Please ask yourself the following related questions: how much time each day on average do you spend reading, thinking, or speaking with others about Trump and, more broadly, issues related to America’s culture wars? How would you rate the amount of time spent on these activities: just right, too little, or too much? How do you feel about your engagement in these activities: great, neutral, or frustrated with yourself? Do you have a sense of lack of control when engaging in these activities, that is, do you often spend more time and mental energy on them than you planned or even when you wish you could stop? Have you tried to stop and failed? Have you given up engaging in other activities due to the time and mental effort spent on Trump-related activities? Do you sneak time – time that you’d rather not admit to – in viewing articles, posts, etc, related to Trump and the culture wars?
If you responded in the affirmative to some or most of the above questions, then I’m here to help.
Above I share a photo I call the Lost Goddess Mural, taken in Bolinas, California on May 18, 2013. As I mentioned before, I like taking photos of public or street art because it is so ephemeral – like life itself. The reason it’s the ‘lost’ goddess is because this mural, as of sometime in 2015, no longer exists; it was painted over with something that’s not one tenth as good. Oh well. Makes me happy to share this with you.
First, a request for your forbearance: When I started writing posts for the relaunched LifeBrief I made a promise to avoid politics. I regard this post as not about politics directly, however, and neutral in terms of political viewpoint. This post is as relevant – I believe – irrespective of whether you love, loath, or are conflicted about Trump. It’s geared towards anyone who feels their Trump focus is a net negative in their life. But clearly, the article relates to current politics; how could it not with Trump as the focus. So, let me know if I should lay off.
The “Trump in Your Head”
I’m not interested in discussing Trump the man (or about his detractors or supporters). Rather, I’m writing about the “Trump in Your Head,” and how “Trump the meme” has affected your life and well-being. As a physician, you may also find this post relevant in helping your patients, a portion of whom are undoubtedly struggling with the Trump in their heads too.
Let me start with a story. My wife as a child grew up in communist Poland, when the country was a vassal state of the Soviet Union. Since Trump came on the scene, she has been particularly exercised about the Russian influence in US elections. It brings back bad memories of Poland’s unfree elections and economy, and muzzled free expression during that period. Starting several months ago, each day I’d come from work, my wife would start in on, “Guess what Trump did / said / tweeted today?” Since I was struggling with my own semi-serious addiction to Trump, the last thing I needed at the end of a tiring day was to spend our time together talking about Trump. Think about it: two people who love each other and haven’t spent any time yet that day, spending their limited time talking about Trump! Madness, I thought – this must stop!
The “Trump-Free Zone”
So I started the concept of the “Trump-Free Zone.” With a light-hearted tone but serious intent, I said that I just can’t live with Trump as the ever-present uninvited guest in my house (and wherever else). My wife agreed but if she had a “lapse” I’d make the “time-out sign” and say, “Remember, Trump-Free Zone.” I now also use this phrase with friends during the infrequent times heavy Trump-related talk comes up socially. Several friends have laughed and promised to implement the “Trump-Free Zone” into their own lives.
Overcoming Your Trump Addiction
If you (or your loved ones or patients) have a Trump addiction – and remember that addictions include behavioral addictions like gambling, gaming, internet use – then here just a few tips to help you start getting a grip:
- Admit you have a problem and that changes are needed in your life
- If your inordinate Trump time is spent discussing him with your significant other, family members or colleagues, raise the possibility of a shared “Trump Free Zone.” It’s harder to maintain your “sobriety” when surrounded by others’ continued “high-risk behaviors”.
- Take a harm reduction approach. You probably will choose not to cut yourself off from news completely – I for one want to know if nuclear bombs have detonated anywhere around the world. So, you can continue to follow the news. Just schedule your news time to a defined period once or twice a day. As an added step, you can decide to only consume news on your laptop or desktop computer, so you aren’t tempted whenever you glance at your mobile phone.
And, I have one more suggestion.
Fill Your Trump Void
One major underappreciated success factor in overcoming an addiction is the need to replace the hole in a life left open by giving up the addictive behavior with something else. Nature abhors a vacuum and the something that is most likely to fill the hole is none other than the addictive behavior the person just struggled to give up. After all, the addictive behaviors were … well, addictive, that is, they were well-established and compelling.
One of my most formative experiences occurred years ago when a patient in treatment for addiction told me, when explaining a recent relapse following 6 months sobriety from alcohol and cocaine, “Dr. Jack, when I was clean, I looked out at my life and all I saw was a gray haze. At least when I was using I had some drama in my life.”
Given this, the something that fills the hole cannot ONLY be something that increases your well-being – after all, we humans continue to engage in many activities that decrease our well-being – but also must be at least as compelling / rewarding / serotonin-releasing as the behavior you give up. Hmmm. This may take some thought.
So, what will you do to fill your Trump-shaped hole?
I would love to hear from you – and can publish your thoughts with attribution or anonymously – about your Trump-related addictive behaviors and what, if anything, you have done about them. And I’d also love to hear from you if you have patients who struggle with today’s political climate and how you help them cope.
Until next time,
“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Neither does bathing. That’s why we recommend it daily.”
– Zig Ziglar
“It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere.”
– Agnes Repplier
“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.”
– Georgia O’Keeffe