The Avenger’s Fractured Song

“I’m of the belief, having covered politics for a long time, that people by and large go by the tone of the person. People can come out of a Trump speech and say, ‘What do you think about him saying, possibly rearming the Japanese with a nuclear weapon?’ ‘I don’t know, I didn’t hear all that clearly, but I like the guy.’ That’s tone, and Trump has mastered it. It’s one reason that if you’re a Democrat and want Hillary Clinton elected, you should be very, very afraid coming into November.”

This is Dan Rather, discussing the media’s influence in aiding Trump’s rise to power.

Rather is, of course, correct on all counts, including the responsibility of American media in creating the Trump phenomenon. His words are worth remembering especially as we are watching Fear and Loathing (and Plagiarism) in Cleveland, or the week-long Trump brand infomercial known as the RNC.

It is, or should be, apparent by now that Trump’s so-called policies as he presents them in public do not have much to do with reality and even less so with his supporters’ enthusiasm for him. Sure, there is The Wall — the biggest, most awesomest wall you’ll ever see, a real beauty, believe me — but even he admits that he uses it as an agitprop to spark enthusiasm during dull moments of his rallies, when, unable to follow his meandering stream of grievances and braggadocio, his supporters start losing interest. His rallying cry We gonna built The Wall! never fails, because it is the theme of projected crime and punishment — or scapegoating and revenge, to be accurate — that’s always the greatest aphrodisiac for narcissists everywhere, both the grandiose and the vulnerable ones.

We’ve talked about the main features of Trump’s speech/talk. His public performances — because calling them speeches does not do them justice — always follow the same predictable script. It is essentially an ongoing list of personal grievances, past and especially present, interspersed with compulsive bragging and punctuated by random (yet often strategic in timing) invocations of issues, which, as he has learned by now, bring him the greatest applause. They are always the same: the Wall, our poor veterans, Crooked Hillary, radical Islamic terrorism, dishonest media, and unfair trade, all tied together with the undercurrent of imminent danger and quasi-militaristic posturing meant to assuage the fears evoked by this danger. Did we mention Crooked Hillary?

He throws out those slogans like bones to his fear-driven and revenge-hungry audiences, who do not notice that none of them are ever elaborated — other than in the context of airing more of Trump’s personal grievances (see dishonest media) — and often are the very issues on which Trump’s personal record is dismal (see his history of scheming our poor veterans’ charities out of their promised donations, for example).

When you listen to Trump, you notice that he is the least coherent when discussing facts and those objective bone-like, non-Trump-related issues, whatever they may be (facts and the objective reality they inhabit are not a narcissist’s strong suit); but his speech flows almost effortlessly and largely coherently when he airs his personal grievances (nothing sets a narcissist afire like frustrated entitlement and the rage it fuels).

This is where Trump feels at home. Aggrieved entitlement is his territory, of which he is an undisputed king. And this is what his followers identify with the most, so much so that they forget he is not, never has been, and never will be one of them. But it is, paradoxically enough, the same narcissistic wound of personal humiliation that binds the spoiled, selfish billionaire who has not put a week of honest work in his life, with his working stiff followers who, after Steinbeck, see themselves as billionaires too, just temporarily down on their luck.

Revenge is the theme of Trumpism. Those pundits and journalists who have not yet noticed it continue to be surprised by the man’s enduring popularity and lecture his supporters about the dangers of racism and bigotry, believing somehow that Trumpists give a damn. Racism and bigotry of all kinds are necessary fortifiers of Trumpism, but those who keep bringing up and condemning Trump’s racism and bigotry as his raison d’etre and THE reason not to vote for him miss the point along with the source of his appeal.

Trump’s bigotry is a fact, but it is a plausibly deniable one, since he would not exert himself to single out anyone, including non-white non-males, for otherization and discrimination. As a supreme narcissist, he is an equal opportunity “natural” dehumanizer: treating anyone as lesser than — if even human — comes as easily to him as breathing (though if you watch his speeches, you’ll notice that his breathing, specifically inhaling, tends to be unsettlingly loud and laborious at times — maybe he should have it checked out). His racism and bigotry are part of his character defect, but not its most obvious or defining feature. In fact, from the perspective of dehumanization inherent in a narcissistic / psychopathic pathology, it is hard to see what the big deal is. Why, he loves broads! Particularly 10s under 30. He’s consistently demonstrated that, has he not? Same with the blacks. Remember his African-American? Didn’t Trump like him at his rally? Nasty people are just looking for any reason to unfairly criticize the great man.

Trumpism is all about revenge, and that revenge is achieved through winning. But it is not just ordinary winning, of the kind that makes the winners happy, proud, and satisfied, and maybe even benevolent toward the losers. Winning with Trump comes at a price — for the winners — and he is not shy about making it known:

If I’m president we’ll win so much, you’ll get bored with winning.

