In the time of electoral decision in which the present president will become ex or the new old one, it is good to see a very interesting opinion about his personality. Greeley Miklashek, a professional psychiatrist, wrote an excellent psychiatric evaluation of Donald Trump answering questions about his, mildly said, strange behavior. The article has 3 parts, U, S, and A:)
“The Psychology of Donald J. Trump
This psychiatric evaluation of our current president, Donald J. Trump, has been completed after very extensive review of hundreds of hours of televised interviews and internet articles, as well as reading Dr. Mary Trump’s Too Much and Never Enough, Michael Cohen’s Disloyal, and David Kay Johnston’s The Making of Donald Trump. Bandy Lee’s collection of essays by mental health professionals and Justin Frank’s analysis of Mr. Trump were also very helpful. I have 42 years of clinical psychiatric practice experience, have been retired from direct clinical practice for 8 years, and have never had the dubious pleasure of interviewing Mr. Trump. Patients with his particular psychopathology almost never seek psychiatric treatment in any case. His is not a complex case and any experienced psychiatrist/psychologist, retired and not still encumbered by the Goldwater Rule of the APA, could quite easily complete a similar evaluation. I am not able to explain why no one else has apparently tried to do so. Unfortunately, a review of the literature available online, including the foundational articles by Norman Cameron on the paranoid “pseudo-community”, are unavailable without payment of an excessive fee. Hopefully, the reader of this short essay will come away with a clearer understanding of what’s driving Mr.Trump’s antagonistic behavior and often extreme distortions of reality, as well as outright lying.
Every one of the 25,000 psychiatric evaluations that I completed over my 42 year career (38 years post-residency) started with a “chief complaint” and a family history. After all, we are all products of the families we grow-up in, including our deep intra-psychic constitutions and “conflicts”. Again, Mr. Trump would not seek psychiatric help, although his public utterances provide a wide variety of complaints, all of which are consistent with his self-image of being a victim of persecution by any number of external agencies: the free press, the courts, the DOJ and multiple Intelligence agencies, NATO, China, North Korea, women he is known to have had affairs with, former associates, Congress, Robert Mueller and his associates in the Special Counsel’s Office, CNN, MSNBC, multiple newspapers, etc. Let’s face it, the list is endless. However, not everyone is an enemy of the president, as we see in his great admiration for strongman/dictators and Fox and Friends/FOX NEWS/Sean Hannity, those around him who bow and scrape while repeating their “loyalty” to him, and, perhaps most importantly, his wildly cheering loyal followers with whom he regularly visits in his “campaign rallies”.
So, what does all of this behavior and his developmental history reveal about what’s really going on inside the mind of our president, Donald J. Trump, and driving his behavior? Now, I must ask the reader to indulge me in a mostly psychoanalytic analysis, which necessarily requires a basic knowledge of Freudian psychoanalytic theory. My favorite and most easily read reference on this subject was actually written by Dr. Freud’s brilliant child analyst daughter, Anna Freud, and is titled, THE EGO AND THE MECHANISMS OF DEFENCE, published in English by the International Universities Press in 1946. Understand that when I say “most easily read”, I’m talking about extremely abstract psychoanalytical concepts that many find so abstract as to be no longer relevant. I disagree, and my support for these concepts comes not from reading difficult texts alone, but rather the study of 25,000 cases.
So, here we go! Hold onto your seat, it could get bumpy up here in the thin atmosphere of psychoanalysis. Donald Trump’s father, Fred, Sr., was a very materially successful hard driving “perfectionistic” real-estate developer and son of German immigrants, actually Bavarian. Fred, Sr. and his wife had 5 children. His eldest son, and namesake, rebelled against his overly serious and hard-working, always critical, father, and became an airline pilot and a fun-loving if persecuted alcoholic. He eventually and tragically died from his alcoholism at 43. Donald was the next male in the line of succession for taking over the family real-estate business, and identified in every way with his hypercritical, dominating, workaholic, highly successful, racist father. To preserve his ego (aka “self”), young Donny adapted the ego defense mechanism known as “identification with the aggressor”. This is important to know, because this became Donald’s two out of three main intrapsychic features: his impossibly demanding “ego-ideal” (the internal image of who he should work to become) and his always punishing “superego” (his internal over-seer in charge of meting out punishment for not living up to his ego-ideal), both of which were bound together by his identification with his father as an act of self (ego) preservation, as opposed to the rebellion of his older brother who drank himself to death rather than become his father.
