We know family therapy is no laughing matter. But let’s imagine what it might be like if one of Donald Trump’s children actually convinced him to spend an hour exploring their fears about his scorched-earth approach to politics!
The media shit-storm surrounding The Donald’s constant references to his 33-year-old daughter Ivanka – from his desire to ‘date’ her to the presidential contender’s belief she should be on the $10 bill –is the match to the long-smoldering conflagration between father and daughter.
The relationship between family members, especially when one of them has a permanent case of foot in mouth, is delicate at best. Thus I was happy to grant their request for an emergency therapy session. Yes, psychotherapy sessions should be 100 percent confidential so don’t tell anyone you read this!
ME: Welcome, both of you. Congratulations on being able to admit you need help in your relationship. That’s an important first step.
DONALD: I don’t need help. From the moment I ejected myself from my mother’s womb I haven’t needed help. I give help. Ivanka wanted to be here and since I’m such a respecter of women, especially my daughter, who is looking especially datable tonight – I’m here.
ME: (Noticing Ivanka chipping away at her impeccably manicured hands) Ivanka, how do you feel when your father calls you datable?
IVANKA: (Clenching her impeccably manicured hands) That my father is being my father.
DONALD: That she loves my honesty. Honey, you have a face that is nothing like Carly Fiorina.
ME: Donald, we should let Ivanka speak for herself. Ivanka, how does your father’s outspokenness make you feel?
IVANKA: I support my father no matter what he says.
DONALD: (Proudly) Of course you do. That’s why you’re a chip off the old Trump.
ME: Ivanka, what are you hoping to accomplish in this session?
DONALD: Yes, why did you drag me here? I had some babies to pretend to fawn over in Iowa. Some of those babies were Mexican since I’m a lover of the Mexican people. Not that those babies won’t still be there when I’m ready to meet ‘em.
IVANKA: Dad, that’s it. This baby, the one you birthed, is getting impacted by your mouth – whoops, that didn’t come out right – and you haven’t noticed. Or if you have, it doesn’t matter enough to you. My Instagram feed, featuring my two little children and fetus, is full of vitriol because of your disgusting comments toward immigrants. What was my mother, by the way? I have a business directed at women (www.IvankaTrump.com) and you say chauvinistic things nearly every day. I’m supportive to you, no matter what the cost. But (gritted teeth) there is a cost.
DONALD: Trumps have backbone. You can take it. Okay, morning sickness is probably making you weak. And I don’t like weak – even from my daughter.
ME: Donald it’s not that Ivanka can’t take it. Pregnancy doesn’t make a woman weaker. But perhaps she needs a personal acknowledgment from you that, proud as she is of you (Under my breath – or says she is of you), she suffers.
DONALD: What about my suffering? Sure, Ivanka’s loyal but she’s friends with Chelsea Clinton. What’s that about?
ME: (Noticing Ivanka chipping away at her impeccably manicured hands) Ivanka, how do you feel about what your father is saying?
DONALD: Hey, she knows I love her and respect her and am always talking her up.
ME: Donald, why is it so hard to let Ivanka speak for herself about what she’s feeling?
DONALD: It’s not hard, nothing’s hard for me, but she knows how I feel about her even in her weakened state so we should be good.
ME: What are you afraid will happen if you let Ivanka voice something that’s not totally glowing of you?
DONALD: This dime store psychobabble BS is the best you can do? Ivanka, where did you find this fraud – off a milk carton?
IVANKA: Dad, I’m curious to hear your answer to Sherry’s question. What will happen if I say something not totally glowing? Will you attack me like you attack everyone else who’s negative to you?
DONALD: (Falters a tad, then rallies) I don’t attack; I truth tell.
ME: Donald, I saw you at The Open recently in Flushing Meadow Park and when the camera panned to you, there was a lot of booing. But you kept a preternatural grin plastered on your face. What were you thinking?
IVANKA: He just thinks to himself, ‘You all wish you had my money and power and hair!’ Isn’t that right, dad?
DONALD: Well, yes, most people are jealous of me… rightly so.
IVANKA: (Losing it) Not everyone is jealous of you. Not everyone wants to be you. Some people can’t stand you. Sometimes I can’t stand you.
ME: (Taking advantage of Donald’s atypical silence) Ivanka, clearly there’s a lot of pent up emotion you needed to express. How did it feel?
IVANKA: Scary. Scary but good.
DONALD: Ivanka, do you know what my father would have done to me if I talked to him that way?
IVANKA: (Sighs) Yes, cut you out of the will and jeer at you that you were a talentless bum and would be out on the street without him. But it’s a little late for that. I’m successful in my own right. (In a whisper) If you haven’t messed it up for me.
DONALD: Ivanka, why are you hurting me this way?
ME: Donald, what kind of things did you have to do to win your father’s approval?
DONALD: Wow, you really are a lame shrink, aren’t you? Everything is the father. But my baby is really upset so I’ll play. Success was what mattered to him so I’d tag along to work.
IVANKA: (Quietly) Like I did with you. It was the only way you noticed me.
DONALD: Ivanka, why are you being stupid? I cared about you because you were my child! But at this moment I’m not feeling so hot toward you.
ME: (Jumping in) Donald, I know you’re hurt but in the room we don’t name call. Besides, it seems like there are similarities between how you acted around Fred to your daughter’s behavior around you.
DONALD: But Fred wasn’t a nice guy. I’m the best dad in the world. My kids are lucky to have me.
ME: Underneath the bluster, Donald, I think that’s your defensive way of apologizing to your daughter for being insensitive and unappreciative.
DONALD: You’re such a good mind reader maybe I should set you up at a gypsy storefront.
IVANKA: (Wiping a tear) Dad, maybe the two of us feel the same underneath but you cover the desperate need to please with attacks and I cover it up by being a nice girl.
DONALD: Ivanka, I don’t have an underneath. But my outside wants to make you proud of me, not ashamed. (Silence, then so quietly it’s hard to hear) You’re not ashamed, are you?
IVANKA: Sometimes. Were you ever ashamed of your dad?
DONALD: I was scared and sometimes I hated him. But look at me – I’m going to rule the world. Old Fred would have to call me, his screw-up, ‘Mr. President’. Ha, Ha.
ME: Donald, let’s stay in the room. You and your daughter are here to start learning to communicate and understand each other. What have you learned so far?
DONALD: That my little girl doesn’t always appreciate her old man. (Seeing Ivanka’s glare, he adds) But I want her to know I appreciate her and admire her.
IVANKA: Are you sorry for what I’ve had to go through since your campaign started?
DONALD: Sorry? Sorry? I’ve never had anything to be sorry about.
ME: There’s been good progress for a first session. But I’m afraid we have to stop. Good job, both of you. Keep these feelings in the room. Don’t rehash; don’t attack! I’ll see you both next week.
DONALD: Let’s go honey. I’ll buy you a mimosa.
Sherry Amatenstein (Licensed Clinical Social Worker), a NYC-based therapist, is the author of The Complete Marriage Counselor: Relationship Saving Advice from America’s Top 50+ Couples Therapists; Love Lessons from Bad Breakups; and Q&A Dating Book. She is editing an anthology for Seal Press: SHRINK/SHRUNK: A Shockingly Honest Look at the Therapeutic Experience from Both Sides of the Couch. She has given relationship advice on radio and TV programs ranging from NPR to Today. Her website is www.marriedfaq.com
Image of Ivanka Trump/via seedsofpeace.com. Image of Donald Trump/in the public domain