The Politics of Fixation

It ain't what you don't know that get's you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so. - Mark Twain

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1. an obsessive interest in or feeling about someone or something.

– “our fixation with diet and fitness”

Why is it so difficult to move a vehement Trump supporter or a Cancel Culture activist from being so fixated and where they are unable to consider and much less listen to another point of view?

You don’t have to be a Trump supporter or a Cancel Culture activist to have a fixation. You can become fixated on buying a new car, having a baby, buying a dog or one of the most personally self-defeating fixations, perfectionism, where anything less than perfect is unacceptable.

Why do people, including you and I, fixate on something? What need does it serve? Why is it so difficult to break that fixation?

If you will accept that collectively the world is somewhere between feeling frequently or being deeply immersed in “free floating anxiety” (a state of anxiety connected to not knowing what the future will look like and how that will affect people individually and personally) that veers dangerously towards a state of terror and panic, it is understandable that people will look to grab onto anything and once they grab onto it, not let go.


Because the grabbing onto it, is an action vs. falling into panic where the next step is freezing and paralysis and attaching to something or someone appears to counteract the “free floating” part of the anxiety.

And after that attachment has happened and the “free floating anxiety” lessens, people are highly resistant to letting go of that attachment only to find not just anxiety, but panic waiting to swallow them up.

If the above is true, what can be done to cause people who are fixated be it to former President Trump or to Cancel Culture activism?

In my decades of work as suicide prevention specialist and interventionist, something I learned about a deeply suicidal mind was how it could become fixated on death and suicide as a way -and when at the end of their rope – the only way to stop the endless suffering that comes from feeling hopeless, helpless, powerless, worthless, useless, meaningless, purposeless and in the end pointless to go on.

Such people in such a state of suffering “felt felt” by suicide which caused them to feel less alone in their pain and connected to a way to take it all away. Death was like the Sirens calling out to sailors to come and have an irresistible feeling of ecstasy that was irresistible and then caused them to crash on the rocks.

I believe what may have enabled me to prevent suicides in people for more than twenty years is that when my patients “felt felt” by what I am now calling Surgical Empathy*, they were able to let go of their attachment to death as the only way to take away their endless suffering and attach to feeling felt in their personal hell, where they had only felt alone.

And when that happened, they began to cry and started on the road to emotionally healing from their inside out. That is instead of my trying to treat them with medication or procedures administered to them from the outside in.

In essence they were able to let go of a fixation on suicide as the only way to take away their pain to pinpointed accurate, surgical empathy lessening it.

If we are to try the same with people fixated on former President Trump or a Cancel Culture mindset, we might then do well to follow the sage, and empathic advice, from the wonderful new, best-selling book by Dr. Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey, What Happened to You?

In that book they talk about Trauma Informed Therapy and Care where they basically believe in the goodness of people and if those people are acting up or acting out in a destructive manner, that something traumatic must have happened to them.  And once that can be surfaced, expressed and felt, the need to react destructively in that way becomes lessened.

So if we are to believe that the vast majority of Trump supporters or Cancel Culture activists, or white racist cops, or even some people guilty of hate crimes are still good people deep down inside vs. being “dyed in the wool” evil, doesn’t it make sense to begin having conversations across Trump supporters and Cancel Culture activists, across the aisle in Washington, across races/religion/generations/culture/gender preferences, across America, Russia, China and North Korea where each sides asks and then listens with an open mind and deeply considers each other’s answer to the question, “What happened to you that this is how you’re acting?”

* Source: Why Cope When You Can Heal?

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