We will have so much winning if I get elected that you may get bored with winning.

Gonna win so much people will say we can’t take it anymore.

We’re going to win, win, win! We’re going to win so much, you’re going to get sick and tired of it. You’re going to say “Mr. President, we can’t take it anymore, we’re winning too much! Because we’re going to make America great again. We’re going to make it greater than ever before!

My father used to say, “Son, you are are too tough.” (…) My father was great. (…) Folks, we’re gonna start winning again. We gonna win so much. You’re gonna be so sick of me, you’re gonna have the justice call me, you’re gonna have the lieutenant governor and the governor call me and say, “Mr. President, the people of NC are sick and tired of winning! You are winning too much! They’re really starting to dislike you, Mr. President.” And I’m gonna tell the justice, and I’m gonna tell the the governor and the lieutenant governor, “I’m sorry, but we’ve gotta keep winning, because we’re gonna make America great again.”‘

So Trumpian Victory™ (new phrase alert!) is as much a promise as it is a threat, because what kind of winning guarantees to overwhelm the winners so much that they would be conquered and vanquished by it?

“Please, we don’t want to win that much anymore, we can’t take it, Mr. President!” And I’m not going to care — we’re going to keep winning!”

Does this not invoke an image of a torture victim begging his or her oppressor to stop? Or, more accurately perhaps, an abused child asking his parent for mercy?

The parent, however, does not care: You are going to keep winning, no matter what! You’ll keep winning even if it destroys you. This is what narcissistic parental abuse looks like, although it is always coached in the language of “It’s for your own good” and “You’re gonna thank me for it one day.” This kind of abuse is perpetrated from one generation to the next, creating new ranks of emotionally crippled, conscience-deficient people, confused and blindly rageful, eager to unload their suppressed pain and anger on others — their children and spouses, and their enemies, real and imagined (though mostly the latter) — especially with the approving nod from their beloved authority figure (boss, commander, god), a substitute for their abusive parent.

Since Donny is always enacting in public his private psychodramas, it is not too farfetched to speculate that this is the same message he received from his father.  Fred Trump called his favorite son “king” and “killer.” Names that our parents give us are powerful: they convey parental feelings, hopes and expectations, helping to shape a child’s character and thus his future. In Donny’s case, they primed him for his apparent character defect, that of narcissistic psychopathy, something he is proud of and the main reason for his appeal today.

Trump’s followers gulp up the promise of this self-destructive winning, as if elated by the prospect of that overwhelm, or at least oblivious to it. No one stops to ask Win what, exactly? because that’s irrelevant. Winning, even if you will get sick of it, is all that matters, according to Trump’s philosophy that appears to have roots as much in the American cultural pathology as it does in his childhood abuse, hinted at so clearly in his speeches, not in the least through his vehement assurances about the awesomeness of his father. (By most accounts, Fred was anything but.)

He promises to abuse his supporters (and the entire nation), and they clap and cheer, conditioned by the mistreatment they experienced in their formative years. Finally they have gotten a ruler who feels familiar to them and speaks their language. They call him Our Glorious Leader and ULTIMATE SAVIOR and Father, in the kind of effusive, histrionic praise that signals a total — and dangerous — devotion to a cult leader, impenetrable to reason.

In his book, Narcissism and Politics, Jerrold Post writes the following about Germany under Hitler:

Especially for the Hitler Youth Movement, which was at the forefront of Hitler’s support, Hitler’s externalizing hate-mongering rhetoric was a comforting and inspiring message, and Hitler provided the strong inspiring father figure that these children could not find within their own families.  But, in rebelling against their own families, they submitted uncritically to Hitler’s authoritarian leadership. Importantly, Adolf Hitler’s unleashing of the demons of war was turning the passive humiliation of defeat [in WWI] into the active experience of redemptive action. (p.34)

Now listen to what this devoted Trump’s fan says:

You taught me how to Win. I appreciate what you’ve done for me personally, and what you’re doing for our country. I know I’m not the only man who admires you, and can’t wait for you to become the father, and leader, of our country. It’s been a long, cold winter for men in America the last 8 years, and I believe that your election will dramatically improve the level of respect, admiration, and love people will show for strong men and Fathers, and will create a new generation of leaders from impressionable young boys.

Narcissistic leaders and their followers fit together like hand and glove, as their pathological needs become  enmeshed, to everyone’s detriment. The leader obtains thousands of mirrors to reflect his glory, an open and ongoing line of narcissistic supply that feeds his insatiable desire for adulation and power, at least for some time; and his followers receive The Ideal to emulate, which, via identification, patches up their inner wounds and makes them feel whole, if only for a while. In this state of heightened narcissistic collusion that suspends reason and conscience, anything, no matter how unrealistic or vile, becomes possible and necessary.

