On Tuesday Morning a tweet from Paul Krugman suggested that Donald Trump is mentally ill. I reject the black and white notion of mental illness in general, because I believe that we develop certain behaviors in order to survive our environments and many of these behaviours simply differ from the norm. Yet some are counterproductive and destructive, like narcissism and I do believe that Donald Trump is a narcissist. It’s no laughing matter if you have lived with and been broken by narcissists, as I have. But there is one clear path to instability within the rigor of narcissistic behaviour–not wholly within our control–but still predictable like dominoes. And if indeed Mr. Trump is a narcissist, that path is a viable option for bringing his presidency to a swift end.
There’s two ways to survive if you live with a narcissist. Both involve the sacrifice of sanity, yours or theirs. Having experienced it myself, it feels like a struggle to the psychological death. Half the world is losing their shit at Donald Trump’s actions. Along with their shit, some are losing their land, their healthcare and their lives. Don’t sacrifice your sanity or your world. My advice would be to undermine his, before it’s too late, or at least too late for those who still have a chance.
A narcissist’s world view is that everyone else must be an extension of them and therefore objects to do their bidding. Donald Trump appears to believe what he says and uses ‘alternative facts’ to achieve harmony in his inner world. He’s put a photo on his wall describing the crowd as a ‘sea of love’ indicative of the fact he craves adulation. I believe it is why he’s so upset about the inauguration crowd debacle; he believes himself to be worthy and worthy people are popular, ergo the crowd must have been bigger than the media reports. This must be the truth, because he cannot believe that he is not as important or worthy as the numbers suggest.
Narcissism is a group of traits listed by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and is characterized by a “pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy.” Whether or not a diagnosis can be given is–for me–irrelevant because the traits themselves are present. Mr Trump demonstrates a pattern of grandiosity, a need for admiration and a lack of empathy. He is according to many reports, emotionally unstable. If he is, and because he is a human being subject to biology as we all are, here are some things you should know.
There’s only one way to break a someone who is living in an extreme fantasy world, but it means risking the mind of the person themselves. It is tantamount to throwing the baby away with the bathwater. You must accept that this throws out the baby as well (a metaphor which suits Donald particularly well), because they do not–cannot–function properly outside of their bathwater. They have not learned how.
Psychology is our best weapon, inasmuch as it is the one which will sacrifice the fewest lives. It is possible to destroy his fantasy world with his own cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is what Morpheus in The Matrix once referred to as the ‘splinter in your mind driving you mad.’ It is the tiny inkling that reality is not all it seems. It is the mental stress experienced by a person who is ‘confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs ideas or values.’ [wikipedia]
By putting himself in the White house, Donald Trump has made himself intensely vulnerable to the threat of objective reality, even though he has tried his best to shield himself from it by surrounding himself by other like minded people with the same world view, or at the very least sycophants who will do his bidding. Both types perpetuate his false reality. But the dissenting voices are too loud to ignore. The objective facts are too obvious to hide from. As the splinter of cognitive dissonance grows, there is a strong possibility that it will destabilize him to such a point that he cracks under the pressure of trying to avoid the reality he doesn’t like. Many factors could intervene but cognitive dissonance and the mental tension it creates is a psychological fact. Cognitive dissonance is like ‘self-gaslighting’. The brain literally goes into overdrive, flooded with stress hormones trying to resolve two disparate realities and as the realities grow ever more polarized, the resolutions Donald’s mind may create, will become ever more fantastical until there is a very real possibility that the extent of the mental tension pushes him over the edge. But if we do not act quickly, he will bring the world to war in an effort to preserve his own. He is fighting for his reality, which will become our dystopian one.
This may be why he tries to suppress the press; I don’t believe it is to be a dictator, at least not in his own mind. It is in an effort to quell the rising horror and stress that all is not as he believes it, needs it to be. His world is shattering, imploding. There will be fallout, there will be casualities. I know this, but it cannot be helped. If you give a nod at all to the ethics of all this, be reassured. Using psychology with such intention sounds horrific, but requesting that a president face reality is not. It is not revenge which justifies this tactic although you may find the outcome bittersweet. It doesn’t have to be outrage which fuels your actions, because it could also simply be pragmatism. It is making sure that the person who has the power takes responsibility for the power. He has chosen the power, but he is not able to take the responsibility and that is not your responsibility – it is his. As president of the United States he has a duty to face reality and deal with it.
Diplomacy has little effect with a true narcissist. Rational argument likewise. Keep publishing, keep reporting objective reality. Support the rogue twitter accounts. Signal boost every damn thing. Deny him the adulation he desperately craves, do not follow his twitter. Pour reality on him like molten lava. Enforce it on him at every turn. Because right now it seems that the only way we can get him out of the white house, is for him to resign through excessive mental tension. It’s him, or it’s us. Act now, save the world before it’s too late, because for some it already is.
Note. I am not a doctor and therefore not qualified to give a formal diagnosis. I am an academic editor researching in the areas of childhood psychology (particularly adoption), narcissism (particularly maternal), and abuse (particularly psychological). Publications I have used to write the above include but are not limited to,
- (2005) “Why people see things that are not there – A novel Perception and Attention Deficit model for recurrent complex visual hallucinations”
- (2007) “Narcissistic personality disorder – relations with distress and functional impairment”,
- (2008) “Refining the Construct of Narcissistic Personality Disorder – Diagnostic Criteria and Subtypes”
- The Developing Mind: Toward a Neurobiology of Interpersonal Experience Developing Mind, D. Siegel
- Excessive Stress Disrupts the Architecture of the Developing Brain – Developing Child Harvard