Home Psychology The Psychological Mindset Of Donald Trump

The Psychological Mindset Of Donald Trump

From the bizarre to the brazen. From the puzzling to the petrifying. The first seven months of Donald Trump’s stay in the White House has seen it all. Because of his unorthodox and overtly erratic governing style, a seemingly endless number of questions about the psychological health of America’s 45th President have come about. Is he mentally stable to hold such a distinguished position? Is he a pathological liar? Does he have dementia? Is he going to get us into a war?

To answer questions such as these, with the goal of illuminating the psychological mindset of Donald Trump, it’ll be important to introduce the most widely held assessments coming from mental health circles and also first hand insights from some of Trump’s past associates who’ve gotten the rare chance to intimately observe the President’s habitual ways of thinking and behaving. Once we have a baseline understanding of the man Donald Trump has been throughout his life, we’ll then be able to shift our focus to dissecting his first seven months in Washington.

Ultimately, by taking the systematic approach of bringing about the valuable opinions of mental health experts, examining his past behavioral and business history, and comparing our findings to what we’ve learned since his inauguration on January 20th, 2017, we’ll gain access into the inner workings of the most polarizing figure to ever call the White House home.

What Mental Health Professionals Are Saying:

An image shows the cover of The Atlantic Magazine's June 2016 issues which looked into the psychology of Donald Trump.

It hasn’t been since the 1964 presidential election that the general public has taken such a keen interest in the mental state of a prominent politician. Consequently, this was also the year when the debate about whether mental health professionals should publicly comment on public figures, who they haven’t previously examined, first started. The issue arose after a controversial quarterly publication known as Fact Magazine polled psychiatrists about the psychological state of the Republican party’s presidential nominee Barry Goldwater and published their damaging findings in an issue titled The Unconscious of a Conservative: A Special Issue on the Mind of Barry Goldwater.

Following a lopsided loss to Democratic candidate Lyndon B. Johnson, Goldwater went on to sue the magazine’s editor for libel and won $75,000, the equivalent of $580,000 today. In 1973, four years after the famous court ruling, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) established the Goldwater Rule which states it is an unethical practice for psychiatrists to publicly voice their professional opinion on public figures without working with them firsthand. Yet still, due to Donald Trump’s unsettling behaviors while holding the nation’s most impactful position, to go along with an ethical duty to warn people about the psychological state of individuals who can potentially harm others, numerous mental health professionals have defied the Goldwater Rule by openly speaking about the psychological mindset of Donald Trump.

Although there has been talk within mental health circles about Donald Trump showing signs of mild cognitive impairment or potentially even dementia, the most prevalent assessment has been that he suffers from narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). The Mayo Clinic tells us that this mental disorder is characterized by an exaggerated sense of self-importance, an inability to empathize with others and a tendency to take advantage of people without regard for their well-being. When combining characteristics such as these with the similarly common held belief that Trump shows signs of emotional instability, often leading to the irrational reactions of anger and rage, it is clear to see why many mental health experts are speaking out despite their profession’s ethical standards. Just how many you may wonder?

While it’d be impossible to pinpoint an exact number, over 59,000 mental health professionals have signed their name to a change.org petition started by prominent Harvard psychologist John Gartner, one of Trump’s most outspoken psychology critics, titled Mental Health Professionals Declare Trump is Mentally Ill And Must Be Removed. Additionally, a group of psychiatric experts at Yale University made headline news by warning the public of Trump’s mental state and a team of 33 eminent mental health professionals led by Dr. Lance Dodes garnered the nation’s attention by sending a distressed letter to the New York Times editorial board. In the letter, Dodes writes:

Mr. Trump’s speech and actions demonstrate an inability to tolerate views different from his own, leading to rage reactions. His words and behavior suggest a profound inability to empathize. Individuals with these traits distort reality to suit their psychological state, attacking facts and those who convey them (journalists, scientists). In a powerful leader, these attacks are likely to increase, as his personal myth of greatness appears to be confirmed. We believe that the grave emotional instability indicated by Mr. Trump’s speech and actions makes him incapable of serving safely as president.”

The Path From Business To The Presidency:

An image shows Donald Trump campaigning for the 2016 Presidency while holding his book 'The Art of the Deal'.