This is often how revolutions or wars get started — incited by the narcissistic leader’s need for power and glory, which is uncritically and enthusiastically reflected by his adoring supporters who eagerly follow his every order. At some point in the future, after the killing exhausts the faithful and the earth is scorched beyond recognition, the bloodlust diminishes for a while, enough for the reality to intrude on that sacred leader-follower bond, opening the eyes of many — but never all — on its destructiveness. As the inevitable disappointment sets in, a few may grow up and out of their need for a strong leader, but most will just seek a new one, assuring the continuation of the destructive cycle, for psychopathically narcissistic leaders always guarantee disorder (there are also positive charismatic/non-psychopathically narcissistic leaders, who can inspire their followers to affect change in the right direction; Trump does not appear to be one of them).

It is no accident that the most enthusiastic Trumpists can be found among the manospheriansalt-righters and neo-Nazis: white men (usually) with a deficient conscience and a sense of hurt and their own, so far unrecognized (but that’s gonna change soon!), specialness. They feel victimized by their own fears, at least some of which come from having to share human rights with the groups that were previously denied them, something they consider both a personal insult and grave threat to their existence. These are the men who live with the specter of white genocide taking place under the feminazi totalitarianism, in their minds already in progress in America. They come from among the spite voters, a large and largely unrecognized voting bloc brilliantly described by Mark Ames — in 2004 — as affected with the Middle American malice:

Spite voting is mostly a white male phenomenon, which is why a majority of white males vote Republican. It comes from a toxic mix of thwarted expectations, cowardice, shame, and a particular strain of anomie that is unique to the white American male experience.

It is not the economic woes that drive their spite, although this explanation always sounds plausible in America, because the deepening inequality with all its sordid effects is an ever present fact of this American life of the past several decades. Trump supporters do not come from the poor; and if they were genuinely interested in improving the lot of the working class, they would support Bernie. But they choose to follow a con artist who capitalizes on their fears and rage, promising them a deal they won’t be able to refuse: he will erase their feeling of weakness by avenging their humiliations, and thus make them feel great again, even if at a price. The Avenger’s fractured song is a siren call for the wounded. Resistance, if there even was a possibility of such, is futile, and so he marches on, in his successful “bid to transform the GOP into the abusive-daddy party,” as Ed Kilgore astutely put it in his analysis yesterday.

I encourage you to read Ames’ 2004 piece because he nails the never-changing psychology of the American spite voter and the liberals’ eternal incomprehension of it:

If I’m an obese 40-something white male living in Ohio or Nevada, locked into a permanent struggle with foreclosure, child support payments and diabetes, then I’m going to vote for the guy who delivers a big greasy portion of misery to the Sarandon-Robbins dining room table, then brags about it on Fox News. Even if it means hurting myself in the process. (…)

It’s simple mathematics: Bring down the coastal elite and the single 40-something Ohio salesman might actually matter.

Even if it means hurting myself in the process. This explains why Trumpian Victory™, winning so much that you beg (and beg, and beg) to stop, is an attractive proposition for so many.

Some do not seem to understand or care about what’s at stake, but that blindness is part and parcel of the narcissistic collusion taking place (which, paradoxically, Trumpism is here to unmask — because its unstated purpose is to make this darkness visible once and for all, whether you want it or not, and especially if not).

I recently came upon a blog written by a white, upper middle class, middle-ageish man who openly supports Trump despite his doubts, having rationalized this stance through his hatred of Hillary.

This is what he said (won’t link):

Some say that Donald Trump is an “authoritarian.” But Trump cares nothing about what I do personally. (…) Trump may be kind of thuggish, but he’ll leave me alone.  

Too bad Martin Niemöller is not available for comment.


Quote of the Day: Real author of “The Art of the Deal” speaks out

“I put lipstick on a pig,” he said. “I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is.” He went on, “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”

If he were writing “The Art of the Deal” today, Schwartz said, it would be a very different book with a very different title. Asked what he would call it, he answered, “The Sociopath.”

Tony Schwartz is being interviewed in this week’s New Yorker. It is a must read.

Quote of the Day: Noam Chomsky in 2010

From Chris Hedges’ 2010 Noam Chomsky Has ‘Never Seen Anything Like This’:

“It is very similar to late Weimar Germany,” Chomsky told me when I called him at his office in Cambridge, Mass. “The parallels are striking. There was also tremendous disillusionment with the parliamentary system. The most striking fact about Weimar was not that the Nazis managed to destroy the Social Democrats and the Communists but that the traditional parties, the Conservative and Liberal parties, were hated and disappeared. It left a vacuum which the Nazis very cleverly and intelligently managed to take over.”

