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Posts Tagged ‘Narcissistic Personality’

The Psychology of the Narcissistic Personality and the

Trump Core Supporter:

Their Relationship to the True Believer and Identity Fusion

Introduction

     This Blog article builds on my last one, The Fall of Donald Trump that was posted October 1, 2019. The basic question I posed in the last blog was: What is it about the Trump supporter that makes him or her so in line with such an authoritarian leader that causes them to unwaveringly support him? This is what I said in my last Blog:

“I asked myself why is it the president is supported by such a sizable number of supporters. This represents about 30% of the voting population, 94% of which are conservative Republicans. Why did so many people during the last four years unwaveringly give their support to Donald Trump, a man with an insatiable appetite for lying and deceit? Where is the moral compass for this faction of American society? For now, it looks like it is nowhere to be found.

Up to this point I’ve ascribed Trump’s support to non-college educated people, who were mostly blue collar workers, male, white Anglo-Saxon Protestants. However women who originally voted for Trump have since rebuffed him in droves and are the most disillusioned among initial Trump supporters. They found him to be a misogynist and a bully and want no part of him.

It turns out age, race, education, gender and occupation can only supply some of the explanation. There is something else going with the Trump supporters than simple sociological demographics. Demographics are useful for pinpointing where support comes from—but not why. This is where motivational intent and purpose become important variables. How might this be explained?

One really needs to take a deeper psychological look. Beliefs and values do seem to differentiate groups, but it may be that psychology is more important than demographics.

It is my opinion that support for Donald Trump is coming from a mass movement. This suggests one ought to look to the psychology of mass movements for our explanation. Why did Adolf Hitler command such a large following? There are parallels here to all mass movements. I can see a connection between the Trump Presidency and his supporters and the observations made by Eric Hoffer in his seminal 1951 book, “The True Believer.” Back in the early 1950s this was President Dwight Eisenhower’s favorite author and book. In fact, Ike shared Hoffer’s book with many in his cabinet.

The appeal of persons with an authoritarian personality to followers will soon become much clearer as you read on. Why does such an identity issue lead us to yet another psychological theory? There is another theory gaining credence these days in the field of psychology. It is known as Identity Fusion. Identity fusion is a psychological construct rooted in social psychology and cognitive anthropology. It is a form of alignment with groups in which members experience a visceral sense of oneness with the group.”

Both explanations may provide answers to why there is a Trump supporter in the first place.”! However, one must look to first explaining what the Trump supporter is identifying with in order to understand The True Believer and Identity Fusion. Low and behold, I will now share with you an important article on the psychology of early childhood and the development of the narcissistic personality. Gee Whiz, guess who I am referring to?

On January 29, 2017 and article was posted titled “Childhood Roots of Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Nipping a toxic mental illness in the bud.” The authors were:

Brian D. Johnson, Ph.D., is a psychologist and training clinic director at the University of Northern Colorado. Laurie Berdahl, M.D., is an obstetrician-gynecologist and speaker on parenting and adolescent wellness.

“It’s estimated that up to 6 percent of the U.S. population has narcissistic personality disorder (narcissism for short), which is more common in men and has its roots in childhood. Extremely resistant to treatment, this severe mental condition leads affected individuals to create chaos as they harm other people. Before discussing how demands for support of ego and desires can go off the rails, let’s start with an overview of pertinent normal child development.

Small children are naturally selfish as a normal part of development in which they work to get their needs met and can’t understand other people’s needs and desires. Then as teenagers, kids are still typically self-centered as they struggle for independence.

As opposed to self-centeredness that should gradually decline, children need to develop healthy, lasting levels of self-esteem to be able to protect and care for themselves while caring about others, to resist dangerous influences, and to stay connected to family and society. Healthy levels of self-esteem indicate a child’s belief that he or she is loved and worthy as a person in the family and in society, and thus doesn’t deserve and is more resilient to mistreatment. In a nutshell, self-esteem isn’t self-centeredness because it doesn’t lead to putting oneself first to the detriment of other people’s needs and rights.

Typical childhood self-centeredness must change to pave the way to mental health in adulthood. To grow up able to function well in families and society, kids must gradually gain both the ability to see other people’s viewpoints and empathy for other people’s suffering. So, healthy kids should gradually show sincere signs of caring about the well-being of others. Not developing empathy while growing up is a warning sign of developing a serious personality disorder as an adult, including the narcissistic type.

How do people with narcissistic personality disorder (narcissists for short) act? Besides showing lack of empathy (as judged not by words but by actions), narcissists filter information and react on the basis of the effect on their egos. Their actions reflect grandiose beliefs of superiority and uniqueness as well as their need for admiration and worship.

Narcissists are arrogant and preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited self-importance, success, and power (including that they alone can do something) and exaggerate their accomplishments and popularity. They exploit or take advantage of people for personal gain including feeding their egos and thus require excessive admiration. They pit people against each other to get what they want—they divide people to conquer and gain power over them. They manipulate others by influencing emotions like fear and anger, and with threats and lies. Another manipulation technique used is redefining reality by repeatedly fabricating fiction and arguing about it as if it were fact (such as presenting alternative facts), which leads listeners to question their own understanding of reality. Victims often experience a “twilight zone” sensation that is accompanied by anxiety.

