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A View of Character – the President-Elect

We have endured an extremely long and difficult election and transition season. The polarization of the two sides has resulted in strife within our families, relationships and communities. How do we reconcile what seems irreconcilable for many? There are deep divides related to differing value systems that, at the moment, seem challenging to cross. Yet we are one people and embrace a tradition that honors our differences and shows respect for multiple points of view. It is with that spirit that I write this post.

My comments in this post may be controversial and I invite dialogue. Civil discussion and debate are essential as we venture forward at this critical time in our history.

I have written multiple posts about character types on my website over the past few years as a way to facilitate understanding of our own styles and coping patterns and as an aid to understanding those around us. I will use character typology as a point of reference as we think about the election. President-elect Trump has been a highly controversial figure who has evoked feelings of idealization, hope and excitement as well as feelings of alienation, repugnance and disdain. His character type, his life-long defensive structure, incites strongly polarizing sensibilities. As president-elect, he is in a position to lead the country and the free world – yet his personality problems have overshadowed, for many, any sign of inherent potential to be an effective, gracious and respectable leader.

Donald Trump can be described as a Narcissist (see post: Reich’s Character Types: Phallic Character Types and the Narcissistic Character). His character pathology has defined his campaign and his transition. I would further define his brand of Narcissism as a devaluing type due to his habitual tendency to attack, insult and demean others on a regular basis. His habit of devaluing and attacking has alienated large segments of the population while exciting others who feel empowered by this style.

Narcissists, and particularly devaluing Narcissists, speak impetuously, often with provocative rhetoric that expresses contempt for others. This character type devalues others as a way to increase his perceived value and worth. He devalues in an attempt to appear confident while hiding his semi-conscious shadow/weak, empty, anxious side that feels inadequate and insecure. The shadow side is projected onto others allowing him to feel superior and contemptuous of them while denying his own inadequacy issues. Constant smirking and artificial good-old-boy smiling coupled with a pasted-on smugness are defensive expressions that perpetuate his façade. These expressions are habitually cemented into his demeanor. Many people feel repelled by this obviously insincere and arrogant façade.

Narcissists act with grand bravado, inflating their abilities beyond true capacity. Donald Trump lacks intellectual breadth, often speaking inarticulately without measured content, thought-out ideas and depth formulations. Rather, he speaks in an uneducated manner, relying on repeated, simplistic, short phrasing sardonic comments with provocative messaging, crass innuendos and biting sarcasm. His impetuous style results in chronically poor judgment based in his impulsivity. Quick, provocative off-the-cuff comments marked his campaign and current approach – an inappropriate style for someone in the leadership role of the presidency. On the other hand, he has demonstrated cunning and shrewdness is his climb to the top.

Narcissists rely on their image of superficial glamour and reliance on external image and status to entice and seduce others, rather than authenticity, sincere interest in the other and offering substantive, productive ideas. Other notable problems of some Narcissistic personalities are: Lack of empathy and real feeling for others, insensitivity, and entitlement – as others are viewed as necessary extensions that can accommodate the Narcissist’s insatiable quest to fulfill his own needs, aggrandize his own image and inflate his status. He pretends to care for others but the purpose of his life is actually to gain personal advantage, dominance and status.

Our president-elect, although masquerading as an excellent businessman, has a patchy past filled with over-extension, high debt volume, lawsuits, and personal and business bankruptcies that illustrate long standing integrity issues and questionable business habits. For example, recently he has agreed to settle multiple lawsuits totaling $25 million for fraud allegations directed at his defunct for-profit venture, Trump University. This is a credible example of his history of shady dealings, high-pressure sales and deceptive promises, which target those that are naïve, buy in and lose. Narcissistic personalities have no problem with manipulative, slippery and sleazy dealings in order to gain wealth and status. Narcissists can be quite creative and successful and Trump does demonstrate business prowess, at times, in his wheeling and dealing. He has made and lost lots of money for sure. But his lack of integrity is a serious flaw and is often rationalized – ‘that he is entitled to manipulate to get what he wants, even if it hurts others, and that is a personal trait of which he is proud‘. Not paying federal income tax is another misdeed in a long-line of compromised integrity; with that choice he does not even express shame that others with so much less, pay so much more; he is proud that he has cheated the system.

In his current transitional state, he is already defying laws. For example, he has defiantly expressed that he has no legal obligation to establish boundaries between his business empire and his position as President. In fact, he brags that his brand is becoming more lucrative than ever. He seems to enjoy his renegade status and gloats about his intention to override established guidelines regarding seeking profits from his position as president-elect. His narcissistic defiance and entitlement show little respect for the office of the presidency. He will do as he pleases, ignoring appropriate protocols and necessary conventions. It appears that there is no ‘firewall’ between his business endeavors, his family, and his political position.

