presidential candidate stuffed animals

The Presidential Candidates Inside You: Conflicts & Needs

Donald Trump is inside you. So are Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, and others. They’re all hanging out together, accompanying you wherever you go. They’re with me, too.

Each election season, America has some difficult conversations. So do other democratic countries. Emotionally, it can be difficult to manage at times.

But this isn’t only because of the issues themselves. It’s also because the candidates–their stances, the messages they carry, and the manner in which they express themselves–remind us of parts of ourselves. Public figures are an expression of those parts.

We Are Acting Out Our Own Inner Conflicts

When I compare and contrast different candidates, I’m also judging how I manage my own life.

For example, there are certain issues that I stand for very strongly. I sometimes wish I’d had the courage to speak out about them earlier and more clearly, even when it wasn’t the popular thing to do. So I value that in a candidate, because in some ways they seem to make up for that part of me.

There are other areas in my life where I’ve valued an approach that isn’t so philosophically pure and weighs a range of considerations. So in some areas, I look to leaders for that style of expression.

I’m also reminded of my own ongoing journey to fully appreciate diversity, rather than sometimes simply worrying about being politically correct. I’ve struggled to accept and understand the ways in which I’ve had privileges, as well as the ways in which I’ve had disadvantages.

For example, I’ve had advantages due to being a white cisgender male and attending some very wealthy schools. I’ve had disadvantages due to coming from an economically poor background.

When a public figure makes a statement appealing to a way in which I’ve felt disadvantaged or even oppressed, it’s easy to get riled up. But unless I personally channel the energy into productive action, it’s generally not helpful.

On the surface, it’s easy to totally fall in love with one candidate while painting others as complete villains. This reflects the nature of how we often manage ourselves.

We sometimes embrace only the parts of ourselves that we already understand and love. We push away the dark parts, the shadow parts, that we don’t yet understand or aren’t yet ready to accept .

Denying Parts of Ourselves Creates Pressure & Discomfort

A paradoxical thing tends to happen when we try to deny parts of the organic whole, rather than acknowledging and accepting their existence. Those parts grow louder. They compete for our awareness. The longer we try to repress them, the more energy it takes to do so.

It’s like opening the release valve on a very large rain water barrel and then holding your thumb over the end of the garden hose. If you were to leave your thumb off, the water might shoot out just a few inches.

But the more firmly you try to press your thumb down, the further and more powerfully the water will shoot out to the sides. Your thumb may eventually get sore.

thumb over hose
Denying parts of the whole may cause pressure to release more forcefully.

Such denial can occur on an individual, group, and national level. It can occur in relation to any of the following human needs: *

When denial happens among large groups of people, due to personal choices, systemic injustices, or a combination of the two, it can add up to drama and conflict.

Across the U.S., and in many other countries, built-up water is shooting out of the hose pretty forcefully around some issues.

Although we can’t control everything that occurs at a societal level, we can look at ourselves.

Ways We Deny Parts of Ourselves

There are many ways we may attempt to put a thumb over the hose. Here are just a few:

We may try to numb out or escape through addiction-like behavior. It doesn’t need to involve chemical substances. We may over-focus on particular activities or pursuits of ourselves in an attempt to distract or deny.

For example, even if we already have an abundance of money, we may continue to focus largely on that while neglecting other areas of our lives. Even if we already have an uber-successful career, we may continue to focus primarily on that.

We may engage in spiritual bypassing, where we deny many of our human needs, focusing almost entirely upon what awaits us following our present physical lives, rather than seeing our animal nature as part of our spiritual whole.

We may look to public figures to express our unfinished business for us, particularly when we lack a sense of safety and power, and when we feel that injustices remain unaddressed. In various forms, we look to others to wage battles on our behalf.

Sometimes such battles are helpful and necessary. But sometimes, if driven largely by a desire for retribution or power–particularly in the case of actual war and weapon-based conflict–they are horrific.

Using External Conflict to Understand Yourself

As you feel the dynamics of election season, and engage in the political process, also observe yourself. Look inside and ask the following:

  • When you feel triggered, either positively or negatively, by someone else’s words, a political story, or an election-related event, what part of you is being expressed? What desires or needs are at stake?
  • What does the above say about who you are, how you wish to be, and what you wish to do? (See the being-doing-having model.)
  • How do the debates between candidates–and between supporters of those candidates–reflect your own inner struggles? What inner weighing of priorities are you doing?

If jotting down your thoughts is helpful, answer some of these questions in a notebook or journal. If you like to think out loud, sit down and chat about some of them with a trusted friend.

If you’d like to experience professional-level support in clarifying what you want and need, accepting yourself more fully, and focusing your energy, request a free, no-obligation discovery session today.

* These needs are outlined by Cloé Madanes and Tony Robbins, and some appear in other models such as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Herzberg’s Motivational Factors.

Dave welcomes phone-based life, career, and transition coaching clients from around the world.

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