In Saturday’s edition of The Times January 6th 2018 I read an incredibly profound article by Ben McIntyre with regards to the 25th Amendment. He argued that Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon had made it clear to Trump that the main threat to his Presidency was not impeachment, but the 25th Amendment. This, he points out, is the constitutional provision whereby the cabinet can vote to remove a president if they find he or she is deemed incapable of doing his job. Apparently Trump’s response was “What’s That?”I gather from press reports that Trump is now fully aware what this really means and the implications for his political career and more important, for America. Bannon has questioned the President’s mental health in interviews for the latest best selling book Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff which has caused leading booksellers to run out of copies within minutes of opening. McIntyre also notes that Wolff claims in the book that “100 percent of Trumps White House staff consider him to be “incapable of functioning in his job.” I do not know the exact number of employees in the White House, but my professional training and experience as an academic psychologist and practitioner would lead me to believe that their perceptions were reasonably accurate.
Over the past few years as a celebrity psychologist, I have analyzed most if not all , footage of his interviews worldwide, his political discourse,body movements and rhetoric. I have compared his repertoire of behaviours to other American statesmen, some of whom experienced severe physical and mental health problems and were said not to be functioning adequately. I note in particular the use of the word “incapable”. One’s everyday functioning as a President working under very extreme psychological stressors and ongoing pressures is bound to manifest itself in erratic behaviours which could have been misinterpreted as one having serious mental health issues. The point I make is that never having met the President nor ever been in the White House, nevertheless we could allude that any statesmen’s erratic behaviour might be attributable to physical health issues rather than the President’s mental health.
Ben McIntyre has wisely pointed out that Psychologists and Psychiatrists professional and armchair are now lining up to peer into the presidents mind in search of symptoms, the erratic and alarming behaviours, the two handed grip on the cup, the rantings and ravings feuds, black moods, lack of focus and dwindling vocabulary. McIntrye like myself, has a feeling which may have crossed the mind of the entire USA and further afield that this might be symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder, neurological impairment or a “man unravelling” as a Yale Psychiatrist has recently put it. I would retrospectively agree with the latter. I am not convinced that the President has NPD in any form or shape and in fact I will perhaps never know.He certainly does exhibit some of the criteria but the specific criteria is much more complex than the man in the street really understands. The Trump I see now is reflected in his erratic behaviours whilst he was a teenager and his classroom behaviours were akin to those we see daily from the most powerful man in the world.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
The wold today abuse the meaning of this clinical term, “even more than hubris, and for women too, narcissism is the killer”. said Ben Affleck. I believe we are all in the midst of a narcissism epidemic sweeping the Western world., as the term has become ubiquitous. The definition seems alarmingly vague.. Colloquially, it’s become little more than a popular insult, referring more to an excessive sense of self.. self admiration, self centredness, selfishness, and self importance. The press with whom I work tend to slap the description on any celebrity or politician whose publicity campaigns or stunts and daily behaviours depart form what’s perceived as normal in our complex society.
Narcissism can either be an obnoxious yet common personality trait or a rare and dangerous mental health disorder. I read and see in my mental health clinic lovers who have suffered at the hands of an extremely narcissistic partner, where there has been psychological warfare taken out on the innocent partner on You Tube Twitter and Facebook besides Instagram. But this is only a small part of narcissism it the entire story , because we have what we call “ healthy narcissists “ in every population. We ask Is Donald trump then a “healthy narcissist”? let’s deal with this later on. In todays clinical world psychological scholarships informs us that narcissism is not always “bad “ for the individual. Social media addiction is all around us and daily in my world as “The Celebrity Doctor” I see teenagers and young adults consumed and obsessed with selfies posing in garments similar to their pop idol. The fake world is one where real friends matter no more to the lust for fame and “likes” in the digital world. A healthy glow and fresh young skin says it all. Come look at me… but what of those who feel they have a strong positive self image and sense of identity? They score high on self esteem and global self worth, and the same could be said about the enigmatic President Trump. The fact of the matter is we have no moral right to intrude into the Presidents life, as his mental health and that of his wife is a highly private matter, and if he were to have NPD that would be a matter for his physician and I imagine would be dealt with discreetly and diplomatically. Narcissism is much more complex than press journalists understand. It can be seen as a motivational state the drive and desire to feel special. In many other ways the trait of narcissism refers to our self enhancement having and gaining more admirable qualities which are imbued with sound positive mental health. Instead of seeing ourselves as average and common, there is the propensity for each of us to feel that we are unique and very special. A slightly outsized ego has many benefits in terms of self perceived competence which may just get you to the top of your career ladder. Much research in the science of human behaviour has found that those who show health narcissistic traits are good leaders, highly successful business men and women athletes and doctors and of course celebrities.
