For me it’s more about his character than anything else. That has led, and will lead, to the greater issues already at hand, and to come down the line. His character will dictate his performance as president. Likely he will self-destruct.
A Guarded Disclaimer
First off, I am NOT a psyche professional, and I will mention this often as a reminder. What I have written in here is obviously MY opinion, on how Trump has demonstrated himself in public throughout the election and during his presidency to date. You will note that I italicized “has demonstrated himself in public”. I am NOT qualified to claim professionally that Trump has some mental health issues.. but I am as qualified as anyone else to judge everything he has ever said or done in public as reported in the media. If Trump is perfectly normal and sound as any of us, in private, and his words and actions in public are just…. fake, for the cameras, or some grand strategy to make himself appear other than what he truly is, then how would I ever know? How would any of us ever know? All we DO know is what we see him say and do. This is my critique of that.
President Donald J. Trump’s character is going to be researched, dissected, studied, evaluated, explored, and scrutinized, from the laboratories of science to the halls of politics, far after he leaves office, for generations to come. Why? Well, it’s not often we get a president elected to office with such obvious DEMONSTRATED psychological traits bordering on mental illness. Now, I’m not making that assessment in some flippant name-calling, finger-pointing, guttural diatribe aimed to simply degrade his political motives. In other words, I’m not calling him a nutcase because of his views or demeanor to the world around him. The man has got some true social identity issues and character traits brought on by the way he was raised and his elevated financial status all his life.
No.. I am not saying he’s a candidate for a strait jacket. Given his wealth and power and level of business achievement and entertainment prowess simply in being “him”, he garners a level of respect from others because he is a branded name and persona. But that world is a far cry from what’s needed in the political arena, much less as president of the U.S. Running the country is not like being the CEO and running a business. In fact, his organization is so large and vast and over a wide range of industries that it’s pretty impossible he could direct it all at a level where he could say he has direct experience. He operates by balance sheet and delegates management. I personally think he not the broad-based business guru as much as most folks think… BUT, he has had some personal achievement and that’s to his credit. Also, he never has had to answer to corporate stock holders; he owns his own endeavors. He’s not ever had to answer to anyone. So in his world he is king… absolute ruler. He is also alone. When he says something people respond.. but not to him, rather in response to his power, wealth and influence. As president he has to answer to the Supreme Court, Congress, the Constitution, and we the people… and a free press. He is not used to this.
Ok.. let’s get clinical. In spite of my formal education in the applied behavioral sciences I am in NO way a psych person, certified or otherwise. But I am fairly adept in interpreting behaviors in others, which has served me well in my own business management and entrepreneurial career. To me I saw some signs that made me understand better Trump’s character and what was going on with the guy. Here’s my early observations…
- Inherent, contrived, fake facts and outright lies.
- Incessant bravado, calling attention to himself.
- Making wild claims then recanting them days later.
- His speeches, interviews lack substance; broad generalities from random conclusions. They also lack anecdotal references and depth of knowledge. He is not used to having to explain himself or what he wants. He will tell you.
- No friends; no true friends. He has acquaintances he calls friends but they can fall from grace very easily. He holds his family very close because they are the only people he trusts.
- Politicians notably make campaign promises they don’t or can’t fulfill once in office. His promises were wildly proclaimed with obvious (to anyone understanding politics) doubt on his ability to deliver.
..and that’s just a few that came to my attention.
The psych community operates from a publication called the DSM-5. Technically, it’s the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic classification tool called Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition.
Some in the professional community suggest Trump displays classic Narcissistic Personality Disorder. The following is quoted from an article, The Psychology of Donald Trump and How He Speaks, by John M. Grohol, Psy.D.
- “Textbook narcissistic personality disorder,” echoed clinical psychologist Ben Michaelis.
- “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.
- “Remarkably narcissistic,” said developmental psychologist Howard Gardner, a professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education
In my opinion Trump is not some mental case. Yes, he has an identifiable clinical social behavior not conducive to many environments (at least in the persona he wants us to see). But I am sure Trump is not a bad person, nor is he insensitive to others in a human sense. I’ve said before that I am sure he is as patriotic as anyone and sincerely thinks he alone can make a difference in making America great again, but according to his definition of greatness, with no compromise. I honestly doubt he would, as president, somehow take advantage of his office to personally profit. He’s had enough money all his life so money is not the priority with him. He loves power. He enjoys the game of making deals and winning is very important.
Maslow’s Hammer At Play Here?
There’s another theory also at play here as long as we are on psychological quirks. I often refer and quote Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as a basis for management and understanding people. You can look that up yourself, but my point here is that Maslow also came up with the concept of what has become known as Maslow’s Hammer. It’s the idea that many people are so defined by one principle that they use it as a tool to bang away at the world around them. For example, success, taken to an extreme, can be a tool. The goal to succeed becomes the total focus, almost an obsession, that it blurs the reality. One keeps banging away toward that end. Maslow observed in a quote, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as is it were a nail.” It’s very obvious to me that Trump uses many “tools” to hammer away at his environment. Surely success is one, but it’s success in the fight.. the negotiation.. ultimately to win the moment, rather than financial success which he’s achieved long ago. The press, the liberals, his enemies, are all in the way and they can all be damned. It’s Trump’s way or the highway.
