About the title: I define Trumpology as the study and analysis of the behavior of Donald Trump by experts in the mental health field. I am a retired clinical social worker and psychotherapist.
Trump’s critics agree the president is a narcissist. Even his supporters seem to agree with this assessment, and they not only don’t merely give him a pass for his self-aggrandizing lies, but like him better for driving the media crazy with them.
Many psychotherapists, notable among them the founder of the Duty to Warn movement, Dr. John D. Gartner, have written that they think he’s a dangerous malignant narcissist who is decompensating. I have written that he’s worse than a malignant narcissist: see Trump’s sadistic malignant narcissism.
I haven’t changed my mind about Trump’s dangerous psychopathology. However, I was fascinated by words which supposedly Trump said as quoted in Phillip Rucker’s Washington Post review of Corey R. Lewandowski and David N. Bossie’s new book “Trump’s Enemies: How the Deep State Is Undermining the Presidency,” which is being released Tuesday and was obtained in advance by The Post.
Lewandowski and Bossie met with Trump in the Oval Office on Sept. 20 for a friendly interview, an edited transcript of which appears in the new book. Trump told the authors that he considers the investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election to have helped him politically.
“I think it makes my base stronger,” Trump said in the interview. “I would have never said this to you. But I think the level of love now is far greater than when we won. I don’t know, what do you think, Mike?”
Vice President Pence, who sat in for a portion of the interview, replied, “As strong or stronger.”
The line about love was also quoted without further comment in the HUFFPOST story about the book.
Who talks that way? A president of the United States? Really? I can’t come up with any other president who wanted to be loved by his base. They wanted to liked, admired, and respected, sure. But loved? Really?
Even Sally Field didn’t go that far when she expressed surprise in winning the Academy Award in 1984. In her memorable acceptance for Best Actress for the 1984 film PLACES IN THE HEART she said lines which are often misquoted as “you like me, you really like me.” The actual line was, ‘I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me.’
I can see an actress like Sally Field saying this, after all she was a movie star overwhelmed by being selected for an Oscar. Biographies of stars often are self-disclosing as far as admitting their insecurities. However, these aren’t the sentiments one often hears from a malignant narcissist like Donald Trump
As a psychotherapist, a Tumpologist if you will, attempting to understand how the mind of Trump functions, this is a side of Donald Trump I hadn’t thought about.
Although I am not a Freudian psychoanalyst delving into childhood influences of personality development with my clients I have to wonder whether what we have here a glimpse of is the dynamics of Trump’s disorder personality. There are many indications in his behavior that he is trying to not only please his tyrannical father, but to outdo him by being an autocrat and oligarch holding the most powerful position in the world. By and large I see him as psychologically identifying with his father and making decisions without a semblance of an operating conscience.
However, what this love remark suggests is a deeper need in Trump which we rarely see revealed.
From what I’ve read about his upbringing, his need to get love from a cold and distant mother was never satisfied and now he is compelled to get it from his base, from his adoring crowds.
This is how Justin Frank, who is a psychoanalyst and is the author of “Trump on the couch” put it in “Mommy dearest: a psychiatrist puts Donald Trump on the couch” in The Guardian :
The otherwise garrulous president has said little about his mother. Notably, for his first few months in the Oval Office, the only photo behind his desk was of his father. His mother was added later. Yet, Frank points out, 72-year-old Trump’s gravity-defying hair is a very deliberate homage to his mum’s.
“The fact that he tries to get us to feel his anxiety and he externalises responsibility makes me feel that, as a young child, he did not feel contained or held by his mother or other caretakers,” he says. “He didn’t have a strong maternal force in his life.
“The one thing we do know biographically is that when he was two, the last child in the family was born, but when his mother went to the hospital she didn’t come home right away. She had a haemorrhage, she had four surgeries and came close to dying and there was virtually no talk about that in the family. His older siblings just went to school as if it were normal while they’re terribly worried about their mother.”
Frank says that Trump’s mother’s frequent absences left him devoid of empathy. He doesn’t address the possibility that Trump still has a need, probably deeply repressed for love he never received from his mother. It is expressed in wanting worshipful adoration from his fans and his White House sycophants.
Another quote from Dr. Frank addresses what he’d ask Trump if he came in for therapy in an interesting article with a different focus: Psychiatrist Justin Frank on Trump’s “God complex”: He is “erotically attached to violence”
Q: If Donald Trump showed up at your practice and said, “I just want to be a better person. People don’t like me. Give me some advice.” What would you tell him?A: The first thing I would say is “Mr. Trump, who loves you? Who do you love? What’s important to you?” I would just get down to basics about life and love, because there’s no other way to deal with him. You have to get through on a deep emotional level and everything else is just noise to him. I would also say to Donald Trump, “Tell me how you broke your heart.”Q: He has a lot of internal pain.A: Yes. Donald Trump has run away from this pain his whole life, and he’s been successful at doing so. I would directly address that issue very simply, very slowly and very directly. He would have to experience a breakdown because he’s avoided all of those feelings his whole life. This would be the way to help him put things back together in a healthy way.
Still, Trump is a dangerous character wreaking havoc on our democracy. Since he’s not my psychotherapy client and never will be I don’t have to develop empathy for him. I try to understand him in order to warn others about how dangerous he is, and to predict his behavior lest he lose total control over his most destructive impulses.
There is no excuse for Trump’s behavior. Many people are damaged by their family of origin and develop compassion for others.
This is an excellent thought piece. I think Trump’s escalating manifestion of evil is overdetermined with a big part being his many political setbacks and the mockery he is subject to nationally and internationally, though declining sexual prowess discussed in this new article, probably associated with marital conflicts, may be a part of this. I think there is a case to be made that Trump never had a loving sexual relationship because of never having that “sacred space” in a relationship with a woman in his adult life. This essay is related to Trump’s never being able to experience this kind of love. It is from “Did a Loss of Sexual Powers Make Trump More Evil?” by author Andy Schmookler.
One of the core ideas in a piece I published back in 2017 — titled “The Sacred Space of Lovers” — is that because the passing of life from generation to generation is such an essential requirement of what has been required for our form of life to survive, we are structured so that those parts of our being involved with that process go deep. Those experiences that have been associated ancestrally with the successful accomplishment of that essential life-mission register within us as importantly fulfilling, because that sense of deeply important value is what motivates us to do what the perpetuation of our kind requires us to do.
That piece — about the “sacred space” — was focused especially on the depth of fulfillment that is possible when the various dimensions involved in the “lovers’” relationship are brought together in an integrated way. These dimensions include not just sexuality, but also love, and the other kinds of wholeness that help establish a foundation for the formation of a healthy family. Meaning the kind of family that best nurtures the healthy growth of the resulting children, who are equipped to begin that process all over again when they reach maturity.
With Donald Trump, that kind of “sacred space” seems clearly to have never been in the cards. It seems clear that he is simply not emotionally capable of the kind of open-hearted, caring, kind, honest relationship it would require.
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