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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Our wacky New England weather

Yesterday it was raining and the temperature actually dropped into the upper 40’s.  In June.  There is actually a slight chance of us having a Nor’Easter on Friday.  Oh, crazy New England weather, don’t ever change.  Honestly, I still prefer you to baking in the humid Southern sun.

And speaking of insanity and bad weather, we are supposed to have a bad hurricane season this year.  That wouldn’t be quite as troubling except that the current occupant of the White House has not yet put anyone in charge of NOAA, FEMA, or the NHC.*  He can, however, find the time to go play a lot of golf and to tweet all sorts of crazy stuff.  Needless to say, people in hurricane-prone places like Florida are starting to notice.

Well, since Trump is also planning to slash FEMA’s budget as well as the NOAA budget and the NASA budget, maybe they think we don’t need to worry about being able to predict the weather.  We should just sit back and not worry about silly things like storm forecasts and we can just go back to the blissful days of yore, when major storms could sneak up on people with little to no warning and do horrendous damage.

Nah, that could never happen again, right?

~Geoff

*It turns out Trump did nominate someone to lead FEMA in late April, but the Senate has not yet voted on the nominee, probably because they are so busy trying to take away everyone’s health insurance.

I think Cersei is the Trump of Westeros

It’s been a while since I have written anything about Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire.  I have been struggling to figure out what to talk about.  Then the other day Kelly and I were talking, and it occurred to me that Donald Trump and Cersei Lannister actually have quite a bit in common.

Separated at Birth? Wait, no. That's just gross. Never mind.
Separated at Birth?  Wait, no.  That’s just gross.  Never mind.

Follow my logic, if you will.

Continue reading “I think Cersei is the Trump of Westeros”

Lily Tomlin was right. No matter how cynical you get, it’s impossible to keep up.

Well.  It has been a long time since I have posted anything political.  And that is because frankly, it has been just too depressing a topic to really talk about lately, particularly when I try to put it all in historical perspective, which is what I do – after all, I am a historian.

Not to be too dramatic, but I am really, really worried.

Continue reading “Lily Tomlin was right. No matter how cynical you get, it’s impossible to keep up.”

An Open Letter to the Dallas TSA

Today I’m flying back to Boston from Dallas.  As a matter of fact, as I write this I’m on the plane and we’re heading from the gate to the runway.  I was surprised on my way down here how dramatic my process with the TSA wasn’t.  The TSA is pretty much my nightmare of a government agency.

Today, when I went to my screening to leave Dallas, I lived my nightmare.

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I’m not a workaholic, I swear

After the post I wrote most recently and some discussions I’ve had with people in various parts of my life, I’ve run across a fair number of people who seem to think that this schedule I’ve been living, this logging of 60-70 hours of work a week, minimum, is fun.  That I do it because I like it and that somehow I’m not aware that it is inherently bad for me.

They are so, SO very wrong.  But they refuse to understand that this has been a matter of survival.  This has been the way that I’ve adapted to keep us afloat and alive and not living on the streets.  So few people truly understand that our economy here in the US has fundamentally changed.  Geoff and I are living proof that the old way, each having one job, having some security in that job, buying a house, and then eventually retiring just isn’t the way things work anymore.

Continue reading “I’m not a workaholic, I swear”

Basil and the pothole from hell

Poor Basil.  He has suffered immensely this winter.  Still, our Mini Cooper has, like us, managed to survive this record-breaking winter and has been buried in snow more times than I can recall.  At least digging him out isn’t so bad most of the time since he is so small.  And it certainly makes it easier to park in narrow spots nestled between snow piles.

But getting through this winter unscathed was not meant to be, I guess.  Last night, on Route 99 where it goes under Rutherford Ave in Charlestown, we hit what was probably the biggest pothole I have ever seen, at least on a road that wasn’t being washed out underneath.

Continue reading “Basil and the pothole from hell”