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.

Sep 13

When Narcissism a Trait, Not Necessarily Disorder

Narcissism is an inflated sense of self. It is thinking that you are better than you actually are. It is a complicated trait with lots of different correlates to it, but it does include things like seeking fame, attention, vanity, and so on. However, its main characteristic is its self-centeredness. Jean M. Twenge

Several notable books, one brand new, take on the type of narcissism that is not necessarily a personality disorder but actually a relatively common personality trait.

I. The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement (2009) by Drs. Jean M. Twenge, W. Keith Campbell 

The authors address such questions as, how is narcissism not just high self-esteem? One main difference, they say, is that narcissists lack the ability or interest in nurturing their relationships.

Other “signs of narcissism” according to Twenge:

  • Overconfidence
  • Being delusional about one’s own greatness
  • Over-optimism
  • Taking too many risks
  • An inflated, unrealistic sense of self
  • Alienation from other people
  • Entitlement, the expectation of having things handed to you without much effort
  • Not caring about others.

II. Rethinking Narcissism: The Bad–and Surprising Good–About Feeling Special (2015) by Craig Malkin

Rethinking Narcissism is about de-pathologizing the term. “The truth is,” states the book blurb, “that narcissists (all of us) fall on a spectrum somewhere between utter selflessness on the one side, and arrogance and grandiosity on the other. A healthy middle exhibits a strong sense of self. On the far end lies sociopathy.”

Although Malkin has a self-test on his website, psychologist Leon F. Seltzer (Psychology Today) says the longer book version of Malkin’s test is “alone worth the price of the book.” (He also highly recommends Rethinking Narcissism as a whole.)

III. Everyday Narcissism: Yours, Mine, and Ours by Nancy Van Dyken (September 12, 2017)

In an interview with Psychology Today, author Van Dyken defines “everyday narcissism” as “a low-grade, garden-variety form of narcissism that most of us struggle with, often on a daily basis.” Reports Publishers Weekly, “everyday narcissism” includes “the resulting passivity, inability to discuss emotion, and self-denial” that arises from being taught certain myths from an early age.

These five myths have been typically handed down from one generation to another and are as follows:

  • We are responsible for—and have the power to control—how other people feel and behave.
  • Other people are responsible for—and have the power to control—the way we feel and behave.
  • The needs and wants of other people are more important than our own.
  • Following the rules is also more important than addressing our needs and feelings.
  • We are not lovable as we are; we can only become lovable through what we do and say.

One of Van Dyken’s various recommendations is to learn how to say no, which in her work as a therapist is “one of the hardest pieces of homework I give to people.” Her advice will go something like this: “I’d like you to say ‘no, that won’t work for me’ three times this week.” As she recently related to Mike Zimmerman, tonic.vice.com, “It might take someone 3 months to learn how to do that.”

Jan 23

Trumpism: And Related Terms We Know Better Now

As we’ve now officially crossed into the era of President Trump and Trumpism, some of the important terms we now know or need to know better:

Trumpism

A Johns Hopkins college syllabus (JHU) that went viral post-election states that it involves “personal and political gain marred by intolerance, derived from wealth, and rooted in the history of segregation, sexism, and exploitation.”

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

If President Trump indeed suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or NPD, most in my field won’t publicly declare it because of an ethical code that prohibits such diagnoses without an appropriate in-person professional assessment.

However, last November three noted female psychiatrists (see previous post) provided President Obama supporting information about NPD—in case of its possible relevance.

A particularly salient point from their letter (Richard Greene, Huffington Post):

There are only two ways to deal with someone with NPD, and they are both dangerous. There is no healthy way of interacting with someone with this affliction. If you criticize them they will lash out at you and if they have a great deal of power, that can be consequential. If you compliment them it only acts to increase the delusional and grandiose reality the sufferer has created, causing him to be even more reliant on constant and endless compliments and unwavering support.

Gaslighting

As quoted in my previous post on gaslightingSusan Dominus, New York Times:

When I watch Donald Trump, I sometimes feel like Ingrid Bergman — not European and glamorous, but unnerved, as though I’m being gaslit, as in the famous plot of her old classic movie ‘Gaslight.’ The lights are flickering, but her character’s husband, who is secretly a seriously bad dude, is convincing her that no such thing is occurring. He is trying to get her to question her sense of reality, to think her mind is playing tricks on her — in short, to convince her that she is going slightly crazy, a tactic that can be scarily effective.

