Malignant Narcissism and Subjective Reality: a primer

For several years now I’ve seen people wringing their hands about Donald Trump over one specific thing that I intrinsically understand about him but that most people seem unable to.  It was evident in his campaign and has only become more evident since his sham of an election: Trump lives in his own extremely subjective reality.  If you’re on Twitter and you read @docrocktex26 then you know what I’m talking about.

Donald Trump is a raging, decompensating, malignant narcissist.  It was obvious during his campaign and it has become so obvious now that it would be painful to watch if he wasn’t also such a horror of a human being and in a position to destroy so many lives as his own falls apart around him.

I’ll go ahead a put the disclaimer here now: I’m not a doctor, psychologist, social worker, or other medical or mental health professional.  I am someone who’s had 25 years of experience dealing in my own life with a malignant narcissist.  I can spot them quickly now and I have seen what they’re like, especially when they have a secondary diagnosis which aggravates the first.  In Trump’s case that appears to be Alzheimer’s or a form of dementia.

Here’s why all of this is important.  The media, the general public, and lots of folks in the government keep asking the same questions over and over again.  “Why does he lie so obviously?  Doesn’t he know we can fact check him?  Why does he say outlandish and patently, provably wrong things?  Who does that?  When will it stop?”  Pro Tip: It won’t.

The answer is not that Donald Trump has some special disregard for the truth or the rules.  The answer is not that he’s extra stupid (he’s just garden variety stupid, folks).  The answer is that someone who is that serious a narcissist constructs a world view in which the only thing that matters is what they think, say, and do.  That means that his entire reality is subjective and fluid.  If he says that he talked to the Boy Scouts, then he did so.  If he says that Heather Heyer’s mother loved what he said, in his mind she did.  Even if the call never really happened.  When lies are pointed out to him he simply waves them away.  We are in the wrong, you see.

It’s hard to explain this to neuro-normative folks and those who haven’t seen a narcissist up close in person and in action, but these people are so good at manipulation that they believe their own lies to the exclusion of all else.  Because deep down their own psychological injury and ego steers everything they do, they fit the world around them to to their own narrative.  Most importantly, narcissists are completely devoid of empathy.  While some of you may have heard that said, the ramifications of what it means regarding subjective reality are incredibly important.

Someone like Trump understands himself to be the center to his own universe.  His family, children, wife and ex-wives, and grandchildren are, at best, extensions of his own ego.  They are trophies to be held up and stared at and to be shoved aside and ignored when inconvenient.  He is not capable of actually loving them and they are a means to an end to be used when he needs them, ignored or worse when he doesn’t.

Putin, on the other hand, is a goal.  Putin himself could be anyone in the world, who he is as a person doesn’t really matter.  What he represents is everything.  He is a crime kingpin, the leader of a massive country that he controls with iron grip, and he is the wealthiest man on the planet.  For Trump, attaining the presidency of the United States was really a booby prize by comparison.  What he wants, more than he’s ever wanted anything, is to be the richest, sexiest, baddest, blondest, strongest, most terrifying man in the entire world.  His continued relationship with Putin proves that he is willing to do anything to get to where he perceives Putin to be.

Do I agree that Putin is “richest, sexiest, baddest, blondest, strongest, most terrifying man in the entire world?”  While it’s more than probable that he’s the richest man in the world, I don’t agree with the rest.  Most westerners won’t.  But Putin projects the exact image that Trump has created in his own mind about himself.  So he’ll stop at nothing to achieve and reinforce that goal (especially as he ages and his Alzheimer’s makes it more difficult to sustain his own self image).  This includes treason, sedition, and more prosaic things like joining forces with white supremacists, Nazis, and neo-Confederates.

At his core is this malignant narcissist a racist and bigot?  Yes.  And no.  Oh, I’m quite sure he was gleefully taught racism, sexism, homophobia, and hatred at his father’s knee.  There are reports going back to his elementary school days of Trump being a bully.  But we have to remember that with someone who is a narcissist we’re working with more than a learned behavior.  There was more going on when he was finally forced by his staff to read his too late, too short condemnation of what happened in Charlottesville last weekend, and that’s this: he fundamentally doesn’t care about anyone other than himself.  He can’t, he lacks the basic programming to do so and doesn’t care to try to learn how.

Bigotry is a super convenient vehicle for a narcissist to express a general disdain for anyone who isn’t them.  A narcissist on the level of Trump is so emotionally stunted and isolated from the rest of us that hate is easy.  Hate is a tool.  Choosing to “other” the rest of us and make us the enemy, use us as tools to achieve a particular goal, or simply destroy us for fun isn’t a hard decision to make.  For Trump, deciding to allow or encourage the deaths of peaceful protesters, students, bystanders, or anyone else not integral to his need to become Putin 2.0 is simpler than choosing which tie to wear.

If my experience is any indication, he’s only going to get worse.  He’s only going to get less in touch with objective reality and he’ll isolate himself more by tossing more and more members of his inner circle under the proverbial bus.  While I’d be happy to see Bannon, Miller, and the Gorkas without the protections afforded by their jobs, the only way we get Trump out of the White House is legally.  His frothing Nazi base has been given the green light and they will continue to show up in parks across America to preach hate until we stop them, one rally at a time.

Our job is to keep our eyes on the ball, remembering that sometimes this game has more than one ball in the air at a time.  We need to fight the Nazis while calling them what they are.  We need to follow the Russia scandal and keep it in the news, this is what will get him.  We need to support each other, none of us can be on all the time, this is exhausting.  And, most importantly, we need to keep the pressure on.  While Trump is the head of the snake, this is a long snake with deep roots in American history.  We need to pull the whole thing out before we can begin to heal and fix this country.