His endlessly self-loving narcissism is doubtless born of his internalized unconditionally loving mother, Freud’s “Id”, from whom he was suddenly separated at age 2yo due to her near fatal illness, hospitalization, and lengthy recuperation at home as she morphed into an unapproachable (for Donny, at least) invalid for the rest of her life. Critically important in this analysis is the conceptualization of how significant such a sudden loss of the loving mother must have been for a 2yo. Children this age are naturally grandiose (the center of their universe) and omnipotent, thus always blame themselves for such an abandonment. Thus, a major cause of Donald’s constant need for reassurance of his lovability is her loss. However, the problem with this intrapsychic organization is that it must constantly generate self-loathing and a deep fear of abandonment. So, this is a sort of intra-psychic “perfect storm” of always trying to live-up to his father’s impossible high achievement standard, punishing himself for not being able to do the impossible, and hating himself for his mother’s sudden disappearance and abandonment, surrounded by a lack of the internalized mother’s secure love or “narcissistic supplies”. All the narcissistic self-soothing and loving adulation in his rallies cannot reassure Donald of his lovability and assuage his deep fear of abandonment. This self-loathing must, therefore, be projected onto others around him in a paranoid defensive structure split between all loving and an all attacking dangerous “pseudo-community” of detractors. For a 2yo, his ego nourishing Id is not yet fully formed and internalized, and must be regularly resupplied from the unconditional love of his mother, but only later earned from the conditional loving father. He is either adored by his loving rally fans or despised and under attack by his hateful detractors whom he must reject with rage, as his inner sources of supply of self-love have been incompletely formed. From the perspective of a diagnosis of “Borderline Personality Disorder”, we refer to this stark black and white view of the external world as “splitting” and it is a telling reflection of his inner world. With this knowledge, any untrained observer can see Donald’s constant criticisms of the press, the agencies of the Federal Government, legal authorities, etc. as projections of his own deep-seated self-hatred, and his Nuremberg-style rallies and constant reframing of his endless victories in business/politics/world affairs as the key source of his otherwise lacking self-love.
The introjected hypercritical workaholic father that became Donald’s superego is constantly punishing him for not living up to the impossible standard that his father instilled in him as his ego-ideal, in addition to the self-loathing for the 2yo’s perception of chasing away his mother. So, now, Donald must constantly find an outlet for this rage, in order to prevent it from being turned against himself. Donald knows the price of numbing out the rage with alcohol, so, again, he has adapted by pushing it out onto others. And if those others are not adequate in number or intensity to justify Donald emptying his own accumulating rage onto them (“projection”), Donald must constantly create new “straw -dog” fantasied enemies through insults and attacks on anyone who gives him even the slightest hint they might challenge and abandon him, who appears for even one moment to be “disloyal”. The magical thinking of the 2yo’s stage of psychological development serves him well in this enemy creation, although it is often wholly inconsistent with reality and, thus, psychotic. Attack someone and you can be pretty certain of a counter-attack and, then, you have proven your paranoid fantasy: you are under attack and must fight back and win or perish, right? When they withdraw, their true motive of abandonment and rejection confirms their disloyalty. I would like to now share a quote from Anna Freud’s book, mentioned above, and found on page 128:
“An ego (DJT) which, with the aid of the defence-mechanism of projection, develops along this particular line (and) introjects authorities (such as Trump’s father Fred?) to whose criticism it is exposed, and (the ego may then) incorporate them (Trump’s critical father) in(to) the super-ego. It (DJT) is then able to project its (the superego’s) prohibited (angry) impulses outwards. It learns what is regarded as blameworthy but protects itself by means of this (projective) self-defence mechanism from unpleasant self-criticism. Vehement indignation at someone else’s wrong-doing is the precursor of and substitute for guilty feelings on its own account. It’s indignation increases automatically when the perception of its own guilt is immenent.”
