I am feeling overwhelmed regarding the current political situation in the United States. While I have been trying to cultivate equanimity and compassion through my various yoga practices, I find myself getting quite agitated and indeed, at times angry at the millions of people who voted for Donald Trump. Trump represents immorality to me. A lack of compassion, egoism, dishonesty, violence, exploitation of others. His public statements are bullying and mean. It angers me that people could support someone who I believe is dishonest, mentally unstable, dangerous, crude, lewd, misogynist, racist. I believe these voters made a reckless and selfish choice that well could end up hurting many innocent people. As much as I dislike Trump, it took voters who saw his destructive qualities yet decided to put him in office anyway. I have fear for myself, my children, my country. How this effects me is that mostly I become agitated and feel rajasic. I discuss politics more and more with others when I know it really only “stirs the pot” and in the end is not helpful. I only am deepening samskaras. However, I would like to stand up for injustice as Gandhi did. I would like to be skillful in my action. But when I feel agitated, I know I am not acting from my highest and best self. This is what I need help with.
It is very good that you are using your awareness to see that your reaction to the situation with Donald Trump and the people who voted for him is only deepening your samskaras. That is surely true. Your samskaras are getting triggered from some early childhood experience of probably a parent or parental figure who did not protect you against someone who was bullying you, mean, or mentally unstable. One way you can tell a deep samskara has been triggered is by your emotional overreaction and how it goes on bothering you for so long, despite your yoga practices and trying to see the situation in another light. If there were no samskara being activated, then you would feel maybe disappointed, or even agitated about the situation. But then you would realize that you cannot control the situation, so you would accept it. You would remain stable in your mind. You would use your buddhi, or intelligence, to control your emotional reaction. As it says in verse 2.48 of the Bhagavad Gita, “Perform your duties, being steadfast in yoga, while renouncing desire for the fruits and remaining equipoised in success and failure. This equanimity of mind is called yoga.”
When our samskara is too emotionally loaded, then we are not able to have a stable mind, as you are experiencing with the Trump situation. If your samskara was not very strong, you may also work to “stand up for justice,” as you put it. But you would not be so emotionally triggered that these thoughts and feelings become the driving force in your mind, and start overwhelming you. Samskaras are in your unconscious mind so you cannot see them, although they are driving your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. These samskaras are so powerful because you experience them as if they are happening today. What this means is that even though something happened to you as a child, usually decades ago, you respond like that painful childhood event is actually happening now. And, what is worse is that you actually respond like a child. This is because the event that happened in childhood was so painful that you were not able to digest it. So every time a similar situation happens in adulthood where you feel unsafe, unprotected, and like some injustice has been done to you, you respond with those raw emotions of a child. It is normal that you do not see that a samskara is being triggered, nor which samskara specifically. You also most likely do not see that you are not actually reacting to Trump nor the voters, but to some injustice done to you in childhood. You also do not see that you are unable to stand up skillfully to this current “injustice,” because you were also not able to stand up to the injustice done to you in childhood. So, the key in working with the current situation in a skillful way is to work with the root cause – the childhood “injustice” samskara. Once you have processed those old feelings, and your mind is stable, then you will be more effective in trying to change the present situation. You gave the example of Gandhi, but he was a very balanced person and therefore he could do something good for society. If your mind is disturbed, then you will only create disturbance to yourself and to others because that is what you have within you. And ultimately, by thinking of Trump you will become like him. It happens quite often that those people who revolt against someone – in the end, they actually end up doing the same thing in a different way. You become what you think of intensely, whether in a positive way or a negative way.
Try to remember a time in the first 1-10 years of your life when you feel that an injustice was done to you by a parent or authority figure. If you can’t think of the injustice, then try to remember a time when you felt that you were exposed to a parent who was mentally unstable, mean, or bullying and you felt unsafe or unprotected. Write about the situation that you remembered, with a focus on your feelings. Write as much as you can about your feelings. Not your thoughts about the person or event, but about how it felt as a child to have those feelings. Once you have completed writing about your feelings, then put your feelings into a letter form to the adult who caused you to feel this way. Write the letter to them directly, with your raw feelings. Do not hold back. Pull up a chair and bring that person’s energy into the room. You can also put a picture of the person in the chair, or you can just visually imagine them. Now read the letter to that person. What did you notice about this experience? How did your feelings change, if at all, before, during, and then after reading the letter? Write about this. Write down a positive message to yourself that you can read to yourself as often as you need to. You can write something like this: “Even though I think there is an injustice going on right now with Trump and all the people who voted for him, I am not going to let myself have an emotional overreaction. I understand that when I let my emotions overwhelm me that I am really just reacting to an old samskara. My goal is not to let the samskara drive my thoughts, feelings and behaviors any longer because it has been in control for long enough. From now on, I am going to remain stable in my mind so I can make calm, balanced decisions on how to deal with this injustice in a skillful way.”