A guest post by Frank Zindler. As always, this blog’s posters are speaking only for themselves and not for any organization for which they may be affiliated.
I have asserted that president-elect Donald J. Trump is certifiably insane. More specifically, I have argued that he suffers from a mental illness known as “Narcissistic Personality Disorder,” and that this not only makes him unfit to be president of the United States of America, it makes him a threat to the very existence of our constitutional form of government. I have already noted that Vladimir Putin, his ostensible controller, also suffers from the same disorder but appears not to be as crippled by the condition as is Trump. (Other notable Narcissists of modern history were Benito Mussolini—practically the archetype for Trump—Adolf Hitler, and Joseph Stalin.)
The psychiatric professional handbook published by the American Psychiatric Association, DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition), in Section 301.81 defines the disorder generally as “A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood, and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:”
The general definition is then followed by nine “Diagnostic Criteria”:
1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements.
2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
3. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
4. Requires excessive admiration.
5. Has a sense of entitlement (i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations).
6. Is interpersonally exploitative (i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends).
7. Lacks empathy, is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.
All nine criteria, not just five of them, are astonishingly satisfied by Donald Trump—so much so that one can see most of them exhibited during any encounter with him that lasts an hour or more. As one recalls his outrageous behavior during the campaign and the debates, it almost seems as though the authors of DSM-5 were distilling observations of Trump for the purpose of defining the clinical condition in the manual. The archetypal narcissism of Trump was so strongly manifest during the Republican primary and presidential campaigns of 2016 that eighteen psychiatrists—most of them Jungian analysts—were alarmed enough to write a book about it, A Clear and Present Danger: Narcissism in the Era of Donald Trump (Leonard Cruz and Steven Buser, editors, Chiron Publications, 2016).
The editors, Leonard Cruz and Steven Buser, present some of Trump’s most glaring quotations in their introductory chapter “The Goldwater Rule: Crossing the Border of Assessing Public Figures.” While these all will be well known to readers of this blog, repeating some of them is in order to exemplify the degree to which the diagnostic criteria are fulfilled by Trump:
“I get along with everybody. People love me, and you know what? I’ve been very successful; everybody loves me.” (July 2016 interview with Anderson Cooper)“All of the women on ‘The Apprentice’ flirted with me—consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.” (Donald Trump, How to Get Rich, 2004)
“The greatest builder is me, and I would build the greatest wall you have ever seen.” (May 2015 speech in South Carolina)
“I’ve always been there. In school, I was always successful. In life, I was always successful. My father was a successful real estate developer and he was a very tough man but a good man. My father would always praise me. He always thought I was the smartest person. He said to one of the big magazines that everything he touches turns to gold. At a very young age. So I don’t know.” (December 2015 interview with The Washington Post)
In response to Spy magazine’s go-to qualifier of Trump as a “short-fingered vulgarian,” Trump told Page Six,:
“My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well-documented, are various other parts of my body.”
“If I were a liberal Democrat, people would say I’m the super genius of all time. The super genius of all time. If you’re a conservative Republican, you’ve got to fight for your life. It’s really an amazing thing.” (August 2015 interview with “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd)
(Referring to the State Department) “I used to use the word incompetent, now I just call them stupid. I went to an Ivy League school. I’m very highly educated. I know words—I have the best words—but there’s no better word than stupid.” (December 2015 Campaign Rally in Hilton Head Island, SC)
“I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall.” (June 2015, Trump’s announcement that he was running for President)
“I think apologizing’s a great thing, but you have to be wrong. I will absolutely apologize, sometime in the hopefully distant future, if I’m ever wrong.” (September 2015, on The Tonight Show)
“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” (January 2016 rally)
It really requires nothing more than this to show that Donald J. Trump is not just a clever entertainer pretending to play the part of a narcissist. He is a pathological narcissist as defined by DSM-5. But there is yet more to this diagnosis—something that isn’t really discussed in DSM-5 Section 301.81. That is due to the fact that Trump is so extreme a narcissist that he has carried the narcissistic personality disorder to the level of a reality-distorting psychosis.
For months we have tallied up Trump’s “lies” and contrasted them with those of Hillary Clinton and other candidates in the 2016 election. Fact-checkers simply burned out after several months of the bewildering barrage of post-Truth claims issuing from Trump and his campaign. Many of us chortled as again and again, Trump reversed himself on any particular claim and even denied that he had ever claimed the opposite! It now seems to me that in those cases Trump was not really lying—that is, he was not consciously making false statements. Rather, whatever he said was his reality of the moment. His egocentricity is so powerful a filter for his sensorium that real is whatever he needs to be real at the moment, under those particular circumstances. Tomorrow, his needs may be different, and “reality” must change accordingly.
It is this psychotic aspect of Trump’s narcissism that has led to editorials in leading scientific journals such as Science and Nature with titles such as “Doing science in a post-truth era.” The scientific community is scared. Very scared.
Next: Russian connections
Frank Zindler is the past interim President of American Atheists, a member of the American Atheists board of directors, the chief editor of American Atheists Press, and an esteemed academic and activist.
Photo credit: Jill Carlson (jillcarlson.org); https://flic.kr/p/w5fe2F
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