“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find
all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
I'm not really surprised when I hear about Donald Trump's success. In spite of his inciting words, his bitter ideas and his detached perceptions, I'm not so shocked that a bully could gather such support.
I think Trump is popular because authoritarianism is popular. His campaign is a painful reminder (for me) that control and punishment based systems fuel our everyday culture. It’s in our schools and churches. It’s in our businesses and our homes.
The problem is that most people think authoritarianism is harmless. Or worse, that we have no other options. But as a counselor, parent and recovering authoritarian, I disagree.
Donald Trump is popular because authoritarianism is popular.
Authoritarianism, is a high limits and low warmth approach of leadership that values strict obedience and harsh punishments. It puts a great deal of responsibility for correct behavior on those with less power or knowledge. Authoritarians will use demands, shame, withdrawal, control, bullying, coercion, threats and punishments to achieve compliance.
Authoritarianism perpetuates fear. And fear blocks our best selves, our instincts, our empathy and our intuition. Fear keeps love at bay. Fear doesn't conquer love, no, love never goes away, It merely blocks the path of love, makes it seem invisible. And when love seems invisible, people freak out. At least I know I do.
If we don’t want support for a hateful leader, then perhaps it's time we consider changing our support for authoritarian methods at all. And we can start at home.
My experience with authoritarian values began when I was a child. I was expected to adhere to strict moral rules and control my emotions and behaviors. It was believed that children were being purposefully manipulative and were inherently bad. I remember the adults standing around at church, nonchalantly chuckling together and discussing their parenting ideals. They had special code phrases to describe the use of threats and spanking, like “spare the rod, spoil the child” or “ children need the fear of God put into them.” The problem is that those kinds of beliefs shut down my instincts and convinced me fear was stronger than love.
When I became a parent, I found myself using threats and coercion to obtain my children's compliance. I took their behavior personally, I punished them for making mistakes, I withdrew my affection from them for being children.
One day I realized I was only passing along my own emotional baggage to them. I was only setting up blocks between my children and love.
Changing our parenting could mean fewer people deprived of connection and empathy. Fewer people would abandon their own instincts and turn to hatred. Fewer people would be treated poorly and seek to treat others poorly too. Changing our parenting means we would stop bullying our kids.
I believe love always wins. It always has and it always will. Love wins when I parent with gentle patience and connection. Love wins when I get scared and fall back on my old authoritarian and controlling ways. Either way, I want my parenting to reveal love over fear. I believe we all are deeply loved. I believe we deserve to feel deeply loved, both when our behavior is acceptable and when it is not.
I think we need to strengthen our resolve and double our efforts to become connected, empathic, and empowering parents. I think we need to support our children’s instincts, not shut them down. I think we can empower this generation to be their best selves and create an environment where we experience love as more powerful than fear.
Fear is nothing more than a feeling, so what do we have to lose in facing it?
Fear is just a feeling. It has no power to hurt us when we face it. It is only in avoiding fear that we are robbed of our intellect, inflicted with disease and division.
We can support our children's instincts, we can let them find the joyful treasure that pain brings. We can give them tools to be present, to be strong, to be smart and kind. We can teach them that life is both terrifying and incredible. That it is joy and grief wildly hemmed together.
Of course, you have to go first. But trust me, it's worth it.
Love is always here. I can help you see it.
Love is always here. I can help you reveal it.
Love is always here. I can help you let it flow.
If you’d like to find your way out of authoritarian living, in parenting and beyond, I can help. Were you raised authoritarian but long to change? Do you feel totally slammed when your kids don't comply with your requests? Do you want to stop using threats and intimidation but don't have any other tools? I can help you find new solutions. I can help you wriggle free from those old beliefs that keep you stuck.
Check out my parenting focused counseling services and join The Parenting Well on facebook for support and upcoming parenting events.