“The United States is extremely lucky that no honest, charismatic figure has arisen,” Chomsky went on. “Every charismatic figure is such an obvious crook that he destroys himself, like McCarthy or Nixon or the evangelist preachers. If somebody comes along who is charismatic and honest this country is in real trouble because of the frustration, disillusionment, the justified anger and the absence of any coherent response. What are people supposed to think if someone says ‘I have got an answer, we have an enemy’? There it was the Jews. Here it will be the illegal immigrants and the blacks. We will be told that white males are a persecuted minority. We will be told we have to defend ourselves and the honor of the nation. Military force will be exalted. People will be beaten up. This could become an overwhelming force. And if it happens it will be more dangerous than Germany. The United States is the world power. Germany was powerful but had more powerful antagonists. I don’t think all this is very far away. If the polls are accurate it is not the Republicans but the right-wing Republicans, the crazed Republicans, who will sweep the next election.”

“I have never seen anything like this in my lifetime,” Chomsky added. “I am old enough to remember the 1930s. My whole family was unemployed. There were far more desperate conditions than today. But it was hopeful. People had hope. The CIO was organizing. No one wants to say it anymore but the Communist Party was the spearhead for labor and civil rights organizing. Even things like giving my unemployed seamstress aunt a week in the country. It was a life. There is nothing like that now. The mood of the country is frightening. The level of anger, frustration and hatred of institutions is not organized in a constructive way. It is going off into self-destructive fantasies.”

“I listen to talk radio,” Chomsky said. “I don’t want to hear Rush Limbaugh. I want to hear the people calling in. They are like [suicide pilot] Joe Stack. What is happening to me? I have done all the right things. I am a God-fearing Christian. I work hard for my family. I have a gun. I believe in the values of the country and my life is collapsing.”


There Is Something about Donny

“When I look at myself in the first grade and I look at myself now, I’m basically the same.” Donald Trump

“He’s still a simple boy from Queens. You can quote me on that.” Maryanne Trump, Donald’s sister

I asked my husband where he’d place Trump on the spectrum of human chronological development. “He is a toddler,” was his reply.

If you too have thought that Donny reminded you of an overgrown toddler, you have excellent reasons for it.

Psychoanalysts believe that narcissism stems from a developmental arrest due to improper (inconsistent, unempathic) parenting and/or trauma (specifically a rejection by the mother/parents) in childhood. It is generally assumed that it happens during the first three, pre-verbal years of life (although other explanations of narcissistic pathology are also possible).

Choosing this point of view as a guide, and remembering that this is speculation and not a diagnosis, let’s count the ways in which Donny is (like) a toddler.

There is that toddlerish pout, the expression of hurt and/or contempt for others, permanently fixed on his resting (and not) face; the toddler-like hand gestures with characteristically splayed fingers which remind every parent of the time their child started walking and kept his arms outstretched in front, in an adorably defensive but ineffective posture (and reminiscent of the recurring SNL adult-toddler skit); and the infamous temper tantrums, complete with outbursts of hostile aggression when things do not go his way.

Then there is the fear of a punitive mommy so strong that it makes him run away from confrontations with assertive, intelligent women who dominate him intellectually and emotionally; the obsession with body functions and toilet activities, which disgust him in women so much that he cannot acknowledge their natural existence (shades of narcissistic overidealization of mother, possibly fixated during toilet training years, as psychoanalysts may speculate); and the tone he uses at his rallies, part a petulant tyke, part Big Daddy trying to reassure his young children that he’ll take care of them and make everything alright, there, there. The last one, playing Big Daddy, hints at what Donny imagines a good father – one he has not had and never was himself – would act like in trying to reassure and protect his children.

And then there is his speech.

Trump’s verbal output has been analyzed by linguists, speechwriters, political experts, and pundits, all of whom noted its strange effectiveness, despite its precious lack of substantive content — although it would be more accurate to state that its lack of substantive content is THE reason for its strange effectiveness. What they all agree on is that his peculiar communication style appeals to voters because of its uniqueness. People are tired of stilted speechifying and find Trump’s direct, highly emotional, and fact-free “telling it like it is” refreshing. Obviously.

The aforementioned analysts focused on either style or substance of his talk (because, as we are being reminded, what Trump does is talk rather than speak), but rarely on both. Style, however, is substance. The way we speak reflects the way we think. The way we think — and act — shows who we are. Who we are is demonstrated in our actions and words.