THE DARK NARCISSIST
Otto Kernberg a Viennese psychonalyst and a European giant in mental health agreed with Kohut that healthy narcissism provides us with self esteem, ambition pride creativity and resilience. Many nof these qualities we can see in Donald Trump, but Kernberg diverged sharply from other psychoanalysts like Kernberg, in that he saw a dark side to narcissism. As Otto Kernberg grew up his exposure at an impressionable young age to Nazism and Hitler led him to believe in the concept of evil in the world. He saw Hitler as the greatest megalomaniac on earth. His psychoanalytic training reinforced his dark views of nature dealing with patients in Vienna who suffered aggression and psychosis living in a “dark world” In Kernberg’s view, narcissists, at their most destructive, are masses seething resentment. He argued that sex and aggression , underpinned most of human behaviour. Like Freud, he saw human beings as rolling cauldrons of hostility and lust driven by their cruelest passions. If we take his point of view,the most dangerous narcissists may be born with excessive aggression and lust for the opposite sex.They would lack emotional regulation and impulse control, envious of others, willing to attack and destroy their fellow human beings if they are under threat. This personality type feel worthless as children, are turbulent in adolescence, more so than the average child, with their overabundance of hatred, they ravage humanity out of revenge, using people to satisfy and gratify their own needs with no empathy whatsoever.
As a personality psychologist, dark narcissistic politicians require to have their warped self image reconstructed and realigned with the rest of the healthy narcissists in any one population.They are capable of reform Confronting them up front about the truth of the danger they pose is the first step in changing their maladapti0ve behaviours.
THE NARCISSISM SPECTRUM.
Rather than see narcissists as a single entity,its mandatory that you see it along a continuum from zero to ten. Life at either of the extremes isn’t a particularly healthy place to be. Abstinence lies at zero moving gradually through number 3 which is habit, on through 45 and 6 which is moderation (healthy narcissism) and on to 10 which is addiction. At zero, people feel worthless of no importance and probably never have. There is nothing wrong in feeling special loved and adored. Living at zero, you wouldn’t accept sympathy nor assistance you may even push it away.Life at the far end is equally bleak.While people at this end assiduously avoid the spotlight, people like Donald Trump and other world leaders scramble for the spotlight and compete fiercely with Tv crews for the best telly profile possible. In their minds, they cease to exist if their ego identities are not being polished daily.They can’t cope with that scenario. The lust for others to acknowledge their political importance. They are addicted to attention and will do anything to get their high.There is a compulsive rigidity at zero and ten but the healthy option is between 4 to 6.Where would the world today place Donald Trump?
In summary then, I have looked closely at one of his personality traits, narcissism, but he has many others. Many personality psychologists based on observational analysis see his personality in between two sides bright and dark. He is seen as being Highly Adjusted: Donald Trump is seen not at all anxious or nervous, he will appear calm under pressure, won’t take criticism personally and is quite pleased with himself as a person. The downside is that he is reluctant to listen to feedback… especially negative from others.
He is Highly Ambitious: The president is obsessively competitive and driven by ambition and always wants to win in business and politics.He wants to be in charge and in control knowing what’s happening in his every growing empire. Trup wants to ssee thibgs getting done immediately and achieving results. On the downside, he might compete even with those in his own team.
Trump is Highly Sociable: Likes to entertain be the focus of attention and likes to talk loudly above all others. Networking is his goal and the problem with social interaction is that he never listens effectively if at all. He’s overbearing and frequently acts without thinking. Hedonistic and lacks rationality.
He would score low on Interpersonal s Sensitivity: Trump is very direct doesn’t shy away from confrontation, in fact he revels in it. Lacks empathy and doesn’t get too concerned about hurting others feelings. On the upside, he allows people to go when needed. ( ie “Your Fired” ) His would score high on hostility as he alienates others across the nations. In addition you would find that Donald Trump is low on Prudence He has no concern for rules and enjoys breaking them. He is very independent likes to do his own thing and is unconcerned with details. On the positive aside he enjoys making decisions and making things happen taking all the glory to himself rather than his team or cabinet.
Psychologists find Trump High on Boldness: His most defining characteristic. He’s unusually self –confident and shows feelings of grandiosity and entitlement. Will feel entitled to specific treatment on state visits ignores his critics and he will overestimate his capabilities.President Trump is highly colourful quick-witted and Highly Mischievous. He’s charming interesting and daring. Loves taking risks and pushing the limits. Thrives on excitement and impulsivity.
Fire and Fury ? Nature Nurture or both? The human enigma prevails.
Arthur Cassidy Ph.D.
The Celebrity Doctor