All of the 74 million+ people who supported Trump and even many of the people who came to the Capitol to protest are not bad or wrong.

Something that might be helpful however to altering their undeterred attachment to President Trump is to imagine an avatar that represents all of them – not including the anarchists who may be driven by other motives.

Imagine that avatar as being committed to all things Trump then apply an approach called the five really’s. The five really’s is a way to listen deeply into someone who is behaving in a certain way that is either destructive to others, to themselves or to their futures to reveal what might really be going on that is fueling that behavior.

The dialogue would go as follows:

Question 1: You appear to be completely committed to President Trump regardless of what he does or says and become angry and agitated by any attempts to remove him or discredit him. What’s that about?

Answer: (From Pro Trump Avatar) I don’t care what anybody says about him. He cares about and fights for people like me.

Q 2: We understand he cares about and fights for people like you, but what’s really going on?

A: Prior to him, all the politicians in Washington especially the Democrats and even the Republicans who didn’t get much done for people like me, didn’t get how difficult a time we’re having economically, having jobs taken away from us by cheaper labor or high tech which is not something we’re skilled at or ever think we can learn. Plus, people want to take away our right to have guns which is the second amendment.

Q 3: We understand that too, but what’s really going on?

A: Our towns and cities are turning into ghost towns because jobs are going away and we can’t support ourselves or our families, and then when we want to use firearms which help us deal with all the stress, that’s also being taken away.

Q 4: We understand that too, but what’s really going on?

A: We’re getting more and more drunk and resorting to drugs including opiates to deal with it and yelling at our families and it just keeps getting worse.

Q 5: We understand that too, but what’s really going on?

A: You want to know the truth? It’s like what Rocky Balboa said to his wife in Rocky 3 after he’d been destroyed in a fight with his opponent Clubber Lang when she kept pushing him to open us, “I’m afraid! And if I really let myself feel how afraid I am I’ll start panicking and then I’ll be no good to anybody for anything. And if I really reach that point, I might just have to kill myself because I couldn’t take it anymore. And so, it’s kill myself or get angry and have someone like President Trump be my champion and fight for me. Because you see, I don’t want to die, but I can’t live with feeling so trapped, afraid and feeling panicky.”

What would going through such an exercise accomplish?

At the very least if Trump’s supporters could bare their necks instead of their teeth, the hurt, pain and fear they feel underneath that is driving their anger and stop attacking Trump opponents using his vicious rhetoric, it might just cause those Trump opponents to stop being on the defensive and listen and then be able to have a conversation to address those fears.

You think that’s too Pollyanna?

Well imagine that you have a teenager who is always acting out by using drugs, alcohol, having angry outbursts and you tried the five really’s on him or her. And when you got to the bottom what if he or she looked at you and said, “You want to really know what’s going on with me? I’m afraid I might be crazy and broken and can’t be fixed and my life will never work out no matter what I try.  That’s what’s going on!”

Then imagine your teenager goes from angry outbursts to sobbing uncontrollably in ways that you have never heard or seen. Would that bring out in you a punitive or shaming reaction, or would you then calm down and look for ways to help him or her?

Too simplistic?

Maybe so… but maybe not.


  • Mark Goulston, M.D.

    Author, speaker, podcast host, psychiatrist

    Dr. Mark Goulston is the inventor and developer of Surgical Empathy an approach that helps people to break their attachments to counterproductive modes of functioning and frees them to connect with more productive and healthier alternatives. He is the host of the “My Wakeup Call” podcast where he interviews people on the wakeup calls that changed who they are and made them better human beings and at being human and the host of the LinkedIn Live show, "No Strings Attached." He is a Founding Member of the Newsweek Expert Forum. He is one of the world’s foremost experts on deep listening, radical empathy and real influence with his book, “Just Listen,” becoming the top book on listening in the world, translated into twenty languages and a topic he speaks and teaches globally. He is an advisor, coach, mentor and confidante to CEO’s, founders and entrepreneurs helping them to unlock all their internal blocks to achieving success, fulfillment and happiness. Originally a UCLA professor of psychiatry and crisis psychiatrist for over 25 years, and former FBI and police hostage negotiation trainer, Dr. Goulston's expertise has been forged and proven in the crucible of real-life, high stakes situations including being a boots on the ground suicide prevention specialist and serving as an advisor in the OJ Simpson criminal trial. Including, “Just Listen,” he is the author or co-author of nine books with multiple best sellers. He writes or contributes to Harvard Business Review, Business Insider, Biz Journals, Fast Company, Huffington Post, Psychology Today and has appeared as an psychological expert in the media including: CNN, Headline News, msNBC, Fox News, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Forbes, Fortune, Psychology Today and was the subject of a PBS special. He lives with his wife in Los Angeles, California.