Trump’s speech, like his behavior, is notable for three major and interrelated features:

1. slipperiness:

1a. lack of substantive content, i.e., facts and their analysis that would show an understanding of how they relate to each other within larger patterns of reality, an evidence of abstract thought;

1b. frequent subject changes suggestive of distractibility, poor impulse control, and, given their emotionally defensive content, unusual psychic fragility;

1c. emotional manipulation, e.g., complimenting a reporter to divert her attention from the issue at hand;

2. high and dramatic emotionality that underlies his black-and-white concrete reasoning: much of what he says, if not all, is about feelings — his own, projected onto others; those feelings center on themes of his greatness, personal threats from others, and self-protection and vengeance  (e.g.,”they destroyed our country and we will take it back”); they give us a glimpse at Donny’s paranoid inner world where “you’re either with me or against me;”

3. solipsism — everything is self-referential, it is all about him; even when he uses others as props in his verbal psychodrama, each verbal output is an occasion for self-aggrandizement and/or expression of hurt and resentment over being treated unfairly.

One common characteristic of pre-verbal toddler cognition is believed to be poor or absent object constancy: infants and toddlers may not understand that things exist objectively and permanently out of their sight (although research in infant cognition shows that babies acquire object permanence, the cognitive basis for object constancy which is used by psychoanalysts in reference to the relationships with the child’s primary caregivers, much earlier than it was previously believed). When an object is in an infant / toddler’s field of vision, he can grasp its existence. When the object is removed, it may as well not exist. Out of sight, out of mind.

With time and the right experience — consistent, loving care giving with adequate mirroring of a child’s emotional states that a secure attachment between parent and child is based on — the child learns that objects, including his parents, come and go, but do not entirely disappear during the absences, and that he can depend on their existence. This forms a basis of his sense of security, in the world and within himself, enabling proper development of his cognitive and emotional capacities, relationships with others that are based on reciprocity and mutual appreciation of each other’s complexity and uniqueness, and explorations of the world beyond the familial sphere.

In cases of abuse, improper parenting, and/or trauma, the child’s development becomes disrupted or sometimes entirely arrested, leading to, among other possible outcomes, narcissism. One of its manifestations is an impaired object constancy capacity.

For an adult with the mindset characterized by the impaired object constancy, facts either do not exist objectively or do not matter, as they can be “disappeared” any time — gotten out of sight and/or wished away by closing one’s eyes, literally and figuratively. Such an adult would have a very tenuous relationship with reality and the truth as most of us know it, and it is not because he’d be lying — in a sense of purposely bending the truth with a specific goal in mind — but because facts for him are not solid entities that exist outside of his field of vision (consciousness); rather they are things that enter and leave it randomly and/or at his wish.

(Of course Donny also lies in the traditional meaning of the term, brazenly and without compunction, to create a self-aggrandizing narrative and to humiliate others, often spreading outright fabrications and insinuations about people whom he sees as his enemies. While we understand and may excuse such blatant truth-bending in very young children, who believe that fabrications would work for them to get them out of trouble, adults are a different matter. And adults aspiring to be president even more so.)

We can see the poor object constancy reflected in a narcissist’s speech, which is infamously impressionistic: vague, light on facts and figures, and full of poorly articulated, but always self-centered feelings and self-referential emotion-laden observations which are based on his (mis)interpretations of reality, as his acknowledgment of facts is only cursory at best. If object constancy is severely impaired, reality as most of us know it does not matter. Reality is not something existing objectively, outside of the narcissist’s mind, but it is only his mind’s reflection, good and/or bad, depending on whether it meets or thwarts his need for adulation. Unmoored from objective facts and not anchored in any values, such reality is always negotiable — to his benefit.

This is why there is so often no discernible, coherent train of reasoning in Donny’s pronouncements, no logical connection between statement A and statement B,  but rather seemingly disconnected emotional “jumps” based on either his deep-seated emotional problems (narcissistic insecurity) and/or fleeting impressions of any given situation / problem. To be sure, those fleeting impressions always express in some way his deep-seated problems — as we have seen, there is really no possibility in his judgment for even a modicum of objectivity; that sometimes his assessments do coincide with objective reality is a matter of luck rather than a correct understanding of facts or any internal deliberations. This is why his talks resemble a word salad – though, more accurately, a clause salad — heavily seasoned, as it usually is in a narcissist, with entitlement, grandiosity, a sense of victimhood, and resentment.  His broken and clumsy syntax reflects his fractured and unstable thoughts, unanchored in anything other than his changing emotions.

This is why Donny can say with a straight face — to the extent a grandiosely contemptuous pout ever allows such — that his financial worth depends on his feelings (My net worth fluctuates, and it goes up and down with markets and with attitudes and with feelings, even my own feelings). Facts are immaterial, or rather are what his feelings make them to be at any given moment — so yes, they change as rapidly as his feelings do.

