On February 1, 2017, twelve days into Donald Trump’s presidency, by which time he had already signed several executive orders and other official documents, the American journalist Linda Rodriguez McRobbie interviewed Sheila Lowe, a U.S. graphologist with over forty years of experience in her field, about Trump’s “horrifying” signature. “His signature is this barbed-wire thing that’s into power and control and rigidity,” said Lowe. “It’s closed, it’s not open, it’s not soft at all and it looks like Himmler’s.” For those of her readers who had not heard about Himmler, the journalist added, “As in Heinrich Himmler, head of Adolf Hitler’s SS and the man who established the first official concentration camp at Dachau.” The journalist explained that Lowe had first come across Trump’s handwriting and signature in the 1990s and had been keeping a professional eye on it ever since. “Handwriting changes over time in people who grow and change,” the graphologist said, “but Trump’s handwriting has remained largely consistent for the last twenty years. He’s the same person he was all those years ago — an empty narcissist.” Lowe continued, “There’s absolutely no softness in his signature, it’s just mean and tough and rigid, and there is no room for anybody else. He’s not interested in anyone else’s opinion. It’s like a big fence.” “A wall?” asked McRobbie. “Yes,” said Lowe, “and he hides behind it. He’s afraid of being seen.” On an Israeli radio news program on May 24, in which I was interviewed about the contents of this study, an Israeli graphologist said that Trump’s signature reminded her of shark’s teeth, that he was “a snake” and that he wore a perpetual mask. (see https://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2017/02/01/trump-signature-horrifying-but-should-you-care/5Bbnsu2DoPJkcqmm06LzgM/story.html).
In 1916 Sigmund Freud published a pioneering psychoanalytic study of political leaders entitled Those Wrecked by Success in which he speculated on the unconscious guilt feelings and inner conflicts that cause some successful people to unwittingly destroy themselves. In 1930 the American political scientist Harold D. Lasswell, who was keenly interested in psychoanalysis, published an equally groundbreaking study entitled Psychopathology and Politics about the emotional illnesses of political leaders. Since then there has been a growing body of scholarly research into this fascinating subject, much of it by members of the International Society of Political Psychology, who come from political science, psychology, psychiatry, psychoanalysis, political philosophy, political sociology and other disciplines.
One of the key questions in such studies is whether people with prior psychopathology are drawn to politics and, if so, what it is about politics that draws such people to it. Does the power that comes with political office provide an unconscious antidote to unbearable feelings of powerlessness that such people carry with them since their childhood?
The current president of the United States of America, Donald J. Trump is a case in point. On May 4, 2017, after repealing “Obamacare,”which had given health coverage to tens of millions of previously-uninsured Americans, and without waiting for the required approval of the U.S. Senate, the Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives came to the White House to celebrate the “passage” of their new American Health Care Act with President Trump. The president praised the Republican politicians and then said, “Coming from a different world and only being a politician for a short period of time — How am I doing? Am I doing okay? I’m president! Hey! I’m president! Can you believe it, right?” Television viewers rubbed their eyes and convinced themselves that this was the President of the United States speaking, not an anxious little boy asking his demanding parents to reassure him about his achievements. (see http://www.mediaite.com/uncategorized/im-president-can-you-believe-it-trump-stops-ahca-speech-to-remind-us-hes-potus/).
On May 9, 2017, President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, who had helped him defeat his Democratic presidential rival, Hillary Clinton, in the 2016 election by publicizing the FBI’s investigation of the latter’s e-mails as President Obama’s Secretary of State at a critical time in the election. Trump ostensibly fired Comey because he had refused to give him a personal pledge of loyalty, the kind that Adolf Hitler had required of all German officials, because he had testified to the U.S. Congress that the Obama Administration had never wiretapped Trump, contrary to the latter’s assertions, and because he had turned down Trump’s request to close the FBI investigation of the Russian connections of Trump’s former national security adviser, General Michael Flynn, and of the Russian tampering with the U.S. election that made Trump president.
Fearful of being publicly accused by Comey of collusion with Russia, in his letter of dismissal Trump formally thanked Comey for having told him three times that he was not personally under FBI investigation. The next day The New York Times published a front-page story revealing that two months earlier Comey had told some of his associates that Trump was “outside the realm of normal, maybe even crazy.” Trump had threatened the Times several times with libel suits, but the newspaper’s owners had stood their ground and refused to be intimidated. (see https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/10/us/politics/how-trump-decided-to-fire-james-comey.html?_r=1).
Donald Trump has been self-destructive throughout his life. As a teenager he got himself kicked out of school for insulting his music teacher. Throughout his career he has lied and cheated his way into success, making enemies of his victims along the way. In real life as well as on his television shows he has fired numerous people from their jobs, earning many more enemies. During his business career his companies went bankrupt no less than six times. He embarrassed himself publicly by not paying any federal taxes for decades, by body-slamming his rival Vince McMahon at the 2007 WrestleMania, and by boasting to a friend about freely groping beautiful women by their pussies. His firing of Comey and his attempt to attribute the responsibility for this firing to his deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, led the latter to appoint Comey’s predecessor, Robert Mueller, as Special Counsel to the U.S. Justice Department with the authority and responsibility “to investigate any links and/or coordination between Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump, and any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” On May 23, 2017, the former CIA director, John Brennan, testified to the U.S. House Intelligence Committee that Russia had indeed brazenly tried to interfere with the U.S. election that made Trump president. (see http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/watch-live-former-cia-director-john-brennan-testifies-house-committee/).
Trump certainly has paranoid features in his personality. Paranoid people, however, also have real enemies, and Trump’s are legion. The Special Counsel has wide-ranging powers. Nixon-like, Trump has attacked his appointment, which he justly fears may end his career, calling it a “witch hunt” and “an attack on America itself.” Trump believes that he is being personally persecuted, which, as the American journalist Eugene Robinson has pointed out, is “a frightfully dangerous mind-set for a man with such vast power.” If it came to his impeachment, would Trump, who cannot stand to be humiliated, launch a military attack on Syria, Iran, or North Korea, provoke Russia and China, and start a Third World War that would end our species? (see https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-thinks-hes-under-attack-thats-very-dangerous/2017/05/18/e7af59e6-3bf9-11e7-a058-ddbb23c75d82_story.html?utm_term=.1f19902d4209).
Writing in the New York Daily News on May 11, 2017, the American journalist Shaun King had this to say of his president: “Donald Trump is crazy. I’ve believed that for some time now. His dishonesty is so severe, among the worst measured by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Politifact, that it alone suggests a deep level of mental instability, but that’s not his only problem. The man was recorded openly bragging about grabbing women [by the pussy]. He repeatedly suggested he’d like to date his daughter. His first wife said in a court deposition that he assaulted her, though she later backtracked from that claim.” One might add to this Trump’s paranoid assertions that he had been wiretapped by the Obama Administration, which Comey had publicly asserted was pure fantasy, and the repeated public calls by mental health professionals to have Trump removed from office on grounds of his mental incapacity to execute the functions of his office. (see http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/king-comey-calling-trump-crazy-shows-crossed-line-article-1.3156924).
Like some kind of bird, Trump tweets on Twitter every day. On Friday, May 12, 2017, fearing that a vengeful Comey would leak what he knew about him to the press, Trump threatened the just-dismissed FBI Director in an early-morning tweet; apparently he had slept poorly and had woken up anxious. “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” Trump tweeted. The very mention of tapes was a self-destructive invitation to a future Special Prosecutor to subpoena his recordings, just as Archibald Cox had done with Richard Nixon in the Watergate affair in 1973. The New York Times wrote that day, ”Mr. Trump appeared agitated over news reports on Friday that focused on contradictory accounts of his decision to fire Mr. Comey at the same time the F.B.I. is investigating ties between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia.” (see https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/05/12/us/politics/trump-threatens-retaliation-against-comey-warns-he-may-cancel-press-briefings.html).
This study sets out to examine the roots of Trump’s self-destructiveness, to see whether he is “crazy,” whether he is “emotionally ill” or suffers from a “malignant narcissistic personality disorder,” to trace the origins of his psychopathology, and to assess the danger he poses to the survival of our species. But first, a word about professional ethics is in order.
The Duty to Warn: The Goldwater Rule vs. the Tarasoff Rule
In early June 2016, during the U.S. Presidential election campaign of that summer, the Atlantic magazine published a special issue in which the American psychologist Dan P. McAdams (born 1954), a professor at Northwestern University, analyzed the personality of Donald J. Trump (born 1946), the Republican presidential candidate). Among many other complex “personality traits” (rather than psychopathology) McAdams found Trump extremely extroverted, incredibly disagreeable, ambitious and aggressive in a very angry manner, highly narcissistic, and very grandiose. No reference was made in the long and scholarly piece to the professional ethics of discussing a presidential candidate’s personality in public. (see https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/06/the-mind-of-donald-trump/480771/).
A few days later the online magazine FifeThirtyEight, which takes its name from the number of members of the U.S. Electoral College, which elects the president after the votes of the states are tallied, published an article entitled “Psychiatrists Can’t Tell us What they Think About Trump,” which included interviews with prominent American psychiatrists and psychologists about the ethics of “psychoanalyzing” Trump in public. The interviewees included Prof. McAdams, who pointed out to the interviewer that he had deliberately stayed away in his Atlantic article from medical words like “diagnosis,“ and “psychiatric” because of the so-called Goldwater Rule. (see https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/psychiatrists-cant-tell-us-what-they-think-about-trump/).
In 1964 U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater (1909-1998), who, like Donald Trump, liked nuclear weapons, had been the Republican nominee for President, running against the Democratic incumbent, Lyndon Johnson (1908-1973). Some American psychiatrists, alarmed by the prospect of Goldwater becoming President and launching a nuclear war against the Soviet Union that would end life on Earth, gave psychiatric diagnoses of Goldwater to the now-defunct Fact magazine, which published The Unconscious of a Conservative: A Special Issue on the Mind of Barry Goldwater. Among other things, the magazine called Goldwater “paranoid, sexually insecure, suicidal, and grossly psychotic.”
An enraged Barry Goldwater, who lost the election, successfully sued the magazine’s owners and editors and won $1 million in compensatory damages and $75,000 in punitive damages. The American Psychiatric Association thereupon amended its code of ethics by adding the famous Section 7.3, which reads, “On occasion psychiatrists are asked for an opinion about an individual who is in the light of public attention or who has disclosed information about himself/herself through public media. In such circumstances, a psychiatrist may share with the public his or her expertise about psychiatric issues in general. However, it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.” Section 7.3 is commonly called the Goldwater Rule.
On January 27, 2017, ten days into Donald Trump’s presidency, U.S. News and World Report published an interview with the American psychologist and psychotherapist John D. Gartner, author of a psychobiography of former President Bill Clinton. Dr. Gartner, who is one of President Trump’s most vocal opponents, offered the following diagnosis of President Trump:
Donald Trump is dangerously mentally ill and temperamentally incapable of being president. Trump has “malignant narcissism,” which is different from narcissistic personality disorder and which is incurable […] it’s obvious from Trump’s behavior that he meets the diagnostic criteria for the disorder, which include anti-social behavior, sadism, aggressiveness, paranoia and grandiosity. Trump’s personality disorder (which includes hypomania) is also displayed through a lack of impulse control and empathy, and “a feeling that people […] don’t recognize his greatness.” (see http://www.usnews.com/news/the-report/articles/2017-01-27/does-donald-trumps-personality-make-him-dangerous).
Three days later no less than ten other American psychiatrists and psychologists sounded out on the psychopathology of Donald Trump in interviews with Stat News. One of them, John Montgomery, a psychologist at New York University, thought that Trump exhibited “a desperate need to keep from feeling, even fleetingly, that he might not be superior to everyone else” and that Trump “derives deep satisfaction from abusing and hurting people.” Many of his colleagues echoed this view. (see https://www.statnews.com/2017/01/30/trump-mental-health/).
The American journalist who interviewed Dr. Gartner observed that “his comments run afoul of the so-called Goldwater Rule […] But Gartner says the Trump case warrants breaking that ethical code.” In my own mind and in that of many other mental-health professionals, however, the psychiatric Goldwater Rule conflicts with the judicial Tarasoff Rule of 1976, which resulted from the fatal stabbing in 1969 of a Russian-born female student, Tatiana Tarasoff, by a mentally-ill Indian-born fellow graduate student, Prosenjit Poddar, in the University of California at Berkeley. Tatiana’s bereaved parents used the university because its psychologist who had treated Poddar had not warned them of the imminent danger to their daughter’s life.
