January 9, 2016

The Trump problem: The threat of narcissistic personality disorder

Donald Trump

Inside of the mind of Donald Trump

 A list of Trump's failures (See Part 2)

Addicting Info, Nov 2015 - A striking number of leading mental health experts are concerned enough about the possibility of a Trump presidency that they’re willing to speak out, publicly, about the candidate’s “Textbook narcissistic personality disorder.”

During a recent interview with Vanity Fair, developmental psychologist Howard Gardner, a professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education, referred to Trump as “remarkably narcissistic,” while clinical psychologist Ben Michaelis used the term “Textbook narcissistic personality disorder,” to describe Trump.

Michaelis went on to explain,

“In the field we use clusters of personality disorders. Narcissism is in cluster B, which means it has similarities with histrionic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder. There are similarities between them.”

Going on, Michaelis described Trump’s constant belittling of other people as a ‘symptom’ of a deeper problem.

“To degrade people is really part of a cluster-B personality disorder: it’s antisocial and shows a lack of remorse for other people. The way to make it O.K. to attack someone verbally, psychologically, or physically is to lower them. That’s what he’s doing.”

Michaelis expressed his concerns about a Trump presidency, saying,

“He’s applying for the greatest job in the land, the greatest task of which is to serve, but there’s nothing about the man that is service-oriented. He’s only serving himself.”

While it was once thought that narcissists were overcompensating for low self-esteem, the latest research suggests that narcissistic personality disorder is defined by a sincere belief that you are superior to others.

According to Psychology Today, “the latest evidence indicates that narcissists are actually secure or grandiose,” not just on a superficial level, but on a subconscious level as well.

A person with narcissistic personality disorder:
  • Reacts to criticism with anger, shame or humiliation 
  • Takes advantage of others to reach his or her own goals 
  • Exaggerates own importance 
  • Exaggerates achievements and talents 
  • Entertains unrealistic fantasies about success, power, beauty, intelligence or romance
  • Has unreasonable expectation of favorable treatment 
  • Requires constant attention and positive reinforcement from others 
  • Disregards the feelings of others, lacks empathy 
  • Has obsessive self-interest Pursues mainly selfish goals
“He’s very easy to diagnose,” psychotherapist Charlotte Prozan told Vanity Fair. “In the first debate, he talked over people and was domineering. He’ll do anything to demean others,” she said.

George Simon, a clinical psychologist who specializes in manipulative personalities, told Vanity Fair that Trump is “so classic that I’m archiving video clips of him to use in workshops because there’s no better example of his characteristics.” He went on to say that without Trump, he “would have had to hire actors and write vignettes,” to illustrate the narcissistic personality disorder for his students. He described the candidate as “a dream come true,” at least from the perspective of having a boatload of free material to use during student lectures.

Licensed clinical social worker Wendy Terrie Behary pointed out that narcissists often have a deliberately distorted interpretation of reality.

She explained to Vanity Fair,

“Narcissists are not necessarily liars, but they are notoriously uncomfortable with the truth. The truth means the potential to feel ashamed. If all they have to show the world as a source of feeling acceptable is their success and performance, be it in business or sports or celebrity, then the risk of people seeing them fail or squander their success is so difficult to their self-esteem that they feel ashamed. We call it the narcissistic injury. They’re uncomfortable with their own limitations. It’s not that they’re cut out to lie, it’s just that they can’t handle what’s real.”

Vanity Fair asked what kind of treatment was available for someone with narcissistic personality disorder. Behary responded by saying she’d be “shocked if Trump walked through her office door. “Most narcissists don’t seek treatment unless there’s someone threatening to take something away from them. There’d have to be some kind of meaningful consequence for him to come in,” she said.

As Harvard professor Howard Gardner pointed out during the interview, as frightening as the idea might be, the real problem facing our nation may not be the threat of a Donald Trump presidency.

“For me, the compelling question is the psychological state of his supporters. They are unable or unwilling to make a connection between the challenges faced by any president and the knowledge and behavior of Donald Trump. In a democracy, that is disastrous,” Gardner said.

Clearly teapublican voters see Trump as a reflection of themselves. As a party, they’re rabidly against treating other people with dignity and respect, calling it “political correctness” – a thing to be despised and rejected at all costs.

The more offensive and disgusting you are, the higher you poll among Republican voters. The more you threaten to harm “lesser” human beings, whether in the name of your “superior” race, religion or creed, the more the rabid right adores you.

...  Not surprisingly, Hitler also was diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder. The lack of empathy and remorse, characteristic of someone with the disorder, explains how he could commit such horrible crimes against other human beings, without ever feeling guilt or remorse.

A short list of other well-known figures with narcissistic personality disorder include, Jim Jones Joseph Stalin The infamous Angel of Death, Joseph Mengele Serial killer Ted Bundy Lee Harvey Oswald Saddam Hussein

It’s no wonder so many mental health experts are sounding the warning about Donald Trump. In spite of the “Goldwater rule,” many mental health professionals feel it is their duty to warn Americans about the dangers of allowing someone with Donald Trump’s psychological makeup to become Commander-in-Chief of the largest and most powerful military force on earth.

