The Correct Way to Interview Donald Trump or Argue with Any Difficult Person

Watching a journalist interview Donald Trump is a lesson in psychology, regardless of your political viewpoint. Trump exhibits a complete lack of accountability for his behaviors, the key attribute of what I call “Other-Blamers” in my new “Self-Acceptance Psychology.” Because he is filled with self-shame and feelings of inadequacy, he has learned to develop some successful ways of managing (avoiding) additional shame.

One tactic of Other-Blamers is what I like to call “zigzag” arguing — a visual description that helps people recognize it when it shows up.

Other-Blamers like Trump have great difficulty admitting they are wrong or acquiescing to any fault. So when challenged with an irrefutable fact, they change the subject. They zig-zag to Topic 2 with such speed, ease and poise that the questioner is often pulled unwittingly right along in this scheme. Suddenly the argument is about Topic 2, rather than Topic 1. Success for the Other-Blamer! He gets to distract from his real misbehavior and escapes from the shaming experience of being held accountable. Sometimes this zigzagging can go on for dozens of topics.

I am amazed at the number of national journalists who do not recognize this behavior and do not immediately stop the zig and address it:  “No, we’re not going to talk about Topic 2. I asked you about Topic 1. Why did you do Topic 1?” And when Trump or any Other-Blamer inevitably changes the topic again, the questioner should doggedly but calmly return to Topic 1 and point out the zigzag behavior directly: “I notice you changed the subject — again. It seems you are uncomfortable addressing Topic 1. We need to address Topic 1, so that’s what you’re going to do.”

Many submissive, placating people come into therapy feeling they are “crazy” and taking on all the fault for relationship problems. These “Self-Blamers” are clearly in relationship with an “Other-Blamer” who blames, makes excuses for his behavior, deflects, denies, and zigzags, to the point where the partner loses a sense of reality and starts to assume she is the one who is incorrect, at fault, and even a bit nuts.

I personally experienced this deflect and distract style of arguing hundreds of times with my second husband, so I know it can be quite confusing. I was left emotionally exhausted and bewildered after many arguments, and my Self-Blaming patterns became more entrenched. My father and sister also have excellent skills at Other-Blaming and zigzag arguing, so I experienced this behavior throughout my childhood and early adulthood.

As I have experienced, the lack of any factual basis to their arguments does not stop Other-Blamers. This can be disturbing to many people who do like to base their arguments on some sort of reality! Don’t be unhinged by the lies.  Recognize that this lack of factual basis is exactly the problem — and then address it.

In therapy, I educate the Self-Blamers on the behavior of the Other-Blamer, especially the tactic of zigzag arguing. It takes mindfulness, calm and self-discipline not to get pulled down the rabbit hole of zigzag arguing. But it can be very productive — although the Other-Blamer will not like it one bit. That strategy has served him very well throughout his life and he will not enjoy being called out on his behavior.

As is proven on TV news on a daily basis, Trump behaves this way very, very frequently. But I suspect he also behaves this way in personal and business relationships. His extreme feelings of inadequacy mean that he is unable and unwilling to be humble, accountable, and admit fault, even when the facts all say he is wrong.

The key to fixing this behavior is to develop self-acceptance, so that you can tolerate shame in a healthy manner without Other-Blaming tactics.

Announcing My Latest Project: Self-Acceptance Psychology

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Self-Acceptance Psychology-2Consider this…

Why are normal human reactions — such as fear, shame, self-criticism and the need for love and belonging — labeled as “mental disorders?”

Could compassionate self-acceptance be the solution to commonplace self-doubt — and even help people find permanent solutions to anxiety, depression and other supposed “mental disorders?”

I am excited to announce the start of my newest project, based on “Pack Leader Psychology,” but taking those ideas to an entirely new level. Self-Acceptance Psychology is starting as a 55-page booklet for clinicians and website, but I hope to grow it into much more.

That’s because I am so passionate about challenging the mental health profession’s inaccurate, unscientific myths. The current disease model falsely asserts that “anxiety,” “depression” and “ADHD” are caused by imbalances in brain chemistry or inherited traits. Harmful drugs are then pushed as the only solution to these allegedly “lifelong” conditions.

What if there was a system for understanding human emotions and behaviors that….

… was more accurate than the current psychiatric diagnostic model?

… could bring about a real understanding of the causes of human behavior?

… could improve the quality of your relationships with others?

… could improve the relationship you have with yourself?

… could lead to real, permanent change without the use of drugs — bringing contentment and an improved sense of connection?

At the risk of sounding boastful, I believe that system is Self-Acceptance Psychology.