In Tarasoff v. Regents of the University of California, the Supreme Court of California held that mental health professionals have a duty to protect individuals who are being threatened with bodily harm by their patients. A lower court decision two years earlier had mandated warning the threatened individual, but the ruling by the California Supreme Court also called for a duty to protect the intended victim. Under this ruling, the psychological professional may discharge this duty in several ways, including notifying the police, warning the intended victim, or taking other reasonable steps to protect the threatened individual. While Donald Trump is not my patient, of course, nor that of any other mental-health professional, in my view, and in that of many of my colleagues, he does threaten our entire species, not only with bodily harm, but also with total annihilation.
Psychological professionals have a hard time choosing between the Tarasoff Rule and the Goldwater Rule. While Donald Trump seems like a walking psychiatric textbook, as far as we know no psychiatrist has ever seen him in his offices, which is a prerequisite for an accurate psychiatric diagnosis. Citing the Tarasoff Rule, however, in February 2017, less than a month into Trump’s presidency, a group of American mental health professionals called Free Citizen Therapists addressed a desperate public appeal to all the members of the U.S. Congress to impeach their president:
Speaking as citizens who are trained to observe human behavior and recognizing that we cannot offer a definitive diagnosis except, if you would, “almost certainly unfit to carry a weapon or to leave a Mental Health Professional’s office with such a weapon,“ we (who have worked on this letter) ask the Houses of the U.S. Legislature to act on their mandate to protect (for such a mandate can be no less than that assigned to the Executive Branch) and to remove the President under our 25th Amendment or to require him to submit to psychiatric and psychological evaluation […] whether Donald J. Trump is suffering from Pathological or Malignant Narcissism, a Delusional Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder or some Hypo-manic combination of two or more of these disorders or something else are a concern for treatment but not for his fitness to serve as a guardian of safety in a dangerous world. (see https://www.facebook.com/groups/722444487922770/permalink/723151327852086/?comment_id=723154607851758¬if_t=group_comment¬if_id=1487442169640810).
In mid-February 2017 a Muslim British psychiatrist, Kamran Ahmed, weighed in on this complex issue with a piece in The Guardian. Dr. Ahmed thought that understanding Trump’s narcissism was the key to removing him from office. One can sense that this psychiatrist is torn between his professional ethics and his realization that President Trump is a very dangerous leader who needs to be removed from office if humanity is to be saved. (see https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/17/donald-trump-narcisissm-mentally-ill-personality).
Dr. Bandy Lee, a Yale University psychiatrist, believes that the duty to warn and to protect of the Tarasoff Rule trumps the gag order of the Goldwater Rule. She has founded Duty to Warn, an organization of some 800 mental health professionals that considers it its professional duty to warn the American public and the entire world against the grave dangers posed by Donald Trump’s presidency. Along with Dr. Gartner, Dr. Lance Dodes, a retired Harvard psychiatrist, initiated an online petition by mental-health professionals demanding that Trump be removed from office under the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which deals of the removal of the President due to his inability to discharge his duties. By mid-April 2017 the petition had gathered nearly fifty thousand signatures. After the petition’s signatures had passed the 10,000 mark, Dr. Gartner and Dr. Dodes appeared on the U.S. television show Late Night with Lawrence O’Donnell, where many millions of viewers watched them pronounce Trump very dangerous as U.S. president due to his mental illness. On April 20 Dr. Gartner represented Duty to Warn at a “town-hall” meeting at Yale University Medical School in New Haven, Connecticut, hosted by Dr. Lee; its panelists included the ninety-year-old, highly-respected Yale psychiatrist Dr. Robert Jay Lifton, author of many books about the psychology of politics and history. They publicly warned the Yale meeting against Donald Trump’s mental unfitness to govern. (see http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/04/yale-psychiatrists-cite-duty-to-warn-about-unfit-president.html).
Dr. Gartner is a courageous man. On May 7, 2017, he battled a very hostile interviewer named Jesse Watters on a Fox News television show. Watters viciously attacked Gartner, attempting to make him lose his composure, but the psychologist stood his ground and kept his cool. In the face of death threats from Trump supporters, Gartner continues to push for Trump’s removal from office due to his mental illness. On May 12 Gartner published an op-ed article in the New York Daily News entitled “Psychologists have a duty to warn the country about Trump: We can no longer pretend that he is stable.” Gartner compared Trump in the White House to a bomb on an airplane waiting to explode. (see http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/psychologists-duty-warn-country-trump-article-1.3160022).
Like myself, Dr. Gartner is a psychologist, and thus not bound by the Goldwater Rule, which only binds psychiatrists. Moreover, many psychiatrists object to the gag order of the Goldwater rule because it restricts their freedom of speech. Furthermore, there does not seem to be any ethical violation in discussing a public figure, as no confidential doctor-patient information is being disclosed. Finally, for a psychological professional to alert people to the dangerous personality of an emotionally-disturbed leader who may, Hitler-like, plunge their country and the entire world into an all-out war, which, in Trump’s case, could end our species, seems to be an ethical imperative rather than an ethical violation. (see https://www.statnews.com/2017/01/30/trump-mental-health/).
“The Mother of all Bombs”
In August 1945, on the orders of U.S. President Harry Truman (1884-1972), a U.S. Air Force pilot, Colonel Paul Tibbets (1915-2007), dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima from a bomber named Enola Gay, burning to death hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians. The pilot’s mother’s name was Enola Gay Tibbets. Why did the pilot name his bomber after his mother?
In early 1991, during the first Gulf War, the murderous Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein declared that his people’s war on the United States was “the mother of all battles.” The phrase entered the American English language.
In April 2017 U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the “mother of all bombs” dropped on an Islamic State stronghold in Afghanistan. This ten-ton bomb was the most powerful non-nuclear explosive device in the world. Ninety-four Islamic “militants” were killed. The real purpose of the bombing, however, was to warn Iran and North Korea of what was in store for them if they continued to threaten the U.S., that is, Donald Trump.
What do mothers have to do with terrible wars and with mass killings? From 1964 to 1970, at the height of the “Cold War,” the Italian psychoanalyst Franco Fornari (1921-1985) wrote four books about the unconscious motives of war-making and the nuclear threat to humankind. The English edition of Fornari’s most important book, The Psychoanalysis of War, was published in 1974. Fornari believed that war-making betrayed the inability to mourn one’s losses; he called it “the paranoid elaboration of mourning.” The classic example is the reaction of a preliterate tribe to the death of one of its members. Feeling guilty about it, and unable to mourn their loss, the survivors unconsciously project their guilt feelings on the neighboring tribe, believe that it has killed their fellow tribesman by witchcraft, and make war on it. The earliest loss in a person’s life is that of the blissful infantile fusion with the mother, symbolized by the Biblical myth of the expulsion from the Garden of Eden.
Among other things, this study sets out to uncover the hidden connections between Trump’s tormented childhood relationship with his mother and his extremely dangerous military conduct in Afghanistan, Syria, and, as we may well expect, Iran and North Korea in the near future. It also aims to explore Trump’s unhealthy relationship with his father and its effect on his relationship with other world leaders, such as Vladimir Putin.
The danger is very real. On his very first day in office President Trump had made the retired Marine general James “Mad Dog” Mattis his Secretary of Defense, calling him “very dignified and impressive.” Given Trump’s unconscious identification of America the Great with himself, will he perceive Iran and North Korea’s verbal attacks on America and their threats against “her” as a personal affront? Will he feel shamed and humiliated? Will it provoke his narcissistic rage? Will he see any way of preventing Iran and North Korea from developing their nuclear-weapons programs other than “pre-emptive” attacks on their nuclear installations and on their missile bases? Will Commander-in-Chief Donald Trump order the kind of “shock and awe” attack on Iran or North Korea that his predecessor George W. Bush ordered on Iraq? Will the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un launch his nuclear-warhead-tipped missiles on Japan, South Korea or the United States in desperate retaliation? Will nuclear-armed China intervene? Will that bring about “the mother of all wars” and the end of our species? (see http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/11/28/mad-dog-on-the-loose-the-blood-soaked-career-of-general-james-mattis/).
Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin
Donald Trump’s narcissistic rage can be overwhelming and lead to physical violence. In 2007 he body-slammed his fellow tycoon Vincent McMahon and humiliated him publicly by shaving his entire head and spraying shaving cream on it at WrestleMania, an annual professional-wrestling event. (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MMKFIHRpe7I). While American professional wrestling is a big show, Trump is a showman, and his body-slamming of McMahon may have been part of this show, such a “joke” has an unconscious kernel of truth in it, and Trump seems to have a history of violent physical assaults. (see http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/the-violence-of-donald-trump-w444012).
On February 6, 2017 the sixty-seven-year-old American television host Bill O’Reilly, who two months later was fired from his Fox News job for sexual harassment and other ethical violations, interviewed President Donald Trump about the sixty-four-year-old autocratic Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Trump told O’Reilly that he respected his Russian counterpart. “But he’s a killer!” O’Reilly protested. “There are a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?” Trump replied. (see http://edition.cnn.com/2017/02/04/politics/donald-trump-vladimir-putin/).
Why did Trump defend Putin? Had he received help from Putin during the U.S. presidential election? Was he biding his time until he could launch an attack on Putin and show him who was more powerful? And why did his warm relationship with Putin deteriorate so much during the next two months that U.S.-Russian relations have reached, by Trump’s own statement, an all-time low, that some Russian politicians have compared the present U.S.-Russian relations with the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, and that the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists says we are closer to a nuclear Holocaust than ever before? (see http://thebulletin.org/timeline).
The American Jewish sociologist Gordon Fellman (born 1934) believes that Donald Trump waged a life-and-death Oedipal battle with his strict, authoritarian and “castrating” father, against whom he rebelled even as his father built up his business career. Is Putin an unconscious father figure to Trump? The fact that Putin is a few years younger makes no psychological difference. Putin is a very powerful man, if not the second most powerful person in the world; Trump’s father was the most powerful man in his life when he was a child. Trump may be unconsciously saying to Putin, “You are not my father, and you will no longer tell me what to do! You may have helped me become President of the United States, but I will now show you which of us is more powerful!” (see Prof. Fellman’s comment at the end of this article).
The entire population of our planet fears a nuclear war that would end our species. These fears were confirmed during Trump’s bizarre news conference on February 16, 2017, when, in response to a reporter’s question about a Russian missile firing thirty miles off the coast of Connecticut the day before, he speculated on a “nuclear holocaust.” Here is the text of that interchange:
QUESTION: Is Putin testing you, do you believe, sir? TRUMP: No, I don’t think so. I think Putin probably assumes that he can’t make a deal with me anymore because politically it would be unpopular for a politician to make a deal. I can’t believe I’m saying I’m a politician, but I guess that’s what I am now. Because, look, it would be much easier for me to be tough on Russia, but then we’re not going to make a deal. Now, I don’t know that we’re going to make a deal. I don’t know. We might. We might not. But it would be much easier for me to be so tough — the tougher I am on Russia, the better. But you know what? I want to do the right thing for the American people. And to be honest, secondarily, I want to do the right thing for the world. If Russia and the United States actually got together and got along — and don’t forget, we’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are they. There’s no upside. We’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are they. I have been briefed. And I can tell you one thing about a briefing that we’re allowed to say because anybody that ever read the most basic book can say it, nuclear holocaust would be like no other. They’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are we. If we have a good relationship with Russia, believe me, that’s a good thing, not a bad thing. (see https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/16/us/politics/donald-trump-press-conference-transcript.html).
Why did Trump need to repeat three times that America was a very powerful nuclear country and so was Russia? In his unconscious mind, he is America and Putin is Russia. Is he always comparing himself with Putin or with others to make sure he is more powerful? Is that why he body-slammed and humiliated Vince McMahon at the 2007 WrestleMania? Is this going to cause him to strike Iran or North Korea, to show himself that he is more powerful that they are?
