The occasional Trumpology series of columns are informed by my 40 years of experience as a clinical social worker and psychotherapist and my understanding of psychiatric diagnosis, psychology, and psychopathology as applied to Donald Trump who I consider to be a sadistic impulsive malignant narcissist.
UPDATED: 12/08/18 In general usage the term compartmentalization is used in a positive manner. For example, if your surgeon is worrying about problems at home you want her to be able to put those thoughts out of her mind and pay attention to your operation. Presidents have to deal with numerous matters of importance so you don’t want them worrying about a stock market crash while dealing with a national security issue.
I use the term here in the psychological sense where it has a very different meaning.
Compartmentalization is a subconscious psychological defense mechanism used to avoid cognitive dissonance, or mental discomfort and anxiety. Compartmentalization allows conflicting ideas (including fears) or thoughts (the next shoe to drop from Mueller) or even severe criticism coming from Fox News’ Tucker Carlson saying “I don’t think he’s capable”) to co-exist by inhibiting direct or explicit acknowledgement and interaction between separate compartmentalized self-states. In some cases, like with Trump, a compartment could be completely or mostly subconscious.
We win when Trump is able to compartmentalize so he thinks the he is insulated from or immune to the risk coming from Mueller’s investigation and form the Democratic House committees making a case which could led to impeachment.
Update: When I write about Trump compartmentalizing I don’t mean to suggest he doesn’t think about the Mueller investigation. What I think is that he doesn’t allow himself to think rationally about it and experience any emotion besides anger when a psychologically healthy person would feel anxiety. Here’s an example from 5:00 AM Saturday morning:
Trump has his head in the sand most of the time when it comes to seeing the real world of peril surrounding him. If he watches Fox News nothing he hears would disabuse him of his belief that that everything else he hears is a tale told by and idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Of course it is unlikely Trump could identify that these lines were said by Macbeth and they refer to life being but a brief candle flickering out into nothingness. Would it be that Trump read and pondered Shakespeare, especially Macbeth’s response to the death of Lady Macbeth, but I digress.
Now he is attending to other publicity grabbing matters to keep him from dwelling on the dangerous compartment. He has nominated Heather Nauert whose main qualification before being the Dept. of State press spokesperson, really just a flack, was that she was a pretty face on Fox News, to be UN ambassador. This is typical Trump, sticking a finger in the eye of those who criticize his nominations of Fox News figures.
He also nominated a new AG no doubt because he looks the part and said a few things that on first blush looks like he might be a Trump sycophant.
Trump may lament the day he impulsively decided to nominate him.
Trump is off on self-aggrandizing “mission” to bask in the pomp and circumstance of the Army Navy game. He’ll be the first sitting president in seven years to attend the game, a fact which I expect he will brag about.
All this is part of Trump’s publicity grab following his lost of the spotlight during the remembrances for President George H.W. Bush. It allows Trump to push his awareness of the growing danger to his presidency further and further into a wall-off compartment.
The one “compartment” that is problematic in Trump’s mind is his grasp that the Mueller investigation is about to do a snip-snip to his most prized golden jingle bells. It is the most threatening to his sence of self and manhood. His reality testing when it comes to understanding the looming danger is bupkis.
I suspect Trump is in true psychological denial that his presidency is on the brink of the impeachment abyss. This makes him prone to errors, to rage Tweeting messages that could bolster a case for obstruction for example. It also makes him more likely to avoid the good advice from his lawyers because he thinks he knows more about the law than they do. He believes he is above the law anyway.
All of Trump’s attempts to shore up his belief that he is far more popular than he really is are self-deceptions bordering on delusion in service of his grandiose self-image.
Ultimately Trump’s narcissism may prove to be his undoing because he is unable to deal with the anxiety (the cognitive dissonance) that facing the signs that his presidency may not last until 2020 causes. The more distracted and dysfunctional Trump is, the more he is enmeshed in psychological denial, the more he will try to be his own lawyer.
It is an old saying in the legal profession that the worst client a defense attorney can have is someone who thinks they know how best to defend themselves, and they are also the best defendant a prosecutor can have to make a case against.
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