A striking number of leading mental health experts are concerned enough about the possibility of a Trump presidency that they’re willing to speak out, publicly, about the candidate’s “Textbook narcissistic personality disorder.”
During a recent interview with Vanity Fair, developmental psychologist Howard Gardner, a professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education, referred to Trump as “remarkably narcissistic,” while clinical psychologist Ben Michaelis used the term “Textbook narcissistic personality disorder,” to describe Trump.
Michaelis went on to explain,
“In the field we use clusters of personality disorders. Narcissism is in cluster B, which means it has similarities with histrionic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder. There are similarities between them.”
Going on, Michaelis described Trump’s constant belittling of other people as a ‘symptom’ of a deeper problem.
“To degrade people is really part of a cluster-B personality disorder: it’s antisocial and shows a lack of remorse for other people. The way to make it O.K. to attack someone verbally, psychologically, or physically is to lower them. That’s what he’s doing.”
Michaelis expressed his concerns about a Trump presidency, saying,
“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.”
Indeed, narcissism is characterized with by an exaggerated sense of self-importance, as well as a lack of concern or empathy toward others.
While it was once thought that narcissists were overcompensating for low self-esteem, the latest research suggests that narcissistic personality disorder is defined by a sincere belief that you are superior to others.
According to Psychology Today, “the latest evidence indicates that narcissists are actually secure or grandiose,” not just on a superficial level, but on a subconscious level as well.
A person with narcissistic personality disorder:
- Reacts to criticism with anger, shame or humiliation
- Takes advantage of others to reach his or her own goals
- Exaggerates own importance
- Exaggerates achievements and talents
- Entertains unrealistic fantasies about success, power, beauty, intelligence or romance
- Has unreasonable expectation of favorable treatment
- Requires constant attention and positive reinforcement from others
- Disregards the feelings of others, lacks empathy
- Has obsessive self-interest
- Pursues mainly selfish goals
“He’s very easy to diagnose,” psychotherapist Charlotte Prozan told Vanity Fair. “In the first debate, he talked over people and was domineering. He’ll do anything to demean others,” she said.
George Simon, a clinical psychologist who specializes in manipulative personalities, told Vanity Fair that Trump is “so classic that I’m archiving video clips of him to use in workshops because there’s no better example of his characteristics.” He went on to say that without Trump, he “would have had to hire actors and write vignettes,” to illustrate the narcissistic personality disorder for his students. He described the candidate as “a dream come true,” at least from the perspective of having a boatload of free material to use during student lectures.
Licensed clinical social worker Wendy Terrie Behary pointed out that narcissists often have a deliberately distorted interpretation of reality.
She explained to Vanity Fair,
“Narcissists are not necessarily liars, but they are notoriously uncomfortable with the truth. The truth means the potential to feel ashamed. If all they have to show the world as a source of feeling acceptable is their success and performance, be it in business or sports or celebrity, then the risk of people seeing them fail or squander their success is so difficult to their self-esteem that they feel ashamed. We call it the narcissistic injury. They’re uncomfortable with their own limitations. It’s not that they’re cut out to lie, it’s just that they can’t handle what’s real.”
Vanity Fair asked what kind of treatment was available for someone with narcissistic personality disorder. Behary responded by saying she’d be “shocked if Trump walked through her office door. “Most narcissists don’t seek treatment unless there’s someone threatening to take something away from them. There’d have to be some kind of meaningful consequence for him to come in,” she said.
Simon responded similarly, saying,
“There is help available, but it doesn’t look like the help people are used to. It’s not insight-oriented psychotherapy, because narcissists already have insight. They’re aware; the problem is, they don’t care. They know how you’d like them to act; the problem is, they’ve got a different set of rules. The kind of approach that can have some impact is confrontational. It confronts distorted thinking and behavior patterns in the here-and-now moment when the narcissists are doing their thing in the session.”
As Harvard professor Howard Gardner pointed out during the interview, as frightening as the idea might be, the real problem facing our nation may not be the threat of a Donald Trump presidency.
“For me, the compelling question is the psychological state of his supporters. They are unable or unwilling to make a connection between the challenges faced by any president and the knowledge and behavior of Donald Trump. In a democracy, that is disastrous,” Gardner said.
The idea that Trump, an obviously disturbed individual who consistently belittles and degrades other people, is currently polling better than every other GOP candidate says a lot about the Republican Party.
Clearly teapublican voters see Trump as a reflection of themselves. As a party, they’re rabidly against treating other people with dignity and respect, calling it “political correctness” – a thing to be despised and rejected at all costs.
The more offensive and disgusting you are, the higher you poll among Republican voters. The more you threaten to harm “lesser” human beings, whether in the name of your “superior” race, religion or creed, the more the rabid right adores you.
The Republican Party may claim to be the party of “Christian values,” but it’s really an entire political movement that is made up of people exactly like Donald Trump, self-obsessed and sincerely convinced that they are superior to their fellow human beings.
Donald Trump is their candidate because he accurately represents their devotion to the Ayn Rand Virtues of Selfishness doctrine that has been spoon fed to them by the right-wing propaganda network over the last few decades.
The idea of “American exceptionalism” has taken root, and many are convinced of their white Christian supremacy, just as surely as any member of the KKK or the American Nazi party has ever been. They are so convinced of it that they cheer at the mention of a nuclear holocaust in the Middle-East, and praise Donald Trump for proposing that mosques be shut down and Muslims profiled.
Not surprisingly, Hitler also was diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder. The lack of empathy and remorse, characteristic of someone with the disorder, explains how he could commit such horrible crimes against other human beings, without ever feeling guilt or remorse.
A short list of other well-known figures with narcissistic personality disorder include,
- Jim Jones
- Joseph Stalin
- The infamous Angel of Death, Joseph Mengele
- Serial killer Ted Bundy
- Lee Harvey Oswald
- Saddam Hussein
It’s no wonder so many mental health experts are sounding the warning about Donald Trump. In spite of the “Goldwater rule,” many mental health professionals feel it is their duty to warn Americans about the dangers of allowing someone with Donald Trump’s psychological makeup to become Commander-in-Chief of the largest and most powerful military force on earth.
*Featured image credit: Gage Skidmore, via Wikipedia, creative commons license 3.0