On Thursday night, April 6, 2017, the world saw Trump’s first dangerous and frightening military intervention in another country. Rather than strike North Korea or Iran, which, as he saw it, posed an imminent threat to the United States, Trump had struck Syria, in which Putin’s Russia was heavily invested and had a vital interest. Trump had a good pretext. The murderous Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad had just committed an unspeakable atrocity, killing dozens of his own people with chemical weapons and injuring hundreds of others; Putin had backed Assad, blaming Syria’s “terrorist rebels.” At Trump’s command, the U.S. military had launched 59 Tomahawk missiles against the obscure Syrian airfield from which the chemical weapons had been launched. Russia issued an ominous warning to the United States. Trump himself, who is given to black-and-white thinking, declared U.S.-Russian relations at an all-time low.
Was Trump out to prove, as he had done with McMahon, that he was the boss and that no one would humiliate him? What would happen if his next strike in Syria hit a Russian plane? Would he follow this up with military strikes in Iran or in North Korea?
When Trump announced the strike, his words were full of righteous rage; his voice and his body language, however, betrayed no such feelings. The president read monotonously, slowly and deliberately from his teleprompter:
My fellow Americans, on Tuesday [April 4] Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad launched a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians. Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror. Tonight I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched. It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons. There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the chemical weapons convention, and ignored the urging of the UN Security Council. Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed and failed very dramatically. As a result, the refugee crisis continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilize, threatening the United States and its allies. Tonight I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria, and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types. We ask for God’s wisdom as we face the challenge of our very troubled world. We pray for the lives of the wounded and for the souls of those who have passed, and we hope that as long as America stands for justice, then peace and harmony will in the end prevail. Good night and God bless America and the entire world. Thank you. (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGYZHtfJEYg).
This gap between the spoken word and its accompanying feeling is called “unconscious splitting” or “dissociation” in psychoanalysis. We shall discuss Trump’s personality from a psychoanalytic viewpoint.
Trump’s Charisma and Narcissism
Charismatic leaders, whether highly constructive, like Mustafa Kemal Atatrürk or Barack Obama, or frighteningly destructive, like Adolf Hitler or Donald Trump, are extremely narcissistic people. Some psychological professionals have called Trump a “sociopath.” Writing in The Atlantic, one journalist discussed Trump’s “sociopathy” and narcissism:
Psychiatrists often bestow labels knowing less about the facts of people’s lives and actions than we collectively know today about Donald Trump’s. We’re also legitimized in this endeavor by the fact that sociopathy and psychopathy—which are similar, and sometimes used interchangeably—are not formal psychiatric diagnoses. The terms “sociopath” and “psychopath” do tend to be thrown around casually by people in need of an insult that carries an air of empiricism […] The closest thing to psychopathy or sociopathy in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual [of the American Psychiatric Association] — the book that defines every mental illness and outlines how mental-health professionals should make the diagnosis — is either Narcissistic Personality Disorder or Antisocial Personality Disorder.
Other analysts have focused on the applicability [to Trump] of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which the Mayo Clinic defines by “an inflated sense of [one’s] own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.” One psychologist, Ben Michaelis, called Trump “textbook Narcissistic Personality Disorder.” Psychologist George Simon called Trump “so classic that I’m archiving video clips of him to use in workshops because there’s no better example of his [narcissistic] characteristics.” (see https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/07/trump-and-sociopathy/491966/).
In 1973 the Canadian psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Irvine Schiffer published a slender tome entitled Charisma: A Psychoanalytic Look at Mass Society. Schiffer thought that charisma was in the eye of the beholder: it is not a quality inherent in the charismatic leader but rather a quality with which he is endowed by his followers. Among the psychological “ingredients” that make immature followers attribute charisma to their “great” leader, Schiffer found, were his foreignness, his imperfection, his feeling of calling, his fighting stance, his social station, his sexual mystique, his perpetrating a hoax, and his innovative lifestyles. These traits revive in his immature followers powerful emotions of longing, fear, and idealization, dating back to their infancy and childhood, which they have not outgrown, and which Schiffer explained in detail; and most of these “ingredients” characterize Donald Trump. His foreign wife is only one of them. (see https://www.amazon.com/Charisma-Psychoanalytic-Look-Mass-Society/dp/0802019587).
The American historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a professor of Italian history at New York University and an expert on the Italian Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini (1883-1945), found many similarities between him and Donald Trump. She wrote:
Italians learned in the 1920s what Americans are learning in 2016: Charismatic authoritarians seeking political office cannot be understood through the framework of traditional politics. They lack interest in, and patience for, established protocols. They often trust few outside of their own families, or those they already control, making collaboration and relationship building difficult. They work from a different playbook, and so must those who intend to confront them. The authoritarian playbook is defined by the particular relationship such individuals have with their followers. It’s an attachment based on submission to the authority of one individual who stands above the party, even in a regime. Mussolini, a journalist by training, used the media brilliantly to cultivate a direct bond with Italians that confounded political parties and other authority structures and lasted for 18 years. For over a year now, Trump has been subjecting Americans and American democracy to analogous tests. Actions many see as irrational make chilling sense when considered under this framework: the many racist tweets or retweets, which his campaign then declares a mistake. His early declaration that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in New York and not lose any supporters. His extended humiliation of powerful politicians such as Paul Ryan and John McCain. His attempt to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the American electoral process. His intimation that “the Second-Amendment people” might be able to solve the potential problem of Hillary Clinton appointing judges, presumably by shooting her. This last remark is a sign that Trump feels emboldened in his quest to see how much Americans and the GOP will let him get away with — and when, if ever, they will say “enough.” (see https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/08/american-authoritarianism-under-donald-trump/495263/).
The Cypriot-Turkish-born American psychoanalyst Vamık Djemal Volkan (born 1932) explained the unconscious dynamics of this special bond between charismatic leaders and their followers. He wrote:
It is generally when an ethnic, national, religious or ideological large group is regressed, that the “fit” between a large group and a political leader with exaggerated self-love (narcissism) is likely to be strongest: the narcissistic leader’s belief in his or her own superior power, intelligence and omnipotence creates comfort for the regressed large group and an illusion of safety. Thus, the followers use the narcissistic leader’s personality as an “antidote” for shared anxiety. In turn, narcissistic leaders utilize the dependency and adoration of their regressed followers as one way to protect and maintain their grandiosity and hide their own dependency needs. Leaders are then inclined to manipulate, in an exaggerated manner, the societal and political signs of large-group regression, consciously, but more importantly, unconsciously. The shared psychological processes of members of a large group dovetail with the internal psychological processes of narcissistic leaders. They, in turn, tame or inflame large-group regression along with its signs or symptoms. (see http://www.vamikvolkan.com/Some-Psychoanalytic-Views-On-Narcissistic-Leaders-and-Their-Roles-in-Large-group-Processes.php).
Let us examine some examples of Trump’s special relationship with his followers to see how he manipulates them and why they idealize him and endow him with such charisma.
The President and the War Widow
On Tuesday night, February 28, 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump delivered an address to a joint session of the two houses of the U.S. Congress. Many Democratic Congresswomen wore white, reminding the world of the women’s suffragette movement a century earlier and of Trump’s misogyny. The high point of the evening came when Trump mentioned the presence in the hall of Carryn Owens, the widow of U.S. Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William Ryan Owens, who had been killed a month earlier in a bungled raid on Al Qaeda in Yemen ordered by none other than Trump himself. The black-clad Ms. Owens sat next to the president’s daughter, Ivanka, in the First Lady’s box high above the hall. In the midst of pressing his case for many more billions of dollars for the U.S. Military, Trump said, looking up at Ms. Owens:
We are blessed to be joined tonight by Carryn Owens, the widow of a U.S. Navy Special Operator, Senior Chief William “Ryan” Owens. Ryan died as he lived: a warrior, and a hero — battling against terrorism and securing our Nation. I just spoke to General Mattis, who reconfirmed that, and I quote, “Ryan was a part of a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies.” Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity. For as the Bible teaches us, there is no greater act of love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Ryan laid down his life for his friends, for his country, and for our freedom — we will never forget him.
The president then addressed the widow directly: “And Ryan is looking down right now. You know that,” he told her. In what seemed to be a reference to the length of the standing ovation that followed his words about her husband, the president said: “And he’s very happy, because I think he just broke a record.”
In fact, the raid in Yemen had been a failure due to incompetence. The death of Ryan Owens on Jan. 29 resulted from a series of errors and misjudgments that produced a fifty-minute firefight with Al Qaeda fanatics. Three other Americans were wounded, as well as several Yemeni civilians. A $75 million aircraft was deliberately destroyed.
The grieving widow, who probably did not know all this, looked upward toward Heaven, where the jubilant president had just told her her husband was, and repeatedly murmured “I love you.” The widow tried to hold back her sobs, but the television cameras focused on her contorted face and tearful eyes. In a rare show of bipartisan unity, Republicans and Democrats rose up and applauded for several minutes in a standing ovation; it was not clear whether they were applauding the president, the dead soldier, or the widow. The president broke from his prepared remarks, saying that Ryan Owens must be looking proudly down from heaven at the “record” likely set, an apparent reference to the long ovation. (see https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/01/us/politics/william-ryan-carryn-owens-navy-seal-yemen.html).
At least one other American war widow, Kaili Joy Gray, saw through Trump’s blatant exploitation of Ms. Owens for his own purposes. She pointed out Trump’s total lack of empathy for the widow’s feelings:
At the very least, I would have hoped my president would be capable of humility, of kindness, and of a recognition that my loss is not about his glory or his blamelessness, but about the tragedy that forever changed my life. It’s hard to imagine, though, that Trump’s words were intended to comfort, and not instead to establish his innocence in this tragedy, to prove that he is a victim of the generals’ insistence upon this mission and of the previous administration’s plans, as he also claimed earlier in the day, and that certainly he bears no responsibility for Carryn Owens’s grief.
This perceptive war widow put her finger on one of Trump’s most prominent character traits, his narcissistic lack of empathy for other people’s feelings and his using them for his own needs:
After all, Trump’s astonishing lack of empathy has been well-documented — from his repeated attacks during the 2016 election on Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the [bereaved] Gold Star parents of United States Army Captain Humayun Khan, to the horrifying story of Trump cutting off health benefits for his own nephew just to spite his family. After the mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub last year, Trump praised himself on Twitter for “being right on radical Islamic terrorism.” Asked recently about the dozens of bomb threats against Jewish community centers and schools, Trump found no sympathy for those victims of terror, but only for himself, the victim of a reporter’s question he did not care to answer. Trump’s sympathy for victims and their families is arbitrary at best and seemingly never without a crass, cynical agenda — to justify his policies, to attack others, or to lavish congratulations upon himself.
Trump’s exploitation of her fellow war widow made Kaili Gray quite upset. She pointed out how the president manipulates the American public by pretending to care for them when he only cares for himself:
To demonstrate his supposed empathy for victims of violent crimes, Trump announced in his speech the creation of a new office, Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE), devoted to crimes committed exclusively by immigrants — one of his favorite subjects, which he invokes regularly to justify his anti-immigration policies. This, as his administration reportedly intends to shift the focus of an existing counter-terrorism program away from white supremacist and right-wing extremism to Islamic extremism only. Trump is unconcerned with the violence committed by white, homegrown criminals. A knife attack in Paris, in which there were no fatalities and one minor injury, was tweet-worthy for Trump to justify his Muslim ban; the deadly shooting at a mosque in Quebec City, allegedly by a far-right extremist and Trump supporter, was greeted with deafening presidential silence.
Ms. Gray has no faith in President Trump. She does not believe anything he says. She perceives him as a malignant narcissist who tries to manipulate and exploit everybody and anybody he ever encounters:
So it is hard to give Trump any benefit of the doubt or credit when it comes to his words about Navy SEAL Owens during his Tuesday night address, even as a flood of post-speech punditry declared this moment marked the long-awaited pivot (at last!), when Trump finally learned to put his pettiness, cruelty, and braggadocio aside and to take seriously the enormous responsibility of the office he holds. Trump is, the day after his speech, still Trump: a man who has compared his “sacrifices” — of creating jobs, building “great structures,” and having “tremendous success” — to those of our fallen military and their families. He is, first and foremost, yesterday, today, and tomorrow, the hero or victim of every story he tells, in which the pain of others is merely a background for his preferred self-serving narrative. And there is nothing presidential about that. (see http://www.cosmopolitan.com/politics/a9078877/carryn-owens-donald-trump-speech-navy-seal-widow/).
So much for the president and the war widow. But, as we shall see, this incident has much more ominous implications for the personality of the president of the United States and for the fate of our species.