This is one possible reason why Donny has problems with numbers — in his post-Orlando speech, teleprompted as it was, he announced spontaneously and apparently off-script, with distinctly fake concern and horror, that “So many people — it’s just hard to believe, but just so many people dead, so many people gravely injured,” because remembering specific numbers — 49 and 50 in this case — is not something an impressionistic mind struggling with object constancy does. That’s also why he couldn’t grasp how the Supreme Court most recent 5-3 abortion ruling worked, and why he could mistake 9/11 for 7-11 — there is really no more difference between the two elevens than there is between the two Corinthians.

The orange cat is out of the bag: Donny is numerically (and not just) illiterate – but don’t tell anyone or he will beat you up. And/or sue you (or worse), while telling you what a great guy he is, just awesome, believe me.

Knowing this, one is compelled to wonder just how exactly Donny has made those spectacular deals he likes to brag about so much – the few ones that were supposedly not fraudulent, as most of them appear to be — given that facts and numbers are not his strong suit (to put it kindly). And the answer to that lies in other facets of his narcissistic pathology, specifically his lack of conscience and manipulative approach to people where he uses cajoling, insinuations, bribes, or threats to achieve what he wants (giving us hints about the way he was treated by his parents who most likely made deals with him to control his behavior, or used threats and worse when deal making failed). He leaves the nitty-gritty stuff — facts and figures — for others (confidants and family) to iron out, further deepening his disconnect from reality, particularly its less pleasant aspects, those showing that he may not be as tremendous as he believes himself to be.

There is one exception to his numerical illiteracy, though: his poll numbers which he can remember and recite on demand. (Goes to show the strength of self-serving motivations in a narcissist.)

Narcissistic arrest has of course profound repercussions for emotional and social functioning, limiting it to the same stage of development (around 2-3 years of age), with all the consequences to follow. Those include extreme egocentrism; seeing other people as largely interchangeable and discardable objects of wish fulfillment; categorical good or bad — or nice or nasty, to use a young child’s vocabulary that’s characteristic of Donny — assessment of others based on how well they fulfill the narcissist’s wishes; lack of conscience; and more.

The effects of the arrest on his emotions are most visible when Donny tries to pretend to care about others. Not capable of empathy and pro-social feelings, he must mimic what he believes they look like, so he does it in a typical Trumpian fashion: with over-the-top drama of exaggerated facial expressions and preponderance of adverbs and bombastic adjectives meant to convey his understanding of other people’s pain. This was most apparent in his post-Orlando speeches where, like a bad actor that he is, he laid on thick his grief and horror; yet that performance fell flat – or left the observers uneasy, as it should — because it is obvious that Donny lacks any internal correspondence of the pro-social feelings he is trying to convey. This is why his expressions of them ring fake, even as he goes to great lengths to assure everyone that he is a caring and loving man.

Especially when he goes to such lengths.

The extent of his bragging about his caring and charitable nature appears to be directly proportional to his callousness and cruel stinginess which the bragging is meant to obscure. It is a rule of the Trump’s small thumb, as it is with all narcissists of his kind whose grandiosity functions as a cover for their conscienceless characters and a means of manipulating the world to their advantage: the more they boast about some virtue of theirs, the higher the chances their actual behavior is the exact opposite of the self-promoted virtue.

Poor object constancy is implicated in the rigid fragility of a narcissist’s grandiose persona that compensates for his lack of genuine mental and emotional flexibility; in his defense mechanisms that form his persistent and incorrigible biases; and his rage in response to frustration and, especially, to rejection / abandonment. He must control others, because he cannot trust them. He invests so much of his ego in the other person — who is never fully a person but an object / part of his narcissistic supply — that her (or his, as the case may be) leaving means a psychic death, not unlike his mother’s absence in infancy. The abandonment and the unsoothable terror it creates must be defended against at all costs, by annihilating the offending object if necessary, and sometimes himself right along with it. There is no other option, for there is nothing stable and reliable within his inner core (no authentic self with its values and interests independent of the narcissistic mirrors provided for him by others).

Severe narcissistic disturbance is believed to be largely incurable, unfortunately. The narcissistic arrest removes a possibility of psychological growth, limiting a person’s functioning to a very basic level. While a narcissist of normal intelligence will acquire a vocabulary and basic cognitive and social skills (the latter mostly through mimicry) to navigate life in ways that will help him in trying to meet, often very effectively, his insatiable narcissistic objectives (i.e., adulation and power, serving as protections for his fragile and underdeveloped self), his thinking and emotions will remain severely limited and this arrest will manifest in every aspect of his behavior.

