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.