I should note here that Anna Freud is describing the child’s mental development at an early stage, apparently beyond which Mr. Trump has not yet fundamentally advanced, and at which developmental stage Freud would describe his development as “conflicted”. Also, I apologize for the frequent parentheticals in the Anna Freud translation above, but a bright preliminary reader indicated that they were needed for the understanding of the non-analyst reader.
It may be difficult language, but I hope you get the point. But what about the numerous “bromances” that Mr. Trump has so publicly engaged in, most particularly with Putin, Kim, Duterte, Hitler (according to an ex-wife), Xi, Hannity, etc.? Perhaps another quote from Dr. Freud’s daughter’s book will help:
“When the mechanism of projection is employed as a defence against homosexual love-impulses, it is combined with yet other mechanisms. Reversal (in this case reversal of love into hate) completes what introjection and projection have begun and the result is paranoid delusions.” Page 130.
This may as well explain his animus for his predecessor, Mr. Obama.
We know that Mr. Trump has a very limited attention span and is unable to read to any great extent. We know that he has a very poor recent memory, in spite of his performance on the Mini-Mental Status Exam to the contrary. Ironically, he was recently given a minimal mental status examination asking him to recall this series of words: “person, woman, man, camera, TV”. The first rule for any psychiatrist giving this test is to use five items that have no association. The very opposite was done with our president, which should allow for an association memory and ready recall. The test was obviously “rigged”. The obvious attention deficits so frequently described for our president are classic symptoms of ADHD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
To conclude, Donald J. Trump demonstrates a “very thin skin”, the technical term for which is “rejection sensitivity”, and which is a symptom of a Borderline Personality Disorder, along with his sexual and rageful impulsivity, “splitting” (the necessity of seeing others as either all good or all bad, all loving or all hating), all well documented in Donald’s behavior. He has shown no capacity for empathy and has committed untold crimes against those he has owed money to in his construction projects, failed business enterprises, etc., with no apparent guilt. He shows all the signs of a Sociopathic Personality Disorder. Donald cannot possibly tolerate the experience of painful guilt, as it would be his emotional undoing. Also, the severe early trauma of separation from his mother undoubtedly demanded an automatic self-numbing of his emotions, quite likely responsible for his lack of empathy. His Narcissistic Personality traits are well known to one and all.
So, now, let’s summarize our diagnostic assessment. Donald J. Trump appears to suffer from a profound Mixed Personality Disorder, with Sociopathic, Borderline, Narcissistic, and Paranoid elements. He may well, also, have ADHD, and he has all the features of an ACOA (adult child of an alcoholic), although his father did not drink, his hyper-critical father’s behavior is consistent with alcoholic behavior. Little wonder that Mr. Trump’s older brother drank himself to death.
Most troubling among all these many psychopathological features, is his paranoia, his need to constantly generate a surround of enemies or adoring worshiping fans (a “pseudo-community”), somewhat counterbalanced by his numerous “bromances” and affairs. This is a potentially very dangerous constellation of character defects, as he may well descend into, and out of, frank paranoid persecutory or grandiose delusional states when stressed.
This is neither the time nor place for political analyses, so I will not try. My job here has been to draw upon my considerable clinical psychiatric experience and expertise, at a critical time in American history, in order to attempt an understanding of our president’s often erratic, confusing, and irrational behaviors. Whatever you may think of psychoanalytic theory or psychiatry, we know today that primitive survival mechanisms drive human behavior: love, hate, fear, hunger, parental love, group bonding, dominance striving, etc. We also know that our much touted rationalizations and justifications of these behaviors are rarely completely honest and often no-more than thinly veiled excuses for when we get caught in one of these compromising survival modes. You must admit, however, that I have made you think about what is really going on under that variously bleached blond comb-over. What anyone does with this information, is entirely up to the reader. Good Luck!
Thank you for your time and interest.
Greeley G. (“Gregg”) Miklashek, 7-14-18, rev 1-14-19, rev 1-16-20, rev 10-17-20
Read the second part, S/USA HERE
All the best to all.
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