Sunday, February 5, 2017

Trump the Narcissist

America has been taken on a wild ride from the time presidential candidate Donald Trump first descended that escalator to the first couple weeks of his improbable presidency.
America has never seen a major party candidate and now a president behave so erratically (since perhaps Richard Nixon in his final days in office). Admittedly, his supporters are still doing the happy dance for a president they feel is telling it like it is. But the rest of us see a man with an incredibly inflated opinion of himself who at the same time is often mean-spirited towards others he sees as inferior to him. It is any wonder that many have asked whether there is something wrong with Trump from a mental health standpoint?
By far, the most applied label to Trump by both laypeople and increasingly mental health professionals is that he is a narcissist.
The Wikipedia article on Narcissism lists the following traits power-hungry narcissists typically display:
An obvious self-focus in interpersonal exchanges
Problems in sustaining satisfying relationships
A lack of psychological awareness
Difficulty with empathy
Problems distinguishing the self from others
Hypersensitivity to any insults or imagined insults
Vulnerability to shame rather than guilt
Haughty body language
Flattery towards people who admire and affirm them (narcissistic supply)
Detesting those who do not admire them (narcissistic abuse)
Using other people without considering the cost of doing so
Pretending to be more important than they actually are
Bragging (subtly but persistently) and exaggerating their achievements
Claiming to be an "expert" at many things
Inability to view the world from the perspective of other people
Denial of remorse and gratitude
I will leave it to the reader to decide how many of the above traits apply to our new president. But in the category of Flattery, the mutual admiration between Trump and Vladimir Putin is more than ample evidence.
In fairness, mental health professionals have traditionally cautioned against diagnosing a subject from afar without having performed an examination with the patient's permission. But the ramifications of someone with possible mental health issues as the leader of the free world (who also has access to the nuclear codes) is scary enough for more and more mental health professionals to go public with their concerns.
One article published by Vanity Fair shortly after the election, Is Donald Trump Actually a Narcissist? Therapists Weigh In! has the following interesting observations:
“He’s so classic that I’m archiving video clips of him to use in workshops because there’s no better example of his characteristics,” said clinical psychologist George Simon, who conducts lectures and seminars on manipulative behavior. “Otherwise, I would have had to hire actors and write vignettes. He’s like a dream come true.”
“He’s applying for the greatest job in the land, the greatest task of which is to serve, but there’s nothing about the man that is service-oriented. He’s only serving himself.” 
Since Trump’s inauguration and his erratic behavior in the weeks since, more and more mental health specialists have been speaking out as outlined in this article alleging his ‘malignant narcissism’.
Just after the election, a group called Citizen Therapists Against Trumpism was created, which was joined by thousands of psychologists. They published a manifesto warning of Trump’s psychosis, citing the following as the signs to fear:
“Scapegoating and banishing groups of people who are seen as threats, including immigrants and religious minorities; degrading, ridiculing, and demeaning rivals and critics; fostering a cult of the Strong Man who appeals to fear and anger; promises to solve our problems if we just trust in him; reinvents history and has little concern for truth (and) sees no need for rational persuasion.”
Whether it is phone conversations with world leaders or just speeches in front of various groups, Trump seems to have an obsessive habit of boasting about himself. Perhaps the most egregious example was his speech in front of the hallowed memorial wall at the CIA. Very strange if not outright narcissistic!
In the months during the election campaign, it was apparent to most that along with Trump’s inexperience in government, he was poorly versed on the issues he would have to handle as president. But his standard reply to those with reservations over this is that he would hire some “terrific advisers”. But how has that turned out?
All presidents, no matter how knowledgeable they may be need advisers. Nobody can be a specialist in everything. But in the case of Trump who feels he is always the smartest man in the room wherever he goes, how does he decide who is most worthy to provide him with advice?
If someone is a narcissist, the ready answer is to pick someone who is an ideological soulmate and fawning admirer - like Steve Bannon who ran Trump’s campaign and has now become his top White House strategist. The additional danger with Trump’s inexperience is that he may well unwittingly allow somebody like Bannon to take the reins of office and run with them. The New York Times takes this sobering look at the man they call President Bannon?.
Plenty of presidents have had prominent political advisers, and some of those advisers have been suspected of quietly setting policy behind the scenes (recall Karl Rove or, if your memory stretches back far enough, Dick Morris). But we’ve never witnessed a political aide move as brazenly to consolidate power as Stephen Bannon — nor have we seen one do quite so much damage so quickly to his putative boss’s popular standing or pretenses of competence.
But a new executive order, politicizing the process for national security decisions, suggests Mr. Bannon is positioning himself not merely as a Svengali but as the de facto president.
So is there a point in calling out what may be some mental health issues with the president? I say the answer is an emphatic yes! While liberal partisans such as myself may indeed criticize Trump on ideological grounds, these pale in importance to the possible dangers to our democracy posed by a mentally unhinged leader.
For example, there is Trump’s bitter hostility towards the media. He has verbally abused them and done his best to delegitimize them labeling any news accounts unfavorable to him as “fake news”. His endless use of Twitter allows him to try and control the narrative when addressing his followers without the media to provide needed context and/or fact checking of what are sometimes his use of  "alternative facts".
Now more than ever, we need a vigilant media to hold President Trump’s feet to the fire. But instead, we have Bannon who has told the media to "keep its mouth shut". We as citizens cannot tolerate this kind of attitude that can only be described as totalitarian if not again, narcissistic.
Most sobering of all is that we have a president who cannot tolerate even the smallest criticism or affront without waging a prolonged and sometimes vicious counterattack. Will this man plunge us into a war if he is provoked or insulted? Did I remember to mention that he now has access to the nuclear codes?
Unless we can be assured that Donald Trump is mentally sound, I say we have to be afraid. Very afraid!

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