Trump holding the Art of The Deal while campaigning for the 2016 election. (Photo: AP/Mary Schwalm)

Although Donald Trump’s erratic behavior, deceptive speech and malicious tweets have caught many in the mental health community off guard, those who’ve known the man best certainly haven’t been surprised. Based upon the accounts of those who’ve intimately known him throughout his life, Trump’s always been egotistically driven, searching for individual greatness, and acted with little moral regard for the feelings and well-being of others.

This narcissistic approach to life can further be seen in Trump’s continual need for validation, his refusal to lose or take personal responsibility for anything, and his unwillingness to compromise in anyway. It was only days after the New York Times broke a story about a previously undisclosed meeting between Trump’s son Donald Jr. and a group of Russians tied to the Kremlin, when Rolling Stone Magazine released an article that illuminates what type of life advice was passed from the President to his children. Jesse Berney, the author of the article, writes:

That’s the lesson Trump passed down to his children. The man who scammed millions of dollars out of people with a fake university and regularly refused to pay contractors the full amount he had promised them wasn’t teaching his oldest son how to treat people with decency or fairness. Donald Trump Jr. learned from his father that life is a zero-sum game, that winning always means someone else loses and that winning is the only thing that matters.”

Yet still, there may not be a single individual who’s gained a better objective understanding of Donal Trump’s psychology than the man he commissioned to ghostwrite his 1987 best-selling book Trump: The Art of the Deal. Over the course of 18 months,Tony Schwartz got the first-hand opportunity to observe and interview Trump in his natural habitat as he went about his life traveling between his real estate proprieties, going to meetings and of course making deals. In July of 2016, some 30 years after spending the better part of a year and a half by Trump’s side, Schwartz was faced with the reality of Trump becoming President, something he saw as a terrifying proposition, and decided to open up about his one time boss.

While being interviewed for an explosive article featured in the New Yorker titled Donald Trump’s Ghostwriter Tells All, Schwartz paints a picture of a ‘pathologically impulsive and self-centered’ man who’s obsessed with publicity, lacks attention, and is morally ok with lying or as Trump likes to put it, truthful hyperbole. Moreover, Schwartz gave us a grave warning in the article that unfortunately seems to be manifesting now. He told us:

The millions of people who voted for him and believe that he represents their interests will learn what anyone who deals closely with him already knows—that he couldn’t care less about them.”

Bare knuckled Business Tactics Come To Washington:

An image is shown from a 2016 Presidential Debate where Hillary Clinton is speaking in the foreground and Donald Trump is glaring at her with a nasty look on his face in the background.

Donald Trump glaring at Hilary Clinton during the October 9th, 2016, Presidential Debate.

Throughout his career as a entrepreneur and real estate developer, Donald Trump has been able to build a worldwide empire that’s brought him billions of dollars. Despite the fact that he’s had his fair share of entrepreneurial busts, it’s hard to deny Trump’s business success when considering the fact that he reported having at least $1.4 billion in assets and hundreds of millions more in income on a financial discourse form he voluntarily released in June of this year. Because he’s become the first elected President not to release his complete tax returns since Richard Nixon, however, many questions about his business dealings remain. So how’d he become so successful?

By taking into account publicly accessibly data that shows Donald Trump and his companies being involved in over 3,500 lawsuits in the past three decades, many of which expose shady business ties and fraudulent business ventures, it becomes clear to see that the President’s relied on unethical bareknuckled business tactics to amass his fortune. Moreover, by using his vast financial wealth as protective legal leverage, Trump’s been able to act as if he’s above the law and disregard the affects his actions have on others.

Unsurprisingly, because his narcissistic mindset leads him to belief that personal change isn’t necessary, Trump’s brought his rogue business tactics to Washington and they’ve been on full display since his inauguration on January 20th. More specifically, Trump’s repeatedly sought to push his agenda forward and boost his ego through the strategies of dishonesty, deflection and domineering:

Dishonesty:

Deception, distortion, denials and flat out lies, these are the many dishonest ways of Donald Trump. While the President may see his misleading and false claims as nothing more than truthful hyperbole, major news outlets and political wonks have become fatigued tracking all of his dishonesty. As of July 21st, the Washington Post had tallied up 836 false or misleading claims, or 4.6 each day, coming from Trump, and the New York Times’ running list of Trump’s most blatant lies shows that the President said something untrue each of his first 40 days in office.

While he’s made dishonest statements about just everything, his most common mistruths come in the form of attacking policies he doesn’t like, such as saying the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is dead or will soon implode, taking credit for positive events that took place before he was in office, in the case of initiating a deal to sell beef to China, and boasting about presidential accomplishments that haven’t occurred, such as when he told reporters:

We’ve signed more bills — and I’m talking about through the legislature — than any president ever.”

