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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Follow Your Fantasies to Self-Awareness

Fantasies, like dreams, can give you vital knowledge about yourself.

Fantasies, like dreams, can give you vital knowledge about yourself.

“Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living,” said Dr. Seuss, whose children’s books have sold in the hundreds of millions. “It’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope … and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.”

Yes, fantasy is a wonderful, enjoyable spinoff of our imagination, especially when a magical, mischievous Cat in the Hat comes by to visit. But sometimes the visitor from our imagination is a real villain, a remorseless Grinch who not only steals Christmas but happiness and peace of mind all through the year.

Fantasies come in all shapes and sizes, and they can stick around for hours at a time. People frequently have fantasies (or daydreams or reverie) about being famous or rich, aggressive or passive, triumphant or shamed, sexually active or impotent, and bonded to others or abandoned by them. People often imagine having magical or healing powers or fantasize being someone else. People with mental disorders, or even some neurotic people, sometimes can’t distinguish fantasy from reality.

If we’re willing to look deeper, we can analyze and interpret our fantasies for the purpose of overcoming inner conflict and all its attendant miseries. [Read more…]

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The Thrill of Fear

An unconscious "bug" in our psyche creates hidden pleasure in our fears.

An unconscious “bug” in our psyche creates hidden pleasure in our fears.

An outbreak of fear is degrading our humanity. A particular weakness in our psyche—a “bug” in our unconscious mind—causes fear to feed upon itself, making the current pandemic of fear especially virulent.

Terrorism triggers fearfulness, but it’s not the cause of it. The cause or the source of our fear lies within us. Some of our fear derives from a genuine fight-or-flight instinct, yet we also have an unconscious resonance with fear. While it’s seemingly counter-intuitive to say so, we actually “get off” on our fear.

Fear creates within us a certain excitement, thrill, tumult, and buzz that we find alluring and compelling. Fear can become an emotional addiction in the sense that we don’t know how to live without it and in the sense that we feel more fully alive when possessed by it. On the surface, though, we’re unaware of how much we find fear to be enchanting and exhilarating.

Fear is a powerful elixir that counteracts the stupor, dullness, and passivity that come from living in the clutch of close-mindedness. People can find intense pleasure in their fearfulness and, in fact, often pay good money to be frightened. We do it at theme parks on roller-coaster rides and haunted house visits. By the millions, we read fiction thrillers, mysteries, and horror stories, along with nonfiction detective and crime stories. These genres and themes are often the stuff of blockbuster movies. Many productions seem increasingly fear-inspiring with their graphic portrayals of ghouls, vampires, and armies of zombies.

Fear is commercialized by certain broadcasters who are willing to cater to the base elements of our humanity. Dressed up as political commentary, fear-inspired discourse finds wide audiences of neurotic and psychologically naïve individuals. [Read more…]

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Unconscious Bias in Race Relations

Unconscious projection is a big player in racial tension.

Unconscious projection is a big player in producing racial tension.

Protests against the handling of racial tensions broke out this month on university campuses across the United States, and once again we find ourselves confounded by the deviltry of human nature. Why does skin color in 2015 still inflame animosities? Depth psychology provides us with deeper understanding of unconscious bias as a factor in racial tension.

Some white people remain intent on denying black people their humanity. These white people, unbeknownst to themselves, are not in touch with their own humanity. What exactly does that mean?

They don’t respect or love their own self. They’re burdened emotionally by self-doubt and self-rejection. They’re likely to be highly self-critical, and sometimes they despise themselves. Therefore, it follows logically that to love their neighbor as they “love” themselves is to dislike and perhaps to hate their neighbor.

Of course, they don’t usually hate their white neighbors—not all of them, anyway. Their animosity arises unfailingly for blacks or other minorities because they need someone or some group to which they can feel superior. Feeling superior is important to them because otherwise they feel inferior. Detesting others for their alleged inferiority is how they maintain an illusion of superiority.

