There’s this fleshy old Russian guy who uses the sauna at my gym. I’ve never seen him work out, only sit in the sauna, where he reigns supreme. In addition to squirting the sauna rocks from across the little room (anyone else be damned), when someone attempts to enter he yells CLOSE DOOR! CLOSE DOOR! which makes me feel I’m at the Gulag and then he starts at the top of his body and swipes sweat out and down and all over the rest of us as he pontificates loudly about the beauty of his stark Russian childhood.
This is really not the sauna experience you want.
The man seems to have no regard for sharing this planet – or certainly that little box of heat – with other humans. Happily meeting his own needs loudly, let’s call him “Al,” is safe and content in his own world. The sauna becomes like a psych lab, as I look around at the few other victims squeezed into this situation, just trying to relax damn it, but getting sprayed by the sweat of a fairly belligerent old dude. We look at each other, eyes saying what the… maybe share a little smile. It must be fun to be a narcissist.
By definition, a narcissist doesn’t give a rat’s ass about anyone but him/herself. They’re always right about everything and nothing topples them from the throne they’ve constructed for their fabulous selves. They say therapy can hardly ever help a narcissist because there’s just no way around the brilliant armor they’ve donned. Can you imagine swaggering through every day, deeply believing you’re correct about everything and trying to be fashionably humble about your grandiosity? That’s a narcissist’s job – to be great and mighty, and the peons be damned. I’m always about ten minutes from my next mistake, so I’d make a lousy narcissist.
Politics and religion attract narcissists like flies to horse poop. The pulpit loves a grandiose guy who can bring the ruckus, and look – today we install a Narcissist in Chief. Both forums – the church and The White House – yield what looks like power, so a self-centered megalomaniac can cut a wide swathe of pain across the landscape of the damaged and downtrodden. The scariest and most ruinous of these blindly fantastical folks are no doubt the religious people who can wear the cloak of God (!) as we crawl into the pew or the Zendo for relief.
It’s kind of fun, in a mean way, when you have labeled someone as a “narcissist,” as long as you are not drawn into their spidery web of delusion. When a narcissistic religious person I knew sermonized about “speaking truth to power” I raised my hand and said, “But what if the power is self-consumed and narcissistic and will never hear you or take responsibility?” The others in the room smirked, knowing exactly what I was doing. Our religious icon shook her head and feigned sadness at how awful it is to be such a person. The joke was on her, of course. Not a wildly productive way to spend my time but when you are hurt by a narcissist (or anyone), you just want to hurt back.
If a narcissist is defined as a person with a grandiose self-image, always right and righteous and lacking empathy my guess is they don’t give or receive a whole lot of love. When you think about that, it’s so sad. They are missing out on all the best things in life. Though they appear glorious and untouchable they actually rank pretty low on the scale of human evolution. Is it surprising they are so often drawn to politics and organized religion where someone is bound to provide the worship their egos so desperately seek?
Okay, so on to the man who is bulletproof, the guy who got elected president by the sheer sharp force of his tsunami-like ego, an inability to admit fault, wrongdoing, or bad judgment, ever. He will not change and he will never learn humility. We will watch astonished as he fails at something – all leaders do – and then blame others and move on. CLOSE DOOR! Yes, we can protest, scream, rant on Facebook, tear out our hair, rend our clothes in epic biblical suffering but he will not hear and he has surrounded himself with like-minded egotists. We are stuck in the sauna with Al.
How do you solve a problem like The Donald?
The Dalai Lama says that if you take any problem, hold it up to the light and change your perspective, it will be solvable. Period. How can we hold up The Donald to the light, turn him around a bit in our heads (and hearts) and change perspective to relieve our suffering? First, know that he suffers. He’s not doing all that well as a human, maybe wasting this incarnation. The power he yields is illusory and a pile of ashes compared to the power of truly compassionate people or the power you have right inside your bright and viable brain and heart. You can waste that power being smarmy on social media, making fun of him and the gang in the White House. That’s an option and lots of lazy progressive people appear to be going down that path. Or you can actually change the way you see this conundrum, stop being inflammatory on Facebook and assess your life for the ways in which you can act.
Suzuki Roshi, the Japanese monk credited with bringing Zen Buddhism to the West was a man of very few words, but these three may help: Shine one corner. Perhaps you can’t take down the President but you can find a place in your own life where there is suffering or dullness and pain and make it shine. Clean it up. Pick a cause in your community, a teenager who needs help or a family that can’t make rent and just do something. Don’t waste your precious life sharing incendiary cartoons of Trump with Putin’s fist up his ass. People are suffering. Find one corner, and make it shine.
I won’t allow myself to watch any media that has to do with Trump. For the next four years I won’t watch TV when he speaks or videos or newscasts that give him a voice. I am hoping that somehow he will actually help the demographic who elected him but I will be watching vigilantly for policies, acts, or events that cause harm. Like most people in love with themselves, DT talks an awful lot. I won’t listen, but I’ll figure out what’s going on and watch out for people in my world who might get hurt.
When Al’s in the sauna, I won’t be. In the interest of staying healthy, I’m just not going to expose myself to rank toxicity at the gym or in politics. Who knows why there are people who walk this earth blind and disconnected like Al and Donald Trump and religious charlatans? How do you solve a problem like The Donald? You love your neighbor, be good to those who hate or hurt you, give your time and money and presence to places of darkness. Maybe keep your head down and the TV off. The election of a narcissist has shaken us out of our fat happy slumber and thank goodness for that. We are awake now, so let’s not squander the opportunity to be brave and big-hearted. If everyone could shine one corner, think how bright the world would become – Donald or no Donald.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Martin Luther King, Jr.
So. Let’s go make us some light.