The Reason He Ran May Not Be Altruistic
He was just as shocked as anyone when he realized he won the election. I honestly believe there was some scenario… maybe around the dinner table one day a couple years ago when he was likely complaining about the government and spouted off as any regular family member might, that if he were running the country things would be different. Someone encouraged him to do just that and to his own surprised he succeeded. The typical presidential candidate strives to achieve the role; many times having served in a career of lesser elected office and working up the ladder. The decision to run for president is a deeply rooted decision for most politicians, not a dare or a whim. Trump views the White House as his work office… not a residence, because he can escape to his own world of Trump Tower, the Mar-a-lago home, or any other place owned by the Trump business empire. I do not think one bit that he has been humbled by his title, responsibility to the American people, or role on the world stage. I think he views it all as another challenge.. another potential “win” he thinks he can pull off. I think he views having a cabinet and advisors as a necessary evil because he is not one bit used to consensus. As this is being written there’s much reporting that there is some infighting amongst the White House leadership… yet Trump has Tweeted that essentially he is running the show. Likely he’s not devoting a lot of attention to the traditional pecking order of the White House and it’s showing. He is saying what he wants to say, when he wants to say it, and he lets the “underlings” sweat it out and try to explain what he meant.
He’s sensitive to the press. When he gets up in the morning he honestly thinks every breath he takes somehow validates his existence to change the world. Criticism in the press bothers him because he thinks he is doing good for people… in his world; pretty much the end justifying the means. He thinks the entire mainstream press is in cahoots to destroy him; in other words, it’s all about him. The press represents a composite of all his enemies… hence the “opposition party”.
A Messiah Complex?
In no way can he possibly empathize with the lives and struggles those supporters who feel disenfranchised with the system because of the loss of jobs in those rural areas; he’s been wealthy all his life. Yet he revels in the things he is saying, real or contrived (either way, matters not to him), has wide support enough to have made an electoral win possible. His primary support base (notice I said, primary, not all-encompassing) have been struggling rust belt, rural Americans. To this demographic Trump is some sort of messiah.. and he loves that image as he feels he can deliver. He’s the great benefactor, savior and protector of the realm. While I do not think one bit that he satisfies the psyche definition of a true Messiah Complex (thinking he’s actually Jesus Christ.. a mental illness) the fact that he envisions himself as the world’s all-knowing protector does suggest he perceives himself in a similar role. As such, he sells fear more than any other politician in order to sell people that they need him. Hence his lack of detail when asked his motives and processes toward achieving his goals.
Here’s an interesting explanation I discovered on DrHurd.com (a blog by Dr. Michael Hurd, Doctor of Philosophy). To me this tends to explain the demographic constituency from which Trump has managed to acquire support.
“Perhaps this is how some cult followers start out. They lack heroes, and they’re looking for someone to look up to. Unfortunately, they have never identified — for themselves, consciously, objectively and rationally — what a hero means to them. As a result, in their uncertainty and lack of confidence, they’re unnecessarily vulnerable to the first and strongest personality who comes along. To them, the hero void is filled by a person with a strong personality who tells them what they seem to want to hear. Maybe because of their own psychological invisibility in childhood, or whatever else has disappointed or damaged them, they’re vulnerable to the type of person who seems able and willing to take charge for them.”
It’s amazing to think that a segment of American society is so lacking in self-confidence that they would accept as president a person with so much ill-experience in the office and such blatant disregard for the things we hold dear as being presidential as an icon of all that we represent as a nation.
Now to be sure, not all Trump supporters support him using the above criteria; not all Trump supporters are united in the reasons for supporting him. Some just like his outlandish behavior and the idea of politically “upsetting the apple cart” of the traditional political elite in Washington. Some like his idea of returning jobs back to rural America, or kicking economic ass on international trade with other countries. The one area of concern to me are the folks buying into his fear factor of terrorism coming right down Main Street USA, reaching their neighborhoods, when in fact there’s absolutely no reason to suggest this is an urgent threat; that current processes in place have been effective over the years. Trump likes to exploit this fear in order to establish himself as the only solution. This is what dictators do… not that I think Trump would be in any way a dictator because our Constitution forbids that from happening.
Stephen A. Diamond, Ph.D., writing at psychologytoday.com [9-29-14], has this to say:
“…the Messiah phenomenon can be understood as part of the eternal and universal search for the “ultimate rescuer”: an omnipotent and omniscient force or being that loves and protects us. The ultimate rescuer saves us from our existential aloneness, freedom, anxiety, responsibility to think for ourselves and decide on our own behavior, and provides hope and meaning to counteract our lack of purpose in life and despair.”
Dr. Hurd explains…
“In a sense, a Messiah steps in where your own self-confidence in your own thinking, conclusions and choices might have been.