The psychological mechanism of projection becomes a big player in racial tension. [Read more…]

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Acquiring a Feel for Natural Aggression

 Natural aggression is a positive force that provides personal satisfaction.

Natural aggression is a positive force that provides personal satisfaction.

Some psychologists claim that aggression is an undesirable trait. At Wikipedia, aggression is defined as an “overt, often harmful, social interaction with the intention of inflicting damage or other unpleasantness upon another individual.” Assertiveness is acceptable, these experts say, aggressiveness is not.

I disagree. Now, of course, I’m not discounting the value of assertiveness. And I obviously understand that some forms of aggression are completely unacceptable. But natural aggression can be seen and experienced as positive strength. It’s exactly the kind of verbal power and emotional force that’s needed to counter the aggression that’s often dished out by bullies, petty tyrants, and ignorant people intent on getting their way.

In this post I want to explore the subtle yet important distinctions between aggressiveness and assertiveness. The distinctions are important. We want to be as powerful as possible and trust that we’ll use that power wisely. Further along, I provide an example of the power and effectiveness of natural aggression.

A lot of people have a tendency to be passive and defensive. Often, though, they can swivel in an instant into reactive, angry aggression. Frequently, the passive person sees neither his passivity nor the inappropriateness of his reactive aggression. He often feels that his combative bluster is his saving grace. One passive fellow I knew polished his self-image with daily reminders of the aggressiveness he could muster when confronting people. His aggressiveness, however, was usually rude, demanding, and ultimately self-defeating. [Read more…]

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Exposing the Roots of Emotional Suffering

This knowledge is deep and very liberating--yet easy enough to assimilate.

This knowledge is deep and liberating–yet easy enough to learn.

If you like psychology, you’ve come to the right place. If you’re having a hard time with life, this is the website for you. The psychology here is profound. You won’t find anything else like it online.

The knowledge is deep—and very liberating. As a psychotherapist, I’ve seen the great benefits of acquiring this knowledge. As a former journalist and science writer, I make it easy to assimilate.

What’s so special about it? That’s difficult to say in a few words. If you read some of the articles available here, you’ll get a good sense of what this depth psychology is all about.

In a nutshell, this knowledge challenges you to see yourself in a whole new light. You’ll see how good and beautiful you are, yet you’ll also begin to understand that you have—deep down inside—some issues or conflicts that you would be wise to make conscious.

Don’t be afraid. This stuff won’t bite you.

Through this knowledge, we learn to practice inner governance—or self-regulation—of our emotions and behaviors. Let me use the concept of democracy to explain. In an ideal democracy, people have the power and they use it wisely by electing the best political candidates to represent them.

Democracy goes astray, however, when the people lose sight of what’s going on behind the scenes. They’re not informed about what’s being done in their name. And they may not be vigilant enough to investigate. On a personal level, this is what happens to each of us. Too much is going on behind the scenes, in our unconscious mind, that we don’t know about. [Read more…]

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A Decisive Look at Indecision

Taking concrete steps to climb out of indecision.

Taking concrete steps to climb out of indecision.

Chronic indecision has got to be one of the most painful symptoms of inner conflict, turning sufferers into queasy question marks stooped in a wilted crouch. Okay, maybe that’s a bit graphic—but you get the point.

I’ve written an earlier post on the subject (Indecisive No More), but one reader wanted me to say more about how to overcome this symptom.

He asked: “Are there concrete steps to break this pattern of chronic, debilitating indecision once you recognize what is going on? Are there real action steps that you can address in your writing?”

Suppose I were to give him a highly recommended concrete plan of action to inspire decisiveness. Would he decide to follow that plan? If he happens to come across another recommended plan of action, how will he decide which plan to follow? If he finally chooses one concrete plan over the other, will he decide to stick to that plan when the going gets tough? It’s pretty obvious that indecision turns concrete steps into wet cement.

