Jul 20

Mary Trump: 45’s Failures As Well As His Enablers’

The only niece of Donald J. Trump and a clinical psychologist, Mary Trump has titled her new book Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man. States Ted Johnson, Deadline, her wording “is perhaps apt for this moment, as the president dominates each news cycle yet is seemingly unable to sit one out. It’s a bit of a personality paradox that she ascribes to the president: the insecurity of feeling less than and greater than at the same time.”

Among the diagnoses the author believes 45 has are narcissistic personality disorder, dependent personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, a learning disability, and a sleep disorder. But, “The fact is, Donald’s pathologies are so complex and his behaviors so often inexplicable that coming up with an accurate and comprehensive diagnosis would require a full battery of psychological and neurophysical tests that he’ll never sit for.”

Kurt Andersen, Los Angeles Times: “Her basic theory of the case is that Fred, the patriarch of ‘my malignantly dysfunctional family,’ a crude, cruel, selfish, boastful, money-grubbing liar, raised his second son to become a crude, cruel, selfish, boastful, money-grubbing liar.” Paternal approval was contingent on such traits as being a “killer,” for example. “And so Donald’s transgressions ‘became an audition for his father’s favor, as if he were saying ‘See, dad, I’m the tough one. I’m the killer.’”

Supporting this premise, per Lloyd Green, The Guardian, “Mary Trump writes that if the president ‘can in any way profit from your death, he’ll facilitate it, and then ignore the fact that you died’.”

Even if no one is particularly surprised by Mary Trump’s revelations, perhaps we can at least reflect on the parallels between his “malignantly dysfunctional family” and what he’s been creating in the government and in our society. On such current crises as COVID-19, for instance, she states:

His ability to control unfavorable situations by lying, spinning, and obfuscating has diminished to the point of impotence….His egregious and arguably intentional mishandling of the current catastrophe has led to a level of pushback and scrutiny that he’s never experienced before, increasing his belligerence and need for petty revenge as he withholds vital funding, personal protective equipment, and ventilators that your tax dollars have paid for from states whose governors don’t kiss his ass sufficiently.

But the pandemic, of course, is not all. Carlos Lozada, Washington Post: “All the chaos playing out on the national and world stage is a form of family dysfunction writ largest, she explains, with the president’s incessant bragging and bluster directed at ‘his audience of one: his long-dead father’.”

What matters most now, though, is that Trump continues to occupy the White House despite his vast shortcomings and has major enablers. As Megan Garber, The Atlantic, reports, in addition to both her grandparents Mary Trump also blames “the banks that, having vested interests in Trump’s self-mythology, financed him through bad investments and bankruptcies. She blames the media—the tabloids of the 1980s, the television shows of the early 2000s, the political press of 2016—that treated his lies as harmless entertainment. She blames all those who know what he is and still do nothing.”

Of those who know and do nothing, many are appointed, many are elected. With different leadership, the newly elected will replace the appointed in question. To put an end to Trumpism, we need to vote as though our lives depend on it—because, of course, they do.

Oct 31

“Gone Girl”: Major Spoilers (For Those Who’ve Already Seen It)

***The following post is intended for those who had some questions after seeing the movie Gone Girl. In other words, read ahead only if you’re interested in major spoilers.***

If you saw Gone Girl in time for Halloween, good timing! And you’ll know what Linda Holmes of NPR means when she says: “…(T)he second half…is, in many ways, a horror movie about the great difficulty — and eventually the impossibility — of defeating her. She is the rare monster in a monster movie who wins at the end. Whatever she has to do, however offensive, however distasteful, however horrifying.”

What’s Amy’s Diagnosis?

Although psychiatrist Andrew Pierce (Health) allows that Amy is a “psychopath” he’s quick to add that this is becoming an outdated term within the field. Antisocial personality disorder is more appropriate.

