Is Donald Trump a Sociopath?

From Therapists Confirm Trump’s Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Concerned therapists break silence to warn the public

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump

By Randi Kreger

A few mental health professionals were concerned about my last blog, “Does Donald Trump Have Narcissistic Personality Disorder? Their concern was that American Psychiatric Association’s guidelines warn clinicians they should not diagnose public figures.

I’ve pointed out that I am not a therapist but one [of] many journalists who have explored whether Trump has a personality disorder characterized by grandiosity; an expectation that others will recognize one’s superiority; a lack of empathy, lack of truthfulness, and the tendency to degrade others. If clinicians cannot explore these things, thank goodness that journalists can.

However, his continued popularity has some concerned prominent clinicians ignoring the “Goldwater rule,” which declares it unethical for psychiatrists to comment on an individual’s mental state without examining him personally and having the patient’s consent to make such comments.

“That mental-health professionals are even willing to talk about Trump in the first place may attest to their deep concern about a Trump presidency” writes Henry Alford in a November 11 edition of Vanity Fair. His psychological profile Donald Trump Actually a Narcissist? Therapists Weigh In! (link is external)quotes a variety of clinicians who are confident that the billionaire’s high profile and documented history of grandiose behavior makes the diagnosis obvious.

Read more at Psychology Today

Fools of Fascism

(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)

By Manash Bhattacharjee

The most crucial thing to note about fascism is that it doesn’t need thinking. That’s why, be it in Germany or India, fascist thought failed to inspire or include any brilliant mind. The only brilliant thinkers during Hitler’s regime were the suffering Jews and anti-fascist Germans. Barring Martin Heidegger’s momentary mad folly, those whom Nazism could inspire were merely henchmen in thought and practice. In India, all that Savarkar and Golwalkar did was to define India as a nation as strictly as possible, borrowing Western intellectual sources, so that Muslims could have no claim over it. Thinking in reverse, having fixed your conclusions in advance, is the martyrdom of thinking.

Read more at Truthout

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Is Political Conservatism a Mild Form of Insanity?

Published on September 6, 2008 by William Todd Schultz, Ph.D. in Genius and Madness, in Psychology Today

A few years ago I was standing on the deck of a beach house on the 4th of July and a person who had obviously drunk too much told me, “The secret of my life is that I always need someone to hate.”

I was reminded of this exchange while watching the stupendously ruthless Republican National Convention over the last several days. Is there anything that conservatives do not hate? Maybe drilling. In fact, they appear utterly phallically obsessed with drilling (a practice that, in about 10 years or so, might reduce gas prices by 2 or 3 cents per gallon). But otherwise, what we learned from the recent hatefest is that Republicans hate community organizers, liberals (surprise!), Madonna, the “east coast elite,” the “angry left” media, trial lawyers, people who are too smart, people who are “cosmopolitan”—the list goes on into eternity.

Listening to this litany on Wednesday night in particular reminded me of a research article that came out roughly 5 years ago on political conservatism and motivated social cognition (Jost, Glaser, Kruglanski & Sulloway, “Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition,” Psychological Bulletin). In a nutshell, the article—by Stanford and UC Berkeley researchers—seems to suggest that conservatism is a mild form of insanity.

Read more at Psychology Today

The Invisible Psychopath

By the time you identify the charming sociopath, it may already be too late.

The word “psychopath” gets thrown around a lot, but in psychiatry it has a specific meaning. Psychopaths are aggressively narcissistic and impulsive and feel a relentless urge for sensation-seeking. They lack empathy and compulsively manipulate others through bullying or deceit. They believe that they are exempt from the rules and show a marked predilection for lying, even when it is not advantageous for them.

Earlier this year Harvard Medical School psychiatrist Ronald Schouten published a book, Almost a Psychopath, in which he and co-author Jim Silver describe the ways that people can exhibit quite a few of the symptoms of psychopathy without satisfying the full diagnostic criteria. Such people can be highly deceptive, manipulative, callous, and self-serving, and yet manage to maintain a façade on normality. One of Schouten’s goals in writing the book is to point out how such a person’s colleagues, friends and partners might not suspect for years that they have a profound psychological disturbance.