In thinking, the arrest may reduce one’s functioning to concrete operations making it very difficult to develop broad abstract reasoning skills, and resulting, in narcissists of high intelligence, in being smart instead of being bright. Narcissists endowed with high IQ and special talents in specific domains — science, art, technology — may develop those talents to a remarkable extent sometimes; but other areas of their character, most notably the emotional / interpersonal sphere, remain on that very basic, arrested level, reduced to egocentric preoccupations, without a possibility of developing critical self-reflection and capacity for self-education or self-transformation. This will negatively affect all interpersonal relations, including the most intimate ones, which, more often than not, will resemble some forms of “deal making” that are based on an imposition of the narcissist’s terms and will upon others and “convincing” them to go along – or else.

In a rare moment of something almost resembling insight, Trump said once:

When you start studying yourself too deeply, you start seeing things that maybe you don’t want to see. And if there’s a rhyme and reason, people can figure you out, and once they can figure you out, you’re in big trouble.

It is a remarkable statement of a narcissistic vulnerability, within himself and in relation to others, as well as a perfect justification of cultivated narcissistic blindness.

A narcissist cannot look too closely (there is usually not much depth there) at himself, because this could possibly maybe reveal, to himself, the split between his grandiose persona and the primitive, underdeveloped, and/or empty self which the persona is created to cover up. He has no capacity to cope with this knowledge, so it must be denied: his existence depends on it. Of course he does not put it in those terms, but rather as a necessity of defending himself from “big trouble” caused by others, who could use this knowledge against him somehow.

One wonders what exactly Donny had in mind there — we’ll never know; but it shows how he himself sees his own “unpredictable” behavior as a way to defend himself against being taken advantage of / punished (shamed) by others. It’s better not to know one’s own “rhyme and reason” — it makes you “safer,” or so he believes in his magical thinking kind of way, like a toddler who sticks his head under the bed leaving the rest of his body exposed, and thinks that since his head is hidden and he cannot see anyone, others cannot see him either.

Narcissistic Psychopaths R Us

Trump gave a speech in NC last night:

Oops! Sorry, wrong clip.

Here’s the right one:

It is a combo of the usual lies wrapped in misrepresentations, mixed with sleazy, manipulative and nonsensical panderings, all infused with self-aggrandizement, resentment and rage, and played to the Crooked Hillary tune.

Among its highlights are:

1.The Donald’s invention of the term “a rigged system,” something he is very proud of; accusing Hillary of bribing attorney general; and praising his own “tough” temperament in the most unaware way:

“Saddam Hussein was a bad guy, right? He was a bad guy. Really bad guy. But you know what he did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good. They didn’t read them the rights, they didn’t talk. They were a terrorists – it was over. Today, Iraq is Harvard for terrorism.”


3. an escalation of his rage, most apparent toward the end, where, emboldened by his own greatness and the crowd’s enthusiastic response, he lets his inner Adolf fly, although still ever so timidly.

But Donny is just warming up. You haven’t seen anything yet, folks, believe me.

He says as much himself, though not in these very words. In particular, the crescendo of rage in his voice (watch especially from 50:30 on) is a portent of things to come, to be fully experienced a few years into the rule of His Excellency, President for Life, Field Marshal and Supreme Deal Maker Donald Trump, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas and Conqueror of the Planet Earth in the Universe in General and the United States in Particular (this is just a slight paraphrase of the title that Idi Amin gave himself several years into his Presidency for Life).

Take a look at the clip with the fragments of Hitler’s speeches — note the main themes of national victimhood, humiliation, and revenge, which are THE fuel of Trumpism as well.

When FOX resident shrink, Dr. Ablow, asserted in his endorsement of President Trump that

Maybe a narcissistic leader who clearly believes in his own destiny can remind us of America’s manifest destiny.

he was right, in a way — and it is a dangerous way — because leaders like Trump, Hitler, Hussein, and others like them are elected (or “elected”) by the populace just for that reason: to heal their nations’ narcissistic wounds — some imagined, many self-inflicted. This is what Making Our Nation Great Again! is always about and it never ends well.

P.S. This just in: Hitler hates being compared with Trump. Can’t blame the guy, frankly. He comes across as an eloquent and principled idealist vis a vis The Donald. But, every nation gets the Führer it deserves.

Narcissism makes us stupid


Two (not unrelated) examples from my inbox this morning:

In late October 2014, the FBI received an unusual email from a young man named Mohimanul Alam Bhuiya.

Bhuiya, then 25, had joined the Islamic State. Now the longtime Brooklyn resident was desperate and looking for a way out. He wanted the FBI to rescue him.

“I am an American who’s trying to get back home from Syria,” he wrote in his email, according to federal court documents unsealed last month. “I just want to get back home. All I want is this extraction, complete exoneration thereafter, and have everything back to normal with me and my family.”

