Therapy for the Man Behind the Curtain

Nicole Hallberg
5 min readNov 18, 2016


It’s 10:13am, November 9th, 2016.

I’m sitting in a room with four other women, and we’re learning skills and coping mechanisms to get us through our days when our traumas and the chemicals in our brains are telling us that we surely can’t.

I’m crying. (What’s new.) I’m scared. Trump won. My Hillary sticker is still on my jacket from canvassing yesterday. My husband tried to peel it off but he left it when I started crying again.

One of the women is trying to comfort me. “It’ll be all right. You don’t have to give him power over you. You can take your own power back.” She’s talking about my power to control my own emotions and control what I do with my days. I don’t hear this. I want to argue that Trump’s power is real, not in my head, and that it has real dangerous consequences. I start with a real world example.

“But real people are going to suffer! He supports Stop-and-Frisk. Black folks die when Stop-and-Frisk…”

I’m cut off by the therapist. I’m annoyed, I was going to follow up with a stunning rejoinder about gays in conversion therapy and maybe finish off with a word for the families to be torn apart by deportation. My therapist is black. She is fiercely kind and fiercely smart, and she has her shit so together that it’s embarrassing.

“What do you know about black folks? I’m black. I’ll tell you. Ask me the question.”

“Are you scared?”


“Why not?”

“Because we’ve seen this shit before.”

She does not say this in a tone of world-weariness, disappointment, disenfranchisement, or jaded cynicism. She says it matter-of-factly, and as if it is as threatening as running out of Cheerios.

I remember about Staying In Your Lane. I remember that I’m 27, that I’ve never lost an election before. I remember that I am only 2.5 presidencies old, and I’ve only had one President, who I’ve loved, the entire time I’ve been an adult. My therapist? She’s seen some shit. She knows what disappointment tastes like. And she’s not scared.

It’s 11:35, and group is on break. Someone is showing me her Halloween pictures, when she clipped in pink-and-black mesh dreadlocks for a goth costume. She looked cool. We start talking about dreads. “The girls I went to school with wore dreads, I was the one who dreaded their hair for them.” I want the cool girl to know that I am no stranger to cool things.

“Locs.” My therapist again.


“Call them ‘locs’. Folks get offended when you call them dreads — it’s short for ‘dreadful’ hair.”

I feel bad again, like when I tried to invoke Stop and Frisk, but not too bad. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I’m glad she corrected me before I obliviously pissed someone off. (I’m a ‘woke Millennial feminist’, and obliviously pissing off a black person ranks high among my anxieties.)

Group has started again. Someone is making a point about the Wizard of Oz. My therapist looks at me. The Man Behind the Curtain. Something she has been saying is starting to make sense. He’s just a man. We’ve talked about Donald J. Trump as though he were a monster, the Death of Decency, the Nuclear Option, the physical embodiment of bigotry and fear, a tangerine that squints and reminds us of every time our dads have shouted over us, a glowing nuclear slop pile that spews out everything we hate about America the Cowardly. And I realize something. We’ve been giving him way too much fucking credit.

Observe, my therapist’s voice tells me. Describe the Facts. What do you see? Well, he’s unpleasant. He’s on TV, shouting and talking over a woman I respect. He reminds me of every time I’ve ever been talked over or shouted down by a man who thinks that being louder is equivalent to be righter.

Good. Keep going.

He disparages whole groups of people. It makes my brain ping. “They’re sending their rapists”, he said. No, that’s wrong of him to say that, there is no “they”, Mexicans are people and Americans are people and calling groups of minorities bad things is bad. It’s like a white girl going on about dreads but times a million.

Ok. Go deeper.

He lies.

Not specific enough — what do you see?

He says he didn’t say things that the Huffington Post told me he actually did say. There’s video of him saying it. There are women who said he grabbed them, but he says he didn’t. I know girls who got grabbed, and they can’t sleep at night, but some people didn’t believe them either, so they sleep even less. He’s a Grabber. Grabbers are human garbage.

That gives him a pass. Describe it objectively so the emotions don’t overwhelm you.

He’s a man who bragged about Grabbing Pussy. I saw the video of him saying it. We have a man who lies and commits sexual improprieties going to the White House.

I remember that I’m 27 and she’s fortysomething and that she’s seen this shit before. And didn’t crumble and die.

I thought we were better than this.

No — we thought we were better than the people who voted for him.

But we weren’t better, and they weren’t better, and we have to go on living anyway. Because putting your faith in one person, or even an entire electorate, will disappoint you every time, because humans are human. Donald J. Trump is a human. He uses a toilet just like we do. (And sometimes he talks like one.) Your fears are real, your fears are valid, but we weren’t made to be children of fear.

I have to remind myself of what I believe. What I believe is that every person born is deserving of love, dignity, and respect regardless of how they were born or to who they were born or how brown or female or poor or gay they turned out. The core value is to love, and that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to love and I’m going to ask questions and I’m going to Google the answers more often than not and I’m going to TRY not to forget that I’m not better than anyone else — and that there are some thing that Donald J. Trump can’t take away. And if he does try to take away the basic rights to love, dignity and respect of any human person in the United States, I will do everything I can to fight him like hell. I’ll keep knocking on doors and phone banking and calling senators and writing emails and doing all those silly little things. And if that doesn’t work, brothers and sisters, God help me, I will write a letter to the White House every blessed day for the next four years asking him about his tiny little raccoon hands. That is my promise to you, my grieving fellow citizens.

In love,




Nicole Hallberg

Philly freelance blogger. Follow @nickyknacks for the personal stuff and for my work stuff.