Deflection:

An image shows Donald Trump looking skeptically at Barack Obama as he talks to reports. Since coming to Washington, Trump has been quick to blame Obama for all of his failings.

Barack Obama welcomed Donald Trump to the White House on November 10th, 2016 (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

In addition to the all too common pattern of dishonesty, and oftentimes after his misstatements or lies have been publicly proven wrong, Donald Trump will resort to deflecting blame to others for undesirable situations and his own faults. Although Trump has sought to use a variety of different individuals as scapegoats, there isn’t a single person he’s deflected his problems to more than Barack Obama.

From factory layoffs to the death of Otto Warmbier, the growth of the gang known as MS-13 and national protests, Donald Trump has eagerly and vehemently pointed his finger at his presidential predecessor without shouldering any of the fault. In just one 25-minute news conference in April, Trump systematically deflected all responsibility to Obama for the ongoing situations in Syria, North Korea and Iran. Most recently, Trump has moved on to blaming members of Congress for failing to pass key legislative measures on his agenda. Although the Republican party controls both the House and Senate, Trump stunningly put the entire blame on Democrats for failing to pass health care legislation. He said:

I think we’re probably in that position where we’ll let Obamacare fail. We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it. I can tell you, the Republicans are not going to own it.”

Domineering:

From early on in the 2016 race for the Republican presidential nomination, it became apparent to see how Donald Trump unabashedly attacked, demeaned, bullied and threatened the individuals who speak negatively of him or undermine his self-image of personal greatness. In what is considered by many to be the most unfortunate of realities, the man who now leads the United States of America categorically emulates a playground bully and refers to his distinguished political colleagues with nicknames such as ‘Little Marco’, ‘Crooked Hillary’, ‘Crazy Bernie’, ‘Lyin’ Ted’ and ‘Cryin’ Chuck Schumer’.

More often then not, Trump will use his favorite social media network Twitter to get his spiteful messages out into the public and just last week the New York Times released an article titled Trump is on Track to Insult 650 People, Places and Things on Twitter by the End of His First Term. Recently, Trump has turned his attention towards attacking news outlets and journalists with hopes of disproving what he deems Fake News. In one stunning series of tweets, Trump attacked Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, co-hosts of MSNBC’s television show Morning Joe, in what may be the most unpresidential public action taken by a president in America’s history. He wrote:

I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!”

The Unyielding Inconvenience That Is Russia:

An image shows the cover of Time Magazine's 2017 issue that looked into the Trump Russia situation that has been gripping the attention of America. The cover is an illustrated picture which blends the White House and famous Russian architecture together.

Drip, drip, drip. Ever since Donald Trump first took office on January 20th, a slow and steady trickle of news relating to his presidential campaign’s potential collusion with the Russian government has sent shockwaves throughout the nation’s capitol. In many ways, the ongoing investigation looking at the Kremlin’s involvement in the 2016 election, an investigation Trump deems a ‘witch hunt’, has prohibited the administration from carrying out their agenda and largely consumed the President himself. Seemingly each and every day, Trump has vented his frustration with the investigation, taken demeaning shots at key figures in probe, and gone as far to dismiss the idea that Russia meddled in the election all together. Unsurprisingly, the same unethical and narcissistic tactics of dishonesty, deflection and domineering have been on full display in regard to the unyielding inconvenience that is Russia.

Dishonesty:

Considering the fact that Robert Muller, the special console appointed to investigate potential ties of collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia, recently impaneled a grand jury to examine potential criminal activities in the case, we may soon learn that the president’s biggest lies still haven’t been exposed. Yet still, there are plenty of other examples when Trump acted dishonestly with various aspects of the Russian investigation. Just on July 31st, for example, it was reported that the president himself was behind a deceitful statement released by Donald Trump Jr. about the context of his undisclosed meeting with Kremlin connected figures we briefly touched on above.

Deflection:

Not only has Donald Trump tried to pass responsibility to President Barack Obama for unfavorable circumstances such as health care, Syria and North Korea, he’s also sought to transfer blame to Obama and the previous administration in the Russia investigation. To date, Trump and his team have blamed Obama for the problematic vetting of Michael Flynn, for allowing the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya into the country, and amazingly enough for not taking proactive action when the election meddling was taking place last fall, even though he’s also denied it ever happened.