The Heart of Darkness
On November 8, 2016 a lifelong gambler, con man and pathological liar named Donald John Trump won the biggest gamble of his life: an unprecedented race by a political novice for the office of President of the United States of America. From a very young age, Donald Trump had practiced both plain deception and self-deception. Thanks to the inequities and to the inadequacies of the antiquated American electoral system, he won the majority of the Electoral College votes, which made him the President-elect, even though millions more Americans voted for his rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton. (for Trump’s “art of deception” see http://edition.cnn.com/2016/10/03/opinions/art-deception-dantonio/ and for his self-deception see https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/10/opinion/truth-and-lies-in-the-age-of-trump.html).
Expressing the feelings of countless people around the world, David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, wrote, “The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency is nothing less than a tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the Constitution, and a triumph for the forces, at home and abroad, of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism. Trump’s shocking victory, his ascension to the Presidency, is a sickening event in the history of the United States and liberal democracy. On January 20, 2017, we will bid farewell to the first African-American President—a man of integrity, dignity, and generous spirit—and witness the inauguration of a con who did little to spurn endorsement by forces of xenophobia and white supremacy. It is impossible to react to this moment with anything less than revulsion and profound anxiety.” (see http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/an-american-tragedy-donald-trump?intcid=mod-latest).
Nonetheless, on Friday, January 20, 2015, repeating his simplistic and populist campaign slogans of America First and Make America Great Again, Donald J. Trump was sworn in by U.S. Supreme Court President John Roberts as the 45th president of the United States of America.
How could a dishonest, arrogant, tyrannical man, a malignant narcissist and hatemonger, a racist, misogynist, high-risk gambler and con man who cannot abide the slightest criticism or resistance to his will, win the presidency of the world’s greatest democracy? How could the voters of the United States entrust a dangerous seventy-year-old egomaniac who must always win over others, who is addicted to defeating and humiliating his opponents, no matter what the cost, who can lie unflinchingly and believe in his own lies, a man with such a dark and vulnerable mind that he may, in his rage, attack Iran, North Korea or some other “terrorist nation” and provoke a Third World War, with the nuclear weapons of the world’s most powerful country and with the future of their country and of humanity itself? This what I set out to explain in this study.
America as the Idealized Mother
Louis XIV, the seventeenth-century “sun king” of France, purportedly said, “I am the State.” While he may not actually have said this, from most accounts this king seems to have been grandiose and narcissistic. Most psychological professionals have similarly diagnosed Donald Trump as suffering from a malignant narcissistic personality disorder. This has become so commonplace that “Donald Trump is a narcissist” is by now a journalistic truism. In Donald Trump’s unconscious mind, he and America are one. In late November 2016, when students burned the American flag at the obscure Hampshire College in Massachusetts, Trump reacted as if they had burned him in person. He became enraged and proposed on Twitter that flag burners should be jailed or lose their American citizenship; both proposals were in fact illegal. (see http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/donald-trump-proposes-two-illegal-responses-flag-burning-n689726).
In 2015 Donald Trump published a book entitled Crippled America, which has now been recycled as Great Again. When Donald Trump that he will make America great again, he unconsciously means, “I shall make myself great again!” or “I shall make America as great as I am!” Trump feels that he is not as great as he should have been, that he needs to become great again. As we shall see below, in his unconscious mind America is his mother; he unconsciously repeats with her his early relationship with his mother, in which, on the one hand, he idealized her, and, on the other, he wanted to destroy her.
Narcissism, however, has a broad spectrum, and it is important to be more precise about Trump’s narcissism. Some types of narcissism may be benign. Barack Obama’s narcissism, for example, is of the high-level, constructive type. He gets his narcissistic satisfaction from lifting other people to his own level, which is very high. Obama also tried to bring people together and to reconcile their differences. Trump’s narcissism, on the other hand, is low-level, malignant and destructive. He gets his narcissistic satisfaction from shaming and humiliating other people, which makes him feel big and powerful next to them. We can see this in the U.S. “reality television” series The Apprentice, a copycat version of a British television series of the same title, which starred Trump, on NBC TV. Each time Trump said “You’re fired!” to one of his “apprentices” he beamed with self-satisfaction, as if he were saying, “See how great I am! I can walk all over you!” Sadomasochism is an integral part of Trump’s narcissism.
In 2007 NBC followed up The Apprentice with The Celebrity Apprentice, on which Trump joyfully humiliated well-known people. Donald Trump received a sort of comeuppance for his sadism in 2015 when NBC fired him from The Celebrity Apprentice after he had publicly attacked Mexican Americans. Typically, however, Trump announced that he had not been fired but that he had rather quit the show to run for President of the United States. This is Trump’s way of preserving his unconsciously shaky self-esteem: he imagines that nobody ever defeats, shames or humiliates him; it is he who always defeats, shames and humiliates others. (see http://www.businessinsider.com/donald-trump-i-wasnt-fired-by-nbc-2015-8).
In 1941 the American actor and filmmaker Orson Welles released his famous film Citizen Kane, in which an enormously wealthy but deeply unhappy newspaper tycoon named Charles Foster Kane, modeled after William Randolph Hearst, runs for political office. As a child, Charlie Kane had a sled named Rosebud, with which he was playing on the day his mother, Mary Kane, suddenly sent him away from home “to be properly educated.” Her real reason for abandoning him was her greed. Mary ran a boarding house in rural Colorado. In lieu of a payment, one of her tenants gave her some stock in what she thought was a worthless mine; it turned out to give her ownership of the Colorado Lode, a working gold mine. Finding herself suddenly wealthy, she decided to send away her son, Charles, to be raised by her banker, Thatcher. Charles was understandably upset and whacked Thatcher with the sled he had been happily riding when Thatcher showed up to escort him away. Kane’s relationship with Thatcher never improved. Vignettes from their years together show Kane engaging in questionable journalism, wasting money, and constantly enraging Thatcher.
Trump’s personal happiness seems to depend on the woman he is with. In 2002 the fifty-four-year-old American documentary filmmaker Errol Morris interviewed the fifty-six-year-old real-estate tycoon Donald Trump about Citizen Kane. Trump, too, had a mother named Mary; she, too, had sent him away from home when he was a boy, after he had insulted his music teacher. The filmmaker’s first question to Trump was, “Do you have any advice for Charles Foster Kane, sir?” The twice-divorced Trump replied, “My advice to Charles Foster Kane is find another woman!” (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a63ymFn6nS0).
At the peak of the 2016 presidential election campaign the American journalist Anthony Audi, who considered Charles Foster Kane a “cinematic monster,” talked to Errol Morris about his interview with Trump, and the following conversation ensued:
Anthony Audi: It’s an incredible line. And it makes you wonder what goes through Trump’s mind as he watches the movie. I still can’t wrap my head around if he just chooses to ignore its obvious moral undertone, or if he genuinely doesn’t see it.
Errol Morris: Well, that’s one of the great mysteries of self-deception. When Donald Rumsfeld says to me, “There you were in the Oval Office of the White House. There’s Gerald Ford, there’s you, there’s Henry Kissinger, et cetera, and we are pulling out of Vietnam. People are climbing onto helicopters.” And I ask: Do you feel we learned anything from the experience of Vietnam? And Donald—I guess the other Donald, Donald Rumsfeld—says to me, “Well, we learned that some things work out and some things don’t. And that didn’t.” And the question that comes to my mind, actually at the time, and then certainly subsequently, is what is he saying to me? Is he just simply saying fuck you and I don’t really care to reflect on this or to answer the question? Or is he revealing the fact that there’s nothing there? Like the Wizard of Oz, you open the curtain and there’s just simply a little man, an imposter, standing there. (see http://lithub.com/erroll-morris-on-the-time-he-filmed-donald-trump-missing-the-point/#).
In his interview with Errol, Morris Trump also said, “The word Rosebud, for whatever reason, has captivated moviegoers and movie watchers for so many years. And, to this day, is perhaps the single word. And perhaps if they came up with another word that meant the same thing, it wouldn’t have worked. But Rosebud works.” Trump said that Rosebud signified “bringing a sad, lonely figure back into his childhood.” Anthony Audi tried to show that Donald Trump had modeled his entire life on the “cinematic loser” Charles Foster Kane. (see http://lithub.com/donald-trump-modeled-his-life-on-cinematic-loser-charles-foster-kane/).
American journalists who have studied his childhood described the boy “Donny” as a “confident, incorrigible bully.” In his autobiographical book The Art of the Deal Trump recalled that in second grade he had punched his music teacher at the Kew-Forest School in Queens, Charles Walker, so hard that he had given him a black eye, because “I didn’t think he knew anything about music,” adding “I almost got expelled.” This was pure fantasy. None of Donald’s classmates, nor Mr. Walker himself, ever recalled such an incident; Mr. Walker’s son, however, remembered the ten-year-old Donny as “a piece of shit.” What did this fantasy mean, then? Did the “ignorant” music teacher represent Donny’s “unmusical” father in his unconscious mind? (see https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/young-donald-trump-military-school/2016/06/22/f0b3b164-317c-11e6-8758-d58e76e11b12_story.html).
When Donny was in seventh grade he was in fact expelled from his school, where his father was on the school board, after insulting — but not punching — his music teacher; he was sent away from home to a boarding school at the New York Military Academy in upstate New York. His father did not lift a finger to protect him; in fact, he approved his expulsion. His expulsion from school was Trump’s Rosebud: it was the first serious failure in his life, and it left him with very painful feelings of rejection, shame, humiliation and narcissistic rage. (see https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/young-donald-trump-military-school/2016/06/22/f0b3b164-317c-11e6-8758-d58e76e11b12_story.html).
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
The well-known borderline personality disorder is characterized first and foremost by emotional instability. While Donald Trump may not suffer from this disorder, as Adolf Hitler did, the most predictable thing about him is his unpredictability. He can change from a pleasant, smiling fellow with a sense of humor into a mean, growling, humorless bully in a moment. The total lack of connection between his different selves is due to the operation of unconscious splitting. (see http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/12/the-radical-unpredictability-of-donald-trump.html).
In 1922 Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) wrote his younger writer friend Arthur Schnitzler (1862-1931) that great writers, such as William Shakespeare, often have deeper psychological insight than psychoanalysts, and that they also express it more beautifully. The Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) was a case in point. The protagonist of his Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is an upper-class physician of impeccable manners who seeks to prove that every person harbors evil along with good in his soul. To do so he concocts a potion that turns him into an evil beast, Mr. Hyde, who perpetrates all manner of sadistic and violent acts on innocent people. He then drinks an antidote that turns him back into the mild-mannered Dr. Jekyll.
There is a splitting between the two characters in the story; they cannot exist together at the same time. In most people, however, the good and bad aspects of the self are merged in the same personality. When the good and evil aspects of the self are split, when the person can be totally different at different times and in different situations, this is known as “multiple personality disorder” or “dissociative personality disorder.” (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dissociative_identity_disorder).
Some observers have noted Trump’s Jekyll-and-Hyde personality, his unconscious splitting, his black-and-white view of the world. For him everything and everyone is either good or bad; there are no shades of gray, nothing and no one can be both good and bad. This is part of his unconscious splitting of both his internal self and external reality. He sees himself as all-good and his opponents as all-bad. The all-white can also become all-black. At first he praised his predecessor, Barack Obama, for having treated him very gracefully during the transition-of-power period; later he repeatedly denounced Obama, one of the best presidents the United States had ever had, for having “destroyed America” with his “misguided policies.”
All of the southwestern U.S. had been part of Mexico, conquered by the U.S. during the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848. During his presidential campaign, Trump traveled to Mexico to meet its president, Enrique Peña Nieto, and was friendly to him; the following day, back in the U.S., Trump viciously attacked the “illegal and criminal Mexican immigrants.” Needles to say, Peña Nieto felt that he had been manipulated and humiliated. The Australian journalist Paul McGeough noted Trump’s “Jekyll-and-Hyde performance” on the Mexican issue but did not see that this was the crucial aspect of his character and politics. A few days after Trump’s inauguration he announced again that he would build his two-thousand-mile-long “wall” between the U.S. and Mexico and that Mexico would pay for it; Peña Nieto, who is twenty years Trump’s junior, promptly denied this statement and canceled his scheduled meeting with Trump. Unable to endure this public humiliation, Trump announced that this had been a joint decision and that since Mexico could not “treat the U.S. with respect” their meeting would have been fruitless. (see http://www.smh.com.au/world/us-election/different-messages-to-different-audiences-donald-trump-on-immigration-in-mexico-and-arizona-20160901-gr68l1.html for McGeough’s article and http://edition.cnn.com/2017/01/25/politics/mexico-president-donald-trump-enrique-pena-nieto-border-wall/index.html for the cancellation of Peña Nieto’s visit).