Narcissists make others miserable and get aggressive with people who won’t give them the agreement, admiration, and respect they feel entitled to, expecting automatic compliance. These traits are often found in dictators. Like most personality disorders, narcissism is very difficult to treat because people affected aren’t able to understand that anything is wrong with them and thus are not motivated to change.

A narcissist is toxic to situations and people, except perhaps to an inner circle of supporters—at least for as long as they continue to support the narcissist’s agenda.

Now let’s go back to youth. Preteens aren’t developed enough to manipulate and given that teenagers are typically self-centered, clinicians are reluctant to diagnose narcissistic personality disorder before age 18. Still, you might notice one or more of these warning signs in teenagers indicating risk of developing narcissism:

Persistent bullying behaviors such as making fun of, threatening, degrading, or scapegoating people (including parents and other adults)

Persistent need to win no matter who is hurt

Persistent lying to benefit oneself (will lie about lying, turn lies into someone else’s fault, deflect accountability by attacking messengers who point out lies)

Egotistical view of extraordinary self-worth

Preoccupation with getting own needs met over other people

Entitled attitudes which lead to acting as if they deserve special treatment and to get whatever they want, no matter the circumstances

Aggressive responses to being criticized, wronged, or upset

Repetitively blaming others for bad outcomes

And being much more competitive than cooperative.

If your child or one you know behaves this way, you can save your family and society from harm by focusing on doing the following:

Teach empathy

Value character traits like honesty and kindness over being tough or dominant

Change entitled attitudes and stop entitled actions

Squelch greed (say, “You’re acting selfishly and that’s not okay”)

Insist they put other people first routinely, remembering that actions speak louder than words (narcissists often say they are doing something to benefit others when they are really doing it for themselves)

Build healthy self-esteem (low self-esteem can also lead to entitlement and using others to support one’s ego)

Don’t allow false blame of other people for one’s own problems and failures.

Also avoid parenting styles linked to developing narcissist personality, such as neglecting, indulgent (spoiling with privilege and possessions, and promoting entitled attitudes) and cold, over controlling authoritarian methods which insist on perfection, winning, and toughness from a child.

On the flip side, you can also help teens and young adults learn to recognize narcissists so they can avoid their toxic harm or survive it. A necessary foundation for this is the ability to think critically about what someone says or does, which starts to develop during adolescence.

Critical thinking skills help us tell lies from truths and determine when someone is manipulating to take advantage of or scam us. Parents and mentors can help teach these empowering life-skills that protect against deception by con artists and abusive bosses, friends, and partners.

You can give your child life-long protective gifts of healthy levels of self-esteem and critical thinking skills while squelching entitlement and narcissistic traits to benefit you, your child and family, and all of us. And don’t forget that there is no shame in seeking help to get it done—seeking knowledge and help is a sign of strength, not weakness.”

Trump’s childhood was terrible. He suffered from the neglect of his lawyer mother and a domineering father who was also a racist (Fred Trump was arrested in 1927 for attending a KKK riot in New York.) Later in the 1970s Donald was charged with racial discrimination (surprise surprise) against blacks in Trump housing properties. As an adolescent Donald Trump was shuttled off to military school.

Now we get to the psychology of the Trump supporter. Here is an excellent review of Eric Hoffer’s, The True Believer.

The True Believer

 

“Summary of Eric Hoffer’s, The True Believer

Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all the unifying agents … Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a god, but never without a belief in a devil.” ~ Eric Hoffer, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements

(This article was reprinted in the online magazine of the Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies, October 19, 2017.)

Eric Hoffer (1898 – 1983) was an American moral and social philosopher who worked for more than twenty years as longshoremen in San Francisco. The author of ten books, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1983. His first book, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements (1951), is a work in social psychology which discusses the psychological causes of fanaticism. It is widely considered a classic.

Overview

The first lines of Hoffer’s book clearly state its purpose:

This book deals with some peculiarities common to all mass movements, be they religious movements, social revolutions or nationalist movements. It does not maintain that all movements are identical, but that they share certain essential characteristics which give them a family likeness.

All mass movements generate in their adherents a readiness to die and a proclivity for united action; all of them, irrespective of the doctrine they preach and the program they project, breed fanaticism, enthusiasm, fervent hope, hatred and intolerance; all of them are capable of releasing a powerful flow of activity in certain departments of life; all of them demand blind faith and single-hearted allegiance …

The assumption that mass movements have many traits in common does not imply that all movements are equally beneficent or poisonous. The book passes no judgments, and expresses no preferences. It merely tries to explain… (pp. xi-xiii)

Part 1 – The Appeal of Mass Movements

Hoffer says that mass movements begin when discontented, frustrated, powerless people lose faith in existing institutions and demand change. Feeling hopeless, such people participate in movements that allow them to become part of a larger collective. They become true believers in a mass movement that “appeals not to those intent on bolstering and advancing a cherished self, but to those who crave to be rid of an unwanted self because it can satisfy the passion for self-renunciation.” (p. 12)

Put another way, Hoffer says: “Faith in a holy cause is to a considerable extent a substitute for the loss of faith in ourselves.” (p. 14) Leaders inspire these movements, but the seeds of mass movements must already exist for the leaders to be successful. And while mass movements typically blend nationalist, political and religious ideas, they all compete for angry and/or marginalized people.