Post-Truth

Post-truth was named Oxford Dictionary‘s 2016 international word of the year: “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

Indeed, as was confirmed just yesterday, Trumpism actually employs “alternative facts”—or what the rest of us call “lies.”

Toxic Masculinity

Not only is it bad for one’s own mental health and social functioning, reports Kevin McCarthy (Healthline), those who have toxic masculinity are less likely to seek help. Among the associated traits are exertion of power over women, misogyny, violence, and homophobia.

Xenophobia

The Word of 2016 picked by Dictionary.com is xenophobia, described as “fear of the other.” Katy Steinmetz, Time, notes that both listed definitions reflect sentiments that apply here:

1. fear or hatred of foreigners, people from different cultures, or strangers. 2. fear or dislike of the customs, dress, etc., of people who are culturally different from oneself.

Normalization

According to New Republic, “Normalization is saying yes to racism, sexism, and homophobia. It is saying yes to deplorable and offensive behavior. And it is saying no to those who believe differently, reaffirming that our definition of normal in this country most often comes from one dominant group.”

Trump Anxiety and Trumpsomnia

Anxiety and sleep disturbance often go hand in hand. Scott Timberg, Salon: “One of the ironies here is that several of those suffering from Trumpsomnia describe the election as ‘a bad dream.’ But it’s one they don’t seem to be able to wake up from.” Sleep remedies may provide only a short-term fix. Though, “Impeachment would work,” said one sufferer.

Mar 19

“Oz Great and Powerful” As Narcissist In Growth Process

Today’s number one box-office hit Oz the Great and Powerful is a “prequel” to the classic The Wizard of Oz. It’s about how the Wizard actually gets to Oz in the first place.

In clinical social worker Eleanor Payson‘s book The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship in Work, Love, and Family (2002), she “illustrates how Dorothy’s journey captures all the seductive illusions and challenges that occur when we encounter the narcissist.”

The following excerpt from the first chapter of Payson’s book describes some of the signs of NPD, or narcissistic personality disorder:

Unhealthy narcissism is occurring when an individual excessively pursues admiration, attention, status, understanding, support, money, power, control, or perfection in some form. It also means that the NPD person is not able to recognize, other than superficially, the feelings and needs of others. The rules of reciprocity are not operating in the relationship. This is not to say that NPD individuals don’t often shower others with attention, gifts, or favors. Indeed, they often do. But the ultimate goal is always for some kind of return. The giving may be to foster a certain image or an overall feeling of indebtedness in you, such as an IOU note to be called in at some other time. You, of course, would rather believe you received the gift because you are cared for and valued.

A passage from Payson’s book that further describes how the narcissist uses manipulation to get his or her needs met:

The narcissist has learned that other people do not always do his bidding or meet his demands in the way he expects. He has, therefore, developed manipulation skills, sometimes deceitful, to achieve his goals. Sometimes these skills are a highly developed ability to charm and bring others under his spell or influence.

Other times, he may be exceptionally good at using intimidation, power plays, or intellectual prowess. Yet another style is the martyr manipulation of using helplessness, obligation, or guilt. In many ways, the narcissist has assessed, with considerable skill, the vulnerabilities of another person. He then effectively manipulates this person until he achieves his desired outcome.

The Wizard in Oz the Great and Powerful

As played by James Franco, Wizard-to-be Oscar Diggs is a magician from Kansas who wants to be not a “good man” but “a great man.” Unfortunately, Franco’s performance and/or suitability for the role has been widely criticized.

Yes, Some Viewers Do Indeed Find the Narcissism

IGN: “Diggs is a dangerously irresponsible narcissist at the start of the film and his journey is to become a leader that the people of Oz can believe in. It is less about him being powerful, or great as he imagined greatness to be (full of pomp and fame), and more about him being man enough to give the citizens of Oz the confidence to fight for themselves.”

1amgeek: “Oz the magician is a con-man who has tangoed with one too many women in his time, which has put him on the run, landing him smack dab in the middle of Oz, a land which just so conveniently is named after him. Oz The Great and Powerful follows this man’s journey from narcissistic ninny to the good man he never thought he was.”

It’s been suggested by some that Diggs’s less appealing traits are more tolerable by the end because of his eventual growth into a somewhat better human being.

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.