Paul Puri, another psychiatrist interviewed (The Huffington Postregarding this issue, agrees. About the criteria:

…People who have no conscience and do things to abuse or hurt other people to a high degree of psychopathy, where they will hurt other people for their own enjoyment…They’re believed to have difficulty getting excited by…things other than cruelty or taking advantage of it.

Each of these experts adds that Amy also has aspects of Borderline Personality Disorder. States Puri about those with this condition:

Their core self feels very unstable, so they’ll do things to kind of help them feel more stable, and that will often be things like pulling people in to take care of them or in behaviors such as cutting themselves or parasuicidal behaviors like cutting or burning or getting hospitalized for the purpose of being taken care of. The other aspects of it are emotional mood swings in very brief periods, so they overreact to things that otherwise they might not react to.

The Effects of Being Raised as “Amazing Amy”?

Mark B. Borg, Jr., PhD, Grant H. Brenner, MD, and Daniel Berry, RN, MHA, who share a website called Irrelationship, state on their Psychology Today blog: 

Amy’s parents appropriated her childhood. Every detail of Amy’s upbringing was embellished in the pages of her parents’ highly successful children’s book series—and that is how Amy Elliot became Amazing Amy. Through the persona of ‘Amazing Amy,’ every failure and near miss was transformed into an unconsoled victory. Amazing Amy took care of her parents in every possible way: wealth and fame bought at the cost of their daughter’s development.

Most likely she’s a product of both nature and nurture, says Pierce. “Part of it is her disposition, and part is her parents not correcting and even worsening these tendencies. Her parents could have, if not tempered, at least not exacerbated what’s going on with her.”

THE ENDING OF GONE GIRL: Why would Nick stay with Amy?

The answer is found in the concept of “Irrelationship,” say the site’s authors. From their front page: “An Irrelationship is a kind of secret unconscious agreement between two people to ACT like they are together and loving – but the REAL reason is to keep them from feeling their feelings, and stay in denial about past problems.”

From the pertinent Psychology Today post:

An irrelationship is a pseudo-partnership. It may look intimate, but it’s actually carefully constructed—usually without the participants’ awareness—precisely to avoid the openness, spontaneity, and reciprocity that characterize true intimacy, while enforcing the relational rules and roles of early childhood. And this repeats in our adult relationships—it may be why we end up in one bad relationship after another. And every time, it feels just like going home. Maybe that is why, in the final moments, as Nick is telling his sister about Amy’s pregnancy, and she is crying in anguish over her brother’s horrific fate, he seems to change. He looks relieved; at least, resigned. It seems that Nick is realizing (a la Poe’s, ‘The Purloined Letter’) that the letter always reaches its destination, and that this is a fate that was not imposed by but co-created with his partner.

And Dr. Puri sees another possible reason Nick stays (plus one similar to the above):

People can end up very desensitized…If you drop a frog in boiling water, he’ll jump right out. If you drop a frog in cold water and turn up the heat, he’ll slowly boil to death, because he just doesn’t realize enough to sense the big jump. So, there might have been small things that slowly progressed, and he made a reason for it, and before you know it things are so out of control that he doesn’t even see how far that’s departed from normal…The other thing is the nature of the way people repeat patterns in their lives. They often try to reset or correct a bad experience, but often they just keep on repeating it. So, if he is drawn to her, many times people are drawn to things that repeat from similar drama earlier in their life and they’re trying to, unconsciously, have a corrective emotional experience where things go better this time.

Yeah, About That Majorly Disheartening Gone Girl Ending

Emily Yahr, Washington Post:

Overall, this ‘happily ever after ending’ for the World’s Most Dysfunctional Marriage is a lot more difficult to take when you see Amy’s path of destruction. While Nick was a terrible husband, you can’t help but feel for him the entire film, especially when it’s repeatedly stated that Missouri has the death penalty if he’s convicted of killing Amy. When he’s ‘saved’ after she returns, you’re relieved for a second; but then you really, really want Amy to get the punishment she deserves for pulling off such a scheme.