Part 2 – The Potential Converts

The destitute are not usually converts to mass movements; they are too busy trying to survive to become engaged. But what Hoffer calls the “new poor,” those who previously had wealth or status but who believe they have now lost it, are potential converts. Such people are resentful and blame others for their problems.

Mass movements also attract the partially assimilated—those who feel alienated from mainstream culture. Others include misfits, outcasts, adolescents, and sinners, as well as the ambitious, selfish, impotent and bored. What all converts all share is the feeling that their lives are meaningless and worthless.

A rising mass movement attracts and holds a following not by its doctrine and promises but by the refuge it offers from the anxieties, barrenness, and meaninglessness of an individual existence. It cures the poignantly frustrated not by conferring on them an absolute truth or remedying the difficulties and abuses which made their lives miserable, but by freeing them from their ineffectual selves—and it does this by enfolding and absorbing them into a closely knit and exultant corporate whole. (p. 41)

Hoffer emphasizes that creative people—those who experience creative flow—aren’t usually attracted to mass movements. Creativity provides inner joy which both acts as an antidote to the frustrations with external hardships. Creativity also relieves boredom, a major cause of mass movements:

There is perhaps no more reliable indicator of a society’s ripeness for a mass movement than the prevalence of unrelieved boredom. In almost all the descriptions of the periods preceding the rise of mass movements there is reference to vast ennui; and in their earliest stages mass movements are more likely to find sympathizers and support among the bored than among the exploited and oppressed. To a deliberate fomenter of mass upheavals, the report that people are bored still should be at least as encouraging as that they are suffering from intolerable economic or political abuses. (pp. 51-52)

Part 3 – United Action and Self-Sacrifice

Mass movements demand of their followers a “total surrender of a distinct self.” (p. 117) thus a follower identifies as “a member of a certain tribe or family.” (p. 62) Furthermore, mass movements denigrate and “loathe the present.” (p. 74) by regarding the modern world as worthless, the movement inspires a battle against it.

What surprises one, when listening to the frustrated as they decry the present and its entire works, is the enormous joy they derive from doing so. Such delight cannot come from the mere venting of a grievance. There must be something more—and there is. By expiating upon the incurable baseness and vileness of the times, the frustrated soften their feeling of failure and isolation … (p. 75)

Mass movements also promote faith over reason and serve as “fact-proof screens between the faithful and the realities of the world.” (p. 79)

The effectiveness of a doctrine does not come from its meaning but from its certitude … presented as the embodiment of the one and only truth. If a doctrine is not unintelligible, it has to be vague; and if neither unintelligible nor vague, it has to be unverifiable. One has to get to heaven or the distant future to determine the truth of an effective doctrine … simple words are made pregnant with meaning and made to look like symbols in a secret message. There is thus an illiterate air about the most literate true believer. (pp. 80-81).

So believers ignore truths that contradict their fervent beliefs, but this hides the fact that,

The fanatic is perpetually incomplete and insecure. He cannot generate self-assurance out of his individual sources … but finds it only by clinging passionately to whatever support he happens to embrace. The passionate attachment is the essence of his blind devotion and religiosity, and he sees in it the sources of all virtue and strength … He sacrifices his life to prove his worth … The fanatic cannot be weaned away from his cause by an appeal to reason or his moral sense. He fears compromise and cannot be persuaded to qualify the certitude and righteousness of his holy cause. (p. 85).

Thus the doctrines of the mass movement must not be questioned—they are regarded with certitude—and they are spread through “persuasion, coercion, and proselytization.” Persuasion works best on those already sympathetic to the doctrines, but it must be vague enough to allow “the frustrated to … hear the echo of their own musings in … impassioned double talk.” (p. 106) Hoffer quotes Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels: “a sharp sword must always stand behind propaganda if it is to be really effective.” (p. 106) the urge to proselytize comes not from a deeply held belief in the truth of doctrine but from an urge of the fanatic to “strengthen his own faith by converting others.” (p. 110)

Moreover, mass movements need an object of hate which unifies believers, and “the ideal devil is a foreigner.” (p. 93) Mass movements need a devil. But in reality, the “hatred of a true believer is actually a disguised self-loathing …” and “the fanatic is perpetually incomplete and insecure.” (p. 85) through their fanatical action and personal sacrifice, the fanatic tries to give their life meaning.

Part 4 – Beginning and End

Hoffer states that three personality types typically lead mass movements: “men of words”, “fanatics”, and “practical men of action.” Men of words try to “discredit the prevailing creeds” and create a “hunger for faith” which is then fed by “doctrines and slogans of the new faith.” (p. 140) (In the USA think of the late William F. Buckley.) Slowly followers emerge.