When we venture into our psyche to get to the roots of indecision or other kinds of dysfunction, we require only one plan of action: we have to make conscious what has been inwardly weakening us and causing our self-doubt. [Read more…]

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The Two-Minute Inner Workout

This workout helps us to assimilate vital knowledge.

A workout to assimilate vital knowledge.

I’ve refined the knowledge of depth psychology into seven principles. Reading these principles over on a daily basis—as a kind of two-minute inner workout—is highly recommended.

These principles are boiled down to about 400 words, so it only takes a few minutes to slowly read the content. But a person could take a lifetime assimilating the knowledge behind the words.

What are the benefits of doing this every day? We’ve got remarkably thick skulls when it comes to learning depth psychology. Our instinct is to reject self-knowledge: it’s so unsettling to the inner status quo. It changes our sense of who we are, and we’re afraid to lose that old familiar sense of self, even when the old self is infused with pain. By facing inner truth each day in the form of a two-minute inner workout, we can overpower our resistance.

So read slowly and ponder the significance of this knowledge. The real trick is to begin to understand how this knowledge applies directly to you. The intent is to turn the knowledge into self-knowledge, which in turn helps us to overcome many forms of misery and self-defeat.

These seven principles don’t mess around—they zero in on what gets us into emotional trouble. They identify the processes through which our negative emotions are most easily aroused. Becoming stronger emotionally is a process of recognizing and overcoming our deeper negativity. We learn how we have unwittingly been producing and holding on to various forms of suffering. [Read more…]

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Releasing Inner Passivity

Inner passivity can be released through deeper self-knowledge.

Inner passivity can be released by acquiring deeper self-knowledge.

If your life’s no fun, you may be plagued by inner passivity. If you’re feeling stuck, unsettled, weak, trapped, overwhelmed, or anxious, you’re very likely under the influence of inner passivity.

As a description of a basic, clinical condition, the term inner passivity is unfamiliar to most people. It describes a congenital flaw in our mental and emotional programming. To understand it, start by reading “Lost in the Fog of Inner Passivity.” I also define and discuss the term in my books and in many of the posts on this website.

People have asked me if they can get rid of inner passivity by reading about it and studying the subject. Do they necessarily need a psychotherapist? Being able to go solo would be an advantage for those who don’t have the money to do therapy. Others will have difficulty finding a therapist who works, as I do, deep in the unconscious mind.

Yes, many people are able to made progress in releasing inner passivity without having to see a psychotherapist. This is achieved by studying the subject over a period of time and seeing clearly its manifestations or symptoms in one’s life. (I took up this question of needing a psychotherapist in an earlier post, “How to Be Your Own Inner Guide,” and this post looks at this issue more specifically in terms of inner passivity.) [Read more…]

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Deliverance from Addictions & Compulsions

The emotions that trigger addictions are hidden in the psyche.

Emotions that trigger addictions are undetected in the psyche.

I have just completed a new edition of Secret Attachments: Exposing the Roots of Addictions and Compulsions. It’s available as an e-book on Amazon for the sale price of $2.99. If you get a copy, feel free to review it or leave a comment.

This was my first book, and I think it has aged very well since first published 22 years ago. With this 2015 edition, I have added many clarifications and revisions. Yet the structure of the book and much of the text remain the same. The book has a straightforward simplicity, a knack, I like to think, for making the principles of depth psychology readily accessible to everyday readers, including teenagers, without diluting the essential knowledge.

These psychological principles apply to us all, whether or not we have addictions or compulsions. So everyone can benefit by reading this book. Here is an excerpt from the opening pages:

Foreword to the 2015 Edition

A few years ago I came across this definition of an addiction: “An addiction is an unconscious way of coping with emotions.” Yes, that’s true, but much more explaining needs to be done. This book provides the full understanding of the relationship between addictions, compulsions, and unresolved negative emotions. [Read more…]

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