Does President Donald Trump Have a Dangerous Form of Mental Illness? - PART 2
Does President Donald Trump Have a Dangerous Form of Mental Illness? - CONTINUED
The previous Hub on this topic was getting a bit lengthy so I chose to split it into two parts. Part 1 provides the core analysis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Donald Trump. Part 2 begins by providing examples and summaries of other papers written about Trump's dangerous form of mental illness.
Examples of Donald Trump's Delusions
It is very evident from observing him for the last two years, President Trump lives in a made-up world of alternative facts (lies). You can, however, form your own opinion.
- Jan 20, 2017: About 250,000 people showed up for Donald Trump's inauguration, after Trump predicted crowds five times that size. In spite of photos substantiating the crowd size Trump still insists that ".. it looked like a million and a half people, ... Whatever it was it was, but it went all the way back to the Washington monument. ... [They said] we drew 250,000. Now that's not bad, but it's a lie." - Meaning the media lied ... they didn't
- Jan - Feb 2017: Soon after the Executive Order that stops Muslims from certain Middle East and African nations was signed, chaos ensued at airports around the nation; judges put stays on parts of the ban; and finally Washington and Minnesota states sued in federal court to put a nationwide stay on the EO. So far 15 other states have joined the suit. -- What does Trump say? "It's working out very nicely. ... You see it at the airports,, "you see it all over."; a declaration he has repeated in the days since.
- May - Jun 2018: President Trump orchestrated a "summit" meeting between himself and the North Korean brutal dictator Kim Jong Un with the purpose of coming to an agreement to denuclearize North Korea (from our point of view) or the Korean Peninsula (from Un's point of view). There was never a real, well developed purpose for the summit other than Donald Trump wanted to have one. The visible result of the meeting was 1) an agreement to hold further talks and 2) Trump's promise to stop training exercises with the South Koreans. Based on this set of events Donald Trump, on his return from Singapore declared to the world that he "Just landed - a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office ...There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea." By all standards that is delusional.
Reviewing "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump"
This begins my review of an extremely disturbing and startling book by Bandy Lee, MD., M.Div. who organized the Yale "Duty to Warn" Conference. It is a compendium of essays submitted by mental health experts from all fields who explore various aspects of Donald Trump's mental health. While the topics differ, the unambiguous common thread is that -
Donald Trump is a danger to himself, the United States, and the world.
To kick off our look at what these phychiatrists and other mental health professionals, let me give you the disclaimer from the book's introduction (p. 19):
"In spite of its title, I [Dr. Lee] would like to emphasize that the main point of this book is not about Mr. Trump. It is about the larger context that has given rise to his presidency, and the greater population that he affects by virtue of his position. The ascendancy of an individual with such impairments speaks to our general state of health and well-being as a nation, and to how we can respond: we can either improve it or further impair it. Mental disorder does not distinguish between political parties, and as professionals devoted to promoting mental health, including public mental health, our duty should be clear; to steer patients and the public on a path toward health so that genuine discussions of political choice, unimpeded by emotional compulsion or defense, can occur. Embracing our "duty to warn," as our professional training and ethics lead us to do at times of danger, therefore involves not only sounding an alarm but continually educating and engaging in dialogue our fellow human beings, as this compilation aspires to do."
So let us begin.
Who Can Forget This Sure Sign of Mental Disorder
Unbridled and Extreme Present Hedonism
The subtitle to this paper is: How the Leader of the Free World Has Proven Time and Again He is Unfit for Duty. Authors: Dr. Philip Zimbardo and Dr. Rosemary Sword
This is the first paper in Lee's book The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump. It explores1 the characteristics, many of which I covered in my article above, that strongly suggests Donald Trump is mentally unfit to be President of the United States. To begin, the authors define one way of understanding a person's personality and to help determine if that person's behavior is "normal" or "abnormal". Consequently, they came up with the idea of Time Perspective. While I go into more detail in the Hub about this paper, let me give you the list of them and the definition of the ones they think helps define Donald Trump.
