debates, verbal punches in Tweets and vulgarity in speeches. Do we confuse television and our actual lives? Have they become so blended we cannot differentiate between the two? Are we junkies to any human interactional stimulation no matter how bizarre or offensive?
Isn’t this what we who will soon vote have done: overlook, rationalize, project, use magical thinking, and enjoy political theatrics? And now we’re disenchanted, angry and ready for a divorce from our nominees. They have been the same people all along. We relish discussing their shortcomings. Now reality is pounding on our door, and we are in a pickle. We had twenty-one other candidates to choose from, and we chose the most upsetting and perhaps least suited two for our nominees. This says a lot about us because we nominated these two. Will we be better able to understand psychologically our candidates and ourselves in 2020? For the sake of our country and us, let’s hope so. We would do well to begin our quest for introspection now.
Christine B. L. Adams is a child and adult psychiatrist. She can be reached at her self-titled site, Christine Adams, M.D. She is the co-author of the upcoming book, Living On Automatic: How Emotional Conditioning Shapes Our Lives and Relationships.
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