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.

Aug 18

Bullying, Hate, Etc.: Up to Date Mental Health News

Bullying and hate have been frequent topics in the news these days. Also Trumpism, white supremacists, etc. See a thread?

I. He Ruins Everything: Trump Is Having a Negative Effect on the Workplace. Kali Holloway, Salon

Nearly 46 percent of Americans believe that ‘the brutish 2016 election campaigns negatively impacted the workplace,’ according to the Workplace Bullying Institute. In an abstract subtitled ‘Trump Toxicity,’ the organization notes that as a candidate, Trump ‘modeled bullying and [gave] license for others to forego norms of interpersonal civility and kindness.’ The trickledown effect is leading to increasingly inhospitable workplaces and an increase in inappropriate behavior.

II. How to Survive a Jerk at Work. Robert Sutton, Wall Street Journal

Author of the upcoming The Asshole Survival Guide: How to Deal With People Who Treat You Like Dirt, Dr. Sutton offers the following tips. Refer to the article for elaboration on each point.

  • Keep your distance.
  • Slow down. “…(R)espond as slowly and infrequently to the jerk as possible, and when you do respond, stay as calm and composed as you can…”
  • Early-warning systems. “In many workplaces, people spread warnings when powerful jerks are in vile moods (and it is best to avoid them) or are ‘incoming’.”
  • Look at it another way. “…entails ‘reframing’ the jerk’s behavior in a more positive and less threatening light.”
  • From enemy to friend. “As psychologist Robert Cialdini documents in his classic book ‘Influence,’ flattery, smiles and other signs of appreciation (even if not entirely sincere) can win over strangers, critics and enemies.”

III. Democrats in Congress Explore Creating An Expert Panel On Trump’s Mental Health. Sharon Begley, Scientific American

A closed meeting is scheduled for September in which mental health professionals will offer opinions to interested legislators, some of whom have also “co-sponsored a bill to establish ‘a commission on presidential capacity’,” which relates to the 25th Amendment.

IV. The Psychology of Hate Groups: What Drives Someone to Join One? Elizabeth Chuck, NBC News

A significant factor is “implicit permission” enabled by such activities as “watching a hate group rally or reading members’ comments online,” reports this article. Since Trump’s candidacy, moreover, we’ve had a rise in hate group formation and activity. Read more for details.

V. How White Supremacists Use Victimhood to Recruit. Olga Khazan, The Atlantic

Sociologist Mitch Berbrier, reporting on his research in 2000, found the following about the beliefs of those who affiliate with white supremacist groups:

  • that whites are victims of discrimination
  • that their rights are being abrogated
  • that they are stigmatized if they express “pride”
  • that they are being psychologically affected through the loss of self-esteem
  • that the end product of all of this is the elimination of “the white race”

VI. The Dark MInds of the Alt-Right. Olga Khazan, The Atlantic

“A psychology paper put out just last week by Patrick Forscher of the University of Arkansas and Nour Kteily of Northwestern University.” states Khazan, “seeks to answer the question of just what, exactly, it is that the alt-right believes. What differentiates them from the average American?”

It’s not about the economic anxiety. But it is, apparently, about a belief in a particular hierarchy of social groups.

The alt-right participants were more likely to think men, whites, Republicans, and the alt-right themselves were discriminated against, while minorities and women were not. This is in line with past research showing that white supremacists have a victimhood mentality, in which they consider whites to be the real oppressed people of American society.

Another interesting finding breaks the alt-right itself into groups:

Some were ‘populists,’ who were concerned about government corruption and were less extremist. The more extreme and racist among them, meanwhile, were the ‘supremacists.’ The authors speculate that people who start out as populists might become radicalized into the supremacist camp as they meet more alt-righters.