On Not Feeding Into Trump's Temper Tantrums

Back when I lived in a group home for emotionally disturbed adolescents as a teenager, when one of my colleagues would act out, throwing a temper tantrum, screaming profanely and hurling things at random, we were instructed never to “feed in” to the offending juvenile delinquent’s limit-testing, inappropriate behavior. 

The idea was that attention is the oxygen misbehaving children need in order to continue to misbehave. So if you were to deprive the misbehaving child of the oxygen he needs for his anger and rage to flourish, they’d become so discouraged that they’d have no choice but to straighten up and fly right. 

I think about “acting out”, “feeding in” and “negative, limit-testing behavior” a lot these days, and not necessarily within the context of my traumatic childhood. Yes, being an alumnus of a group home for emotionally disturbed adolescents and the father of a three year old gives me an awful lot of insight into the psychology of the men inside the White House. 

What is Donald Trump if not a glorified three year old throwing a temper tantrum that has already lasted years, even decades, and will probably only end with the sweet release of the grave. To put things in group home terms, Donald Trump is forever acting out.

What do you do when the clearly unhinged, emotionally disturbed child, or man-child, acting out and exhibiting negative, inappropriate, limit-testing behavior is not a four year old in a day care or a 12 year old in a group home but rather the President of the United States, and consequently the most powerful person in the world? 

What do you do when the person continuously exhibiting behavior that is dysfunctional and destructive and pathologically immature is not only in a position of power, but in the ultimate position of power? 

When one of my colleagues in the group home would “go off” by, for example, refusing to eat dinner, yelling at the staff members throwing encyclopedias at a wall and yelling at everyone within earshot to eat shit and die, it was clearly within the context of a powerless child acting out. 

If the person throwing the tantrum was in the position of power, it would have changed things dramatically. Imagine, if you will, the scenario I just described only this time it was the person who ran the group home throwing the tantrum, yelling at other staff members, chucking encyclopedias at the wall and screaming at people to eat shit and die. Now imagine that this tantrum isn’t just a troubled youth misbehaving but an authority figure in a position of ultimate power establishing a new order. In this new iteration, the authority figure throwing the tantrum would state, up front, that as a matter of principle, he refused to eat dinner, and also that it was imperative that he swear at coworkers for wholly legitimate reasons. He’d go on to explain how essential it was to throw encyclopedias against the wall—not in a fit of anger, of course, but because this book-throwing must be done—before finally, conclusively, asserting that it was essential to tell everyone, as forcefully as possible, how they should eat shit and die. 

That’s Trump, essentially. He’s a temper-throwing man-child who has elevated his babyish fits—build a wall to keep out the bad people! Ban Muslims! Trans people can’t be soldiers because I say so! Fire the brown people who displease me—into policy proposals. 

How do we, as rational human beings, deal with Trump’s negative, passive-aggressive, limit-testing behavior? I’d love to be able to say by refusing to feed into it, but Trump is not a disturbed 15 year old but the President of the United States. 

You cannot ignore the President of the United States, no matter how badly you might want to, even if he’s Donald fucking Trump. We can’t ignore him, but we can set limits and boundaries and not give him the attention he so desperately craves. We can’t ignore Trump because he’s President, but we don’t have to give him an iota more attention than he absolutely merits. To ignore Trump’s rages and moods robs him of his sulky, bratty power so I’m going to try to ignore him as much as is humanly possible, and encourage you to do likewise. 

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The Big WhoopNathan Rabin