Trump: Our National Traumatic Stress Syndrome

08/20/2017 07:01 am ET

Is Donald Trump a conceited megalomaniacal bully, who is likely to destroy everything he touches, deepen and widen the fault lines in American society, and end up making the American people pay all his bills? It seems obvious at this point that the answer is unequivocally yes. But why? What could possibly make him, or anyone, behave the way he does? And by behave, I refer to, as a shortcut, “praising Nazis,” because once you go to the trouble of praising Nazis, you’ve pretty much shown everyone exactly who you are. To break it down in a bit more detail, Donald Trump is, from my perspective as a psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapist, a traumatizing narcissist. What that means is that his psychological makeup dictates the he is supremely selfish, cruel, entitled, and always self-justified.

But that’s not all. Why I use the word “traumatizing,” and don’t just leave it at “malignant,” is that a traumatizing narcissist needs to subjugate others - to diminish others in order to inflate himself. Perhaps because of early experiences in his upbringing that led him to feel that humiliation is unbearable, Trump learned that the best way to avoid feeling it himself was by making others feel it. He is driven to avoid feeling ashamed at any and all cost. His solution is to develop a delusional belief in his own perfection/omnipotence. If anyone exposes him in such a way as to ridicule his delusion of omnipotence, he looks for ways to retaliate - denying any feelings of humiliation by humiliating others. This is readily observed in Trump’s fatal attraction/obsession with Obama, whose legacy he has worked assiduously, without his usual laziness, to dismantle - because Obama made fun of him at a press dinner. Yes, I’m saying there is a direct line from Obama’s ridicule to Trump wanting to start a nuclear war with North Korea. “Humiliate me? I won’t just destroy you, I’ll destroy the whole world!” tantrums the traumatizing narcissist. Maintaining a delusion of perfection, infallibility, ultimate superiority, and total entitlement, is the traumatizing narcissist’s first raison d’etre. Humiliating his enemies is the second. Trump’s specialty is not construction; it’s demolition.

Tina Fey recognized this mania for destruction in her recent sketch on Saturday Night Live - Weekend Update, as she rattled off all the horrendous outrages recently perpetrated by Trump, but especially around the Charlottesville white supremacist march. Stuffing her face, in a kind of mad scene with sheet cake, she said, “I’m feeling sick because, you know, I’ve seen Raiders of the Lost Ark and I wasn’t confused by it. Nazis are always bad!” Fey was expressing the feeling of helpless frustration and outrage that many of us now live with constantly. Whatever demonstrations, petitions, calls, op-ed pieces - whatever it is we are all doing right now to protest, it feels like our fate is no longer in our hands. Half the country is brainwashed by dishonest propaganda meant to make them exploitable, deployable agents in service of the billionaire right wing. The entire GOP is constituted of such agents, and they hold all the branches of government hostage to their destructive, fascist agenda of tax cuts for billionaires and destruction of the New Deal, the Great Society and Obama health and energy policies. So when we're not racking our brains figuring out what action to take next, we stress eat. And many of us lose sleep. We are among those who have been “shaken out of the magnolias,” as Lillian Hellman put it in “Watch on the Rhine,” her play about an American family waking up to the reality that there are Nazi sympathizers in the USA. We have just woken up to the fact that there is one in the White House, and he’s the President.

Fortunately, as we have seen today, August 19th, 2017, in Boston, those who repudiate Trump and his authoritarian aspirations, and who especially refuse to normalize white supremacist and Nazi ideologies (same difference, by the way), far outnumber those who would disgrace themselves with swastikas and tiki torches (or disguised versions of same). The question is: are the white, suburban middle class voters who put Trump in office, with their tiki torches firmly ensconced around their patios, paying any attention? Tuned in to Fox News 24/7, they get the billionaire elite (Murdoch, Koch brothers, etc.) propaganda version of what’s going on, with its almost hypnotic hold on the psyche, and its constant appeal to white people to explain and justify their fears and resentments by believing that they are the victims of liberals and multiculturalism.

Will Steve Bannon, with his bloated degenerate version of the lean and hungry look, return now to Breitbart, and bring all those Fox News fans with him, funding his Springtime for Hitler dreams? Trump is inheriting some Voice of America airwaves: will Fox News fans follow him there? Will he rename it Trump/Pravda USA and give us the Putin Perspective as a regular feature? Will Democrats get it together in time to make a coherent and effective plan to defeat American fascism? Will Robert Mueller find what he needs and survive long enough to publicize it?

Yes, American democracy and those who cherish it are being traumatized, and the end is not yet in sight. Trump’s demolition agenda proceeds apace. Let us fight like hell, and when we get tired: let us eat sheet cake. And then let us get right back up and right back in the fight.

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