Jan 08

Trump’s State of Mind: More from “Dangerous Case”

Trump’s state of mind is a subject of great concern to many who know and work with him, as evidenced in Michael Wolff‘s brand new and bestselling Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.

A Minding Therapy post several months ago introduced Yale psychiatrist Bandy X. Lee‘s The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, comprised of essays by 27 different professionals who hold strong opinions about Trump’s state of mind. Seems timely to offer some additional quotes from this book that takes a hard look at the possible mental health issues of our president:

In Donald Trump, we have a frightening Venn diagram consisting of three circles: the first is extreme present hedonism; the second, narcissism; and the third, bullying behavior. These three circles overlap in the middle to create an impulsive, immature, incompetent person who, when in the position of ultimate power, easily slides into the role of tyrant, complete with family members sitting at his proverbial “ruling table.” Like a fledgling dictator, he plants psychological seeds of treachery in sections of our population that reinforce already negative attitudes.

His mental health symptoms, including impulsive blame-shifting, claims of unearned superiority, and delusional levels of grandiosity, have been present in his words from his very first campaign speech…

Power not only corrupts but also magnifies existing psychopathologies, even as it creates new ones. Fostered by the flattery of underlings and the chants of crowds, a political leader’s grandiosity may morph into grotesque delusions of grandeur. Sociopathic traits may be amplified as the leader discovers that he can violate the norms of civil society and even commit crimes with impunity. And the leader who rules through fear, lies, and betrayal may become increasingly isolated and paranoid, as the loyalty of even his closest confidants must forever be suspect.

The tiger is “empathic” with its prey, but not sympathetic or caring. Successful sociopaths are like that…The successful sociopath’s predatory “empathy” reflects a definite perceptive acumen, making him a genius at manipulation. When this works, it produces a disastrous trust in him. Yet, like the tiger, he is unconcerned about the welfare of his target.

To those with NPD [narcissistic personality disorder], other people are simply mirrors, useful only insofar as they reflect back the special view of themselves they so desperately long to see. If that means making others look bad by comparison—say, by ruining their reputation at work—so be it. Because life is a constant competition, they’re also usually riddled with envy over what other people seem to have.

Trump is now the most powerful head of state in the world, and one of the most impulsive, arrogant, ignorant, disorganized, chaotic, nihilistic, self-contradictory, self-important, and self-serving. He has his finger on the triggers of a thousand or more of the most powerful thermonuclear weapons in the world. That means he could kill more people in a few seconds than any dictator in past history has been able to kill during his entire years in power. Indeed, by virtue of his office, Trump has the power to reduce the unprecedentedly destructive world wars and genocides of the twentieth century to minor footnotes in the history of human violence. To say merely that he is “dangerous” is debatable only in the sense that it may be too much of an understatement.

A paranoid, hypersensitive, grandiose, ill-informed leader such as Donald Trump, who has surrounded himself with a Cabinet and a set of advisers who either are unable to bring him out of his paranoid suspicions and insistences or, worse, identify with his positions, represents a multidimensional threat to our country and the world.

Jul 18

“Safety Not Guaranteed”: Getting Second Chances

“Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.” 

This actual ad someone placed in Backwoods Home Magazine in the 90’s is used as the starting point for the new indie movie Safety Not Guaranteed, a quirky story with unusual characters.

Below is the trailer:


Having seen it, I like what Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times, says about Safety Not Guaranteed: “Created by writer Derek Connolly and director Colin Trevorrow, both first-time feature makers, ‘Safety’…can’t be described in any way that’s as enticing as it is to experience. Because nothing plays out as anticipated, this off-balance project comes fully alive on screen in a way a written summary can’t capture.”

Nonetheless, in brief, magazine writer Jeff (Jake M. Johnson) takes a couple interns on a road trip to find the anonymous author of the ad and to do a story on him. When Jeff finds himself the object of scorn by time-travel devotee Kenneth (Mark Duplass), intern Darius (Aubrey Plaza) gets the story, which involves expertly pretending to be just the time-travel companion Kenneth needs.

Claudia Puig, USA Today:

When Kenneth meets the group, he is instantly put off by Jeff’s glib manner. ‘What is that smile?’ Kenneth asks him. ‘You don’t know pain. You don’t know regret.’

But Darius does, and when Jeff appoints her to head the investigation, things pick up. She poses as someone responding to the ad, and her forlorn demeanor and dry wit connect with Kenneth’s eccentric personality.

Meanwhile, Jeff spends much of his time trying to reconnect with a high-school lover of 20 years ago and introducing nerdy male intern Arnau (Karan Soni) to the idea of girls.


Turan calls him “a purist, a super-serious, unending earnest eccentric. Paranoid about being followed, given to saying things like ‘the technology I’ve invented can’t be understood by the average man,’ Kenneth believes to the core of his being that time travel is possible and repeatable.”

Mary Pols, Time, observes that he may be “…an unstable man, but he and his dream of time travel provide the story’s unexpected stability. Kenneth is teaching them how to seize the moment in the present while looking for the past.”

Elizabeth WeitzmanNew York Daily News, says Kenneth is “mysterious and paranoid” and also comments that “…the way he’s conceived and portrayed, Kenneth has to be either a lunatic or a genius.”


Mary PolsTime: “From writer Derek Connolly’s narrated prologue, we know Darius is not an optimist. ‘I guess I remember being happy when I was a kid,’ she says. ‘Back when you just naturally expect good things to happen.’

Stephen HoldenNew York Times, pegs her as “a cynical sourpuss.”

Mick LaSalleSan Francisco Chronicle: Her “…sullen and sardonic personality just barely conceals a sensitive and questing nature.”


Both these characters have experienced losses, and this is partly what underlies their bonding as well as their wishes for do-overs. Together, they represent a load of complicated grief issues.

Elizabeth WeitzmanNew York Daily News: “At first, she assumes he’s nuts. But eventually she begins to wonder if his eccentric obsessions make him saner than everyone else.”

Madeleine Kruhly, The Atlantic: “…(A) good portion of the audience’s tolerance of Kenneth’s weirdness is probably due to his relationship with the more ‘real,’ albeit depressive, Darius.”


Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic:

This is the rare movie with no one to root against, a film filled with good guys and weird guys (and gals), all of whom you hope find what they’re looking for, even if you know that’s not possible.

Or is it?

Michael O’SullivanWashington Post: “In fact, the central story, which focuses on the question of whether Kenneth is delusional or not, is the least interesting thing about the movie. ‘Safety Not Guaranteed’ is most vibrant and vital at its edges, in the way that the characters interact with each other while waiting for something to happen.”

Claudia Puig, USA Today: “It’s actually a fresh, funny, multilayered, character-driven story about hope, regret, overcoming fear and the redemption that comes from human connection.”

James Rocchi, msn.com: “Time travel may seem like madness, but then so does love; so does life; so does going on in the face of tragedy and long odds.”