To learn more right now, you can instantly download a 55-page PDF book for just $5. While Self-Acceptance Psychology is aimed at psychologists, social workers and counselors, the general public will be able to fully understand the concepts.

Please share this blog post with any mental health professionals that you know and join me on social media to stay up to date. I’ll be blogging soon on www.SelfAcceptancePsychology.com and major anti-psychiatry website — more to come soon!

“Be kind to yourself….”

Forget Self-Esteem; Work on Self-Acceptance

Here is some counterintuitive advice on self-improvement: Stop working on improving your self-esteem.

Instead, aim for true self-acceptance. Too many people base their self-esteem on competent performance of tasks as judged by the outside world and then define themselves based on these opinions and reactions of others.

As I write in my book “Pack Leader Psychology”, low self-worth drives the need to seek external approval: “The more parts of ourselves we reject, the more important it is to feel accepted.”

I believe we should stop emphasizing self-esteem because it is often taken to mean other-esteem. Yet a person who is overly concerned with the external judgments of others or who values measures of success based on competence often has very low self-acceptance.

For example, narcissists self-report and are measured to have very high self-esteem. Yet they are on an endless search for approval and actually have very low feelings of worth and self-acceptance.  This is what leads them to be attention-seeking, to act superior, and to brag.

Intrinsic self-acceptance, free from the fear of judgment or rejection by others, will bring true inner confidence that is not dependent on the opinions of others. Pursuing the approval of others leaves one lacking in confidence, because one’s self-esteem will always be at the mercy of others — a very weak position to put oneself in.

On an emotional level, if a person feels “less than” or unworthy, this may trigger a feeling of shame, which then may lead to a fear response or anxiety. People who are hyper-vigilant for criticism and shame, then spend a lot of time in the “fight-or-flight” or emotional brain, with resulting behaviors of Submission, Dominance or Avoidance, as I explain in depth in my book.

Experiencing The Positive Power of Self-Compassion

Recently,  due to a missed text, I ended up inadvertently double-booked on my patient calendar.

This simple incident reaffirmed for me the positive power of self-compassion, or conversely, the negative impact of self-shaming.

Certainly, I recognized that this mistake was minor. Considering that I see more than 30 patients a week and have several changed appointments per day, a mistake like this every six months or so is certainly not a reason to get down on myself.

I even had some logical explanations as to why the double booking wasn’t entirely my fault. I had been updating my phone software at the time the patient texted. The patient also did not get a confirmation from me agreeing to the changed appointment time and just assumed it would be OK with me.

Even though this mistake was clearly unintentional and despite my logical, cognitive reassurances, I chastised myself for the double booking.

Quite suddenly, a parade of self-critical thoughts arose. Over the next few hours as I ruminated about my mistake, I began to feel irritable and distracted. As I sat with patients, I had more difficulty focusing and remaining in the moment. I failed to follow their narratives and my thoughts wandered.

I was not an attuned, empathic therapist. I could clearly feel the difference in my body, brain and emotions from my normal self.

By the time I went home a few hours later I really wanted a drink to calm my cranky mood and I had a hard time relaxing enough to go to bed.

The feeling continued the next morning with minor irritability, lack of focus and generally low mood. To be sure, all of these sensations and thoughts were very mild and I was certainly well able to function.

To get out of my funk I repeated the logical explanations for the mistake and thought kind, compassionate thoughts about myself.

Later the next day I was completely back to normal — happy, contented and motivated. But as I look back at this incident, several lessons are apparent.

My radical change in mood due to one small mistake really confirmed to me the harm of self-shaming — a practice I had long ago give up.

Fear-triggering beliefs of inadequacy lead people to become self-critical, because they fear others will find them unlovable. People are afraid of the thought that if others knew them and saw these flaws, they would reject them.

When people feel inadequate, they feels powerless or “less than” others. It is then natural to react with a feeling of threat or fear if faced with an emotionally difficult situation. This leads to reactions of “fight,” “flight,” “freeze,” or “avoidance.”

The brain goes into a primal “survival mode” and reacts, rather than pauses and thinks realistically about a situation. The brain relies on the limbic system, where reactive, fear-based emotions are processed, not the prefrontal cortex (PFC). The PFC is where reasoning, problem solving and higher pro-social emotions, such as empathy, sharing, and compassion, are processed. If the brain spends enough time in this emotionally fearful state, it can create habitual ways of thinking and being.

Through years of the use of mindfulness, self-compassion and self-acceptance, I almost never have self-shaming thoughts and the resulting anxiety. I am nearly always in a good mood, with no fear of the judgment of others. I am calm, relaxed and in the moment, rather than critical, judgmental and fearful.

