Toxic relationships affect our lives in the most profound ways. They can be compelling beyond belief – and over time the damage they cause is profound. This same dynamic is playing out on the world stage: In the case of coronavirus we have a breathtaking view into the nature of narcissism – and it’s costing us countless lives. The issue isn’t primarily about policy or politics – it’s about character. And our country has married someone who cannot take care of us.
Trump, Coronavirus, And The Greatest Lesson Of Love
Acknowledging The Devastating Effects Of A Toxic Relationship
The first and greatest lesson of love relationships is being played out now in our country around Coronavirus in the current administration. It’s being played out in so many of our lives. Stay tuned to this episode to learn what that lesson is and what we can learn from what’s happening now in our country.
I’m Ken page. I’m a psychotherapist author of the bestselling book, Deeper Dating®, the Cofounder of the dating site, DeeperDating®.com, and the host of this show. I’m going to talk about the first great lesson of intimacy and how that plays out in so many of our lives and how it’s playing out in our country, around Coronavirus, and the current administration. This week and every week, although I’m now doing these podcasts every two weeks for the time being, I will share the greatest tools that I know to help you find love and keep it flourishing and heal your life in the process because the skills of dating are nothing more than the skills of intimacy. Those are the greatest and richest skills of our lives.
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In my work and in my life, the place where I have seen and experienced the greatest and most intractable pain has been around the compelling power of unhealthy toxic relationships. When you choose someone who is not safe, whose character is not good, and it’s so hard because they have such great promises that they make to you, or because they almost love you, or because they’re so sexy or they have so much to offer, it’s an attraction of deprivation. These kinds of attractions are some of the most intractable issues that I have seen. I feel like the thing that I see that stops people, apart from the lack of wiser information about intimacy, the thing that causes the most pain and blocks people the most is the addiction to the “stuckness” with unhealthy, toxic relationships.
I think that this is happening in our country and we can see it with what’s going on with the way that we as a country have addressed Coronavirus and how Trump and his administration have actually led us into tremendous, tremendous pain and suffering and loss. Similar to what happens when we decide to enter into relationships with toxic people. This is like a cautionary tale. By looking at what’s happening in our country, we can understand the single-most painful dynamic that happens in romantic relationships and the single most important lesson.
The inner world of a narcissist is a rancid place, and the narcissist wants to drag other people into that space. Click To Tweet
Married To A Narcissist
By looking at these personal relationships, we can understand more what seems to be happening at this time in our country. I think that on both counts, this is pressing and urgent, and I have a lot to say. It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be a kind of cautionary tale, but it’s also going to be filled with hope because when we can see a hypnosis for what it is, we can break free from a toxic relationship. I want to say, this is not about Trump’s policies.
This is not about being a Democrat or being a Republican. It’s about character. What’s being acted out in the state of our country and in the world is that many Americans have fallen in love with a profound narcissist. The sign there, the key great difficulty, is the inability to de-center from what you want and the importance of how you’re perceived, and to be able to actually look at the world with great empathy.
I think it would be really hard to disagree that this is an area where Donald Trump is profoundly weak, and where that weakness, specifically in regard to Coronavirus, has led to death, death of loved ones, more deaths to follow of our precious loved ones because Coronavirus is not something that Trump wants to admit to or deal with because it doesn’t make him look good. The description of this kind of narcissism was beautifully described by E.B. Johnson in an article in Medium called How your personality changes after surviving narcissistic abuse.
“Narcissistic abuse,” the author says, or a toxic relationship, I add in, “occurs through verbal abuse, emotional manipulation, and even all-out campaigns of fear, threats, and terror. A narcissist is unable to see the inherent value in anyone else because they’re only able to see their needs, desires, and perspectives.” Let’s talk about this on a personal level. How many of us have been in relationships with a narcissist?
How many of us have been in a toxic relationship with someone who couldn’t de-center from their own needs and would hurt us and hurt others because of their inability to choose compassion over self-gratification? How many people do you know now that are in those situations? How many times have you had loved ones in situations of relationships with people where you knew that this was so bad for them and these otherwise really intelligent people when you tried to show them the facts, their eyes would kind of glaze over?
They would have rationalizations; they would have excuses. How many times have we done that? How to capture the degree of pain and lost years and suffering, not to mention abuse, not to mention abuse of our children, not to mention the loss of friendships and other relationships, because the narcissist feels threatened by those other connections and other alliances, and pushes us to dissolve them, from the subtlest level to the grossest level?
