nar·cis·sism ˈnärsəˌsizəm/1. excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one’s physical appearance.
- Psychologyextreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type. (emphasis added)
- Psychoanalysisself-centeredness arising from failure to distinguish the self from external objects, either in very young babies or as a feature of mental disorder. (emphasis added)
Portraying Donald Trump as a narcissist is getting to be a trite cliche. In part, because we all THINK we know what a narcissist is, and in the vernacular, we do. But, for such a label to have any more value than an illusory explanation we need to understand narcissism beyond it being a person who has such an obsession with him or herself that he or she can’t consider the needs of others. Or put another way, you know when you’re dealing with a narcissist because that person put the ASS in asshole. (For an interesting discussion of the etiology of the word, narcissism, see Narcissism: Negative Or Misinterpreted? by imrationallunatic).
We all also know that psychology has lots to say about narcissism, and the two psychologically based definitions give us a little bit more to go on: a personality type and a failure to distinguish the self from external objects. A personality that is selfish and self-absorbed, okay. That sounds good like an illusory explanation does, but a failure to distinguish the self from external objects??!? Holy blurred boundaries Batman! How is that even possible?
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Because all professions must obfuscate by using big fancy words and terms in order to charge the rest of us tons of money for their “insights” and “brilliance,” psychologists have arrived at narcissistic personality disorder. Oh, okay, a personality type; a personality disorder. I get it. Or is that just illusory explanation, again? But what about the external object thing? I don’t know man, that is psychoanalytic warmed over leftovers of Freud, and we all know what a nut he was.
Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultraconfidence (sic) lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.
The official definition of term lists several items:
- inflated sense of their own importance,
- a deep need for admiration,
- a lack of empathy for others, and
- a fragile self-esteem sensitive to even a slight criticism.
Oh, okay. That makes sense… but DOH! It’s just illusory explanation, AGAIN! What’s the difference between an inflated sense of importance and, you know, an everyday run-of-the-mill garden-variety sense of importance? Or, how deep does a need for admiration have to be? I mean, I like to think that some people at least — I’m looking at you mom! — admire my blog and that what I’m doing her is important. Does that make me a narcissist? Shut up, I’ll make the cheap jokes around here, but feel free to speculate wildly in the comments.
How do you distinguish a lack of empathy from just being your usual callous millennial indifference? If narcissists have a fragile self-esteem, does that mean other people have a hardy self-esteem? So, if I don’t like criticism — test that out in the comments, would ya? — does that mean I’m a narcissist?
Distinguishing an Asshole from an ASShole
How are we to tell? Trump is an asshole, but is he a narcissistic ASShole? Science can explain it complete with a properly a complex vague method suitable for an obfuscating profession like psychology. Suffice it to say, though, that if you have trouble meeting minimum daily tasks like going to work, getting up on time, maintaining your hygiene, getting along with people, paying your bills, then you might be pathologically ill with a mental health disorder (comment on your issues by all means, please, but if you are experiencing these types of troubles seek a trained mental health professional for an evaluation). It is vague. But, you know it when you see it, right?
But, that don’t seem to be Trump, right? I mean he is the chief executive fuck up of a “major” organization with real estate holdings in the “billions.” He just vanquished the sixteen Lilliputians of the Republican Party. How can he be having trouble meeting these daily requirements. Maybe a lack of hygiene explains his odd orange hue? You’d think Boehner would like him more, right? The two orange bros, right? Besides, isn’t Boehner drunk enough not to care whose shoes he barfs on as long as he’s barfing on someone’s shoes?
Back in the realm of sober science, we are told that a person diagnosed with a narcissistic personality disorder typically has difficulties with relationships, work, school, or financial affairs. A narcissist reacts with disappointment, unhappiness, and anger if special favors, exceptions, or admiration are not given — that’s what puts the ASS in asshole (Diseases and Conditions Narcissistic personality disorder).
The At-Home Amateur Psychiatric Diagnosis Game!
As you can imagine, psychologists have made a check list for signs and symptoms. Play along at home and check the one’s off that you think Mr. Trump might have! Let us know how you did in this fun at home psychiatric diagnosis game! It’s fun for the entire family!
◊ Having an ego so bloated that you think you are more important than you are
◊ Deluding yourself that you are exceptional even if you haven’t ever done anything exceptional except being an exceptional ASShole
◊ Lying through your teeth about everything you’ve done and your talents and your skills
◊ Fapping to fantasies of your own success, power, brilliance, beauty
◊ Needing to have your ass-kissed constantly
◊ Needing special favors and exceptions to be made for you because you are some kind of a special fragile snowflake
◊ Expecting others to ask how high after you’ve screamed jump at them and like it!
◊ Taking advantage of others to get what you want
◊ Being an insensitive asshole unable to acknowledge the emotions or needs of others or even that others exist outside of the purpose of meeting your needs
◊ Seeing everyone around you as being green with envy for you and your bullshit
◊ Being a stuck-up shit like some little queen bee high school mean girl
Which were your favorites? What were the best examples? Go on, put ’em in the comments; you know you want to! He can have all of those signs and symptoms — and Trump has them in spades (pun intended), but to be a really terrible terrible narcissistic personality disorder-type person you have to have problems in these areas of your life:
- relationships: how many times has Trump been divorced?
- work: he’s never worked for anyone or even a board; how many times has he been sued?