This, for me, is perhaps the most disturbing thing about psychopathy: its invisibility. With the benefit of hindsight, I can see that a number of people have crossed my paths who at first seemed delightful and charming, but who wound up leaving a trail of wreckage—people who I now recognize were clearly psychopaths, or at least “almost psychopaths,” as Schouten styles them. Once burned, twice shy, you would hope; but no, having been tormented by one or two, I still managed to subsequently fall into others’ charming clutches.

Read more at Psychology Today

Learning Sympathy

Claude S. Fischer

Appeals to our sympathy are everywhere: late-night commercials on behalf of orphans overseas, envelopes bearing pleas from disaster-relief organizations, magazine ads asking help to ease the suffering of piteous (though cute) humans and animals, campus solicitors recruiting students to spend a summer in Central America or Kenya building latrines or conducting AIDS education, and so on. Giving is so popular that companies ride the sentiment. Bono’s “Product Red” campaign channeled a percentage of sales by firms such as Nike and Dell to fight AIDS. Recently, Dignity Health, a huge, nonprofit hospital system, cloaked itself in a “humankindness” campaign, was already taken.

That humanitarian appeals tend to work is not a given of human nature. They work because we moderns have learned to sympathize with the suffering of others as far away as the Congo and as strange as leatherback turtles. Our feelings are the products of a humanitarian sensibility that has risen in the last couple of centuries. We, the Western bourgeois, became more sympathetic as we became more sensitive and sentimental.

Why this modern expansion in the range of objects fit for sympathy?

Bourgeois Americans sought to be refined, to attain an acute “sensibility.” The sensible viscerally felt a sunset, a painting, a musical passage—and also the sufferings of others. Those who were unmoved were mere brutes. Well-reared Americans nurtured such sensitivity and the emotions—positive emotions, only—that they aroused, making them sentimental. In the early 1800s, the teenage daughter of a Massachusetts businessman described in her diary how, as she sat by her window at twilight, “a sweet melancholy diffused itself over my heart. Memory recalled a thousand tender scenes; the silent tear fell, from an emotion, which it was impossible to control.”

Middle-class women immersed themselves in romantic novels and embraced the books’ message that passion was now a prerequisite for marriage. Indeed, having good character required that Victorians engaged in romantic, lasting love. Abraham Lincoln marked a passage in a best-selling self-help book that he gave to his wife: “The motive power in man is Affection. What he loves he wills, and what he wills he performs. Our Character is the complex of all that we love.” Marriages became drenched in sentimentality. Increasingly, marriages that stayed dry headed to divorce.

Children, too, became more sentimentalized, which made their deaths, so commonplace in early America, all the more crushing. Literate mothers in the colonial era wrote fatalistic, matter-of-fact diary entries about their children’s deaths, but mothers in the antebellum era more often wrote anguished, detailed cris-de-coeur. In the Victorian era, clerics who had once spoken of deceased infants as eternally doomed (for having missed the chance to repent) turned to a rhetoric of pristine innocents called back to Jesus. Sociologist Viviana Zelizer has shown how insurance policies for children, once sold to replace the income a working child would had provided parents, eventually sold as compensation for the heart-wrenching loss of the now “priceless” child.

Nineteenth-century sentimentality focused a great deal on death. Middle-class Americans amplified grief by, for example, adopting elaborate mourners’ clothing and burying the deceased in forested cemeteries rather than churchyards. These romantic settings evoked stronger feelings and provoked experiences of the sublime. Such melancholia provided fodder for Mark Twain, whose Emmeline Grangerford drew illustrations of tear-streaked mourners with titles such as “And Art Thou Gone Yes Thou Art Gone Alas.” Huck Finn criticizes her poetry, lines delivered “just so it was sadful.” Grangerford’s caricature captures the bourgeois sentimentality of the mid-19th century.

The great reform movements of that time built on and built up middle-class northerners’ sentimentality so as to generate sympathy for the pain and suffering of slaves, abused children, families of alcoholics, and even for heathens bereft of salvation, among other objects of pity. Horrific displays of physical torment—in drawings, in literature, and most famously in stage performances of Uncle Tom’s Cabin—moved audiences toward reform. Yet many reformers worried that such graphic depictions also coarsened the audiences, creating a callous and voyeuristic taste for cruelty—much like the worry these days about “disaster porn.” Historian Karen Halttunen writes that the “cult of sensibility had proclaimed pain unacceptable but simultaneously discovered it to be alluring, ‘delicious.’”

Read more at the Boston Review

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