Most of us have seen in deep and powerful ways, the devastating effects of a toxic relationship, and the kind of hypnosis occurs where we don’t want to admit that. Coronavirus is bad, for Trump and how he looks at his success. He prefers that it doesn’t exist. Testing makes the numbers look bigger, so let’s slow it down. If children don’t go back to school, that’s going to hurt our economy. It’s going to hurt the optics of how our country looks, and how I look, and whether or not I’ll get re-elected.
Let’s make sure that no matter what, we send them to school, and we’ll pull funding of any school that doesn’t support that. Just a little bit of room for the devastating reality of those children, of those immune-compromised or vulnerable teachers, of the families that love these people. Just another few examples of this so that we could see just kind of the most important political, and personal lesson, which is the devastating hypnosis of toxic relationships and how easy it is to succumb to them. Few things, for example, on January 20th, the first Coronavirus case was reported in the United States and South Korea. Within the first two weeks of that case, South Korea had nationwide testing.
Two days after that case, Trump said, “It’s all under control.” On February 6th, the World Health Organization distributed a quarter-million tests. We declined those tests. We produced 90 tests and they were faulty. On February 28th, Donald Trump said that Coronavirus is the Democrat’s new hoax. How many of his supporters believed that and didn’t wear masks, didn’t take care of themselves, didn’t protect themselves?
Trump actually said that wearing a mask could be seen as a political statement against him. The breathtaking degree of narcissism here, and the deaths that that led to need to be faced and need to be embraced. We need to look at ways in which we have allowed ourselves in our own life to say yes to the horrible hypnosis of toxic relationships. Just continuing, on April 4th, he said, “It might be okay to go to work even if you have the Coronavirus.” He said, “Anybody who needs a test, it is there.” Now, this was a complete lie.
This is kind of the concept of gaslighting, which I’ll get to in a minute, because at that time, 3 of the 100 public laboratories that we have had a working CDC test. Early in March, 1 in 100,000 people in the United States received tests compared to 1 in 342 in South Korea, and analysis of data from healthy metrics and evaluation suggests that countless deaths could have been avoided if Trump supported social distancing and masks simply a few weeks earlier, as he had been warned for months, but he was helpless against that because of character.
This is such a deep and important thing. I’m going to shift to talking about intimate relationships. Ultimately, when you’re weighing character in one hand and promise in the other, character is going to end up on top. In the long run, character is what’s going to influence everything. I quote Hara Marano, the Advice Columnist for Psychology Today frequently and she says, “There are three Cs in looking for love; character, character, and character.” We are 4% of the world’s population, but in July, we had over 50% of all the Coronavirus cases.
To keep our country safe, we must have a leader who can step outside of themselves and see the needs of others. Click To Tweet
In July, Trump said, “We have one of the lowest death rates.” But of all the countries in the world, we have the fourth-highest death rate and we’re one of the wealthiest and most industrialized nations in the world. We have an incredible opportunity here to save lives, to save our lives, and to understand the first rule of intimacy is that character is everything. All of us have certainly seen such terrible things happen as we witness our loved ones in toxic relationships. How much pain have each of us experienced seeing that and being helpless?
Right now, we’re witnessing that in our country today because of Donald Trump’s inability, in his case, narcissism, to understand the validity and worth of anything outside of what he wants and needs and how he is perceived. The country’s being ripped apart. As a country, we are now so hungry to be able to finally address racism in a deeper way. Trump is denying all of that and turning it into an ugly civil war because Coronavirus crosses him, it doesn’t look good, it goes against what he wants to be seen as, and the experience of him feeling like he’s wearing a mask makes him feel weak.
He’s not interested in what he’s modeling for the country and all of his supporters. He’s just not interested in that. What he’s interested in is how he looks and this is an interesting thing. The inner world of a narcissist crossed is it has rancidity, it’s a rancid place. None of the oxygen that comes with getting outside yourself exists in that inner world. In that space, the narcissist wants to drag other people into that space. Trump, as the most powerful person in many ways on the planet, is trying to drag the entire country into the rancid space of his resentment, insecurity, and rage when it comes to Coronavirus and the reality of this pandemic.
It is breathtaking to see how many people willingly follow him into that space. That brings me to my second point about this and that is the hypnosis that occurs when you’re in love with, or when stuck in, a toxic relationship. This hypnosis is one of the most powerful things that I have ever witnessed. I will share with you that my dad, who’s a holocaust survivor, said, “I can understand how to turn a population into Nazis. I can understand how to do what Hitler did. Here’s how you do it. You sow fear, and then you create an enemy, and you make that enemy less than you.”