After hearing so much in early 2016 about Donald Trump’s misogyny, his rudeness to women, his bad marriages and divorces, his crudeness to beauty queens, his abuse of Former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, and his sexual assaults on beautiful women, there was a big surprise. In March, at a Trump election rally in Wisconsin, a sick woman got up to publicly thank Trump for his generosity to her. She was the terminally-ill former Miss Wisconsin, Melissa Young, who said, “You’ve saved me in so many ways. In recent years I’ve been struggling with an incurable illness and I’m on home care now and it was caused by a doctor’s medical negligence. In those dark days fighting — right now all the tubes have been removed and I have a ‘do not resuscitate’ order and I have a seven year old son — those days in the hospital, I received from you a handwritten letter that says ‘to the bravest woman I know.’ […] It lifted my spirits. He continued to do that, to reach out to check on me, to check on my son to see how he was doing.” In October 2016, at the height of the U.S. presidential race, the dying Melissa Young again told reporters that Mr. Trump was the most generous person upon the face of this earth, that he had helped her in her darkest hour, and that she would love, praise and support him “until her last breath.” She added that this was the only Donald Trump she knew, and that she had never experienced any of the abuse that he had reportedly heaped on other women. (see http://edition.cnn.com/2016/09/30/politics/former-miss-wisconsin-trump-darkest-hour-newsroom-costello-intv/).
Another woman who trumpeted Donald Trump’s virtues in the past is the First Lady of the United States, his Slovenian-born third wife, Melania Trump. She had been born Melanija Knavs; after immigrating to the U.S. she had anglicized her name to Melania Knauss. In 2004, in one of her first appearances on Trump’s “reality” television show The Apprentice, the future Mrs. Trump “committed the cardinal sin of upstaging her future husband.” Donald Trump and Melania Knauss had been together for four years; despite her “cardinal sin,” they became engaged to be married two weeks after the episode, and were married the following year. Trump believed that he had finally found the right mate. “She’s shown she can be the woman behind me,” he later told the gossip columnist Cindy Adams. “We’re together five years, and these five years for whatever reasons have been my most successful. I have to imagine she had something to do with that.” (see https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/the-mystery-that-is-melania-trump/2016/08/16/d4f10136-527c-11e6-b7de-dfe509430c39_story.html?utm_term=.e18706fa197a).
During the U.S. presidential race of 2016, Melania went all out to defend, protect and promote her husband. She told the senior CNN reporter and anchorman Anderson Cooper that “the Donald she knew” was loving, generous, and kind, and that he would never do anything of the things he bragged about to Billy Bush, who had “egged him on into boy talk.” It takes a good deal of unconscious denial for a wife not to recognize in her husband what is plain for the whole world to see — unless Melania’s private Donald is very different from the public Donald Trump whom we all know. (see http://edition.cnn.com/2016/10/17/politics/melania-trump-interview/index.html).
For a while, Donald Trump seemed to be kind to his third wife, Melania, whom he married in 2005. She is still young, slender and beautiful, if somewhat cold, and, above all, satisfies his narcissistic needs; but he inflicted emotional pain on Melania with the revelations of his sexual misconduct during the campaign and, as he told his biographer, being married to him is very tough. During the Al Smith charity dinner following Trump’s third debate with Hillary Clinton, he publicly embarrassed Melania by “humorously” reminding everyone that she had copied her campaign speech from Michelle Obama. Melania smiled, but she was obviously hurt. (see http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/26/us/politics/donald-trump-interviews.html?emc=edit_ta_20161025&nlid=68054513&ref=cta&mtrref=undefined&_r=0).
As the 2016 campaign progressed, Melania seemed to grow increasingly unhappy; the American magazine Vanity Fair published an article entitled “The Quiet Tragedy of Melania Trump,” showing how her small acts of defiance and resistance to her husband betrayed her growing unhappiness with him. In November 2016, after Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election, Melania praised him in a joint family interview with Lesley Stahl on the CBS News program 60 Minutes as “tough, confident and strong.” That was shortly after he had embarrassed her publicly at the Al Smith charity dinner. By mid-February 2017, less than a month into her First Lady career, Melania was showing signs of misery. “The Donald she knew” had made her, as he had his two previous wives, quite unhappy. During their red-carpet walk upon arrival in Israel on May 22, 2017, Melania walked beside Donald, on his left. Donald reached out his left hand to hold Melania’s right hand; rather than take it, she slapped his hand and kept hers to herself. One can only imagine what is going on between the narcissistic president and his unhappy wife. (for the Vanity Fair article see http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2016/10/quiet-tragedy-of-melania-trump for the CBS interview see http://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-donald-trump-family-melania-ivanka-lesley-stahl and for Melania’s unhappiness as First Lady see http://nypost.com/2017/02/15/melania-trump-is-absolutely-miserable-as-first-lady).
How can we square the magnanimous Dr. Donald with the mean Mr. Trump? Well, the Jekyll-and-Hyde personality is familiar to psychological professionals. It is based upon what psychoanalysts call an unconscious “splitting of the self.” This kind of splitting develops early in one’s life, as a psychic defense, when the child cannot reconcile the “good” or pleasurable and “bad” or painful parts of himself. It usually goes along with an inner “object splitting,” when the child cannot reconcile the “good” and “bad” parts of its primary emotional “object,” usually the mother, upon which his very life depends.
The “splitting of the self” was given literary expression in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, while “object splitting” is given concrete expression in fairy tales, such as that of Snow White, whose protagonist has two mothers, one all good, but dead, the other all bad, cold, narcissistic, who keeps looking at her own image in the mirror. When this unconscious splitting persists into one’s adult life, the Jekyll-and-Hyde personality develops. Indeed, Donald Trump sees his world in split-up, black-and-white terms: to him, there are “very good people” and there are “very bad people” who must be denied entry, deported or killed. In reality, most people are both good and bad.
How did Donald Trump develop his Jekyll-and-Hyde personality? His alternating, deeply ambivalent, love-and-hate attitude to women gives us a clue. He is fascinated by beautiful women, but his love for them has repeatedly alternated with, or turned into, contempt, hatred and abuse.
Trump can be endlessly generous to dying beauties like Melissa Young, as he was at first to his beautiful Czech-born first wife, Ivana Zelníčková, whom he married in 1977; after thirteen years of marriage and three children, however, after she had put on weight and lost her beauty, he tired of her, had an affair with the former Georgia beauty queen, Marla Maples, and divorced Ivana in a notorious trial, in which she claimed that he had been “cruel and inhuman”to her.
Trump’s second wife, Marla, whom he married in 1993, gave him one child. Their marriage lasted less than four years; once more, his idealization of a woman he loved seems to have turned into a loathing for her, and they had an ugly divorce trial.
During Trump’s first two marriages he seems to have sexually assaulted numerous women by kissing, caressing and groping them in the intimate parts of their bodies against their will. No woman has publicly claimed that he had tried to rape her, however. Trump, who lives in a world of his own, may have seen his attacks on women as delightful attempts at seduction. Did he get his orgasms from touching, kissing, caressing or groping beautiful women against their will without having sexual relations with them? Does he suffer from a sexual addiction or, as Hitler did, from a sexual perversion?
“Alternative Facts” and “Fake News”
After Donald Trump’s inauguration, the American mass-communication media found that much fewer people had attended it than those who attended that of Barack Obama. Trump, for whom lying is second nature, angrily accused the media of faking the news and declared that reporters were the most dishonest people on the face of the earth. His press secretary, Sean Spicer, who later publicly claimed that Adolf Hitler had never used any chemical weapons, publicly claimed that Trump’s inauguration audience was the largest that had ever attended any U.S. presidential inauguration; Trump’s senior advisor, Kellyanne Conway, told a CNN television interviewer that there were “alternative facts” that proved her boss right; and, as the American journalist Samantha Schmidt has put it, in early February 2017 Ms. Conway “took those ’alternative facts’ to a new level” when she defended Trump’s travel ban on the citizens of seven Muslim countries by citing a “Bowling Green massacre” that never happened. The language of the Trump administration was beginning to sound like Newspeak in George Orwell’s 1984 or, if you like, like Victor Klemperer’s Lingua Tertii Imperii (Language of the Third Reich). One could clearly see here the operation of unconscious denial and projection on a large scale. (for Conway’s “alternative facts” see http://edition.cnn.com/2017/01/22/politics/kellyanne-conway-alternative-facts/ and for her “Bowling Green massacre” see https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/02/03/kellyanne-conway-cites-bowling-green-massacre-that-never-happened-to-defend-travel-ban/?utm_term=.454ec0503795).
Donald Trump had also told Errol Morris in their taped interview that he could understand why the table between Charles Foster Kane and his wife in Citizen Kane grew larger and larger as the two grew farther and farther apart. The American journalist James Fallows found Trump’s statements about Citizen Kane “utterly absorbing. For any rich person to say these things about the movie, and its theme of the isolation of wealth, would be something. But from the Trump we now (think we) know, the clip is more like astonishing. The man we see here seems … introspective. Self-aware.” (see http://www.theatlantic.com/notes/2016/10/trump-time-capsule-148-rosebud-and-hillary/505391/).
Is Donald Trump really self-aware? In his bizarre press conference of February 16, 2017, less than a month into his presidency, President Trump bitterly complained about the “tone of hatred, such hatred” that pervades his coverage by the American mass-communications media. He said that he was really not a bad person, that he was, in fact, a very nice person, and that he could not understand why the media hated him so much. To me, this indicates a total lack of self-awareness. People hate Trump because he is selfish and cold, because he constantly lies, because he does not really care about anyone but himself, because he is abusive, abrasive, and downright unpleasant. Trump himself, however, does not think so at all. He thinks he is very nice. He has no idea why others hate him. Donald Trump lives in a psychological world of his own, in which he is the greatest, strongest and smartest person on the face of the earth. His reality-testing is shaky; denial seems to be one of his key unconscious defenses. He constantly makes statements with no basis in fact. Is Trump consciously and deliberately lying? Is he even aware that he is lying? Does he believe his own lies? Is he able to tell the difference between reality and fantasy? (see https://www.ctvnews.ca/world/trump-presser-15-of-the-most-bizarre-moments-1.3288901
Xanadu and Mar-a-Lago
Xanadu is the name of the “stately pleasure-dome” of the Mongol emperor in the poem Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Orson Welles liked this poem; in Citizen Kane, the newspaper mogul Charles Foster Kane owns a vast Florida estate named Xanadu. Like him, Donald John Trump owns Mar-a-Lago, a landmark estate near Palm Beach, Florida, built in the 1920s as a retreat for U.S. presidents. Trump bought it in 1985; he spends almost every weekend in his “Winter White House.” Unlike the reclusive Kane, however, the greedy and gregarious Trump turned Mar-a-Lago into a private commercial club for millionaires, with membership fees of up to $200,000 per year. Just before Election Day 2016, a perceptive Cornell University senior had this assessment of Donald Trump’s view of Citizen Kane:
Following Welles’ lead, most viewers have interpreted the images of Charles Kane alone in his extravagant estate as critical of material pursuits, and also reminiscent of William Hearst’s own retreat behind castle walls. Trump, meanwhile, sees the grandeur of Greek tragedy in the film but plays down the significance of the fall. “There is a great rise in Citizen Kane, and there was a modest fall,” he said. “The fall wasn’t a financial fall, it was a personal fall. But it was a fall, nevertheless.” This coping mechanism may prove itself useful come Tuesday. In the end, Hearst and Kane’s political careers failed spectacularly, imploding in scandal and landslide defeats. To his credit, Trump’s toxic vacuum of narcissism has carried him farther than either of those men went, and he currently sits within reach of the country’s highest office. If and when he loses, the real estate mogul seems likely to retain the limelight rather than retreat behind the walls of Mar-a-Lago. The “fall,” after all, is only a matter of perspective. (see http://cornellsun.com/2016/11/08/stanton-trumps-rosebud/).
