Blinded by the Darkness of Trump

A person with a narcissistic disorder is desperate to cover up how he really feels about himself.

A person with a narcissistic disorder is desperate to cover up how he really feels about himself.

Many millions of Americans don’t realize that Donald Trump, their hero and standard-bearer, likely has a serious mental illness. Many experts in psychology assert (here, here, and here) that he is unfit to be president of the United States. I provide psychological evidence further along that speaks to the grave danger he represents.

Trump’s behaviors and personality attest to a narcissistic personality disorder. Symptoms of the disorder are outlined in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association. The Manual says a narcissistic personality disorder is indicated when five of nine criteria are present. Trump would appear to have eight of the nine criteria: a grandiose sense of self-importance and readiness to exaggerate achievements and talents; a preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, brilliance, and beauty; a belief that he is special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other high-status people; a need for excessive admiration; a tendency to be exploitive for personal gain; a lack of empathy; a belief that others are envious of him; and arrogant or haughty behaviors or attitudes.

A personality disorder is a very serious level of dysfunction. Some of its symptoms even appear on the schizophrenia spectrum. I hesitate to attempt psychotherapy with people with personality disorders (ten disorders are listed in the Manual, including narcissistic personality disorder) because, through no fault of theirs, their resistance to inner progress is so formidable. I believe the Manual understates the severity of the condition when it says, “A personality disorder is an enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectations of the individual’s culture, is pervasive and inflexible, has an onset in adolescence or early adulthood, is stable over time, and leads to distress or impairment.”

Americans who feel aligned with Trump are, in my view, buying into and taking at face value the psychological defenses that Trump employs to maintain and even heighten his narcissistic outlook. They can’t see the danger he presents, in part because many of them are unwilling or unable to see beyond their own defenses, illusions, and denial. [Read more…]

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Neurosis Unbound

By acknowledging neurosis, we see ourselves more objectively.

By acknowledging neurosis, we see ourselves more objectively.

One of the obstacles to human progress is the widespread extent of neurosis. It’s important that we clearly see the nature of this psychological impairment—this common virus of the psyche—in order to overcome it.

Amid the world’s turmoil, we need signposts for orientation and direction. The word neurosis was one such pointer. Unfortunately, the word is no longer widely used. It was dropped from the leading psychiatric reference book in 1994, after psychoanalysts were elbowed aside by the growing medical and drug-oriented approach to treating mental health.

One research psychiatrist said recently that the term neurotic now seems “old-fashioned and quaint” and “ultimately anachronistic.” Another expert commented, “The qualities we once attributed to neurotics have simply become normalized.” The category is obsolete, he said, because “we’ve become so accustomed to people with continual worries and fears . . .”

Are they saying neurosis has become fashionable? If so, our species has nowhere to go but down. The suffering associated with neurosis is not normal. It can be avoided with the right insight. [Read more…]

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Stung by Ingratitude

For some, the sting of ingratitude is very painful.

The sting of ingratitude is very painful.

Neglecting to say “Thank you” can infuriate the best of men. Did someone deny that courtesy to Shakespeare? If so, he let his characters do the talking. Viola proclaims in Twelfth Night, “I hate ingratitude more in a man / Than lying, vainness, babbling, drunkenness, / Or any taint of vie whose strong corruption / Inhabits our frail blood.”

Shakespeare wasn’t finished. His King Lear thundered, “Ingratitude! thou marble-hearted fiend, / More hideous when thy show’st thee in a child / Than the sea-monster.”

Not all of us, fortunately, are so painfully stung by ingratitude. Benjamin Franklin apparently took it more in stride, observing that, “Most people return small favors, acknowledge medium ones and repay greater ones—with ingratitude.”

Yes, most of us have felt some sting from the ingratitude of others. Often the hurt is remembered and experienced anew many years after the offense. For the sake of our equanimity and peace of mind, what ought we to understand about ingratitude?

King Lear’s “hideous” disgust for a child’s ingratitude is misplaced. Young children quite naturally have little sense of gratitude. They tend to take for granted the benefits of food, clothes, toys, and loving kindness. Seeing this ingratitude, parents sometimes wonder if they’re spoiling their children. Children are often prodded: “Say thank you now!” They say the words but don’t necessarily register the feelings. [Read more…]

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The Double Barrels of Gun Mania

Psychological issues lurk in the psyche of staunch gun-rights defenders.

Psychological issues lurk in the psyche of many staunch gun-rights defenders.

We all agree about the need to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. Perhaps we also need to look at some psychological issues influencing staunch defenders of gun rights. Many of these individuals are not paragons of mental health because two of their unrecognized emotional issues are triggering a double-barreled blast of self-defeat.

Before looking down these barrels, let us acknowledge our human temptation to become enthralled by objects such as guns. We love our playthings such as cars and boats. Collectors love their guns, coins, stamps, antiques, model trains, and so on. This interest or fascination can be harmless enough and a source of considerable enjoyment. Yet psychological development is impeded when we use a possession such as a luxury car or expensive painting to provide status or fill an inner emptiness. Our enthusiasm for possessions can rise to the level of a fixation or obsession, at which point our lack of self-development causes us to lose perspective and sell short the richness of our essential self.

Because guns are relatively inexpensive, they’re not usually purchased for status. Instead, they provide two psychological defenses—the double barrels of self-defeat—that make their ownership so desirable. One barrel discharges the illusion of safety and the other the illusion of power. Why do so many gun owners grasp at these illusions or inner defenses? [Read more…]

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