He does that with all his enemies and that foments hate and creates a degree of danger, violence, resentment, and unrest because there is no modeling of humanity and decency. That hypnosis happens as well for people in toxic relationships. We’ve all seen it. We’ve seen it in our own lives, and we’ve seen it in the lives of people we love. It’s powerful and it’s so intractable and it goes so deep. For example, really smart people don’t wear masks because they feel that it is anti-Trump. The rally in Tulsa, smart people were in that rally. They signed papers saying that they would not hold the administration accountable if they caught the Coronavirus and people died as a result most probably from that rally.
Then they were pushed together into a tight space so that it would look good for the optics as though there were more people. People did this willingly in the time of a deadly pandemic. This is so rich and so amazing and tells us so much about willingly entering into toxic relationships. I want to say something now about the message of hope, peace, because ultimately for survival, all of us must choose to get away from toxic relationships. For our country’s safety, in the presence of a pandemic, and all of the other crises that happen, we must have a leader, Democrat or Republican, who has compassion, who can step outside themselves and see the needs of others.
Donald Trump is profoundly lacking, is incapable of doing that. That’s why we can directly attribute the deaths of so many people to his refusal of putting the public health above his image and his needs. This is a terrible thing and the loss associated with that. I’m not talking about so many other ways in which this is true. The immigrant children ripped out of their parents’ arms, Black Lives Matter, and his complete refusal to see the worth and validity of that and to face our country’s racism, his support of white supremacists so much here in so many different areas. I’ve written a number of pieces for Psychology Today about this.
A Time For Hope
For this episode, I’m speaking mostly about Coronavirus. I do want to say something about hope. The beautiful bravery of changing direction when we see truth, the ability to do what a narcissist cannot do, which is de-center from our own agenda, and open our hearts to the humanity of what’s going on. All of us now have the opportunity to do that on a multitude of levels. We can see how the power of narcissism is playing out in our country and literally leading to death to a country lost, blind, and bewildered because its leadership is not saying we’re directly and wisely going to tackle this pandemic.
We must get away from this administration’s narcissistic and toxic response to crisis. I’m a Democrat, but this is not about Democrat or Republican. This is about character. This is a message that also applies in our personal lives, for all of us who are stuck in relationships and so many of us know this experience where we are repeatedly, even if it’s not this extreme, even if it’s not at all about what leads to death. The experience of being in a relationship where we don’t feel seen, where we don’t feel cherished, where we don’t have license to be all that we are.
The damage that that creates, the damage that creates for us, for our children, and for our loved ones. It’s such an act of bravery to open our eyes, to douse the hypnosis, and to face the reality of what’s going on and to say yes to compassion for ourselves, to say yes to compassion for all the people that are being wounded by a narcissist’s toxic, rage, and behaviors. This is a time for hope. This is a time where all of us can say, “We need a leader who cares. We need a leader who is compassionate.”
We are in the midst of a pandemic. We need to take care of what needs to be taken care of. It’s not something a narcissist can do. I know that this is such a political message, but as a human being in this world, I feel that I must stand up when unnecessary deaths are being caused by narcissism, just as I stand up for the same thing in all of my talks about attractions of deprivation. Even after, God willing, this election, assuming Trump does not win again, because if he does, much more horror, horror born of a lack of compassion, will occur. Even after, even if we don’t have Trump as president again, there will be a period of healing that needs to happen.
Wounds around race have been ripped up. Racism has been allowed to flourish and to gain fire. This pandemic has gained so much fuel because of Trump and his administration’s refusal to honor the reality of what’s going on. This is hard to refute. There’s a lot of healing that needs to happen. For all of us who have been in a relationship with a narcissist, there’s so much healing that needs to happen even when we get away from that relationship.
It’s hard and it’s difficult because we’ve allowed such wrong things to happen, to ourselves and to other people, and because we’ve gotten into such a kind of channel of pain and suffering and diminishment of compassion. All of us as a nation are going to have to heal when we make this choice to move away from abuse, to move away from narcissism, in our lives, in our relationship, and in our president. Thank you so much for listening. I know this was a controversial episode, but we must speak the truth when it comes to the wellbeing of those around us. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll see you in two weeks on the next episode of the Deeper Dating® Podcast.