In a recent presidential campaign speech, a highly respected man took a moment to speak to the country about empathy, specifically why we need to empathize with each other more. He did so because when it comes to fundamental manners, political protocol and human dignity; he was appalled by the remarkable display of intensely ruthless manners spoken by this uncouth man. The dignified man, Joe Biden, was obviously talking about Donald Trump. Mr. Biden said, “Donald Trump’s cynicism is unbounded, his lack of empathy and compassion can be summed up in a phrase I suspect he is most proud of having made famous, ‘YOU’RE FIRED!’ I mean, really, I am not joking, think about that. Think about everything you learned as a child, no matter where you were raised. How can there be pleasure in saying ‘you’re fired’?”
Donald Trump has built a business on firing people. It is a pillar of his media empire. He is clearly very proud of this accomplishment. The joy he gets is evidenced by his supercilious smirk. Every time he says something nasty and hurtful, or fires someone a cascade of neurotransmitters like dopamine and testosterone cascades through his brain—but not a drop of oxytocin. Look how red his face gets when he roars, “Nobody builds a wall better than me. We are going to have a deportation force . . . (sotto voce) we are going to round them up in a nice humane manner.” His heart rate is jumping, his blood pressure is spiking, his testosterone is on the rise and his cortisol is falling. Ironically the most recent published studies on anger seem to indicate that the angrier we are at something the more we want it. That being the case, the angrier Trumps speaks about Mexicans, Muslims and women, the more he wants their vote.
You don’t have to be a cultural anthropologist or an endocrinologist to guess that, empathy wise, there is a fundamental chemical difference between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. That difference is oxytocin. When politicians’ thoughts are lubricated with oxytocin they are speaking more from the heart and the soul and less from some ideological party platform. Oxytocin drives people from a place based in warmth of thought, feelings, emotions . . . helping our listeners feel included, that we get them, see them, feel them and have their best interests in mind.
By every human metric, listening from a place of oxytocin is not just about understanding what someone is saying, but in being perfectly attuned to the way they are saying it. It is about interfacing in an environment of inclusion. It is not holding forth from a podium as Mr. Trump does, cutting off questions from top journalists with a wave of the hand and dismissively “Imperial” tone. I guarantee you oxytocin is not emanating from Trumps eyes as he surveys the bewildered faces of a roomful of astounded journalists who are being talked down to like peasants.
Love releases oxytocin. Fear releases oxytocin. Trumps behavior triggers adrenalin and I suspect that this infamous teetotaler (Trump never touches alcohol) is as addicted to the adrenalin rush of his rude statements as much as any garden variety alcoholic does a highball. Adrenalin is his booze. Shock and appall is his heroin. Cheap personal shots his crack.
When Trump stands in the glare of cameras and media lights attempting to induce emotional trauma under the guise of a political crusade he is merely trashing fundamental principles of empathy and good listening with a cascade of compassion-numbing endorphins and cortisol. He can’t afford the luxury of oxytocin coursing through his veins like normal, healthy, nurturing people.
Still, the most dangerous thing about the man is that he keeps moving the oxytocin bar lower, and lower and lower.
How low can he go? Time will tell. Suffice it to say that oxytocin seems to be as elusive to Donald Trump as Pokémon. Unlike Pokémon, Mr. Trump is a petulant, dangerously unbalanced reality star who coddles tyrants like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un. He is the opposite of empathy. He is an exercise in distain. He is hatred; he is a man absent of mercy. Someone please send Donald Trump a bottle of oxytocin accelerator before he has an aneurism or his adrenalin takes over and he explodes.
On second thought, maybe not. Let him, political terrorist that he is, just explode and disappear like another crazy political footnote in history.