Trump is Psychologically Unfit for Office

As a psychotherapist, I watched in dismay as Donald Trump won the presidential election. His psychological problems seemed so obvious. His flagrant insecurity was exposed with each bragging Tweet, his rampant sociopathic bullying was on view at every rally, and his narcissistic entitlement and greed had been on display for decades.

While many believe mental health professionals should not speak out in this manner, I actually believe the opposite. We must speak out. President-elect Donald J. Trump is psychologically unfit for the office he is about to assume.

Many have used labels such as ‘narcissist’ or ‘sociopath’ to describe Trump. But you do not need to understand those terms or be a psychologist to assess that Trump lacks the emotional stability to hold what is often considered the toughest job in the world. We all have the skills to make a common-sense judgment about human behavior, character and morals. This should not be solely the domain of psychologists, psychiatrists or other professionals.

I prefer to use the term “Other-Blamer” to describe Trump, which is a term used in Self-Acceptance Psychology.

Trump exhibits severe Other-Blaming behavior, which at its core is a lack of accountability. Other-Blamers have low self-worth, which makes them hypersensitive to being shamed. They then react impulsively, punitively and petulantly toward those who shame them. 

The brains of Other-Blamers are essentially hijacked by their fear or survival emotions when they suspect they might be criticized, corrected or embarrassed. Because of the severe “fight-or-flight” reaction, the thinking or cognitive functioning of their brain goes off line to some degree. 

In extreme cases, as with Trump, this means that they will be nearly always impulsive and reactive, rather than thoughtful and deliberate. This is exactly the opposite of the behaviors we expect of our highest executive. 

Other-Blamers have difficulty being empathic, compassionate, kind, or even aware of the needs of others. 

Their goal in life is to avoid being shamed; they cannot be concerned about others. They are in an existential emotional struggle to protect their fragile self-image. In one of these emotional panics, Trump may have great difficulty considering acting in ways that serve his constituents. We see this when he Tweets false statements that are likely to incite fear and spread lies. His goal is merely to feel better about himself in that moment. He is not concerned about the long-term effect on the country.

While Trump may not have conscious intentions to harm the country, his unstable emotional state, character and personality may have that effect.

I believe that the presidential electors must consider Trump’s psychological stability when voting on December 19. The Constitution requires that they consider whether a candidate is unfit. Fundamentally, character, morals and emotional intelligence must be considered when we select a leader. These are skills that will come into play no matter what policy decisions or situations face a president. I believe we need a president who is emotionally balanced, self-aware, and able to regulate his or her emotions so that policy choices are based not on emotional self-preservation in the moment, but on the long-term needs of the country and world.

I also believe that at this crucial juncture in the nation’s history, mental health professionals must speak up about Trump’s psychological functioning. This is no longer just a political issue, but perhaps an issue of safety for millions of people, the stability of this country, and for the long-term health of our planet.

What Mass Killers REALLY Have in Common

A blog on “What Mass Killers Really Have in Common” asserts that to prevent domestic terrorists and mass killers we should scrutinize those who commit domestic violence. It posits that it is the patriarchal attitudes these men have toward women that also cause them to be violent toward large groups of men and women. 

While I do agree there are similar behavioral and psychological traits between domestic abusers and mass killers, completely lacking from this article is any understanding of the psychology of people who lash out in a rage at others, whether it is at their wife or a random group of strangers. Even many experts on domestic violence do not understand why these abusers behave as they do. 

As I explain in “Self-Acceptance Psychology,” the real reason these men became violent is they lack an ability to tolerate shame in healthy ways. The connection between anger and shame is clearest in violent people.

Domestic abusers and mass killers are extreme examples of a personality type I have labeled  an Other-Blamer. Likely due to childhood trauma, these individuals have low self-worth and are hypersensitive to shame. Any perceived or real criticism is felt as devastating. 

Trauma also makes them more likely to over-react and lack cognitive control of their emotions. When they become fearful of being denigrated, humiliated, rejected or abandoned, they react with the “fight” response. They attack emotionally or physically, often by criticizing and blaming others. They generally lack accountability for their actions. Anger is used as a psychological tool to protect them from feeling shame, which is unbearable to them.

In extreme cases, Other-Blamers can become so ashamed and then enraged that tragedies can occur.

Anger is an emotion essential to survival and can be helpful if it is used as a self-protective response to boundary violations in relationships. If someone does something morally wrong, you should get angry. It is actually healthy for you, the other person, and the relationship.

However, anger is often used as a defensive response to feelings of shame. The root cause of the shame/fear connection is an intrinsic sense of low self-worth combined with a natural fear of exclusion or rejection by the social group.

I am certainly not a fan of patriarchal attitudes if, rather than leading men to be protective of others, they instead lead to denigration of women. However, shame and anger are far more potent causes of violence than patriarchal attitudes. 

Like Father, Like Son: Stanford Rapist’s Father Excuses Son’s Behavior

Brock Allen Turner was convicted of raping an unconscious young woman behind a Dumpster, and this white college athlete only received 6 months in jail, rather than the 14-year maximum sentence he could have received. Seems as if the judge agreed with the letter written by Turner’s father that made excuses and defended his son’s actions. Like father, like son : Clearly the father continues to teach his son his own character flaws.

As I write in Self-Acceptance Psychology, many people have what I term “Other-Blaming” behavior. These types of people lack accountability for their actions. They tend to blame others, make excuses, defend their wrong behaviors. We all know people like this.

“Other-Blaming” behavior is based on their feelings of low self-worth or inadequacy. When they feel criticized their preferred response is to lash out in anger at others, rather than understand their shameful behavior, become introspective and change their behaviors. 

Sadly, a parent with poor shame tolerance can certainly teach a child to behave the same way by continually not holding him accountable for his actions throughout his upbringing.

Which has clearly happened in this case. A person who lacks accountability will certainly believe it is OK to commit a crime, because he’s learned that he gets excused from his poor behaviors.

The father’s letter notes how his son is not eating and is nervous and deferential — new behaviors for him. Well, that’s as it should be!  When one behaves shamefully, one should exhibit feeling ashamed. Yet, the father clearly had never experienced his son acting this way — probably because he never held his son accountable!  The father, certainly, also does not like to be held accountable, because just watching his son’s experience of shame seems to cause him such discomfort. 

Parents: Hold your children accountable, starting at an early age. You are doing them no favors by letting them get away with bad behavior. Teaching responsibility for personal actions is essential for raising an emotionally and socially healthy person.