~Kelly

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My first ever political protest

While I have been in parades and candlelight vigils and such, I have never been in what could be called a political protest until this weekend.  But I am glad I did it.  In fact, it has given me a great deal of satisfaction, and has cheered me up somewhat from what has been for some time a generally dark mood.  The crowd ended up being MUCH bigger than was originally anticipated.  I think they were expecting maybe 90,000 people, but the totals were probably more like 150,000 to 175,000.

We saw these two women dressed as suffragettes, and I just had to get a picture with them. LOVED it.
We saw these two women dressed as suffragettes, and I just had to get a picture with them. LOVED it.

I would never have imagined that I would look back on the Presidency of George W. Bush with any type of nostalgia.  And I certainly never imagined that I would live to see a Presidency that was not only worse than Bush’s, but is well on the way to topping the administration of James Buchanan as the absolute worst Presidency of all time.

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Trans Scripts – The A.R.T. Celebrates the Transgender Community

As we are about to watch these United States pass into the hands of a fascist demagogue who will likely attempt to roll back historic gains for minorities of every kind, let us take a moment and celebrate the, “… rich and diverse experiences within the transgender community.”

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An appeal for a special U.S. Park Service Ranger #bettyreidsoskin

Before I start talking about this particular Park Service ranger, I wanted to put it in context of my own relationship with the Park Service.  I have been a fan of the Park Service for a very, very long time, at least since I was a boy.  And for about a decade in my twenties and early thirties I was a volunteer for them at Stones River National Battlefield (in fact, you can occasionally still see a photo of me in my Union Army Civil War uniform in old park literature) in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.  Occasionally I also did programs at other Civil War battlefields and sites.  I miss it, frankly.  Perhaps one day I will be in a position to do that sort of volunteer work again.

Anyway, I still read a lot about things going on with the Park Service and I generally try to keep up with things going on with NPS.  Like any organization, NPS has its celebrities.  I had the privilege of meeting one of them, Civil War historian Ed Bearss, now retired, on several occasions.  Ed is a warm, funny, extremely intelligent and knowledgeable guy with an incredible work ethic.  And in that regard I am reminded of him by Betty Reid Soskin, another NPS celebrity.  Betty is an extraordinary woman who also happens to be the oldest serving U.S. Park Service Ranger.  She currently works at the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Park in Richmond, California.  In fact, Betty was absolutely instrumental in the creation of that historic park.  And since she herself lived through the events preserved at the site, she has her own unique and fascinating stories to tell about that time in our history, including what it was like to be a woman of color in that segregated era.

US Park Service Ranger Betty Reid Soskin
US Park Service Ranger Betty Reid Soskin (photo by Justin Sullivan via NPR)

Last year she lit the National Christmas Tree and got to meet President Barack Obama, who gave her a special commemorative coin as a souvenir and gift.  At the ceremony, she carried a photograph of her great-grandmother, who was born a slave in 1846 and died in 1948 at the age of 102.  She carried the same photograph in her pocket in 2009, when she witnessed President Obama’s inauguration.

AND… she’s an avid blogger.  She’s that awesome.

Well, something terrible happened to her this past Monday.  She was beaten and robbed in her own home there in Richmond.  And one of the things the a**hole thief took from her was the coin the President gave her.

What kind of person does that?  Who attacks a 94-year-old woman? How utterly depraved and/or desperate do you have to be to do that?  God, I hope the police catch whoever did this to her.  And the President has already said that he will replace the coin.

Luckily, she seems to be recovering.  But if you want to help her, the Rosie the Riveter Trust has organized a fund to help Betty out with her expenses while she recovers.  And being the awesome person she is, Betty has already said that any excess funds will be used for a special documentary film history project about her life.

Glad you are still with us, Betty, and from the East Coast, we all wish you the very best and hope you get well soon.  We love you.

-Geoff

 

Brexit gets uglier and uglier

Well, now that the consequences of the UK voting to leave the EU have had some time to sink in, it is both fascinating and disturbing to see just what a lot of people thought they were voting for.  Much has been made of the reports that a lot of people in the UK were googling terms like “what is the EU?” the day after the vote.  I am not sure whether or not that data is accurate, and apparently there are other people who feel the same way.  Still, it does seem that a significant number of people in the UK are acting as if the “stay” or “leave” question was not based on the UK leaving the EU, but on whether or not non-white and/or non-British people should “stay” in the UK or “leave”.  And in the minds of many of these people, that answer is pretty clear.

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A terrible anniversary today – the Freedom Summer Murders

Fifty two years ago tonight, three young men were murdered by a group of white Mississippians in the Ku Klux Klan.  Among the men complicit in this crime were members of the Neshoba County Sheriff’s office and the Philadelphia (Mississippi) Police Department.

This was a mere six years before I was born.  Many people of my generation are familiar with this event through the 1988 film Mississippi Burning, although the film doesn’t even cover everything that happened that awful summer.

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That horrific crime in Orlando and two heroes

Kelly and I have both been shocked, horrified, and angry over what happened in Orlando.  Truly, it is stunning to me that such a thing could happen, and even more stunning that we as a society could keep allowing these events to happen over and over and over again.

Kelly vented a lot of anger in her earlier post, and there’s nothing more I can say about how we feel about this.  But I want to be a little specific about some of the intellectually dishonest arguments being made by people around the country trying to explain all this away.  I also want to talk about two people who were there, and who did everything they could to save people’s lives, and still couldn’t save everyone.  They are still heroes, even if they themselves probably don’t feel that way, and probably wouldn’t use that word.

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