He added: “I am fed up with this evil.”

As reported by WaPo.

The first uncharitably snarky thought in my morning migraine-addled brain was that it was nice of the resourceful young man to underscore he was finally fed up with this evil. This should make the extraction — a process utilizing multiple resources and risking many people’s lives — easier, along with the complete exoneration and totally normal relations with the family to follow, of course. No biggie.

Much has been made of the young man’s intelligence: apparently he applied to and was accepted at Columbia, but quit after one semester. In high school, he wrote a sample college application essay that was published in the school paper. The parts of the essay reproduced in the media show his fascination with superheroes and greatness, and seeing himself as a superhero in the making. They suggest the kind of narcissistic naivete typical for a young person; but reading the whole essay gives a more nuanced picture. So there may yet be hope for this misguided young man.

There is no hope, however, for the resident FOX psychiatrist, Dr. Keith Ablow, who, over a month ago, penned a flowery endorsement of (gulp) President Trump. It is titled Don’t hate Donald Trump. Here’s why it’s time for a narcissistic president. I will post it in its entirety, because it is so, um, special:

Donald Trump’s critics often brand him a narcissist, citing his tendency to tout his achievements, emblazon his name on skyscrapers and jets and launch scathing verbal attacks on those who criticize him. Well, I think we need the next president to display a healthy dose of narcissism and share it with the American people.

Donald Trump may have unwieldy love for self, but I believe he also has unwieldy love for America. And for him, these two passions may well be intertwined. In loving his freedom to speak bluntly, in loving his freedom to own property, in loving his freedom to unleash his creative force for profit and in loving his ability to hire the best people to work their hardest on worthy projects, I believe he also loves these core elements of America, the American economy and the American dream. 

In this way, Donald Trump is John Wayne. Donald Trump is Babe Ruth. Donald Trump is the Miracle on Ice hockey team that defeated the Soviet team to win Olympic gold in 1980 at Lake Placid. His ego, like theirs, is not untethered from American patriotism. It is inextricably bound to it. 

It is no surprise that Trump has stated his policy will put “America First.” He is as unapologetically a creation of American capitalism as he is his own father’s son – yes, blessed with an inheritance, but inspired, rather than hobbled, by it.

Narcissists can be charismatic and unrelenting and singularly focused on achieving their goals. Is that a horrible description of someone tasked with leading the free world?

We are emerging from Barack Obama’s two terms, during which he cultivated a sense of self-loathing in the American people. He did this by embarking on an apology tour, refusing to completely and clearly repudiate the reverend who preached “God damn America,” encouraging Americans to doubt the fundamental decency of the police officers who serve them, pitting the rich against the poor and minorities against whites and taking no exception to his wife’s statement that (prior to her husband’s political ascendency) she had never felt proud to be an American.

Donald Trump’s prodigious, intertwined love of self and love of country may be the antidote to the poison of self-loathing Barack Obama injected into the very heart of America. 

Strong medicine, Trump is, and not without side effects in the body politic. He enrages those who would ignore our boundaries and our laws. He offends those who attack him and who then seem shocked to be hit back – and much harder. He worries those who see that he might actually tell American creditors who manipulated their currencies and purposefully injured our economy that they may not be handed all the ill-gotten gains they expected. 

See, if you hurt America, I think Donald Trump feels it like a kick to the gut. I think Barack Obama feels like we have it coming.

God uses everyone. Maybe a narcissistic leader who clearly believes in his own destiny can remind us of America’s manifest destiny.

To the person to sent it to me this morning: I forgive you. Maybe. When and if the Excedrin kicks in. Meanwhile, I try to remember that God uses everyone.

The Turn of the Century

by Wislawa Szymborska


It was supposed to be better than the rest, our twentieth century,
But it won’t have time to prove it.
Its years are numbered,
its step unsteady,
its breath short.
Already too much has happened
that was not supposed to happen.
What was to come
has yet to come.
Spring was to be on its way,
and happiness, among other things.

Fear was to leave the mountains and valleys.
The truth was supposed to finish before the lie.

Certain misfortunes
were never to happen again
such as war and hunger and so forth.

The defenselessness of the defenseless,
was going to be respected.
Same for trust and the like.

Whoever wanted to enjoy the world
faces an impossible task.

Stupidity is not funny.
Wisdom is not cheerful.

is no longer the same young girl
et cetera. Alas.

God was at last to believe in man:
good and strong,
But good and strong
are still two different people.

How to live–someone asked me in a letter,
someone I had wanted
to ask the very same thing.

Again and as always,
and as seen above
there are no questions more urgent
than the naive ones.

Translated from the Polish by Joanna Trzeciak.