Social Solidarity and Our Mental Health, Revised
by Anita Frankel MA, MFT
(Revised by the author on December 28, 2019)
University of Minnesota psychologist William Doherty has written about his concept of the Healthy Self in the Age of Trump. He calls it the Connected/Committed Self, one that works to maintain empathic connections with other people. He says that durable relational connections nourish our sense of self-worth, even as we find ourselves in circumstances that threaten to overpower us. Yet, without the “committed” part, the language of the Connected Self can be captured by the forces of consumerism and packaged as “a consumer desire… encouraging us to feel entitled to the best possible relationships that require little maintenance and offer high rewards.” And so, says Doherty,
[T]he Connected Self must have an ethical dimension. It must embrace
commitment, by which I mean investments in something outside oneself, to
relationships and causes that transcend us, extend us, challenge us,
and require continual struggle to balance and manage.*
Immediately after Donald Trump’s election victory in 2016, a few of my younger clients talked about an unwelcome anxiety, and even confusion as to whether they should be paying more attention, or less attention, to what was going on in Washington. I suggested that being in touch with others who felt similarly could help a person regain some self–confidence, and even faith in the possibility of good changes to come. On the day after Trump’s inauguration, another client of mine participated with a friend in the giant, women-led protest march in downtown L.A. Afterward, my client told how special, even transformative, it felt to stand in public with hundreds of thousands of other Angelinos, sharing both their outrage and their solidarity.
Over the past three years, millions of Americans have raised the pressure on our elected representatives to oppose President Trump’s mean-spirited policies, his unconstitutional edicts, and his insulting behavior. The loosely organized Resistance has grown rapidly, powered by the internet and sections of a newly awakened electronic and print press. The Resistance encompasses several million people — Young and old, poor and middle class, people of color, LGBTQ people, women of all ethnicities, licensed professionals, students, artists, social justice activists. They became Congressional office callers, town hall participants, ever more vocal defenders of the environment, and turned out together, marching in the streets in every major city.
Their widespread Resistance to the President and his troublesome agenda has borne fruit in Congress. The House (as this is being written) has passed two Articles of Impeachment against him, a historic achievement.
There may be many more miles to go before Trump leaves office, but one thing is beyond dispute: Millions of ordinary citizens, connected and committed, were the ones who first set out on the road to make Trump accountable — by making some consequential trouble of their own.
* Doherty, William. “Psychotherapy’s Pilgrimage: Shaping the Consciousness of Our Time.” PSYCHOTHERAPY NETWORKER, January/February 2017. p. 29.
Anita Frankel MA MFT was formerly a public affairs radio journalist and producer. She is a psychotherapist in private practice in the Echo- Park/Silverlake neighborhood of Los Angeles, and a member of the Independent Psychotherapy Network. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2020 by Anita Frankel