Trump won the Electoral College vote, but lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton. Her advisers called for a recount in some states in which the vote was close. Trump tweeted that he had also won the popular vote “if you discount the millions of illegal votes.” After the CIA announced that it had evidence of Russia having tried to sway the U.S. election, U.S. Senators called for an investigation for Russia’s role in hacking Trump’s election. Trump reacted by attacking the CIA and telling an interviewer that he did not need its daily briefing. The Washington Post was clearly worried. (see https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-cia-on-collision-course-over-russias-role-in-us-election/2016/12/10/ad01556c-bf01-11e6-91ee-1adddfe36cbe_story.html).
Donald Trump’s other unconscious psychic defense is massive projection. On January 11, 2017, nine days before his inauguration, in his first press conference in many months, he publicly clashed with CNN’s senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. Trump, who acts more like Adolf Hitler than any other American political leader in living memory, had tweeted “Are we living in Nazi Germany?” Trump denounced CNN’s reports on his ties with Russia and on the Russians’ file on him as “fake. Acting like a true tyrant, when Mr. Acosta tried to ask him a question, Trump would not let him speak. The reporter loudly and repeatedly insisted that he deserved to be given the chance to ask Trump a question after Trump had libeled his network, but Trump repeatedly told him to sit down and be quiet, and Trump’s incoming press secretary, Sean Spicer, threatened to throw Acosta out of the room. Will Americans soon find out that they are living in an American version of Hitler’s Germany? Donald Trump cannot tolerate public shaming and humiliation. The incident with Acosta seems to forebode a serious curtailing of the freedom of the press which Americans have always taken for granted. (see https://mediamatters.org/video/2017/01/11/cnns-jim-acosta-reports-incoming-press-secretary-spicer-threatened-throw-him-out-trump-press/214977).
The Poor Immigrant Mother
Is Donald John Trump anything like the fictional Charles Foster Kane? Will he end up in Trump Tower as Kane does at Xanadu, abandoned by his wife, destroying everything around him, and dying with his prize possession, Rosebud, cast into the flames of his furnace? Will those flames not only consume Trump Tower but all of New York, America, and the entire world? If so, what was his Rosebud? Let us try to find out.
When he was a child Donald Trump’s mother, Mary Anne MacLeod Trump (1912-2000) called him “Donny,” and the nickname stuck. “Donny” Trump idealized his “smart” mother and identified with her “smartness.” Under this idealization, however, as we shall see below, lay unconscious narcissistic rage at a mother who, on the one hand could not let him separate from her, and on the other, let his father send him away from home when he was a teenager.
In The Art of the Comeback, published in 1997, Trump praised his “smart” mother and criticized the other women in his life. “Part of the problem I’ve had with women has been in having to compare them to my incredible mother, Mary Trump. My mother is smart as hell.” Donald dropped his mother’s middle name, Anne, in this sentence; if her name was Mary rather than Mary Anne, then she was not his sister Maryanne’s namesake. In his first TV debate with Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump boasted of how “smart” he was in not having paid any U.S. federal taxes.
Donald Trump’s unconscious identification with his mother Mary Anne goes very deep. Trump has named a room at Mar-a-Lago after his mother, Mary Anne. She and Donald shared a penchant for dramatic hair sculpting: “For years Mary Trump appeared in photos with a dramatic orange swirl. Slight in frame, she took to New York City’s streets draped in furs and jewelry, a far cry from the teen-age girl who set sail during the Great Depression.” (see http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/donald-trumps-immigrant-mother).
Along with his conscious idealization of his mother, however, Donald harbors unconscious rage at her. We can get some insight into this darker side of Trump’s relationship with his mother from the fact that Mary Anne MacLeod (1912-2000) had been a poor immigrant, and that in August 2005 Trump published an immigration plan in which he railed against poor immigrants being allowed to enter the United States:
The influx of foreign workers holds down salaries, keeps unemployment high, and makes it difficult for poor and working-class Americans — including immigrants themselves and their children — to earn a middle-class wage. Nearly half of all immigrants and their US-born children currently live in or near poverty, including more than 60 per cent of Hispanic immigrants. Every year, we voluntarily admit another two million new immigrants, guest workers, refugees, and dependents, growing our existing all-time historic record population of 42 million immigrants. We need to control the admission of new low-earning workers. (see http://ijr.com/2016/02/546532-donald-trump-turned-down-hundreds-of-american-workers-and-hired-immigrants-instead/).
Mr. Hannan wrote ironically, “How inconvenient for the would-be president that ‘low-earning worker’ was exactly the status of [his mother] Mary Anne MacLeod when she emigrated from Scotland to the USA in 1930.” (see http://www.thenational.scot/news/an-inconvenient-truth-donald-trumps-scottish-mother-was-a-low-earning-migrant.17822).
In 1987 Donald Trump published a best-selling book entitled The Art of the Deal, written by himself and by the journalist Tony Schwartz, who later asserted that he, not Trump, had actually written the book, and that he regretted his involvement with Trump. On pp. 79-80 of that book Donald wrote, “Looking back, I realize now that I got some of my sense of showmanship from my mother. She always had a flair for the dramatic and the grand. She was a very traditional housewife, but she also had a sense of the world beyond her.” (see http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/donald-trumps-immigrant-mother).
The forty-year-old Trump recalled that his mother had been “enthralled” by the pomp and circumstance of the Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953, which she watched on television, glued to the set the whole day, while his father Fred “paced around impatiently, saying, “For Christ’s sake, Mary, enough is enough, turn it off.” Ironically, the father’s middle name was Christ. The British queen’s coronation, however, took place when “Donny” was only seven years old. Did he really recall his mother’s “enthrallment” when he was a child? Was she as childish as she seems from this recollection? (see http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/donald-trumps-immigrant-mother).
“My mother didn’t even look up,” Trump wrote, implying that she was the stronger of the two parents. “They were total opposites in that sense. My mother loves splendor and magnificence, while my father, who is very down-to-earth, gets excited only by competence and efficiency.” While Donald became a wealthy businessman like his father, on a deeper level he identified more with his mother; like his mother, he loves splendor and magnificence; and, like her, he has a knack for dramatic hairdos and a flair for dramatic showmanship, with constant exaggeration and endless lying. (see http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/donald-trumps-immigrant-mother).
The Fear of Shame and Humiliation
In 1996 the Canadian political scientist and psychoanalyst Blema Steinberg published a very important book entitled Shame and Humiliation: Presidential Decision Making on Vietnam, in which she compared the war-related decisions of U.S. Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon as commanders-in-chief concerning Vietnam. Steinberg demonstrated the crucial influence of experiences of shame and humiliation on the tragic war-related decisions of Johnson, who entered the Vietnam war, and of Nixon, who prolonged it, costing hundreds of thousands of lives, as opposed to the wise decision of Eisenhower, who had not suffered such experiences, and who had refused to let the French drag the U.S. into that war. (see http://www.mqup.ca/shame-and-humiliation-products-9780773513921.php).
Donald Trump seems to fascinate writers, cartoonists, and biographers. The Japanese-American journalist Michiko Kakutani (born 1955) has reviewed six recent books about the President-elect, most of them by journalists, “written rapidly as Mr. Trump’s presidential candidacy gained traction” in order to capitalize on his political ascendancy: Trump Revealed by Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher of The Washington Post; Trump and Me by Mark Singer of The New Yorker; The Making of Donald Trump by the Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston, a former reporter for The New York Times; Yuge by the cartoonist G. B. Trudeau; Never Enough by another Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist, the free-lance Michael D’Antonio; and Great Again by Trump himself, a recycled version of his book Crippled America. Kakutani wrote, “the latest of these books rarely step back to analyze in detail the larger implications and repercussions of the Trump phenomenon. Nor do they really map the landscape in which he has risen to popularity and is himself reshaping through his carelessness with facts, polarizing remarks and disregard for political rules.” (see http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/26/books/in-books-on-donald-trump-consistent-portraits-of-a-high-decibel-narcissist.html?_r=0).
The most serious among these books seems to be that of the American writer Michael D’Antonio. His fascinating biography of Donald Trump gives us an important insight into the unconscious sources of Trump’s powerful need to shame and humiliate others. D’Antonio’s book was entitled Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success and was re-published in 2016 as The Truth About Trump. (see http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/27/books/review/never-enough-donald-trump-and-the-pursuit-of-success-by-michael-dantonio.html).
The original title of D’Antonio’s book was apt: whatever success Trump achieves, his unconscious grandiose self says to him, “That is not enough!” and demands ever greater achievements. In an interview with a German television station, D’Antonio called Trump a “narcissistic sociopath” with no empathy or feeling for those around him as human individuals. (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vmW3GyRjxA).
Trump has had his share of shame and humiliation. Even if we put aside the strong possibility of his having suffered them in his early life, his adult life has been full of them: his first two marriages broke up; his business companies have suffered no less than six bankruptcies; and he is publicly known not to have paid any federal taxes for many years. (see http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/jun/21/hillary-clinton/yep-donald-trumps-companies-have-declared-bankrupt/).
For a normal man, such public failures would have been shameful and humiliating; Trump’s biographer, Michael D’Antonio, has found that he is obsessed by shame and humiliation and deeply fears them. To avoid the unbearable pain of shame and humiliation, and the depression that might ensue from them, however, Trump twists reality to view each of his failures as a success: his failed marriages got him the world’s most beautiful woman as a third wife; his Chapter 11 bankruptcies only made him wealthier; he is so “smart,” he says, that he has “bigly” exploited loopholes in the U.S. tax code to pay no federal taxes over decades. (see http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/27/books/review/never-enough-donald-trump-and-the-pursuit-of-success-by-michael-dantonio.html).
Donald Trump is so thin-skinned that he, his companies and his wife have filed some four thousand libel suits against journalists and mass-communication media; this has had a chilling effect on reporters and editors alike. While courageous journalists of high integrity like those at The New York Times have stood up to him, others have published retractions and apologies. The scariest thing about Donald Trump’s inability to suffer shame and humiliation is his unpredictable reaction to North Korea’s and Iran’s constant flow of anti-American vituperation. The U.S. President is a Twitter addict. In early January 2017 Trump tweeted that he would not allow North Korea to acquire a missile that could reach the United States; he also insulted China by tweeting, “China has been taking out massive amounts of money & wealth from the U.S. in totally one-sided trade, but won’t help with North Korea. Nice!”(see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-north-korea-tweets_us_586b198de4b0eb58648a423e).
In early February, after Iran tested a long-range missile, Trump’s national security adviser, General Michael Flynn, who is known for his hatred of Islam and of Muslims, and who resigned in disgrace shortly thereafter, publicly announced: “We are officially putting Iran on notice” without spelling out what he meant. On February 11, 2017, after North Korea tested yet another long-range missile, Trump stood alongside Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, at Mar-a-Lago and declared that the U.S. was 100% behind Japan. Trump’s saber-rattling was alarming because it could lead the U.S. to war with with nuclear-armed North Korea whose consequences, not only for these two countries, but also for South Korea, for Japan, and for our whole world might be dire. (see https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/01/iran-trump-michael-flynn-on-notice).
Some of Trump’s appointments have been very alarming. His chief political strategist and senior counselor is the far-right American nationalist Steve Bannon; because of his racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim statements, his appointment, shortly after Trump’s election, drew fire from the U.S. Anti-Defamation League, the Council on American–Islamic Relations, the Southern Poverty Law Center, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, and even some Republican politicians. Bannon, whom Trump has put on his National Security Council while removing the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from it, has told the U.S. mass-communication media to “keep its mouth shut.”
Trump appointed Rex Tillerson, the chairman of Exxon Mobile and a former close friend of the Russian tyrant Vladimir Putin, who has committed war crimes in Ukraine and in Syria, his Secretary of State; his ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, adamantly opposes the two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While some of us Israelis were overjoyed at the long-overdue move of the U.S. embassy in our country to our “eternal capital” of Jerusalem, the Arab leaders have declared that this move would make the traditional U.S. role of honest broker between the Israeli Jews and the Palestinian Arabs no longer tenable; and the one-state solution would mean the end of Zionism, if not second-class citizenship for the Arabs. Trump’s designated Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, does not believe in global warming and in climate change, which is like a Secretary of the Treasury not believing in money. (see http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/16/world/middleeast/david-friedman-us-ambassador-israel.html?_r=0 on Friedman and https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/26/business/media/stephen-bannon-trump-news-media.html?_r=0 on Bannon).
