An Iranian-Canadian psychoanalytic view on the the ‘Trump Phenomenon’ by Gohar Homayounpour

Dr. Gohar Homayounpour is a psychoanalyst and author who belongs to the International and American Psychoanalytic Associations. She lives and works in Tehran.

As an Iranian-Canadian psychoanalyst who has been oscillating between rage and sadness since the beginning of the Trump administration, it is so seductive for me to get emotionally involved, especially after the Muslim ban. This temptation arises as Iranians are separated from their children, or when a friend tells me, “I have just gotten my visa approved to take my thirteen-year-old daughter to New York for cancer treatment. You know, this is how terrorists are made”, or with the thoughts of the shattered hopes of dispossessed refugees and so many others affected by Trump’s new policies.

But I must attempt to keep my analytic attitude, futile as that attempt may be.

The moment I get back to my analytic mind, well then, this is where I think things get interesting. These are my associations:

Wasn’t Trump democratically elected? Didn’t millions of people vote for him in the United States? Did he not say exactly what his plans were for America? Did he not specifically say he would have a Muslim ban, anti-immigration and refugee policies? Did he not say that he will build a wall? People kept saying it was just campaign rhetoric.

Is this not reminiscent of Hitler? For God’s sake, he wrote a book saying exactly what he was going to do, discussing his world view in detail. People still voted for him in large numbers.

It is important to highlight here that there has been a heartwarming and effective surge of political activism since the inauguration in the United States. I heard from an Iranian friend who attended the Women’s March in Washington, who had met a group of Iranian women marching with them, who ambivalently admitted they had voted for Trump. The human soul is so nuanced and complicated.

As a psychoanalyst, I believe it is important to sometimes shift our attention from Trump himself to the Trump phenomenon. This dialectic includes the people who voted for him.

Is it a coincidence that the Trump phenomenon was preceded by two terms of the Obama presidency? Obama, the quintessential politician of the last century, for me the best of what civilization has to offer. Is it not bizarre that some of the same people who voted for Obama voted Trump?!

Is it an accident that Trump won because Hilary was the one running against him? Is America still more sexist than racist? I wonder if in the final analysis there is still a stronger negative reaction to women in positions of power. Hillary fainted and the world panicked; this indicated her weakness as a leader, but she was also deeply
hated by both men and women for being too phallic.

It was a lose-lose situation for Hillary; she did not have a chance, and whoever ran against her would have won, even Trump, or especially Trump.  I say especially Trump perhaps because he represents the lost narcissism of America, hence the slogan “Make America Great Again” from a macho, rich, woman-grabbing, impulsive bully, who gets what he wants when he wants it.

It could be that people voted for Trump because they have a strong wish to resurrect the lost paternal function of today’s world. They want a rich daddy to stand up for them; they crave it, they need it
but, ah, they do not know that he is just a mirage in the desert, an absolute ‘Sarab’, as we say it in my mother-tongue. 

I fully understand the limits of my short elaborations, for example we know that Hillary got three million more votes, or that in general many would argue that although the phenomenon of sexism was at work but Hillary was not a good candidate for the job for many other reasons as well.

I just wanted to point out that it is crucial to keep looking within, towards a dialectic of the Trump phenomenon. It should not escape us that it takes a large number of voters to elect the President of the United States. Also that the Trump phenomenon is really an exaggerated version of things that are happening in other parts of the world. 

Trump is the return of the repressed, the uncanny return of that which is strangely, unbearably familiar, and this could be why people voted for him in secret ballots. They were unaware of why, but they were attracted to him like a butterfly to the candle, like the needle of the Sleeping Beauty, cursed, destined by the evil of the dark side. But the dark will only get light when we speak, when we look into our mirrors and find our own dark shadows and grant them visas to come in. Otherwise they will haunt us in the Oval Office while we don’t even know why, when, and how we voted for Trump, hypnotized, following a part of ourselves we are so disgusted with that it has come back to haunt us as the Trump phenomenon.

I ask you to indulge me as I finish with a memory of when I was fourteen and had just moved to Canada. My teacher noticed I would not sing the national anthem in the mornings. She asked about it and I responded: “I am not there yet”. Mrs. White replied: “It is wonderful
that you are aware of this part of yourself. You don’t have to sing it by force, that’s not what Canada is about”. Thank you, Mrs. White. I have never been prouder to call myself an Iranian-Canadian.

 

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