He professes to represent the little guy, the coal miner and union worker, the impoverished rural family that is going-under, but he has little, if any, authentic proximity to their lives and issues as he has lived a life of privilege. By sucking on the silver spoon, he was set up early in his father’s successful real estate company, elevated in his glitzy towers above the common man. He identifies with gold, glitz, gaudiness and glamour while masquerading as an advocate for the poor. His claim to fame is that he is wealthy. The people that are marginalized in poverty, marginalized in society, marginalized due to suffering, angry, feeling powerless, and wanting change, voted for him and see him as their champion. He capitalized on their fears. I wonder if they studied the factual history of his life – I don’t think so as his historical experience doesn’t match up with their concerns. One’s character façade works wonders to hide truth. That is always the risk in politics – the false self is quite seductive unless you penetrate the façade with your own insight.

Through the lens of character, we can see his flaws and, taken together, they create a cohesive picture: A pervasive insecurity that shows up in whining and pouting tweets when he feels put down, inadequacy covered by false bravado, lack of impulse control, lack of intellectual prowess due to difficulty concentrating, defiance and slipperiness that pushes him to thwart conventions like revealing his tax returns during a presidential election. His pervasive insecurities keep him up at night tweeting absurd comments worthy of an anxiety-ridden teenager. Using twitter to communicate as a presidential candidate certainly cheapens what should be a critical exchange of substantive ideas. The use of repeated clichés and provocative slogans are easy fodder – junk food for the mind ­– but reveals his lack of gravitas and respectability.

Narcissists often fly by the seat of their pants and hope it will all turn out because they are entitled and endowed! During the campaign, he depended on his children to hold him up – shades of nepotism, which is still an issue. He is utilizing loyal cronies rather than bringing in qualified others with long-standing public office experience who would engage a broad coalition. Loyalty is the most essential quality as there are strong elements of paranoia in the devaluing Narcissist.

Narcissists get inflated with little ground underneath them. The smiling and smirking is the cover for an angry, defiant, disrespectful, inadequate character underneath. There are many more items that could be covered in this analysis of devaluing Narcissists, however my intention is not to indict the president-elect but rather to expose personality traits in order to encourage thoughtfulness.

This is a character portrayal that needs to be part of our community dialogue. I know many of you do not view him in this light. But I suggest you consider this lens as a point of personality observation and use it as a guide as he proceeds. Take a moment to ponder and observe. These traits have caused many to experience intense aversion towards him – this sketch may help you understand those that reject him.

Now … this post is not about taking a position of gloating over the ‘bad’ guy because guess what, what we don’t like in him we must own in ourselves. The dynamics at play represent our collective shadow sides for us to view front and center. How is this shadow manifesting in all of us? Is he exhibiting our own arrogance and inflation, our chronic defiance and habitual habits of disrespect and contempt? What about our judgments of others, our racism and hidden prejudices as we maintain an insincere PC attitude on the surface? Do we demonstrate a lack of sensitivity towards others? What about our own need to dominate? How often do we use people and take advantage? How about our feelings of righteousness? Do we act with integrity? Do we cheat on our taxes too, lie here and there for our own advantage? Are we determined to play by our own rules – as renegade individualists – regardless of consequences for the many?

Our insecurities may consume us with thoughts of what other people think of us and we may be up at night, online, checking our ‘likes’ and ‘follows’. How about our superficial approach to life, acting-out our lack of knowledge and information yet speaking righteously when we haven’t devoted real time to study and research? Do we activate to make the world a better place? Or do we hide in our own towers, content with our resources and materialism where others with less are not included? Do we lack generosity and what about our greediness? Are we indulgent, creating a huge carbon footprint because we want to be comfortable at the planet’s expense?

We are our collective shadows and must peer into our own darkness. If we are not familiar with our inner and outer darkness, we will not recognize the distortions outside of us. We can look back in history at Adolph Hitler and learn – a man who was extremely narcissistic, psychopathic, pathologically impaired with extreme delusions, grandiosity, thought disordered and paranoid, and consumed with pervasive sadistic hatred for the other – yet he was on the edge of conquering a large swath of the world. The vast majority did not sense his sickness and malevolence because they themselves were out of contact and therefore unable to actually observe his true and obvious nature. Why? Because they lacked real perception, sensitivity, insight and awareness of self and other: Their hatred, prejudice, need to devalue, need to inflate themselves over others, their smallness, and their insecurity led to bitterness, rage and a strong feeling of impotence, which drove them to idolize a man like Hitler. If we are submerged in our defensive structure, with all its denial, then we are unable to see clearly and face what is right in front of us. (see post: Reich’s Map of Body Armor: Ocular Segment)

