“Be not afraid.”
Saint John Paul II
It may be the start of the joyous holiday season, but it’s time realize a reckoning is upon us. Things are likely to get a whole lot worse.
It’s not about various predators being pushed into the light of day, although that can be unnerving as well. Politics is getting uglier and less predictable, especially with the increasingly crazy president. His eventual removal will bring a sense of relief, but the process is also going to increase tension and possibly even violence.
We are entering a time when we have to manage fear. The only way to manage it is to reject it.
The most effective way to maintain control over people is through fear. The technique known as “gaslighting” is practiced on a personal level by a large number of psychopaths around the world, usually for their own domestic purposes. It is based on serial lies which describe an alternative reality, one where the perpetrator is clearly in charge. Those who are subjected to it gradually come to question their own sanity.
The result is fear. It’s a more general anxiety, or a fear of absolutely everything. Fear as an instrument of control has been known since the dawn of time, for certain. The use of general fear to keep people in line is a more recent art form. In the hands of an instinctive practitioner like Trump it’s reduced to an instinct.
The use of fear as a political tool has been demonstrated very effectively recently. John Bargh, a professor of social psychology at Yale University, performed a study where he asked a random group of participants their political views. He then had them imagine different scenarios such as flying like Superman and being absolutely impossible to be hurt. The latter made all the difference. Once people lost their fear, their political views became more open, accepting, and even charitable.
Victims of gaslighting, which at this point includes the entire nation, respond with fear. This makes them more open to authoritarian rule and throws them into the arms of their oppressors. The quote by Saint John Paul II shows that this was well known to the Pope who brought down communism, too. Fear, a general fear, generates a desire to be controlled – or, at least, to close down horizons and never think beyond getting by the next day.
This brings us to a pivotal moment in the Trump administration. There is little doubt that his behavior is becoming even more erratic, creating even more chaos than before. This is his instinct as he distorts and distracts, and is typical of a gaslighting narcissist. Chaos opens the imagination to a fear that anything might possibly happen. For a nation already suffering anxiety and simply trying to get through day by day, the idea that anything is possible is terrifying.
Why is he more erratic? It may be simply to cover up the disastrous tax bill which is likely to pass, but that gives him too much credit. It’s more likely that the Mueller investigation is closing in quickly and will have something very damning before the end of the year. Chaos is a way of rallying his loyal troops by continually shaping and growing the alternative reality which has them imprisoned. In the case of Trump, however, it is likely not calculated but instinctive. This is just what he does, and in times of trouble he does it bigger than ever.
Joe Scarborough, a man who helped create this monster, minces few words regarding the current problem:
When Trump is gone, and it may not be much longer, the process will be ugly and undemocratic. His supporters will lash out in ways which are not currently predictable. They will be left with all the fear which drove them plus some more from the experience. Without their authoritarian leader to guide them they will be open to even worse.
The entire process is driven by a blinding fear. It is the main enemy of an open society in the best of times. The times which are approaching, when the already terrified have had a confirmation, will see literal army rising in opposition to everything which we hold dear.
We have to stay ready and stand firm against fear. We can survive this if we all hold as bravely as we can and understand that those who are lashing out are doing so out of fear. That fear was implanted in them by a system designed to exploit it and eventually conquered by a masterful, instinctive manipulator.
As Saint John Paul II told us, we must not be afraid. We also must watch for those blinded by fear and how they respond. Recovery from gaslighting is long and difficult but it starts with bravery. It starts with standing up to fear itself.
We will need to be very brave for the next year or so.