Then fanatics take over. (In the USA think of the Koch brothers, Murdoch, Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Hannity, Alex Jones, etc.) Fanatics don’t find solace in literature, philosophy or art. Instead, they are characterized by viciousness, the urge to destroy, and the perpetual struggle for power. But after mass movements transform the social order, the insecurity of their followers is not ameliorated. At this point, the “practical men of action” take over and try to lead the new order by further controlling their followers. (Think Steve Bannon, Mitch McConnell, Steve Miller, etc.)

In the end mass movements that succeed often bring about a social order worse than the previous one. (This was one of Will Durant’s findings in The Lessons of History.) As Hoffer puts it near the end of his work: “All mass movements … irrespective of the doctrine they preach and the program they project, breed fanaticism, enthusiasm, fervent hope, hatred, and intolerance.” (p. 141)

__________________________________________________________________________

Quotes from Hoffer, Eric (2002). The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements. Harper Perennial Modern Classics. ISBN 978-0-060-50591-2.

 

Identity Fusion

Identity fusion is a unique form of alignment with groups to which members experience a visceral sense of oneness with the group. This construct relies on the distinction between the personal self and the social self. The personal self refers to the characteristics that make someone a unique individual (e.g., tall, old, intelligent), while the social self pertains to the characteristics that align the individual with groups (e.g., American, fraternity brother, student council member, etc.). As the name suggests, identity fusion involves the union of the personal and social selves.

When fusion occurs, both the personal and social selves remain salient and influential but the boundaries between them become highly permeable. Although the personal and social selves are joined together they remain independently salient and agentic. In addition, fused persons come to regard other group members as “family” and develop strong relational ties to them as well as ties to the collective. Therefore, fused persons are not just bound to the collective; they develop a bond that ties them to the individual members of the collective.

The potency of the personal self and relational ties distinguishes identity fusion from other forms of alignment with groups, such as “group identification”. In group identification, allegiance to the collective eclipses the personal self and relational ties to other group members. Given the lack of involvement of the personal self and relational ties in identification, it follows that measures of identity fusion should be more predictive of extreme pro-group behavior than measures of identification. In fact, there is growing evidence of this idea. Measures of identity fusion are particularly powerful predictors of personally costly pro-group behaviors, including the endorsement of extreme behaviors such as fighting and dying for the group.

Theoretical Foundations

The identity fusion construct builds upon earlier work by emphasizing aspects of the relationship of people to groups that were deemphasized within the social identity perspective (i.e., social identity theory and self-categorization theory. Like social identity theory, identity fusion theory rests on the distinction between the personal and social identities. However, the social identity approach assumes that there is a hydraulic relationship between personal and social identities, such that increases in the salience and influence of one diminish the salience and influence of the other. One important implication of this assumption is that as the group identity becomes salient and apt to guide behavior, the personal identity becomes less salient and less likely to guide behavior. In contrast, within identity fusion theory, both the personal and social identities can be salient and influential simultaneously.

Social identity theory also suggests that group members are only linked to one another through their allegiance to the collective; theoretically, personal relationships between group members do not foster identification with the group. In contrast, fused individuals feel deeply connected to other group members as individuals, as well as to the larger group as a whole. This is reflected in measures of identify fusion. For example, the verbal measure of identity fusion taps feelings of reciprocal strength between the individual and the group (e.g., “I am strong because of my group”; “I’ll do more for my group than any other group members would do”) as well as feelings of oneness with the group (e.g., “I am one with my group”; “My group is me”). Also a threat to the group is highly likely to produce a perceived threat against the personal self.

The unique characteristics of Identity Fusion Theory have been summarized in the form of four principles: Agentic-personal self-principle, Identity synergy principle, Relational ties principle, and Irrevocability principle. If you’re interested in these principles I recommend you do a little research. Limitations of space dictate I move on in this Blog.

This month, in the journal Nature: Human Behavior, Kunst and Dovidio examined fusion specifically involving Donald Trump. In a series of seven studies using various surveys, including Swann and Gomez’s “identity fusion scale,” the Yale and Oslo team found that Americans who fused with Trump—as opposed to simply agreeing with or supporting him—were more willing to engage in various extreme behaviors, such as personally fighting to protect the U.S. border from an “immigrant caravan,” persecuting Muslims, or violently challenging election results.

The fusion might explain some apparent contradictions in ideology, Dovidio says. Even people who typically identify as advocates of small or no government might endorse acts of extreme authoritarianism if they have fused with Trump. In fusion, those inconsistencies simply don’t exist, according to Dovidio: Value systems are only contradictory if they’re both activated, and “once you step into the fusion mind-set, there is no contradiction.”

Fusion seems most likely to happen when there is a charismatic leader, particularly of an authoritarian bent. “Humans are social, and the individual person has a power over us that abstract thought doesn’t,” Dovidio says. “The leader is a concrete manifestation of ideas, but allegiance to individuals will trump allegiance to ideas.” In that sense, the idea of fusion might help some people explain how family members or colleagues whom they view as fundamentally good people might seem to suspend their typical sense of morality and do things like downplay Trump’s bragging about groping women; enriching himself at taxpayer expense; defending white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia; or failing to release his tax returns despite multiple promises to do so.