- school: he went to Wharton for a BA after transferring in but implies he has an MBA
- financial affairs: how many bankruptcies? Trump University?
Okay, okay, Trump has a family, a company, received a degree, and money. He won the nomination… at least until the convention; who knows what is going to happen there. Can you really say he is a diagnosable narcissistic personality?
Well, how much of any aspect of his success is the result of his wealthy father and connections? He may very well be diagnosable, but we won’t know until a licensed qualified diagnostician does some extensive interviewing and can come to a conclusion. But, let’s speculate anyway!
Let’s face it, his campaign is falling apart much like his companies, relationships, and other projects. He doesn’t so much as have a Midas touch, as he has a merde touch. Everything he touches turns to shit.
Predicting the Trump Presidency
Oh, goody! We’ve pretty much proven that Trump is a narcissistic personality disorder! But, for all of these symptoms and check lists and descriptions to be useful, especially when evaluating Donald Trump, it has to predict. What would Trump’s narcissism mean for him as a president? Once again, science has an answer for us.
Narcissism Science Facts
Dig these real live science facts about narcissists derived from real live science studies about what narcissists do in their daily lives (Sounds like a Narcissist: Behavioral Manifestations of Narcissism in Everyday Life). Narcissists are…
- …more extraverted, at least at first — how many people have met Trump and said he is just swell?
- …less agreeable, read that ASShole
- …pathological liars (Campbell, et al., 2002).
- …impulsive, that is valuing short-term rewards at the expense of long-term costs (Vazire & Funder, 2006).
- …fantasizing about academic success, which explains their disinterest in real live academic stuff (Robins & Beer, 2001). More about how this pertains to Mr. Trump later
- Ha! The more self-importance the narcissist feels, the more likely he or she was academically absent, meaning did not learn a damn thing in school.
The Paradoxical Problem of Narcissism
Narcissists have a paradoxical problem. They have to simultaneously search out adulation and admiration while being fragile and unstable. So, guess what narcissists spend most of their waking time doing? — and you don’t want to know what they’re dreaming about. Defending their inflated unrealistic self-concept. That leaves a lot of time for getting other stuff done — NOT! Explains a lot of Mr. Trump’s spectacular failures, don’t it? Care to predict how well a Trump presidency will go? About like his relationships, businesses, and other projects? Yep.
- The cognitive–affective processing models proposes that these self-defeating behaviors are due to the narcissist being insensitive to the concerns of others; however, these same self-defeating behaviors make sense in the context of narcissist logic. The primary goal is to maintain their hyper-inflated sense of self and protect their fragile vulnerable selves. (Unraveling the Paradoxes of Narcissism: A Dynamic Self-Regulatory Processing Model; Morf & Rhodewalt, 2001)
- Vazire & Funder (2006) propose that the self-defeating narcissistic behaviors are due to the narcissist not being able to stop him or herself. They lack self control. In other words, the short-term gain of propping up their bloated egotistical selves and avenging whatever perceived slights no matter how slight to their fragile vulnerable snowflake self is far more important than cultivating relationships or learning something. In other words, narcissists are impulsive and they are unable to delay gratification, which begs the question, Can Trump Pass the Marshmallow Test? (Impulsivity and the Self-Defeating Behavior of Narcissists)
Narcissists tend to make charming leaders, but, paradoxically, the more successful they are, the more isolated they become. Like a mean demented Krampus, they develop lists of enemies that they check obsessively and are all over paranoids. If they can do something, it is divide and conquer. (Coming Into Power – The Dark Side of Attention Chasers; Jennifer Buergermeister) Not only does their paranoid lists of enemies grow long, the faults of the narcissist tend to worsen over time and with success, so they tend to depend on spouses — in Mr. Trump’s case, Ivanka — which can lead to further isolation as they are surrounded by sycophants. An infinite loop of reinforced grandiosity and paranoia is created. (Narcissistic Leaders: The Incredible Pros, the Inevitable Cons)
Narcissists can be effective when inspiration, creativity, and change are needed. They have been prominent in industries and businesses that need big changes. So, in times of strife and chaos, people are willing to tolerate their horrific personalities. The problem is that Mr. Trump seems to be really high in extroversion, disagreeableness, and unimaginably low in inspiration (unless you want to beat up funny looking non-Americans), creativity, and ideas for change. His pet project is building a wall with Mexico and banning Muslim immigration. Not exactly bold changes in American policy.
In addition to being overly sensitive cry babies, poor listeners, blackholes of empathy, and highly competitive, they are averse to mundane details.
Mr. Trump as President
So, what do we make of a potential Donald Trump presidency from all of this other than a goddamn motherfucking mess? Well, Mr. Trump is nearly 70 years old and he has never had to curb his narcissism because he’s always had money and the privilege that comes with it, he’s always been the boss, he has always been able to abandon projects and debt when they didn’t go his way. (Donald Trump: The Unproductive Narcissist) But, as president, he is going to have people who oppose him that he cannot fire or intimidate, problems are going to arise that he cannot walk away from, advisers and cabinet members that he cannot gaslight. It will have the paranoia of Nixon, the ineffectiveness of Harding, sheer callous cruelty of Jackson, and the racism of Wilson. But, no where in that mix will there be any clear policies or agendas to pursue because Mr. Trump is completely empty and devoid of anything other than a slavish devotion to his own ego and utter fear of the narcissistic wound. In short, he doesn’t have the executive functioning necessary to be an executive.