Ray Williams, Psychology Today, 2015The public in general and even management experts are hypocritical about what makes a good leader. On the one hand we exalt and praise leaders who are basically nasty and abusive because they are financially successful and on the other hand, research shows that humble leaders whose focus is to serve others are equally successful, but more importantly, capture the hearts and loyalty of others. Which do we value more?

Not that their hubris doesn’t pay off according to a research study completed by Charles A. O’Reilly III at Stanford’s business school. O’Reilly and his colleagues surveyed employees in 32 large, publicly traded tech companies. He contends that bosses who exhibits narcissistic traits like dominance, self-confidence, a sense of entitlement, grandiosity and low empathy, tend to make more money than their less self-centered counterparts, even if the lower-paid CEOs exhibit plenty of confidence. O’Reilly says of the narcissists, “they don’t really care what other people think and depending on the nature of the narcissist, they are impulsive and manipulative.” O’Reilly goes on to argue the longer narcissistic leaders are at the helm, the higher their compensation in comparison with the rest of the leadership team, or in some cases the narcissistic bosses fire anyone who dares to question or challenge them.

There is a dark downside to this appearance of success however, O’Reilly contends. Company morale often declines, and employees leave the company. And while the narcissistic or abusive leaders may bring in the bigger paychecks, O’Reilly says there is compelling evidence that they don’t perform any better than lower-paid, less narcissistic counterparts. This argument has been supported by Michael Maccoby in his book, The Productive Narcissist: The Promise and Peril of Visionary Leadership.

Robert Sutton was one of the first leadership experts to draw attention to the prevalence of abusive bosses and how organizations should screen them out, as detailed in his book, The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t. He points out that tech firms, particularly those in Silicon Valley are where abusive leaders thrive. His article in the Harvard Business Review on the subject received an overwhelming response of affirmation. He says in business and sports it is assumed if you are a big winner, you can get away with being jerk. Sutton argues such bosses and cultures drive good people out and claims bad bosses affect the bottom line through increased turnover, absenteeism, decreased commitment and performance. He says the time spent counseling or appeasing these people, consoling victimized employees, reorganizing departments or teams and arranging transfers produce significant hidden costs for the company. And he warns organizations this behavior is contagious.

...It seems that abusive, narcissistic bosses are alive and doing well in the business world (and politics), and even exalted by the media. This is in sharp contrast to the research showing that humble bosses actually perform better and are better for the organization.

.... Fred Kiel, head of the executive development firm KRW international, recently studied 84 CEOs and more than 8,000 of their employees over the course of seven years. The results, written up in the Kiel’s recent book Return on Character, (link is external)found that people worked harder and more happily when they felt valued and respected. So-called “character-driven” CEOs who possess four virtues—integrity, compassion, forgiveness, and accountability—lead companies whose returns on assets are five times larger than those of executives who are more self-centered, he found.


Anonymous said...

Lee Harvey Oswald likely lacked any serious mental health issues, advancing quickly as an elite intelligence operative at a young age. Trump reacts to criticism with humiliation which Obama personally administered at a dinner once re the question of his birtherism. Sanders of Brooklyn has also made quick work of him calling him a pathological liar, and will beat him in a landslide, if the Dems don't intervene. Among Dems, only Hillary stands a chance at losing to Trump, distracted as she seems to be by legal problems. Her party would survive with Trump in office, and would prefer Trump to Sanders. As polite as Sanders has been, the Dems can sabotage his campaign in the general. The revolution within the party would have to move quickly as he reaches the winning total of delegates and Hillary's superdelegates surrender. The general election could bring Dem Congressional majorities if the Dems were interested in winning behind Sanders.

Anonymous said...

While reading the characteristics of the narcissistic personality disorder, I thought the author could have also been talking about Obama, or even Hillary.

Could it be that these symptoms afflict many politicians?


The late John L. Lewis Whose eyes looked like a couple of Beaver peltsis quoted as saying,
"He who tooteth not his own horn, the same shall not be tooted."

deckbose said...

How could someone suggest that these descriptions conjure up Obama? He's the most self-deprecating politician I've encountered in 45 years of voting. Let me ask the Anonymous commenter who suggested that Obama was a narcisssist, when was the last time you heard Donald Trump make a self-deprecating remark or joke? I'll tell you when -- never. The man is incapable of seeing himself in any other light except that of champion, victor, vanquisher and adored tyrant. Pretty much none of which is true.

Anonymous said...

Donald trump is hilarious. I kinda think Obama may be narcissistic as well but a vulnerable narcissist. He always wants to be coming out on TV. Worse, I feel like he's gonna win. Sure its funny now. He's gonna start a war with Mexico. I live on the border; how am I supposed to get my xanax when this happens?