Read: The deepening crisis in evangelical Christianity

The idea of identity fusion is not, the researchers assure me, some effort to use science to overlook or excuse bigotry or racial hatred, which are distinct elements in the formation of identity. Though fusion tends to happen with authoritarian leaders, the fusion is not itself antisocial or bad. It can be seen in political movements of all sorts; Kunst cites followers of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Fusion might have arisen as a psychological adaptation to facilitate cooperation among kin in the face of extreme adversity, explains Harvey Whitehouse, chair of social anthropology at Oxford. Even so, Whitehouse warns, “social institutions could hijack the fusion mechanism in novel ways.”

A sense of deprivation—real or perceived threats to socioeconomic status—also seems to leave people inclined to fuse. “When we primed people to think of relative deprivation, this increased their likelihood of fusion with the leader,” Kunst says, noting that economic recessions have often preceded authoritarian movements. The findings from Kunst and Dovidio’s study suggest that Trump’s continued emphasis on the relative deprivation of his base—and his promise of the power and resources presumably under his control as an apparently wealthy Manhattan real-estate developer and reality-TV star—probably helped his election by increasing his followers’ fusion with him.

Even if this personal enrichment didn’t come to fruition for his voters, the researchers found that fusion with Trump only increased after his election. The presidency itself made him more powerful, and hence a more attractive target to fuse with.

Fundamentally, fusion is an opportunity to realign the sense of self. It creates new systems by which people can value themselves. A life that consists of living up to negative ideas about yourself does not end well. Nor does a life marked by failing to live up to a positive self-vision. But adopting the values of someone who is doing well is an escape. If Donald Trump is doing well, you are doing well. Alleged collusion with a foreign power might be bad for democracy, but good for an individual leader, and therefore good for you. “Fusion satisfies a lot of need for people,” Dovidio says. “When you fuse with a powerful leader, you feel more in control. If that person is valued, you feel valued.”

The process of de-fusing, then, might involve offering alternative systems of creating consistency and order. If people who are inclined to fusion have the option to fuse with entities that do not wish to exploit them, and that are generally good or neutral for the world, they might be less likely to fuse with, say, a demagogue. “But, of course,” Dovidio says, “that’s hard.”

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General Comments

In my opinion Identity Fusion is a structural construct, or larger framework for understanding mass movements. Eric Hoffer’s book by comparison defines the motivations underlying how individuals become swept up in a mass movement, and his explanation fits into the notion of letting your personal self becomes a social self-unrestrained by normal conventions of decency and personal responsibility.

Donald Trump is expeditiously on his way out of the White House. The country is in shambles as a result of his presidency. I think after reviewing the research literature on the Narcissistic Personality, The True Believer and Identity Fusion, there is now a real plausible set of explanations that define the Trump core supporter. Not all Trump core supporters may be true believers or be pathologically tied to Trump through Identity Fusion. However, as a social scientist interested in empirical data, I’d have say that the convergence of existing data strongly suggests that too many Trump core supporters have fallen into the abyss and have become a real member of a mass movement. A large chunk of Trump core supporters may be near-do-well fanatics and true believers.

The evidence provided by these theories is psychologically provocative. And, they are very telling. As Eric Hoffer pointed out in his book,” What all converts all share is the feeling that their lives are meaningless and worthless. This is certainly a sad commentary on American life that so many Trump supporters manifest feelings of incompleteness, self-doubt, alienation and estrangement from the larger culture.

Post Script

When this nightmare with Trump is over, all of us as a nation have to put the democratic policies and protections back into place. Politics is not the all-end-all of a society. Politics can be defined as the art of compromise or, setting policies to help the common man by judiciously handling the nation’s scarce resources. But more importantly, as a nation, we should endeavor to always strengthen our nation in terms of its democratic principles as reflected in our U.S. Constitution. Whether left, right or center that is our most important responsibility.

My politics are always upfront; I am an ultra-liberal and I value human rights, civil rights, women’s rights, gay and lesbian rights, and complete acceptance of all people on earth as having more similarities than differences. We basically all have the same human needs, whether you live in the United States or elsewhere around the world.

But I do have my conservative moments. I am a U.S. Navy combat veteran of the Vietnam War. I support a strong military and national defense, veterans and wounded warriors and I am a bit of a hawk. For the moment what I think we ought to do about the Russians and North Korea I’ll keep to myself.

One of my closest friends is an ardent Trump supporter. Although we are very different politically, we don’t let our politics get in the way of our 36 year friendship. Friendships are very important in life; politics by comparison can shift with the wind at any moment. Ellen DeGeneres said the other day she had a genuine friendship with former president George W. Bush. She was accused of being a hypocrite. And she was praised by many for her honesty and even an inspiration to some who saw what it takes (courage) to go beyond the simplicity of political thought where the mantra is always “us or them.” Ellen certainly knows how to think outside the box.

Unfortunately, there are too many people, left and right politically, who are not capable of doing what Ellen has done. I think it is important to be upfront as to whom you are as a person. Said another way, just be honest and not show disingenuousness about your political self as well as your true self.