Because of our fears, and sense of helplessness and powerlessness, we desire a strongman (Putin, Assad, Xi Jinping, Kim Jong-un, etc.) – daddy-figures to ‘give us’ a false sense of potency. After the devastating loss of WWI, many in Germany felt deeply humiliated and angered by the harsh treaties, steep reparation payments, the war guilt clause and strict limitations on the military. The penalties imposed on Germany created an onerous backlash and stoked right wing parties such as Hitler’s Nazi Party.  The citizens of the Central Powers felt marginalized, broke, angry, and bitter. Hitler promoted a dreamscape that the underdog would be able to rise up, become powerful, be redeemed and have a better life. The caveat was that only the pure Caucasian (Aryan race) would be allowed into the promise land. Only the Aryan race was seen as special and worthy of being saved; everyone else was excluded from the heights afforded the master race. What was he really doing? Did he kidnap innocent people, en masse, removing them from their homes, their communities, stealing their hard-earned possessions, moving the stolen goods into idyllic castles and displaying the spoils stolen from innocent people and then did he proceed to burn those innocent people in ovens or starve them? These were all justified ‘programs’ directed by a character-disordered individual. Yes, yes, yes, that is what happened! And masses and masses of people across the globe looked up to him or looked the other way – put up with him and/or pretended that the ethnic cleansing was not happening. Wasn’t it obvious that there was something terribly wrong with him? Just look at his face, his gestures – can you see the pathology in his physical manifestations?

I am not comparing Donald Trump to Adolph Hitler but rather exposing similarities in the conditions and interpersonal dynamics that nurtured Hitler’s rise to power. I am also saying the public can be naive and unable to recognize obvious deviousness. We don’t want to face the truth of what is going on; we would rather hide in our smallness and be dishonest about who we have been and who we are now – after all, we can always blame others instead. Let’s take apart our shadow sides and see our smallness first, then we will have understanding about the situation we find ourselves in today.

We must protect our environment and planet from those that debunk climate change and protect our delicate and vulnerable planet from irreparable damage. If a Narcissist and his loyalists lack sensitivity and contact as they move toward unregulated, selfish, opportunistic materialism then we must be the clear eyes and warm beating hearts of our planet in order for us to survive. Or… we will all be burned to a crisp in the oven again or choked in the rising tides of global warming.

We remain at a crossroad and must continue to move ahead with our own activations, our political will that benefits our communities, our values, our integrity as a global community – while respecting the government that we elected. We must build understanding across the divide. We must be in good faith to stay awake yet support the best that may be offered by the new administration – or fight it if injustice, lack of social and international conscience, and denial of environmental stewardship become normative in this administration.

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This Post Has 9 Comments
  1. I think what is so difficult in these discussions is that we each have our experiences and our knowledge base (along with our characters) and these have brought us to our current points of view. It is unlikely that this type of discussion will be fruitful, and will promote any gain for me or for you (Olivia) or you (Patricia).

    Olivia, because you were interested in what I wanted to say regarding differences in worldview, I can tell you that my views are mostly in line with Thomas Sowell who wrote a couple of books regarding visions. One is “A Conflict of Visions” and another is “The Vision of the Anointed.” If you are interested in all of this, you can read those books or watch some of the many interviews with him on Youtube or other places. The reason why I am telling you about him is because I never once was exposed to an intelligent, rational conservative point of view in high school, college, or in the many political discussions that I had with people. Naturally, I want you (Olivia) and you (Patricia), and others I think highly of to know about Thomas Sowell, because I believe he is a great scholar and researcher. You both are two of the finest people I know.

    1. Michael,
      Thank you for sharing your experience with Thomas Sowell’s writings which clearly have had deep meaning for you.
      What concerns me is that it seems you are attributing deep philosophical/political treatise to president-elect Trump. This is out of context and, I think, contact. You are perceiving through your intellect and not your organism. How are you not able to “see” this man for who he is, someone lacking ethical integrity and willing to gleefully manipulate to achieve narcissistic adulation? He has no principles or empathy, and his popularity reflects the same social sickness that Hitler preyed upon. This inability or unwillingness to perceive with an integrated organism is at issue here. Is it fear that drives us into our intellect alone? It seems that Trump has used that fear for his personal gain, and as we hear even more about how he plans to exploit his role towards that goal, the mask of him as a champion of the “little guy” has crumbled.
      One reason I continue to write to you is that I think this kind of dialogue needs to happen, rather than continuing to polarize. Thank you for engaging.