Trump’s appointments and his statements on nuclear weapons endangered the future of our species. On January 26, 2017, reacting to those statements and appointments, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved its Doomsday Clock to two-and-a-half minutes to midnight, indicating that nuclear war and the end of our species were more imminent than at any time since 1953, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union tested their hydrogen bombs. Dr. Rachel Bronson, the executive director of the Bulletin, wrote, “words matter, and President Trump has had plenty to say over the last year. Both his statements and his actions as president-elect have broken with historical precedent in unsettling ways. He has made ill-considered comments about expanding the US nuclear arsenal. He has shown a troubling propensity to discount or outright reject expert advice related to international security, including the conclusions of intelligence experts. And his nominees to head the Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency dispute the basics of climate science. In short, even though he has just now taken office, the president’s intemperate statements, lack of openness to expert advice, and questionable cabinet nominations have already made a bad international security situation worse.” (see http://thebulletin.org/sites/default/files/Final%202017%20Clock%20Statement.pdf).
On January 28, 2017, without consulting Congressional leaders, President Trump signed an executive order banning refugees, immigrants, and other citizens of seven Muslim Arab countries — Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and Iran — from entering the United States, claiming that “Radical Islamic terror” had to be stopped and that the Islamic State (also known as ISIL or ISIS) has to be destroyed. Significantly, Saudi Arabia, the home of the terrorists who had committed the worst attack on U.S. soil on September 11, 2001, killing thousands of Americans, was not included in the ban; nor were Afghanistan and Pakistan, the homes of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, whom America defines as some of the world’s most dangerous terrorist organizations. Congressmen and Senators were roiled, legal experts questioned the constitutionality of this executive order, and protest demonstrations against it erupted all over the world, yet Trump felt that he was saving America — his idealized mother — from those who would destroy it.
Donald Trump cannot abide criticism: it constitutes an unendurable blow to his self-esteem. His defense is to denigrate, attack, or fire the critic. Trump’ unconscious says, “if I can fire, humiliate, attack and ridicule you, then you can’t humiliate me.” When his acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, questioned the legality of his executive order banning Muslims from entering the U.S. he promptly fired her; when a courageous federal judge in Seattle, James Robart, temporarily suspended the president’s ban, an enraged Trump tweeted, “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” He promptly ordered his Justice Department to appeal the ruling to the 9th Circuit federal appeals court in San Francisco. His lawyers argued, incredibly, that the court did not have the authority to review the president¹s executive order. The attorney general of the state of Washington, as well as those of many other states, and some one hundred chief executive officers of top U.S. business corporations filed amicus curiae briefs opposing Trump’s ban and arguing that his executive order was eminently reviewable. The federal appeals court accepted their arguments and upheld Judge Robart’s suspension of Trump’s travel ban. “There is no precedent to support this claimed unreviewability, which runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy,” the court said. Trump’s arrogant response was “See you in court. The security of our nation is at stake!” What was really at stake, however, was Trump’s self-esteem. Jeff Sessions, his new attorney general, will now have the ungrateful and impossible task of defending his boss’s unconstitutional order in the U.S. Supreme Court. (for Trump’s attack on Judge Robart see https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/04/us/politics/visa-ban-trump-judge-james-robart.html?_r=0 and for the appeals court decision see http://www.cnbc.com/2017/02/09/appeals-court-to-issue-decision-on-trump-travel-ban-later-today.html).
On February 8, 2017, in a conversation with U.S. senators, Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, had reportedly criticized Trump’s attacks on the U.S. judicial system as “disheartening” and “demoralizing.” One of his interlocutors, the Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, publicized Gorsuch’s comments and urged him to go public with them; Trump then falsely stated that Blumenthal had “misrepresented” Gorsuch’s comments, adding that the senator had also “misrepresented” his Vietnam record. (for Yates’s firing see http://edition.cnn.com/2017/01/30/politics/donald-trump-immigration-order-department-of-justice/ and for his attack on Senator Blumenthal see http://edition.cnn.com/2017/02/09/politics/donald-trump-neil-gorsuch-democrats/index.html
The abused child becomes an abusive parent. One reason Trump constantly shames and humiliates others may be that he has been traumatically shamed and humiliated himself: it is as if his unconscious was constantly telling him, “Do unto others as they did unto you!” Trump has also hurt and humiliated his wives. In one of his rare moments of self-awareness, he told his biographer that being married to him was very tough. (see http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/26/us/politics/donald-trump-interviews.html?emc=edit_ta_20161025&nlid=68054513&ref=cta&mtrref=undefined&_r=0).
In a series of psychoanalytic studies on the symbolism of international borders in the 1970s and 1980s I have shown that in our unconscious mind external boundaries symbolize internal ones. The external borders are visible: fences, walls, barriers, demarcation lines, checkpoints, border controls and border guards; there are also external laws, rules and prohibitions that tells us what is allowed and what is not. The internal boundaries are invisible, yet no less real: they are the boundaries of the self, namely, sense of where you end and where others begin; internal prohibitions, such as the incest taboo; and the superego, or conscience, that tells one what to do and what not to do and makes on feel guilty, embarrassed or tormented when one has transgressed its statutes. (see http://www.avner-falk.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Border-Symbolism-1989.pdf).
People who do not have clear and firm internal boundaries badly need external ones. Borders, walls and fences defend the self against the unbearable anxiety aroused by the wish for fusion with the other and the fear of loss of self and loss of being through that fusion at the same time. Donald Trump’s internal boundaries are fluid. He does not have a clear sense of self, his self identity is diffuse, he has different selves at different times, and he needs external walls to defend himself against anxiety. Hence Trump Tower, a well-guarded fortress that separates and shields him from the external world. Trump’s powerful desire to build a wall separating the U.S. from Mexico comes from the same wellspring: in his unconscious mind, America is himself, and Mexico is his other, perhaps his engulfing mother, who threatens to engulf him by sending in “bad hombres.”
Gambling as the Quest for Mother’s Love
Donald Trump is a compulsive high-risk gambler. He made most of his enormous fortune by gambling on high-risk business ventures. Gamblers, however, are self-destructive. The gambler wants to force Fate, who is an obvious mother figure (the Romans called her Fortuna), to love him: he says to her, “If you love me, let me win!” We shall see below what this has to with Donald’s relationship to his mother. Most gamblers ultimately lose and destroy themselves. In late1989 or early 1990 Trump made a high-risk business deal with another compulsive gambler, the Japanese billionaire Akio Kashiwagi (1938-1992), who later sued Trump for reneging on his obligations under their deal. Two years later Kashiwagi was murdered by the Yakuza in Tokyo. To this day, twenty-four years later, the Japanese authorities do not know who ordered this assassination. (see http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/02/japanese-gambler-donald-trump-213635).
Donald Trump clearly has fantasies of omnipotence. During the third presidential debate, when Hillary Clinton described the sort of Supreme Court judges she would nominate, Trump said he would appoint pro-life judges. The U.S. political and judicial system, however, only gives the president the power to nominate judges and submit their nominations to Congress, who votes on their nomination; it does not give the President the power to appoint those justices. (see http://www.lifenews.com/2016/10/19/donald-trump-i-am-pro-life-and-i-will-be-appointing-pro-life-judges-to-the-supreme-court/).
One of Trump’s younger friends at NBC was Billy Bush, who produced the weekday television entertainment news program Access Hollywood and later hosted the Today show. In 2005 Trump and Bush worked together on an Access Hollywood episode that indirectly promoted Trump’s show The Apprentice by including his cameo appearance on an episode of an NBC soap opera, Days of Our Lives. As the two men rode a bus with the show’s name written across its side to the set of Days of Our Lives to videotape Trump’s cameo appearance, Bush secretly recorded Trump bragging to him about his sexual exploits with women, including grabbing their genitals: “They’ll let you do anything if you’re a star!”
In 2016, just before Donald Trump’s second televised debate with Hillary Clinton, Billy Bush destroyed Trump’s political career by releasing the tape of their “lewd” conversation on that bus, which Donald Trump belittled during that debate as “locker room talk.” He lied to the moderator, Anderson Cooper, who had asked him whether he had done the things he had bragged about to Bush, by quickly saying “No, I have not” while speaking of his “great respect for women.” Lying seems to come naturally to Trump; he seems to believe that he is entitled to do anything and everything he pleases, including lying in public. (see http://time.com/4529433/inside-donald-trump-total-meltdown/).
This could not have been accidental. Trump, who had humiliated countless other people, must have offended Bush as well. The release of the tape was a suicide-bomber act, however: Bush himself was suspended by NBC for it two days later. (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billy_Bush#Suspension_for_lewd_Trump_conversation).
Donald’s “Smart” Mother
The French say cherchez la femme; psychoanalysts would say cherchez la mère. This in no way means blaming the mother for her son’s faults; it means trying to understand how Donald Trump became what he is and what unconscious role his mother may have played in this. It is no accident that two of Donald Trump’s three wives have been beautiful foreign immigrants; his mother, Mary Anne MacLeod, whom he has called “smart as hell,” had been one herself. Sigmund Freud thought that exogamy was an unconscious defense against incestuous wishes. Trump’s repeated choice of foreign wives expresses both his unconscious incestuous wish and his defense against it. (see http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/donald-trumps-immigrant-mother).
But this is not the most important aspect of Donald Trump’s psychology. The crucial effect of Mary Anne MacLeod Trump on her son was her unwitting part in the creation of his Jekyll-and-Hyde personality. Donald Trump has told many stories about himself and his parents; his tales about his father and his fortune are well known, while those about his mother less so. One of them is that his mother, Mary Anne MacLeod, came from Scotland to America “on vacation” and overstayed her tourist visa; in fact, Mary Anne MacLeod made three voyages from Scotland to the United States in her youth: the first was in 1929, when she was seventeen, to visit her married elder sister, who had already immigrated from Scotland to America; the second trip was in 1930, when she herself came to the U.S. as an immigrant; and the third voyage was in 1934, when she returned to Scotland for three months before sailing again to New York.
The first trip was recently discovered by the American journalist Mary Pilon, who mistook it for Mary Anne’s immigration voyage; the second and third voyages were found last May by the Scottish journalist Martin Hannan, who described Mary Anne MacLeod as “a penniless Scot who traveled to America as an immigrant when she was eighteen,” in 1930, seeking a better life. She left Scotland with only $50 to her name to work in New York as a “domestic,” meaning a servant or a maid; and she was not only fleeing poverty but also her family. (see http://www.thenational.scot/news/the-mysterious-mary-trump-the-full-untold-story-of-how-a-young-scotswoman-escaped-to-new-york-and-raised-a-us-presidential-candidate.17824).
The Scottish journalist thought that Mary Anne MacLeod was fleeing a family scandal. In late 1920, when Mary Anne was eight years old, her elder sister Catherine MacLeod Reid, known affectionately as Kate or Katie, had given birth out of wedlock to a baby girl in Scotland; she named her daughter Annie. As Mr. Hannan put it, “It is difficult in this modern age to convey just how absolutely scandalous and shameful such a birth occurring to an adherent of the very strict Free Presbyterian Church in a tight-knit community would have been.” Soon after that event, in 1921, Catherine fled to America, where she married, and was followed by three of her sisters in succession. Mary Anne was the fourth MacLeod daughter to leave home and her native land. (see http://www.thenational.scot/news/an-inconvenient-truth-donald-trumps-scottish-mother-was-a-low-earning-migrant.17822).
Mr. Hannan did not ask why Catherine had had an illegitimate child, however, nor why four daughters of the MacLeod family fled their homeland for America. Was it possible that they also escaped an unhappy family? Could it be that, as well as fleeing her “family scandal” in Scotland, Mary Anne MacLeod also hoped to replace an unloving mother with a loving, embracing motherland? Her three back-and-forth voyages between Scotland and America may indicate an unconscious quest for a good mother in the shape of a new motherland. Let us see why Mary Anne may have searched for a good new motherland to “adopt” her.
The youngest of ten children, perhaps an unwanted child, Mary Anne MacLeod had been born on May 10, 1912 in the fishing village of Tong on the Scottish isle of Lewis, the daughter of a Presbyterian fisherman-crofter named Malcolm MacLeod and his wife, Mary Smith MacLeod. Mary Anne’s mother was an orphan who had never known her own father; Duncan Smith had drowned in a fishing accident when she was a year old. Donald’s maternal grandmother had been raised by her bereaved, widowed mother.