As Fusion theory demonstrated, it can be very difficult to stand outside your social self (whether fused or not) in deference to your individual self. I know. I think there is nothing wrong with being a conservative Republican; after all, nobody’s perfect. Sorry—couldn’t resist my social self!!

In a few weeks or months the pantywaist mafia style degenerate in the white house will be gone. Then maybe this democracy can return to normal. Then perhaps real leaders can tackle the problem of the Turks and our abandonment of the Kurds. This country needs real leadership, not Republican cowardice, dishonor and disgrace!!!

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A Psychological Perspective on the President of the United States

Introduction

Donald Trump is a Russian troll in the White House; he is also the worst president in U.S. History. And, he is unbelievably dangerous to the security of our nation. He represents a clear and present danger to us all.

As a result prosecutors are beginning to close in on President Donald Trump as a threat to the democracy of the United States. While all of this seems rather bizarre and unusual for a United States President to be accused of such serious crimes against the people of this country (namely treason and a host of other criminal acts), it is what it is and now must be dealt with.

The people (through their representatives) have no other option than to impeach the President and remove him from office. Whether some of his administration underlings should also be charged with treason and sent to prison remains to be seen. Only time will tell.

In addition, some members of Congress should be looked as well as to their personal relationship to a president who has strong ties to the Kremlin, Jim Jordan of Ohio and Devin Nunes of California come to mind. Directly or indirectly they are giving aid and comfort to a known enemy of the United States. Here are the federal laws dealing with treason: “Treason is a crime under federal and some state laws. Treason is made a high crime, punishable by death, under federal law by Article III, section 3 of the U.S. Constitution: “Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.” It is the latter part on giving aid and comfort that worries me the most.

This incredible strain and stain on America political democracy begs the question. Why? Why did this political nightmare ever come about? What I’m about to say is not to be construed as an apology for Trump’s behavior. Nothing could be further from the truth—far from it! But like all psychologists and sociologists will explain—all behavior has causes. It is these causes that need to be examined.

Context for a Psychological Explanation

Every human has strengths and weaknesses. This is no less true for Donald Trump than it is for anyone else. Whenever someone displays extreme lying and extremely illogical behavior (always contrary to the facts) the mental state of that individual may be called into question. This is what the American people are now slowly beginning to realize, that Donald Trump may be mentally ill, perhaps even a sociopath..

Specifically, where Donald Trump is concerned his paranoid egotistically driven personality raises questions about his mental fitness for the job of president of the United States. When combined with a history of predatory sexual behavior, vicious personal attacks on everyday citizens and racial groups, his unhealthy appetite for foreign dictators, and his uncontrollable constant need for excessive lying, lapses in memory (CRS—can’t remember what he says from one day to the next), then the question goes far beyond fitness for office. The question then becomes is he suffering from mental illness and/or dementia?

     So what all this means is that Donald Trump’s fitness and mental state needs to be addressed very soon, In a President with perhaps dementia and a psychologically damaged personality in the first place, you have a recipe for disaster of immense proportions, Besides these alarm bells going off, the real key to understanding why Donald Trump acts as he does—–is psychology. What is the psychology of Donald Trump?

Since one cannot depend on the White House Doctor to provide an explanation of the psychology of this President, then we must look to other sources.

There are many influences on a person throughout his or her life but one’s early life growing up remains to this day a very good reliable way to view one’s present behavior based on one’s early development in life. While space in this Blog does not permit one to give a thorough review of Donald Trump’s relationship with his mother, father, or siblings, there is psychological information on Donald Trump in the here and now.

In this regard a very interesting article appeared in a publication [Shrink Tank] titled as “A Psychological Analysis of Donald Trump” by Dr. Bilal Ghandour dated January 20, 2017.

The Psychology of Donald Trump

The following is the article:

“Love him or hate him, but can you feel sorry for him?

Ask anyone what they think of Donald Trump and you are almost guaranteed one of two instantaneous – almost reflexive – reactions: “He is great” (read: I admire his guts, love his strength and honesty) or “he is awful” (read: he is a disgusting, self-serving bigot and demagogue). Many a political figure has been controversial but none in recent history has polarized opinions as much as Mr. Trump.

One obvious question is to ask why he triggers such opposing emotional reactions from folks. A less obvious – but more interesting query – is to wonder: Is there any way one can take on a nuanced position and say something like, ‘This man repulses me but I also feel sorry for him.’ Is bizarre as it may initially appear, I would like to suggest it is perfectly tenable to hold such apparently contradicting positions about Mr. Trump. In order to do so, we must understand how personalities are formed and organized.

‘More specifically, we need to analyze how particular patterns of character development lead to a personality one can feel both compassion for and be deeply disturbed by.’

It all depends on which aspect of self that one chooses to focus on.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

One of the words most commonly thrown around to define Donald Trump’s personality is that he is a narcissist.

A narcissist is someone who is intensely focused on themselves – often to the point of self-adoration – and belittles others. They spend an inordinate amount of time listing their accomplishments (as proof of their greatness) and it is impossible to have a balanced conversation with them as they invariably pay cursory or no attention to what you say. On the rare occasions, they actually listen; it is because they are planning a strategy to redirect conversations back to them.