  2. My response here is to Michael’s post.

    I also have so much to say about this, and since I do agree with Dr. Frisch about Trump’s character and the mass psychology following him, I won’t go into that here.

    I see your attempt to explain another viewpoint on why Trump received so much popular support.
    Unfortunately, what I read in your response seems superficial.

    Basically you are justifying voting for a loose cannon as President of the United States because:
    a) people are having a hard time, and
    b) taking a leap of faith.

    Your examples of the hardship in this country is short-sighted, and the lack of progress toward a better resolution of the mess we faced in 2008 is largely due to the “right of center” obstruction in Congress. The rest is due to the fact that deep change takes time and consistent work.
    Trump has shown that he has no consistency in his positions or plans, not has he any qualifications for the job (he’s even a bad businessman) so how would anyone who is thinking clearly put “faith” in him?
    (Hillary has a long list of excellent political work in her resume, especially helping the disadvantaged. What has Trump done? Tipped his golf caddy?? )

    Yes, there are divided feelings and opinions in this country about significant and complex issues. The stakes are high, for now and generations to come. To put your faith in someone who considers climate change a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese is simply an out of body experience!

    Trump will say whatever he wants to say at any time so that he can receive adulation. He has changed his tune so many times it makes one’s head swirl. He is a heartless predator who has taken advantage of pain, distortions, and misunderstandings that are rooted in fear. I will be interested to hear what you yet want to say, Michael, because I just cannot understand the health in taking a “leap of faith” in Trump’s direction.
    Konia’s warnings should be well taken.

  3. Wow, I find myself with so much to say about this impassioned blog post. First I wanted to reply to your apparent views regarding Trump’s supporters. I cannot argue with your analysis of Trump’s character (that is your area of expertise, though I would refer you and your readers to the analysis of the well known orgonomist Charles Konia [link removed – moderator], which I will quote later in this reply), I do not agree with what you are implying regarding those that supported him in the election.

    In your discussion of his supporters, you state “he professes to represent the little guy, the coal miner and union worker, the impoverished rural family that is going-under, but he has little, if any, authentic proximity to their lives and issues as he has lived a life of privilege.” You mention that he capitalized on the fears of marginalized segments, and wonder if they really looked at his character or previous life experience. You sum up by saying “One’s character façade works wonders to hide truth.”

    Coal miners have been regulated out of work, and many auto workers are out of work because companies moved their plants, often to other countries. Obviously, these people feel that the policies of the Bushes, Clintons, or Obama at the very least have not helped. Why would someone in this position vote for more of the same? There need be no trickery in play. They could easily share many of your views on Trump, but still vote for him. True, he may not do what he says and not really act in their interests. But even if he does half of what he says (outlined below), many of these people would take that over a continuation of the current administration’s policies.

    Here are what I see to be the significant political reasons why many people voted for Trump, independent of his personality. The individuals that I know that did this were forced to take a leap of faith on Trump, because they knew exactly what they were getting with Hilary Clinton. Here are some of the key issues:

    Many Americans take issue with the globalist, free trade agenda that has dominated US foreign policy for many years. These policies threaten the rights of Americans to self-determination, and is seen as an economic threat to American manufacturing and industry. It was these feelings in Great Britain that caused over 50% of the populace to vote to leave the EU. Trump made his pro-American bias in trade very clear, continually discussed bad trade deals and deficits, and this got him much support.

    Trump’s platform is to reduce taxes on businesses significantly, and to somewhat reduce income tax. He also speaks about reducing the number of regulations. Many Americans are legitimately concerned about the size of the government and the amount of taxes. These positions garnered him many votes.

    Trump came out as strongly pro-life. According to a CNN poll in 2015, 55% of Americans think that abortion rights should be severely limited, with 30% believing that all abortions should be legal. Hilary Clinton believes that abortion should be legal in all circumstances and wants the federal government to subsidize abortion services. For those Americans that believe abortion is immoral except in exceptional circumstances (which is a significant number), the federal subsidy of abortion is a make or break issue and they morally could not vote for Hilary Clinton.

    Trump also appeared to support law and order. While many intellectuals (especially liberal intellectuals) think that law and order are just buzzwords for racist behavior on the part of the police and the establishment, here is a different take on that from Thomas Sowell, an economist who grew up in Harlem:

    “Who would have thought that Donald Trump, of all people, would be addressing the fact that the black community suffers the most from a breakdown of law and order? But sanity on racial issues is sufficiently rare that it must be welcomed, from whatever source it comes.

