Friday, November 15, 2018
How Narcissists Get Depressed:
The Case of Donald J Trump
Individuals with malignant narcissism, like Donald, have specific vulnerabilities. Deep within themselves, they feel terrifically insecure. Their self-esteem depends almost entirely on outside approval. Their grandiose self-image betrays a remarkably negative internal one. Unconsciously, these individuals typically feel puny, feeble, fragile, scrawny, and pathetic.
Further, and Donald’s presidency dramatically illustrates the point, malignant narcissists work almost entirely in the realm of the concrete.
What does this mean?
Concrete refers to non-abstract, non-ambiguous reality. Malignant narcissists have a limited capacity to utilize their imagination. This explains Donald’s inability to assume the social role appropriate to the presidency. He simply cannot behave in a measured, deliberate fashion, privileging reflection over action and demonstrating American values like freedom, respect, and universal human rights through his words and actions.
Worse, and also common with such narcissists, Donald excels at externalization of blame.
Every problem is someone else’s fault.
Sadly, Donald has suffered tremendous narcissistic injuries during the last ten days.
What is a narcissistic injury?
Technically, it accounts for any assault on self-image, be it a slight, a failure, or a rejection. However, for malignant narcissists, narcissistic injuries—normally wounding to everyone—become near-lethal psychological trauma.
Again, consider the last ten days, and with compassion. Donald failed to appear for the solemn ceremony to honor the sacrifices of WWI soldiers because he feared his hair-do would be ruined by the rain. Immanuel Macron, the prime minister of France, attacked Donald’s nationalism, comparing it to the attitudes of world leaders like Hitler and Mussolini just prior to WWII.
Also, the democrats flipped the house of representatives in the mid-term elections. Donald reasonably expects to be under still more intense investigation starting this January. His long-hidden tax returns will likely be subpoenaed, and exposed to public scrutiny.
Meanwhile, Donald is running out of others to blame. His places fault with his own advisors, causing dissension and discord within the West Wing. He has fired several cabinet level secretaries.
Further, his appointment of an unqualified and obviously-biased acting attorney general reflects Donald’s terrific distress. Many republicans think the appointment unconstitutional (because of the lack of a Senate confirmation); nearly all democrats and legal scholars think so. Ironically, because Donald is already under investigation for obstruction of justice, his appointment of the acting AG reveals his obvious intention to disrupt the Mueller investigation—yet another example of obstruction of justice.
Malignant narcissists rarely develop classic symptoms of depression. Instead, they become irritable, socially withdrawn, and prone to pout. They increase their propensity to blame others. They become impulsive, chaotic, and erratic. The last 10-days shows precisely these behaviors—validated by multiple sources inside and outside of the White House.
Based on my nearly 40 years of experience as a psychoanalyst, I offer the following predictions:
Donald’s distress will worsen. His social withdrawal is depriving him of one of his primary sources of esteem—the Baptismal-like rallies in which he provokes admiration from his base. His friends, if he ever really had any, are fleeing like homeowners from fire-ravaged southern California conflagrations.
When it gets really bad, or perhaps when Donald’s tax returns become public, he will resign the presidency. It will not be in disgrace. The resignation will feature a narrative like “America is not ready for me yet” or “I am too good for the American people to appreciate.”
The truth is, as Obama, McCain, Clinton, Pelosi, and many other American leaders of stature proclaimed years ago, Donald does not have the temperament to serve as president.
He does not play well with others.
He is too emotionally vulnerable.
On a positive note, Donald’s distress will be immeasurably reduced by his resignation. After it, he can return to running his real estate empire—an occupational pursuit in which malignant narcissists thrive.
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Alan Karbelnig, PhD, ABPP