There is no doubt about it: Mr. Trump is a textbook example of a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder and psychologists will have no trouble diagnosing him with that condition.

But saying someone has a personality disorder (narcissism or otherwise) tells us nothing about the cause for such development and the mechanism people use to maintain such traits. And this where it gets interesting.

It has been widely accepted that many psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia are conditions with a strong biological component. This means the genetic makeup of such individuals plays a critical role in the development of the disorder.

This contrasts with personality disorders, characterized by traits that have been learned.

In other words, personality disorders develop as a result of life experiences, not because of genetic vulnerability. It is of course very difficult to claim with certitude where those (negative) experiences originate from but we do know the nature of the relationship we have with important people in our lives dramatically shape our perception of the world and ourselves.

If we have felt deep pain from improper or insufficient parenting, despair from romantic breakups or friendship betrayals, bitter disappointment from various life outcomes, there is little doubt that personality development will be significantly affected. Some of us may address issues successfully, adjust well, and be psychologically healthy. Others may have more trouble handling such pains and develop, as a result, a personality that goes around difficulties rather than face them.

In other words, some personalities are structured and organized to avoid remembering – at all costs – troublesome feelings and emotional pain. If a person uses this strategy consistently and across the board, they are using a defense mechanism strategy. Let me explain further.

Defense Mechanisms

Defense mechanisms are the mind’s powerful ability to protect itself by avoiding feelings of discomfort and anxiety and negative perceptions of self. You may recognize at least one of them: repression. This defense tactic is used to banish from conscious memory something too painful to remember. We hide uncomfortable and hurtful feelings from awareness; they still exist…but we can’t ‘see’ them. Think of it as clothes and belongings (memories, experiences) accumulated over years of life in a large suitcase.

At the bottom of the suitcase lies old memories and experiences. If you keep accumulating stuff and pile them up in that suitcase, what lies at the top will begin hiding what is underneath. If you don’t shake the suitcase (i.e., discuss and address difficult memories) they can be forgotten. It is this motivation to bar from conscious awareness that is the defense mechanism.

Sigmund Freud may have had some outlandish ideas about sexuality but his genius was his ability to notice defense mechanisms. He identified many, including repression, which he considered most fundamental. There is also regression (going back to an infantile or younger stage in life to feel safer) and projection (blaming others for our own faults).

With regards to Mr. Trump, there is one defense mechanism that fits him like a glove: reaction formation.

His comments, behaviors, and reactions are remarkably consistent with folks who use this strategy to defend themselves from uncomfortable feelings. So what is reaction formation and what is The Donald trying to defend himself from?

Reaction Formation

Reaction formation is a fascinating strategy because it flies in the face of logic. It is the expression of feelings towards an event, a situation or something about ourselves that is the opposite of what we truly feel.

It is the person who condemns the drama on a reality TV shows when they secretly revel in it, it is the person who thinks drug addicts should face the harshest punishment when they are addicted themselves, it is the person vehemently defending heterosexual values because they are afraid of their own homosexuality (think Chris Cooper playing Colonel Frank Fitts in American Beauty and the many priests who used religion as a cover for sexually abusing children).

While it is hard to know for certain if one is defending a position sincerely or because of anxiety from expressing the opposite view, there is one characteristic of reaction formation that often gives it away: the excessive need to prove one’s point and the inflexibility of the position. In Mr. Trump’s case, any attack on him results in an immediate reaction from his part to remind everyone how great he is. He is quick to deny his failures, never admits wrongdoings and attacks anyone who criticizes his business record and his….hands.

Yes, his hands.

And if someone says he has small hands (as presidential candidate Marco Rubio commented and insinuating he has a small ‘something else’) then you are attacking his physical greatness or prowess. Now think about it: what political candidate, what person who runs for the highest office in the US feels the need to justify the size of his hands at the very beginning of a political debate? Donald Trump.

What person needs to exhibit his steaks, water, magazines and discuss how great they all are at a press conference following a primary win? Donald Trump. What man denies having been bankrupt four times and say ‘he just used what the law allowed him to do?”

Donald Trump.

‘His painstaking and excessive need to justify he is an amazing man leads us to wonder: does he really think he is or is he hiding deep insecurities about his competence?”

To answer this question, we get to the most interesting part of Trump’s personality. It is one thing to explain why you think you are ‘the greatest’ and it is another to lie to prove it. Faking reality, unconsciously or otherwise, is the glue of a defense mechanism. Lying is a powerful method to deny personal feelings of weakness, fraudulence or incompetence. In two separate public appearances (once following a primary victory and another at a recent debate) Trump lied.

  • Lie #1: He displayed steaks he claimed were his – as you would display a product for an infomercial – to prove his business was thriving. In reality, the steaks he displayed were not his (they belonged to another meat company – Bush Brothers) as Trump Steaks are no longer produced. And when reporters tried to verify the packaging brand Trump’s team quickly put them away.
  • Lie #2: He states never having heard anyone say anything negative about the size of his hands. Quoting him: “I never heard this one before…everyone says ‘Donald, you have beautiful hands’.” In reality, Donald’s hands have been ridiculed before. In fact, they have been ridiculed for decades. Here is the story behind lie # 2 and how his attempts to prove he has ‘beautiful hands’ lies at the heart of Mr. Trump’s personality insecurities.