    When establishment Republicans have addressed the problems of blacks at all, it has too often been in terms of what earmarked benefits can be offered in exchange for their votes. And there was very little that Republicans could offer to compete with the Democrats’ whole universe of welfare state earmarks.

    Law and order, however, is not an earmarked benefit for any special group. It is a policy for all that is especially needed by law-abiding blacks, who are the principal victims of those who are not law-abiding.” [link removed: moderator]

    Trump did garner more of the Latino and African American vote than might have been expected (I believe it was 35% and 12% respectively, much more than other recent Republican candidates).

    On a final note, Charles Konia speaks to these points in his blog, where he echoes some of your concerns, but also speaks to his appeal to “characterologic conservatives”:

    “From a socio-political standpoint, Trump is a conservative character who is also a populist…In order to win, Trump must convince characterologic conservatives, like himself, that he is one of them. This is where his anti-intellectual, emotional, shooting-from-the-hip manner and his strong pro-American bias are a plus. However, from a bio-psychiatric perspective, Trump is either an oral unsatisfied, phallic narcissistic character or a manic depressive character. Regarding his diagnosis, the important questions are these: Is he capable of controlling the destructiveness to his political reputation as a leader resulting from his shooting-off at the mouth? Is he capable to hear the ideas of others? These questions go directly to the heart of his capacity for the good judgement that is a requirement for the job.”

    Each of your points of view bely not only your takes on his character (which are fairly similar), but your strong political opinions and worldviews. Dr. Konia tends to be right of center (as am I), and I think that it is clear that you are left of center. I believe that it is this difference in worldview that is worth analysis, and I plan on adding another reply that addresses this.

    1. Michael: Thank you for a well-thought out response to my post. My point of view is not to argue the points of his alleged platform or populist philosophy. Further, I respect moderate conservative views and conservative commentators like David Brooks for example, and politicians that are experienced and reasonable and who represent intelligent perspectives even if I disagree with their point of view. My post was focused on the alarm many people feel because Donald Trump is extremely psychologically impaired and not qualified to have this level of responsibility. Because of his impaired character, he continues to act with impetuosity. He may have represented himself as a populist but he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing – that is why he is dangerous. Again, I did not write to discuss policy but rather his psychology with an emphasis on how his serious character flaws, which are highly visible daily, seriously impair his judgment and performance. He has created a nepotistic club of billionaires (hardly sensitive to issues of the common man!) surrounding him that emanates out of his characterological inflation and preoccupation with wealth and power. It is his character flaws that result in flawed thinking, jumbled ideas, lack of depth policy, a dramatized, reality T.V. process of hiring that makes a mockery of our system of government — all to narcissistically show-off without regard for the concerns of more than half the electorate. He continues to tweet erratically to prove himself and stay at a superficial one liner style that demands no substance. His character lacks ethical boundaries, as he is a renegade, defiant type that flaunts a do-it-my way attitude without regard for leadership or presidential protocols, laws, ethics and propriety. These are consistent qualities of his character pathology and result in a confused, contradictory thought-stream and actions racked by impulsivity and insecurity. DOS narcissists can have corrupted values as they battle their own black and white thinking and empty self all the while maintaining a seductive mask of competence and bravado. Exposing our country to a disorder of the self narcissist endangers all of us. That is my point.

  4. I’m grateful having this
    better understanding of a character
    i must shed light upon in myself,
    to stay present for the benefit
    of others & the ecosystem,
    that I and all else not get trumped
    in an epic Faustian finale.

  5. @Now … this post is not about taking a position of gloating over the ‘bad’ guy because guess what, what we don’t like in him we must own in ourselves. The dynamics at play represent our collective shadow sides for us to view front and center. How is this shadow manifesting in all of us? Is he exhibiting our own arrogance and inflation, our chronic defiance and habitual habits of disrespect and contempt? What about our judgments of others, our racism and hidden prejudices as we maintain an insincere PC attitude on the surface? Do we demonstrate a lack of sensitivity towards others? What about our own need to dominate? How often do we use people and take advantage? How about our feelings of righteousness? Do we act with integrity? Do we cheat on our taxes too, lie here and there for our own advantage? Are we determined to play by our own rules – as renegade individualists – regardless of consequences for the many?

    I found this paragraph expressing what I arrived at only yesterday. Each day I undertake to process the ‘trump within’—given that what I resist will persist. I have also found The Ennegram Institute Type 8 descriptions helpful and interesting. May astonishing evolution for self and the world be the outcome! Meanwhile: “Stay jaunty…though fully informed.” W. Berry

    Thank you, Dr. Frisch.

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