Tag Archives: psychiatrist

“Play Ball!” A Sad Story

As November 3d gets closer, Trump’s behavior gets more bizarre. (I know, that seemed impossible…)

Just in the past couple of weeks, he has retweeted “medical advice” from a doctor who warns people against having sex with demons and thinks the government is preparing to vaccinate people against religion. Oh–and she also says that pharmaceutical laboratories use alien DNA in formulating their medications. (Maybe the opponents of “Big Pharma” know something??)

Trump also invented an invitation–which he then “declined”– to throw out the first pitch at a Yankees game, evidently because he was jealous that Dr. Fauci had been asked to do so. The invitation reportedly came as a surprise to both the Yankees and the White House.

Trump’s abrupt announcement was reportedly prompted by his irritation that Fauci, who has clashed with the President’s rosy framing of the COVID-19 crisis in the U.S., had been invited to throw out the opening pitch.

The President walked back his announcement on Sunday, tweeting that plans to throw the first pitch were cancelled due to his “strong focus” on COVID-19.

This would all be pretty funny if we weren’t talking about the President of the United States. 

In an article originally from Salon, Chauncy DeVega interviewed a psychiatrist who had previously written that Trump is a psychopath. Dr. Justin Frank is a former clinical professor of psychiatry at the George Washington University Medical Center and has more than 40 years of experience in psychoanalysis. His most recent book is “Trump on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President.”

I am not unmindful–nor dismissive– of professional concerns about “distant analysis,” but Frank has been joined by a significant cohort of other psychiatrists expressing concerns grounded in Trump’s very public behaviors.

DeVega prefaced his interview with a summary of those psychiatrists’ conclusions:

Through his public behavior Trump has repeatedly shown that he is mentally unwell. His apparent pathologies include malignant narcissism, delusions of grandeur, an attraction to violence, sadism, a lack of impulse control, utter disregard for rules and norms, and a pathological tendency to lie. In sum, our president can be reasonably described as a psychopath or a sociopath.

As DeVega notes, mental health professionals have repeatedly warned the public that Donald Trump’s mental health makes him a danger to the United States and the world, and we are seeing that danger play out in very public ways as the election nears. I found the following insights from Dr. Frank’s interview particularly illuminating.

He has always had a split mind. It is split between two sides. This is called “binary thinking.” In this way of thinking a person is either right or wrong. You like me or you hate me. You’re loyal or you’re disloyal. Trump’s world is very clearly demarcated. Now he is likely upset by Fox News because of his interview with Chris Wallace. In his mind, Fox News is now a very difficult organization. How is he going to place them? Good or bad? Friend of foe? A person develops binary thinking as a way of protecting themselves from anxiety. Trump has made his world very simple. If anyone questions or challenges him they are “nasty” and must be retaliated against. That’s how his world is.

I was previously unfamiliar with “binary thinking,” but it explains a lot.

Frank attributes Trump’s seething hatred of Obama primarily to the fact that Obama shamed him at the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2011.

“It was very upsetting to Trump. I believe those feelings were converted in Trump’s mind from humiliation and shame immediately into aggressive hatred. The problem with binary thinking is that unless you learn to think complex thoughts, you have a very limited range of responses to adversity or trouble.”

The interview with Frank was lengthy, and it is worth clicking through and reading in its entirety. He and DeVega discuss Mary Trump’s book, Republican cowardice, and the public’s various reactions to Trump, but the observation that I thought was the saddest–and most illuminating–was this:

The most painful thing about Trump to me is that he really envies people who are loved. Trump hates people who are loved. Trump hated Obama not just because he made the mistake of being president while black, Trump also hates Obama because he was loved.

On a personal level, this is tragic, because the more Trump “acts out’ in an effort to be loved, the more he displays how defective and unloveable he is.

If he hadn’t done so much damage–and if he didn’t have the nuclear codes–I would be a lot more compassionate….

 

 

Permission To Hate

A recent survey by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, confirms what most people who follow the news would have expected:  the incidence of hate crimes has increased.

According to the study, person-directed hate crime has increased 26.7% over the past five years. All hate crime has increased 20% in that same period, while violent crime overall increased only 3.3%. Figures for the 10-year period to 2008 show that the total number of hate crimes has increased, even as both crime in general and violent crime overall have declined.

It isn’t hyperbole or “fake news” to attribute much of that increase to the rhetoric of Donald Trump.

In a recent issue of Salon, Chauncy DeVega interviewed a CIA psychologist about Donald Trump’s “damaged personality.” The interviewee’s credentials were impressive.

Dr. Jerrold Post is the founding director of the CIA’s Center for the Analysis of Personality and Political Behavior. As the CIA’s head psychological profiler, he served under five American presidents of both political parties. Following his 21 years of service with the CIA, Post became a professor of psychiatry, political psychology and international affairs at George Washington University.

Post is the author of 14 books. His latest (co-written with Stephanie Doucette) is “Dangerous Charisma: The Political Psychology of Donald Trump and His Followers.”

Asked to “make sense” of Trump, Post responded with an analysis that gave me chills–but is also consistent with the observations of other mental health professionals who have expressed concerns about Trump’s mental state.

A famous Canadian psychoanalyst observed, “The leader is the creation of his followers.” This is a very powerful relationship. Indeed, many people have been puzzled, given Donald Trump’s extremism, that the support and the dedication of his followers to him has been not hugely diminished. Trump’s rallies, in particular, show an almost frightening intensity of the power of Trump’s charisma and influence over his followers.

For a core of his base Donald Trump provides them with many things, including permission to hate. It is a striking phenomenon. (emphasis mine)

In the three years since the 2016 election, I have become more and more convinced that hate is at the very core of the Trump base–that his appeal is primarily, if not exclusively, to White Christian heterosexuals, male or female, who believe that White Christian heterosexual men are supposed to dominate society and who see that rightful hegemony being eroded by black and brown people and uppity women.

They see their tribe being diminished, while “those people”–Jews, LGBTQ folks, Muslims, African-Americans–are demanding and receiving a place at the civic table, and they are enraged. Social conventions that have prevented them from expressing that hostility (conventions they sneer at as “political correctness”) infuriate them further.

And along comes Trump, who says: it’s okay to hate those “others.”

It reflects Trump’s crying out to his crowd at his rallies and granting them permission when he says things like, “Hey, you want to smash this guy in the face, don’t you? And I’ll pay all legal costs.” The Charlottesville hate riot was another interesting example of how Trump has positioned himself vis-à-vis the far right. Trump finds a resonance with them. He stimulates the crowd with chants such as “Lock her up!” and “Build the wall!”  These all become powerful incentives for his followers to move to the extremes. It’s almost as if Donald Trump is inciting these feelings. Donald Trump is connecting to feelings in his crowd — feelings that he is stimulating…The danger is that such feelings, which are usually beneath the surface, are now being stimulated by Donald Trump.

There was a good deal more in the interview, and it was enlightening, but to me, it was the “permission to hate”analysis that most rang true.

I never doubted that there were people like Trump’s base in the U.S. But in my darkest times, I never thought there were so many of them.

The 2020 election will tell us whether ours is a country where most citizens believe in working toward a society of civic equals, or a country in which a majority of our neighbors were just waiting for someone who would give them permission to hate.