Social & Political Dangers of Dis-identification in the Time of Trump

“We are dominated by everything with which our self becomes identified. We can dominate and control everything from which we disidentify ourselves.” — Roberto Assagioli

Roberto Assagioli, founder of Psychosynthesis, offers this “fundamental psychological principle” (above) that is central to the work of counselors, coaches and psychosynthesis practitioners as we seek to guide people into higher stages of well-being and development. It is this principle that informs one of many foundational techniques and applications, including the Exercise in Dis-identification: “I have a body… I have a mind…I have emotions… Yet, I am more than my body… my mind… my emotions… I am a center of pure consciousness, of self-awareness and of will.” The full exercise, and moreover, the identification/disidentification principle itself, can be powerful and effective in processes for along the path to well-being, development and liberating transformation.

This basic principle is also implicit in Buddhist practice of non-attachment that resonates with so many of us, even as we feebly attempt to not-aspire to such a level of spiritual attainment (as holding the aspiration itself contradicts both the principle and the practice of acceptance of the here-and-now of Existence).

Managing this contradiction, this dynamic tension of forces of ego identification and attachment in juxtaposition to our aspiration for stages of development not yet reached, much less embodied, is at the heart of our work, not only with clients but, also (if not mostly) within ourselves.

In moments like this one, this historical time of Trump, so many of us find ourselves rocked and shocked, hopes shattered, or worse, exposed and vulnerable, some fearful for our very lives —literally, physically— and those of our families and friends, and the material well-being of our communities and nation(s). And so many of us in the Psychosynthesis community, knowing what we know about body, mind, heart and spirit, having access to this knowledge and these techniques, are reminded that, yes, we are experiencing these feelings of disappointment and shock, anxiety and fear, and yet, “we are more than these feelings; we are centers of pure consciousness, self-awareness and will.”

And in reminding ourselves of our True Self, we regain dominion and control.

Or do we?

I ask this question as I recall another one of Assagioli’s psychological principles: “One cannot disidentify from that with which one has not yet fully identified.“ In other words, according to this principle, one must fully explore, examine and identify with the aspect of oneself in question or conflict (albeit approached strategically and appropriately), and only thereafter, one is ready to disidentify.

Now, who am I to say how much time is enough time for a reasonably matured person to explore, examine and process the meaning and implications of an event of the magnitude of Trump’s impending presidency. But, beyond what will it mean once he is in office this coming January, what does it mean already, today, now that he has won? How much time is enough time, particularly for those who had been in denial of the possibility of his victory, to actually wrap their head around this reality — before they are ready to fully identify with the impact, so that they may then be able to disidentify?

Given that his presidency has not even yet begun, it might seem relatively easy to transit rapidly through this process. However, signs of bigotry and hatred, foreseen and foretold by social observers, activists, organizers and members of targeted communities, are already being unleashed across the land: swastika grafitti, bullying of Latino children, attacks on Muslim women and other assorted abhorrent behaviors have immediately followed Trump’s victory. After all, it’s important to understand that Trump, with all his racist, misogynist, Islamophobic and otherwise bigoted behaviors, is not the real culprit. The real problem, rather, would be the deep-seated sense of entitled superiority within US American culture that Trump’s campaign reinvigorated, and the collective sense of impunity for white US American men and women his victory has, to some extent, legitimized.

[Yes, white friends and colleagues, I did just go there. Hopefully, those of you struggling with my assertions will be able to remain engaged by using the identification/disidentification principle, and remind yourself that any feelings of discomfort are just that: feelings, emotions. Moreover, you might also remind yourself that there is no learning, growth or change that does not cause some level of discomfort.]

A day or two ago I came across a post on social media that read: “Dear White People: Stop Saying Everything is Going to be Okay.” It was only one of several posts pointing out a pattern I had also begun to track. This headline also made me think of how my partner, who is also an antiracism organizer and trained counselor, responds to white people who so often ask her: “But why are People of Color always so angry?” “But why are you NOT?,” she replies.

Clearly, racism impacts white people differently than it does People of Color. And with the 25+ years I’ve been doing liberating transformation work, I know it takes some serious critical analysis —both historical and psychosocial, both personal and collective— for people across race to begin to grasp the extent to which institutional racial oppression has robbed us all of so much of our cultural expressions of humanity, including important aspects of peoples’ stories, values and wisdom traditions. Attaining this level of understanding and insight requires committed, intentional engagement of consciousness (thought, imagination, intuition, emotion, sensation, impulse-desire) toward recognizing humanity’s shared body, our shared mind, our shared feelings, our common purpose … an extraordinary act of will, indeed.

Having said that, I do believe each of us must do what we can do to “manage” our wide-ranging emotional reactions to the political crisis of this moment. Moreover, we must do what we can to tap into the deep well of Being … particularly if we are to show up as our best selves for each other. We’re going to need each other, perhaps in ways we haven’t ever before, for years to come.

We are also going to need to draw from Our Higher Source(s) in order to not fool ourselves into believing that “everything is going to be okay.” Because everything is not okay! When 63% of white men and 53% of white women voted for Trump, things are obviously NOT okay. [And when one in four Latina women and one in three Latino men voted for Trump, that, too, is a problem.]

To be clear, if our shared purpose as psychosynthesists, counselors, coaches, activists, organizers, and leaders of all sorts is to foster conscious evolution, then we must ask ourselves:

In the time of Trump, what is our ethical obligation, our best response to state-sanctioned, open-use of bigotry and oppression, moral bankruptcy and the additional damage Trump’s presidency is likely to cause for Humanity and our Planet? What will be our collective Act of Will”?

[Note: Assagioli’s identification/disidentification principle points to a whole other layer of personal and social power with significant political implications, which I shall explore in a future piece.]