- Present Hedonism: people who live in the moment – seeking pleasure, novelty, and sensation, and avoiding pain
- Present Fatalism:
- Past Positive
- Past Negative: People who focus on the negative things that have happened
- Future Positive
- Future Negative
These are ideas used in Time Perspective Therapy (TPT) which psychiatrists use to help them understand the people they are observing. "Normal" people have a healthy time perspective in all of these areas with no particular bias toward any. People who have less of a grip on reality favor one or more of these attributes over others. Since there are three time periods, there are three biases:
- Past Bias
- Present Bias
- Future Bias
Experience has shown that unhealthy, maladjusted people show they are:
- High past negative with low past positive
- High present fatalism and/or high present hedonism
- Low or no future orientation
So, how does all of this relate to Donald Trump? Well, the author believe, based on his known history, when Trump was thirteen he suffered a severe trauma in the form of him feeling he had been effectively abandoned by his parents; banished from the lavish household he had become accustomed to. Experience shows that traumas like these can lead to a high degree of "present hedonism".
As the authors note that without therapy, this degree of present hedonism can lead to and adult, when stressed, to act as they would at the age of the initial trauma. Is it any wonder that Trump's many critiques say he often "acts like a child" when made angry?
Zimbardo and Sword then go on to say that if the trauma was particularly severe, the adult might morph into "extreme present hedonism" (EPH); and here is where we find Trump today. An EPH will:
"say or do anything at any time for purposes of self-aggrandizement and to shield themselves from previous negatively perceived activities, with no thought of the future or the effects of their actions."
Coupled with paranoia, this is the most dangerous set of attributes a person with power can have. They offer Trump's false claim that President Obama wiretapped his phones as a case in point about this behavior.
Almost by definition, a person that is an EPH lacks compassion and foresight, has a propensity to dehumanize people, and, in order to justify their outrageous claims, lies a lot. All of which are also traits of narcissism and bullying.
The authors then go on to give examples of these behaviors. I list a few below.
"Written by a nice reporter. Now the poor guy. You ought to see this guy" (See video above to understand how dehumanizing this was.)
"I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down ... And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering." (Nov 21, 2015. No such thing happened.)
"Look at that face! [presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina] Would anybody vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president? ... I mean, she's a woman and I am not supposed to say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious? (Rolling Stone interview Sep 9, 2015)
"The world is a vicious and brutal place. We think we're civilized. In truth, it's a cruel world and people are ruthless. They are nice to your face, but underneath they're out to kill you ... Even your friends are out to get you: they want your job, they want your house, they want your money, they want your wife, and they even want your dog. Those are your friends; your enemies are even worse!" (Think Big: Make it Happen in Business and Life, 2007)
"Look at my African American over there. Look at him? (California, June 2016)
"I'm speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I have said a lot of things ... My primary consultant is myself." (interview March 16, 2016)
Having explored Extreme Present Hedonism, the authors turn to two other related, synergistic traits - narcissism and bullying. Traits Zimbardo and Sword easily attribute to Trump. For example, Narcissism:
"I ALONE CAN FIX IT!" (Republican National Convention, July 2016)
Can extreme narcissism be any clearer? I think not. See the body of this hub for more detail on narcissism.
Bullying is defined as systematically and chronically inflicting physical hurt and/or psychological distress on one or more people. The authors identify six types of bullying. Of those I feel that the decades long recorded history of Trump supports four of them (the authors think all six apply): Verbal, Prejudicial, Relational, and Sexual. The authors correctly point out that up until the 2016 presidential election, most of America think of bullying as abnormal behavior. After that date, it appears fully 1/3 of American voters now view bullying as "acceptable" behavior given they ignored clear evidence of this feature in the person they voted for - Donald J. Trump.
Pathological Narcissism and Politics
This paper is written by Craig Malkin, Ph. D. He is a clinical psychologist with 25 years experience specializing in pathological narcissism.
The author begins by describing the pathological narcissism of President Richard Nixon. In describing Nixon, the author concludes that Nixon was "a combination of intense ambition, authority, grandiosity, arrogance, entitlement, subterfuge, and self-importance. ... Nixon was a narcissist. Malkin then observes that many presidents also fit this description.