I’ll explain. Your emotional states are caused by your ideas. Your ideas have to do with very fundamental things, such as, “Can my mind be trusted to figure out what’s true, what’s real and what’s right?” On a very basic emotional and psychological level, people have already answered this question for themselves. No person confident in the powers of his or her reasoning, thinking mind could ever fall prey to the claims of any Messianic leader. For one thing, such a leader counts on you to surrender to blind faith — most particularly, to him. Authentic self-confidence would prevent this from ever happening.”
His Policies –
I honestly don’t dispute the debatable acceptability of many of his policies. Where we differ is how he goes about making change. Thinking he’s in the board room, he presumes he can just bark orders and wave his hands and change will happen without negative ramifications. His implementation (decrees) lack vetting and a common sense approach to see the entire picture… not a simple solution. This of course lends to chaos… in which he thrives. Actually, he holds himself above the chaos he creates in order to be the savior that ends the chaos… or thinks he has ended it.
His apparent contacts with world leaders is a whole other issue. Common sense suggests that the leaders of most of the civilized nations likely have in place counselors and advisers who provide in-depth personality analysis of other world leaders. This is all part of diplomatic protocol and simply the idea of understanding your “adversary” in negotiations. So it’s no doubt world leaders have a basic idea of Trump’s personality already, even if all they have at their disposal is U.S. cable news. So it’s not likely Trump will overtly start a war by offending a world leader. But he could be abrasive in his demeanor and most certainly have a condescending tone when he wants to play the game. A lot of these world leaders are used to a slow, measured, diplomatic approach to certain issues, and may find offensive Trump’s pushy sense of urgency. Also, Trump’s words could go beyond the ears of a world leader and to the leader’s public.. and that could cause a nationalistic backlash on American prestige and foreign policy goals. In other words, Trump’s mouth tends to get him in trouble.. and now could get America in trouble.
Let’s Give The Guy A Chance?
Well, no. I don’t see the office of the President of the United States as being an entry-level, OJT (on-the-job-training) training ground for learning politics much less how to act as president. It’s one thing when a “traditional” president makes a “professional” error in political judgement but there just is NO margin for error in watching some politically incompetent, socially questionable president, and equally incompetent members of his administration, learn the ropes and make mistakes along the way as if this were all some noble process for him to become more effective at some point down the line.
All Americans Should Stand Behind The President?
I don’t even know what that means. Is that suggesting we all sign on to everything he does? Are we not supposed to challenge anything he says or does? Does supporting our president mean we have to place on hold freedom of speech? No.. actually the president should stand behind all Americans. Don’t suggest to me that some measure of MY patriotism must include following my president to the ends of the earth. I will certainly not subvert or sabotage what my president legally does that is under his/her Constitutional authority… but I still reserve my right to criticize what he says or does.
We Shouldn’t Take Everything Trump Says To Heart; This Could All Be A Facade To Throw Off Those Nasty Liberal “Enemies”.
I guess the big question then is.. WHY?! I mean, even on a good day who truly wants to be perceived the way he is expressing himself if in private he’s an entirely different person? More to the point, he’s now president. Is not one of his moral obligations as leader of the free world to be trying to end divisiveness and create a mood optimism? He is doing everything but. If this is all a facade or some whacked strategy from the boardroom then that in itself might suggest some imbalanced thought. Enemies?? He needs a strategy to disrupts his “enemies”?? What president enters office obsessed with enemies, fearing them, to the degree he has a list of them and a strategy to deal with them (besides Nixon)? That alone suggests some out of balance reality… self-serving as it might be. Heck, I don’t want him as my president. If that qualifies me to be his “enemy” that’s up to him. I certainly don’t hate the guy, I just hate what he’s doing to my America because of his bumbling ineptitude.
He Calls It Like It Is.
I know his support base, mostly rural rust belt folks, love this facet about him. Personally I find refreshing when a politician can do that. It’s one of the things I admired most about Joe Biden when I first observed him at the Clarence Thomas hearings. But while I might welcome an outspoken politician, especially a seasoned outspoken politician, it doesn’t mean I might support them all the way to the White House. Trump isn’t an outspoken politician because he’s NOT a politician. For outspokenness to mean something more than the moment it has to include a level of public trust and a record of having been in politics for a considerable length of time to have acquired credibility behind the words. Outspokenness is NOT bravado. Trump is NOT calling it like it is… he’s calling it as HE sees it based on his own perception of how things SHOULD be. He is grossly ill-informed but he doesn’t care that he is; Trump lies or makes falsehood statements just to affect his own agenda, it’s not outspokenness based on experience, common sense, and practicality. The fact that the rural rust belt folks have bought into this behavior illustrates how desperate they feel about their own lives. They are Americans as much as any of us and if their own local state and federal elected representatives aren’t doing their jobs in expressing their causes (which appears to be the case) then they need help. But Trump will never be their answer.
I’m reminded of that one classic Star Trek episode (first series), The Squire of Gothos. Character villain, Trelane, an omnipotent force-field-shift-changing being, has taken the bridge crew hostage and placed the Enterprise under threat of destruction. Addressing Mr. Spock he asks if the Vulcan had any objections to his actions.
“I object to you. I object to intellect without discipline; I object to power without constructive purpose.”
Yeah.. what the Vulcan said.