How much love could Mary Smith MacLeod have received from her grieving mother? How much love could this orphan mother have given her own children, especially Mary Anne, her last child, whom she may not have wanted, given the nine other children that she had had to raise and take care of?
Mary Anne MacLeod seems to have left Tong for Glasgow as a teenager; three of her sisters were already married and living in the United States by the time she was seventeen and made her first voyage to America in late 1929: Christina MacLeod Matheson, Mary Joan MacLeod Pauley and Catherine MacLeod Reid. In November 1929 Mary Anne MacLeod sailed from Glasgow to New York, returning to Scotland a month or two later. In May 1930 she sailed again for New York, this time with an immigrant’s visa; after landing there she stayed with her sister Catherine in Glen Head, Long Island. Mary Anne MacLeod then worked as a “domestic” with wealthy families in New York for four years. In June 1934, perhaps homesick for her mother, or motherland, she sailed back for Scotland, but returned to New York in September; had she not received the kind of love from her mother that she had pined for?
Mary Marries Christ
Mary Anne MacLeod was slender and pretty in 1935, when she moved as a “domestic” into the Trump family residence at 175-24 Devonshire Road in Jamaica, Queens, New York, a multi-family house built ten years earlier; in early 1936 she wed the American businessman Frederick Christ Trump (1905-1999) at Manhattan’s Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church. It is not clear whether it was Mary Anne’s elder sister Catherine who introduced them. Mary Anne MacLeod was a servant; Fred Trump was an established businessman, builder and developer seven years her senior. Why did the wealthy thirty-year-old American businessman chose to marry a poor twenty-three-year-old immigrant far beneath his station?
Donald Trump uses the word “smart” for himself and for manipulative people like him who excel at using others, and the American legal, political and economic system, to achieve their own ends. In 1997 he published his second book, The Art of the Comeback, where he greatly idealized his old mother: “Part of the problem I’ve had with women has been in having to compare them to my incredible mother, Mary Trump. My mother is smart as hell. I remember once, a long time ago, my sister Maryanne, a highly respected federal judge in New Jersey, told me that my mother is one of the smartest people she ever met. At the time it didn’t make much of an impact on me, but I didn’t really understand why she said it. All I knew was that my mother was a really great homemaker and wife to my father […] but now I fully understand why Maryanne made that statement, and it is 100 percent true.”
By implication, Donald’s father Fred was not as “smart” as his mother Mary Anne. Did the “smart as hell” Mary Anne MacLeod manipulate Frederick Christ Trump into marrying her, using his sexual attraction to him, his idealization of her, or both? (see http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/donald-trumps-immigrant-mother).
In 1937 Mary Anne Trump gave birth to their first child, whom she named, significantly, Maryanne, after herself; their first son, born in 1938, was named Fred Jr. after his father. In 1940, while the Second World War raged in Europe and East Asia, the FDR administration conducted a population census in the United States. Mr. Hannan found that “Fred and Mary Anne Trump played fast and loose with the American authorities on their census return in 1940, stating that Mary Anne Trump was a naturalized [U.S.] citizen when records openly available to researchers show that she was not naturalized until 1942.”
From 1937 to 1947 Frederick Christ and Mary Anne Trump had five children, whom they named, successively, Maryanne, Fred Jr., Elizabeth, Donald John, and Robert. Donald was born in 1946, the fourth child, a year before Robert. It is not clear whom Donald’s mother named him after; it may have been a brother or an uncle whom she loved. Donald seems to have been his mother’s favorite son. He idealized his mother as “very smart” and seems to have identified with her more than he did with his father, both in his hair-styling and in his “smart” manipulations of everyone and everything he encountered.
What kind of mother was Mary Anne to her son Donny? We can hazard an informed guess by looking at the photographs of the former New York “domestic.” Mary Anne’s photos from the time of her first voyages to New York show a beautiful, slender, smiling young woman, looking forward to reaching her new motherland; her picture from her socialite heyday shows a cold and stern face; her snapshots from her older age show an overweight lady with an elaborate hairdo.
As he was growing up, then, the handsome young Donald Trump may have watched with concealed disappointment and anger, how his idealized “housekeeper” mother changed from a thin and beautiful young woman into an old and fat one. Is it surprising, then, that the change that Miss Universe Alicia Machado underwent from a slender beauty queen into an overweight woman reminded Trump of his mother and made him so furious that he attacked her as “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping”? As we have seen, Donald Trump has called his mother, Mary Anne MacLeod Trump, “smart as hell.” She may have “outsmarted” her own children as well, using them for her own needs. Was the “smart” little Donny her favorite child because he was the one who was most like her?
The Psychological Father
Donald Trump’s father, Fred Trump, was a strict disciplinarian. He was on Donald’s school board when “Donny” was expelled at the age thirteen for having insulted his music teacher. Had the sassy and rebellious teen-age Donny insulted his father as well? Later, in his twenties, Donald found a new “father” in the person of Roy Marcus Cohn (1927-1986), a homosexual American Jewish attorney who had become famous during Senator Joseph McCarthy’s investigations into Communist activity in the United States during the “Second Red Scare.” Cohn had gained special prominence during the Army-McCarthy hearings. He was also a member of the U.S. Department of Justice’s prosecution team at the espionage trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were executed in the electric chair.
Three days before the U.S. Election Day in 2016, the American journalist Kathy Kiely (born 1955) published an interview with her colleague David Cay Johnston (born 1948), who had been studying Trump for thirty years and authored The Making of Donald Trump, about the relationship between Donald Trump and Roy Cohn. Here is an excerpt from that interview:
In 1927, Fred Trump was arrested at a Ku Klux Klan meeting in Queens — something his son has tried furiously to deny, but, said Johnston: “I have the clips.” Later, as Johnston details in his book, the elder Trump, in trouble once before with the feds for allegedly bilking a federal housing program for returning GIs, was ordered by the federal authorities to stop discriminating against African-Americans who were trying to rent apartments he owned. The settlement came only after Donald Trump tried unsuccessfully to get the allegations of racial bias thrown out by the courts — a lawsuit in which he was represented by Roy Cohn, former longtime aide to Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI), the disgraced Communist witch-hunt perpetrator. Johnston sees Trump’s association with Cohn — who, he said, “taught Donald how to hurt people”— as part of a disturbing pattern. “We have never had a major party candidate for president with the kind of relationships Donald Trump has,” Johnston said. While some past presidents have had unsavory friends and business associations, Johnston continued, “They were not the mob. They were not drug traffickers.” (see http://billmoyers.com/story/making-donald-trump-told-journalistic-nemesis/).
When Donald Trump married Ivana Zelníčková in 1977, his lawyer was none other than Roy Cohn, who told Trump to put a special clause in his pre-nuptial agreement with Ivana saying that should the couple split, she return everything — cars, furs, rings — that Mr. Trump might give her during their marriage. Roy Cohn had become Donald Trump’s psychological father. “If Fred Trump got his son’s career started, bringing him into the family business of middle-class rentals in Brooklyn and Queens, Mr. Cohn ushered him across the river and into Manhattan, introducing him to the social and political elite while ferociously defending him against a growing list of enemies.” Roy Cohen died of AIDS in 1986 after being disbarred for flagrant ethical violations. It was from Roy Cohn that Donald Trump learned his “wrecking ball of a presidential bid — the gleeful smearing of his opponents, the embracing of bluster as brand.” (see http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/21/us/politics/donald-trump-roy-cohn.html?_r=0 and Gordon Fellman’s comment at the end of this article).
Death of An Elder Brother
Donald’s elder brother, Freddy, who had been born in 1938, died at the age of forty-three from alcohol addiction. The American journalist Jason Horowitz thought that Freddy’s addiction had been caused by his “perfectionist” father, Fred, and by his fiercely competitive and aggressive younger brother, Donald. Horowitz called Freddy “a fun-loving airline pilot with a gift for imitating W.C. Fields.” adding, however, that “the story of Freddy, a handsome, gregarious and self-destructive figure who died as an alcoholic in 1981 at the age of 43, is bleak and seldom told […] The painful case of Freddy Trump, eight years his brother’s senior and once the heir apparent to their father’s real estate empire, also serves as an example of the dangers of failing to conform in a family dominated by a driven, perfectionist patriarch and an aggressive younger brother.” Did Donald Trump blame himself for his elder brother’s death? Did he unconsciously have to punish himself for it? And, if Donald’s father was such a perfectionist, did he not demand such high standards from Donald as well, which Donald found impossible to live up to? (see http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/03/us/politics/for-donald-trump-lessons-from-a-brothers-suffering.html?_r=0).
The driven, perfectionist father, and the aggressive younger brother, however, were not the only cause of Freddy’s self-destructive addition; such addictions begin with early-life experiences of maternal deprivation or rejection, or, more generally, with disturbed mother-child relations. It may not be accidental that it was Mary Anne’s firstborn son, Freddy, who became addicted; nor, for that matter, is it an accident that Trump’s presidential-campaign website makes no mention of his mother, while his books are full of praise for her.
President Donald J. Trump
Let me recap my thesis about the development Trump’s Jekyll-and-Hyde personality. The child Donny had a “smart,” cold, manipulative, narcissistic mother, herself deprived of maternal love, who could not give him what the British psychoanalyst Donald Woods Winnicott called “good enough” mothering. Mary saw herself in her “smart” little Donny as in a mirror and could not let him separate and individuate from her, grow, and be himself; to her he was part of herself, and she could not bear to lose him. This “symbiotic” or fusional relationship caused him unbearable feelings of non-being; his unconscious defense against them was to split his inner image of his mother into two, the all-good mother who nursed him and took care of him and the all-bad one for whom he did not exist.
The False Self
Many Trump watchers have observed that Trump wears a perceptual psychological mask that conceals his true thoughts and feelings from others. In his “Trump Time Capsule” series in The Atlantic, James Fallows distinguished between the “genuine” Donald Trump and the “fake” one. He wrote, “Trump the movie critic, the wheeler-dealer, as well as the X-rated media guru, is the genuine article, while Trump the religious, pro-life, GOP conservative, redneck, Tea Partier … is fake. An act. A stunt. A last gasp for something big before its too late […] He is a lifelong New Yorker, city slicker, playboy, Democrat … now playing a character from rural Mississippi(?) … or West Virginia. Other days he’s Archie Bunker, in a one-man play, on stage. The crowd loves him!” In fact, as have seen, Donald Trump can be Dr. Donald today and Mr. Trump tomorrow; at the same time, Donald Trump often assumes a self that is not his true one; Donald Winnicott has called it “the false self.” (see http://www.theatlantic.com/notes/2016/10/trumps-rosebud-what-happened/505418/).
The boy Donny Trump developed his “false self” in order to win the maternal love that he could not have but could not live without. Donny’s perfectionist, demanding father exacerbated this situation. Donny outwardly complied with his parents’ expectations of him, while inwardly filled with narcissistic rage at both of them. The inner conflict exploded when he attacked his music teacher as a teenager; perhaps his parents’ harsh voices and fights had not been music to his ears.
As Donny grew up and became Donald J. Trump, other women unconsciously took the place of his mother in his unconscious mind. He repeatedly fell in love with a cold, beautiful woman whom he idealized, but later became deeply disillusioned with her, hated her, and left her. Needless to say, the narcissistic Donald is no less cold than his mother was; and even though he called his current wife, Melania, “very warm” in their joint 60 Minutes interview, Melania seems cold and distant in her public appearances. Donald calls himself “smart, tough, strong and confident,” while Melania called him “strong, tough, and confident” — the very terms she used about herself; they seem to have a fusional relationship, just like Donny’s early relationship with his mother. Yet under the surface of harmony lie rage, unhappiness and suffering. (see http://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-donald-trump-family-melania-ivanka-lesley-stahl/).
The most alarming thing about President Donald Trump, however, is not his narcissism, his sadism, or his misogyny. It is his high-risk gambling, his need to defeat his opponents and to win no matter what, his need to defeat, shame and humiliate others at all cost, his splitting of his world into the all-good “us” and the all-bad “them,” his lack of empathy, his inability to treat other people as individuals in their own right rather than as objects to be exploited, his lack of inner boundaries and controls. All of these could bring the United States into armed conflict not only with Iran but also with nuclear powers like North Korea, China, even Russia, and the dire consequences for our entire species are not hard to see.