Domineering:

It was only three days after President Trump overreached his power by firing James Comey, the man leading the FBI’s Russia investigation at the time, that Trump went to twitter and offered a warning to Comey that he better hope there are no ‘tapes’ of their conversation before he starts leaking to the press. In what many consider a clear example of witness intimidation, Trump once again showed how he believes himself superior and above the law. The narcissistic mindset of Donald Trump becomes even clearer to see when considering the fact it only one day after firing Comey, while meeting with two prominent Russian officials in the oval office, that Trump boasted about firing the ‘nut job’ FBI director.

Donald Trump's campaign ties to Russia have come under immense amounts of scrutiny from U.S. media outlets.

Donald Trump meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 7th, 2017, at the G20 Summit.

Additionally, in what may be simply a strange coincidence or an ominous sign of things to come, Donald Trump has exhibited some of the classic psychological behaviors associated with the state of denial which occur when individuals are faced with accepting an uncomfortable and undesirable fact of life. Trump’s denial about the investigation has not only been on full display when he’s blatantly dismissed Russia’s involvement in the election, even though each and every United States Intelligence Agency points to this being the case, but also through more subtle means. Specifically, Trump has acted with the denial defense strategies of minimization and projection:

Minimizing:

In the world of psychology, the act of minimizing is considered to be an attempt of making particularly troublesome actions seem less harmful or problematic then they really are. After the New York Times exposed that the real reason Donald Trump Jr. met with the Russian was to collect political dirt on Hilary Clinton, the President sought to protect his son through the processes of minimizing and justifiable rationalization. While speaking at a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, Trump told reports:

I do think from a practical standpoint that most people would have taken that meeting. It’s called opposition research or even research into your opponent. I have many people, and I have only been in politics for two years, but I’ve had many people call up, ‘Oh gee, we have information on this factor or this person or, frankly, Hillary.’ That’s very standard in politics.”

Projection:

Where as minimizing aims to damper down the seriousness of an offense, projection occurs when individuals, oftentimes unconsciously, deny their wrong doings and faults while attributing them to someone else. Recently Trump has used the common projection strategy of DARVOor Deny the abuse, then Attack the victim for attempting to make them accountable for their offense, thereby Reversing Victim and Offender, by attacking his 2016 presidential election opponent Hillary Clinton for colluding with Ukraine and having ties to Russia. Just on August 3rd at a speech in West Virginia, Trump assuredly exhibited behavioral projection when he told the crowd:

What the prosecutors should be looking at are Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 deleted emails. They should be looking at the paid Russian speeches and the owned Russian companies. Or let them look at the uranium she sold that is now in the hands of very angry Russians.”

A Tale History Has Told Before:

An image shows Donald Trump holding up a mask of himself during the 2016 election. This picture is featured in Balanced Achievement's article on his psychological mindset. It was taken by Chip Somodevilla and Getty Images.

Donald Trump holding up a mask of himself during the 2016 election (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

An egotistical leader with an unquenchable thirst for power and greed oversteps their boundaries before their inevitable fall. This is a tale history has told all too many time, and unfortunately for Donald Trump, one that it may be telling once again. The stories of Napoleon, Hitler and Nixon illuminate how men of great ambition are oftentimes also masters of self-deception who remain blinded to fact that their narcissistic mindset and above the law behaviors will ultimately become their greatest demise. When considering the mindset of Donald Trump, his lifelong quest for individual greatness and his callous disposition towards others, it becomes clear to see why many historians assume that the walls around him are caving in. In the end, his ability to change his ways could potentially save him from facing a fate similar to many of history’s egotistical giants but it’s seems more than likely that it’s already too late and also that he’ll forever remain unwilling to change.

Based upon our examination of the psychological mindset of Donald Trump, it certainly isn’t unreasonable to assume that he suffers from a deeply-rooted narcissistic personality disorder which expresses itself in the form of emotional instability, dishonesty, deflection and domineering behaviors. By bringing this disposition and the unethical business tactics that made him rich into what’s probably the most distinguished professional position in the world, one that’s expected to be held with dignity and honor, it’s unsurprising to watch him turn nearly everyone against him, including his own intelligence agencies, the media and even members of his own political partyAs he continues to put himself above the law, with the Russian investigation breathing down his neck, and his poll numbers continue to tumble towards 30%, the question of can he recover is slowly shifting to how long can he last. While only time holds the knowledge of the end of this tale, history’s past assuredly knows where it’s going.

3 comments

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