…Unfortunately, in the movie, there’s no such closure — we’re just left with the unsettling feeling that many more terrible things are about to happen.

Mar 20

Is Your Boss a Narcissist? (Kinda Like Miranda Priestly?)

Is your boss a narcissist? Well, does his or her behavior resemble that of fashion magazine editor Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), the demonic boss in The Devil Wears Prada (2006)? Because almost everyone seems to believe she’s a really good example of a narcissist.

Marco R. della Cava, USA Today, writes about asking Dr. Paul Babiak, co-author of Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work, about the Priestly character“As the ability to diagnose psychopathic behavior has improved, we find there are more women who fit this profile,” he states.

Or perhaps she’s a psychopathic narcissist? A narcissistic psychopath? A psychopath who’s also a narcissist? This sort of parsing is precisely what the DSM folks were getting at with their thoughts about eliminating NPD in the next edition—and placing it instead under Antisocial/Psychopathic Personality Disorder. But this has been dismissed for now.

(Charles Zanor reported on this for the New York Times in his aptly titled “A Fate That Narcissists Will Hate: Being Ignored.”)

But, do we really care that much about how to diagnose Miranda Priestly? We just don’t want her as our boss.

Andrea, Anne Hathaway‘s character, does, of course, wind up experiencing the misfortune of getting hired after all. And of course is wildly mistreated by boss Priestley.

If you are unlucky enough to have a boss who’s a bully or a manipulator or a puppetmaster, these just happen to be the three types of psychopaths Babiak and Hare, authors of Snakes in Suits, believe exist. Constructive advice is provided in the book about how to deal with them.

Mar 19

“Horrible Bosses”: Is Your Boss a Psychopath Like Dave Harken?

Listen to me, you stupid little runt. I OWN YOU. You’re my BITCH! So don’t walk around here thinking you have free will because you DON’T. I can break you anytime I want! Dave Harken, boss portrayed by Kevin Spacey in Horrible Bosses

It’s Monday morning. Do you know if your boss is a psychopath?

Well, first, do you even know what a psychopath is? I for one have not always been sure. It’s a term too loosely thrown around.

If you look for it in the DSM, it’s currently hidden within Antisocial Personality Disorder. Wait until 2013, though, and word is that you just might find it as Antisocial/Psychopathic Personality Disorder. Maybe. We don’t know yet for sure.

And now I will proceed to list all the traits that define psychopathic personality disorder…

Not. It’s so much more fun to illustrate with an example.

When the movie Horrible Bosses came out last year, management coach Phil Hayes reportedly stated that “by far the most realistic” portrayal of a bad boss in the film was Kevin Spacey‘s character, Dave Harken. Harken is “a psychopath who likes nothing more than tormenting his employees.” (Source: Laura BarnettThe Guardian.)

Before going any further, let’s meet Harken. View the movie trailer below to catch glimpses of such horrible behavior as Harken tricking an employee (played by Jason Bateman) into working hard for a deserved promotion–and then yanking it out from under him:

So, then, what is a psychopath? Writer Kevin Voigt cites Clive Boddy, author of Corporate Psychopaths: Organizational Destroyers (2011), as stating: “Psychopaths are great bullies. They are cunning and manipulative, and great at engineering situations. Although they don’t have emotions themselves, they can create emotional situations. The rest of us don’t even realize we’re being manipulated until it’s too late.”

Chances are better than you might think that you have a boss who is one. Voigt reports on a 2010 study that “found about 4% of senior managers displayed psychopathic tendencies, up from the 1% that researchers say could normally be found in society.” That’s one in 25, by the way.

Voigt also provides a relevant quiz developed by psychologists Robert Hare and Paul Babiak, authors of Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work (2007). Take the quiz. Read the books. Maybe you’ll figure out if your boss is one of these dreaded types. Or maybe you already know.

Is it any wonder that the black-comedy cinematic solution becomes joining forces with other mistreated employees of “horrible bosses” to do them all in?

Special note: Such behavior is not condoned by this blog.