In 1988, a New York-based satirical magazine began publishing a series of articles to poke fun at Mr. Trump. The authors of the articles called him the ‘short-fingered vulgarian.’ Over the course of eight years, they published a dozen articles on the short-fingered vulgarian. How do we know Trump knew of them? Over and over again, he sent them pictures of his hands as evidence they were not small. In other words, he was excessive and relentless in proving they were not short – behavior in line with reaction formation. What is remarkable is he has not stopped trying to prove his point, almost 30 years later.

The founder of the Magazine Spy, Graydon Carter, is quoted from the website vox.com, commenting on how he continues, to this day, to receive correspondence from Trump: “There is always a photo of him – generally a tear sheet from a magazine. On all of them, he has circled his hand in gold Sharpie in a valiant effort to highlight the length of his fingers.”

Power and Dominance

Nothing disturbs Mr. Trump more than someone questioning his power and dominance. This is because there is a deeply hidden part of Trump that doesn’t think he is great. And if we were to imagine, just for the sake of the argument, that he agrees to therapy and receives psychological treatment then we may be able to reach into to the bottom of that suitcase. And based on the arguments set forth in this article, I argue we will find a very insecure child hiding somewhere.

“It is that Trump you can feel sorry for.”

But that part is so hidden from his own and anyone’s awareness that it is almost impossible for anyone to see. And when his comments continue to be demeaning, have a disturbing flavor of cruelty, racism, and misogyny; it is no surprise that many despise the man. After all, that is the part he has chosen to expose to the world and himself.”

Final Comments

A reasonable question arises when looking at the psychology of Donald Trump. That is, if Donald Trump is lost in a maze of defense mechanisms that have mentally crippled him for many decades, then what explains the existence of a hard core Trump supporter?

Why would any potential Trump voter not be able to recognize the obvious deficit in the moral character of Donald Trump? Even a modicum amount of research will demonstrate Donald Trump’s disqualification for public office. This would include as a minimum his degenerate misogyny, excessive lying, his evil intent to separate immigrant children from their parents, later putting immigrant children into cages, and criminal behavior; he is his alleged to have raped and beat a 13-year old prostitute in 1994 with his buddy, a New York wealthy registered sex offender named Epstein.

If this wasn’t enough to consider Trump as a wrong choice for the highest office in the land, just consider his false accusations of the Central Park Five or his failure to condemn KKK, Nazi and Alt Right rioters in the 2017 attacks on Jews and racial minorities in Charlottesville, North Carolina.

Could it be that defense mechanisms also play a serious role in why hard core Trump supporters prefer to bury their heads in the sand? What defense mechanisms are these hard core Trump supporters using? In this authors opinion I see three predominant defense mechanisms always present in the Trump supporter. They include rationalization, denial and idealization. So what are these mechanisms?

Rationalization

Rationalization occurs when a person attempts to explain or create excuses for an event or action in rational terms. In doing so, they are able to avoid accepting the true cause or reason resulting in the present situation.

Examples of rationalization include a shoplifter blaming the high price of sweets to justify their theft of a chocolate bar, when in reality they simply enjoyed the act of shoplifting. If a person fails an exam, they may excuse themselves from blame by rationalizing that they were too busy to revise during the revision period.

Denial

The self-denial of one’s feelings or previous actions is one defense mechanism to avoid damage to the ego caused by the anxiety or guilt of accepting them. A married woman might deny to herself that she hold affections for her husband’s friend, rather than accepting her true feelings. A person might also deny to their physical behavior, such as theft, preferring to think that someone forced them into committing the crime; in order to avoid dealing with the guilt should they accept their actions. Denial is an undesirable defense mechanism as it contravenes the reality principle that the id adheres to, delving into an imaginary world that is separate from our actual environment.

Idealization

Idealization involves creating an ideal impression of a person, place or object by emphasizing their positive qualities and neglecting those that are negative. Idealization adjusts the way in which we perceive the world around us and can lead us to make judgement that supports our idealized concepts. People often idealize their recollections of being on holiday or memories from childhood, seeing them as ‘happier times’, but fail to recollect arguments or stresses during those periods. We often idealize the image we hold of people we admire – relatives, partners or celebrities, making excuses for their failures and emphasizing their more admirable qualities.

When the president is eventually charged by Mueller with criminal acts and violations of the United States Constitution, it will be interesting to see how many Trump supporters finally come back to their senses and realize the painful reality they created and the shame that they had elected and supported the worst President this country has ever known. Above all, Donald Trump has dishonored this country and all it stands for by taking all of us on a 20 month political journey through Dante’s nine concentric circles of hell!

To the Trump supporters I make this prediction: Your impact in supporting Donald Trump as a president is about to come to an end following the mid-term election in November, 2018. Why? Because the vast majority of Americans already knows what it really takes to make America great!!!

 

 

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