Because I am not in “fight-or-flight” mode and emotionally self-protective, my PFC is able to generate feelings of compassion for myself and for others.

Self-Shaming and Depression

What is interesting is that after my scheduling mishap I also suddenly started feeling sorry for myself about unrelated issues. Even though the day before I was quite happy with my life, out of the blue I began having negative thoughts of dissatisfaction. Thoughts of self-doubt expanded from questions about my attention to detail to questioning my ability as a therapist. I felt a lack of motivation to do housework. I noted that I have not been in a relationship in a long time and suddenly felt lonely and isolated, where hours before I did not have these thoughts.

We often label these types of thoughts and feelings as “depression.” However, my experiences of feeling mildly sorry for myself in that brief incident are indicative of how the brain works. When we feel threatened emotionally by fears of failure, we start to see threats and negativity everywhere.  These threats cause us to withdraw socially, isolate ourselves, give up trying, and feel hopeless and helpless.

The Power of Shame

In looking back at this incident I am amazed at how quickly these negative, shameful thoughts and feelings came over me, despite my cognitive understanding of the situation and my overall excellent emotional resilience. When my mind, emotions and body experienced even a brief taste of emotional upheaval due to thoughts of self-judgment, I did not like it!

I realized how difficult it must be for so many, many people who live with this feeling on a daily basis and often at much more extreme intensity.

If I had not had psychological insight and emotional resilience, I may not have been able to recognize what had happened to me. I might not have had the ability to talk myself back to normal.

Fortunately, years ago I learned the power of self-judgment to cause anxiety and depression.

I learned that compassionate self-acceptance is the key to emotional health.

As a therapist I use techniques with patients to address self-shaming and self-critical thoughts by improving their ability to be mindful and self-compassionate. I know these techniques work, and my brief experience confirmed for me the need to be self-accepting and self-compassionate.

Are Gadgets Killing Self-Awareness?

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I heard a snippet of an interview on NPR tonight with a man who believes that the extensive use of gadgets is leading to a lack of creativity. He thinks that creativity requires quiet time to think and that the constant distraction by electronic media may lead to fewer moments of inspiration.

Of course, many commentators have noted that kids growing up today, with their faces interacting with screens and not with other people, will likely lack interpersonal skills and fail to develop essential emotional connections with others. It is shocking to me to watch a line full of people at a coffee shop who cannot spend 60 seconds waiting for their latte without letting go of their phone. God forbid they actually make small talk with the person in front of them.

image0093968Studies have shown that just having a short conversation with others can help a person feel connected and can improve mood. Even prosaic comments about the weather or the long line can make us feel we are part of a shared experience, and can affirm our sense of belonging, even if it is just to the tribe that waits in long lines at coffee shops on snowy days. We are not so different, you and me.

But if we never share vents about the snow storm or pleasantries about the excellent espresso, how do we remind ourselves that we are similar? How do we feel attached and experience the universality of experience that is human existence? Without reminders of our human alikeness, we may start to believe we are different. And different equals alone. And alone can equal depressed or anxious or insecure based on thoughts of self-judgment and shame.

But the big problem that I would like to address with this over-focus on cell phones is that it may lead to a lack of self-awareness or mindfulness.

Being able to observe and gain control over thoughts and feelings is mindfulness. In mindfulness, we learn that just because we feel an emotion or have a thought does not mean we have to react to it or believe it.

However, it seems that repeatedly and automatically reaching for a gadget in response to a ping will teach us the opposite: I am a automaton to this device and to my emotionally needy search for social affirmation through it.

As with creativity, self-awareness needs stillness. To be mindful, we cannot have a mind full of distraction. Inner peace is not learned by being constantly distracted and pulled out of our centeredness and into our gadgets, especially if those gadgets bring messages of social drama, social rejection, and social shaming. If every 30 seconds an email pings up or a social media “like” pops up with its red number, when are we going to have time to just “be?” To merely be quiet in mind, perhaps also in body. To allow our thoughts to settle, our fears to recede, and our inherent peaceful calm to surface.

Seated, silent meditation can be a wonderful tool to gain mindfulness and stillness. But I am a big fan of integrating mindfulness and self-awareness into micro-moments during one’s day.

If after you meditate the remaining 23 hours plus of your day is spent in impulsive, thought-less reactivity to a machine, that seems as if it may undo what value the seated meditation brought to you. Contemplatives know that ideally we bring self-awareness and calm to our entire lives.

One of the tests of emotional maturity and emotional intelligence is the ability to be alone. Alone with our selves and our thoughts. That means alone without the interference of a gadget to distract us from that aloneness.

Put down the device. Connect with others, connect with your creativity, connect with yourself, connect with your self.