Most people accept the fact today that President Nixon was a very disturbed man who ultimately was not fit to be president. So what made Nixon's narcissism different from the others? Nixon's was the malignant kind. Think of narcissism, like most things human, being measured on a scale of 1 to 10. Most people fall in the 4 to 6 range. Problems arise as people move down the scale to 1 or, like Nixon, maxing out at 10. By the way, narcissism, alone, isn't a disease or diagnosis; it just is. So, when does narcissism cross over to become a diagnosis? When it closes in on one extreme or the other.
Narcissism is feeling a little special. It is a slightly unrealistic self-image that is needed to help motivate us to move forward in a difficult world. Malkin puts it this way. Healthy narcissism is like
"putting on rose-colored glasses for the self - the glasses are strong enough to tint the world - but not so opaque they blind us to reality".
Pathological (malignant) narcissism is the opaque glasses where you live in an alternate reality of your own making. There is a 40 question narcissism inventory 1 frequently used by mental health experts. If you score 30 or higher, then more investigation is advised. I scored an 8 and most people who have taken the inventory score between 5 and 12. When I took the survey for Trump, based on observing his for the last four years, I came up with 34.
In studies on narcissism and presidents, one found that the higher a president (based on biographies and observations) scored on an inventory, the more likely there will be calls for their impeachment 2. The traits these politicians exhibited were 1) abuse of power, 2) tolerating unethical behavior in subordinates, 3) stealing, 4) bending or breaking rules, 5) tax evasion, and 6) having extramarital affairs."3. (Does this sound like anyone you know?)
The author suggests statements like the following are signs of an extreme form of narcissism:
- "I'll be the best jobs president God ever created"
- "It's in my blood. I'm smart"
- "Rosie O'Donnell is a fat pig"
- Meryl Streep is "one of the most overrated actresses in Hollywood"
- About Arnold Schwarzenegger - "Wow, the ratings are in and Arnold Schwarzenegger got "swamped" (or destroyed) by comparison to the ratings machine, DJT. So much for being a movie star - and that was season 1 compared to season 14. Now compare him to my season 1"
Malkin says Pathological narcissism is addictive. They become addictive "to feeling special that, like with any drug, they'll do anything to get their "high," including lie, steal, cheat, betray, and even hurt those close to them." Hasn't Trump done all of those things?
At the heart of pathological narcissism (or NPD) are Entitlement, Exploitation, and Empathy-impairment - Triple E.
- An example of Trump's sense of Entitlement is his belief that "When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy"
- An example of Trump's Exploitative nature is his tweet about a tragedy and using it to his advantage “Dwyane Wade’s cousin walking her baby in Chicago. Just what I have been saying. African-Americans will VOTE TRUMP,”
- An example of his Empathy-Impairment is the video above where he makes fun of a disabled reporter.
Malkin then asks the question any critical thinker should ask - Does Trump's mental illness lead to functional impairment. Can he do his job without endangering the nation or the world? For example, did his exaggerated sense of self-importance lead to the embarrassing spectacle of Trump siding with the Russians over America's intel community? Many people think so. More importantly will Trump's famously thin skin lead to WW III. With his total lack of impulse control, it certainly is within the realm of possibility.
With the mountain of observable evidence and the objective measures of symptoms which define mental illness, only the most obtuse can argue that Donald Trump is not mentally ill. On the other hand, each person is going to have to make up their own mind as to how dangerous that makes him and whether he is functionally impaired.
1 I will include it in the Hub I will be writing on this subject.
2 Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton all scored high on the narcissism inventory
3 Ashley L. Watts and Scott O. Lilienfeld of Emory University
What Does It All Mean?
The authors of this piece and all of the others go to great pain to convince the readers of two things: without sitting down with Donald Trump, they cannot definitively diagnose him with any particular disorder or no disorder at all, BUT, because there is such a treasure trove documented history about Trump they, with their training and experience, are quite capable of making very educated assessments of the likelihood of whether Donald J. Trump is a danger to society or not.
While exhibiting one or a few of the traits common to mental disorder is not particularly noteworthy, exhibiting such a large number of these warning signs and to extreme degrees in some of them is. These two professionals, as well as all of the others, have concluded that they have a professional Duty to Warn America that President Trump is very likely to be a danger to our country.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2018 Scott Belford