Greed. One of the seven deadly sins. Are we as a culture down to only six?
The quote above (and the fuller one, below) is from tRump’s The Art of the Deal.
The only time in my life I didn’t follow that rule was with the USFL [the defunct United States Football League]. I bought a losing team in a losing league on a long shot. It almost worked, through our antitrust suit, but when it didn’t, I had no fallback. The point is that you can’t be too greedy.
[If you are interested in a fairly good summary of his book, here is one that I found in Business Insider. ]
But this is not a post about one man.
This is a post about the pervasive personality disorder that psychologists, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, and others have been concerned with for a long time.
And — more importantly — this is a post about why these warnings fell on deaf ears.
This is a long post. It may be that it’s a post for you to save and refer back to from time to time as needed. Or you might just delete it with a cavalier “It’s too much!” Either one is OK. But I felt I had to write this. I wanted to get in one published post all that I’d collected on this disorder. Readers can do with it as they want. Really.
Ready? Let’s go.
Let’s start with those articles that called — or tried to call — our attention to something “fishy in the state of Denmark.” Peruse them or read each one; your call. Here, in chronological order, are seven that I found prior to November 8, election day.
July 13, 2015, Donald Trump may be a Narcissist, from DailyKos.com
August 27, 2015, Mark Salter, the former chief of staff to Sen. John McCain and a senior adviser to the McCain for President campaign, wrote in RealClearPolitics.com, Trump’s a Narcissist. What’s His Supporters’ Excuse?
September, 17, 2015 the Science Section of The Huffington Post ran with this article by Carolyn Gregoire, Senior Writer, Is Donald Trump A Narcissist — Or A Bully? Here’s What Psychologists Say.
Vanity Fair followed on November 11, 2015, with IS DONALD TRUMP ACTUALLY A NARCISSIST? THERAPISTS WEIGH IN! the first print publication I found that raised the issue.
November 22, 2015 the online addictinginfo.org published,Top U.S. Psychiatrists Confirm Trump’s Narcissistic Personality Disorder, ‘Textbook Case’, by Randa Morris.
Time Magazine followed in December, 2015 when Donald Kluger, author of The Narcissist Next Door, wrote, Donald Trump’s Very Strange Brand of Narcissism.
On March 6, 2016, The American Thinker gave us Donald Trump and Narcissistic Personality Disorder: An Interview with Sam Vaknin
After the election,in The Huffington Post. It is an excellent summary of what the DSM states and I recommend you read it in full at some point. It also includes two videos that I’ll link to a bit further down.
Open the pull down menu for my summary of this important article.
We are writing to express our grave concern regarding the mental stability of our President-Elect. Professional standards do not permit us to venture a diagnosis for a public figure whom we have not evaluated personally. Nevertheless, his widely reported symptoms of mental instability — including grandiosity, impulsivity, hypersensitivity to slights or criticism, and an apparent inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality — lead us to question his fitness for the immense responsibilities of the office.
We strongly recommend that, in preparation for assuming these responsibilities, he receive a full medical and neuropsychiatric evaluation by an impartial team of investigators. Green’s article ends with, “That so many have decided to ignore his profound character defect, or turn it into an asset in their eyes, is horrific, but, sadly, not surprising.”
Howard Gardner, a developmental psychologist and professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education, said, “For me, the compelling question is the psychological state of his supporters. They are unable or unwilling to make a connection between the challenges faced by any president and the knowledge and behavior of Donald Trump. In a democracy, that is disastrous.”
Which is where I want to pick it up.
Why is it that no one, no one in power, no one in the media, seems to have taken up this accusation and run with it?
Do not enough people trust and understand psychology?
What’s going on in a society (a culture) that looks the other way, that appears to take in stride a comment like the one I opened with?
“You can never be too greedy,” he said.
And American voters agreed.
In case you are interested in the official version of the DSM’s criteria for diagnosing NPD, here’s the text:
Open the pull down menu for specific DSM criteria.
A. Significant impairments in personality functioning manifest by:
1. Impairments in self functioning (a or b):
a. Identity: Excessive reference to others for self-definition and self-esteem regulation; exaggerated self-appraisal may be inflated or deflated, or vacillate between extremes; emotional regulation mirrors fluctuations in self-esteem.
b. Self-direction: Goal-setting is based on gaining approval from others; personal standards are unreasonably high in order to see oneself as exceptional, or too low based on a sense of entitlement; often unaware of own motivations.
2. Impairments in interpersonal functioning (a or b):
a. Empathy: Impaired ability to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others; excessively attuned to reactions of others, but only if perceived as relevant to self; over- or underestimate of own effect on others.
b. Intimacy: Relationships largely superficial and exist to serve self-esteem regulation; mutuality constrained by little genuine interest in others’ experiences and predominance of a need for personal gain
B. Pathological personality traits in the following domain:
1. Antagonism, characterized by:
a. Grandiosity: Feelings of entitlement, either overt or covert; self-centeredness; firmly holding to the belief that one is better than others; condescending toward others.
b. Attention seeking: Excessive attempts to attract and be the focus of the attention of others; admiration seeking.
C. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual’s personality trait expression are relatively stable across time and consistent across situations.
D. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual‟s personality trait expression are not better understood as normative for the individual’s developmental stage or socio-cultural environment.
E. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual‟s personality trait expression are not solely due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., severe head trauma).
For those who learn best through audio visual aids, here are the two videos I mentioned above. First, a 25 minute video from Dr. Lynn Meyer and next, a 4-minute recap from the same psychologist outlining the features and symptoms of NPD.
Back in an early draft of my memoir, At Home on the Kazakh Steppe: A Peace Corps Memoir, I wrote about what we noticed when we first returned. Besides being surprised by Netflix, Crocs, humidity, and insects, I wrote:
Food portions were too large, and plates too big. And we found new addictions to credit and debt that we hadn’t noticed before. Greed had become a virtue while we were away; the seeds planted long ago, we came home to the summer flowers and the harsh economic winter that followed Wall Street’s implosion a few years later.
Was that “harsh economic winter” a direct result of the narcissistic behaviors that have become so familiar, we consider them “normal?
This is not normal!
A year ago, I ran a series of posts on this Culture of Affluence that seemed to be gripping our country. We began on January 20, 2016 with When Cultural Difference Is Used As An Excuse, then The Culture of Affluence on February 10, Socially Acceptable Excuses, on February 17, and ended with Culture as an Excuse: The Culture of Rape on February 24, 2016.
Perhaps that is why the outcome of this election hit me so hard. Narcissists are supposed to get found out; they are supposed to get their comeuppance; perhaps they even go to jail. But they certainly don’t get elected President of The United States.
I'm not the first to look closely into the culture of narcissism.
- Technology and social media have done their part to promote narcissism. All of the time spent absorbed in screens has reduced the amount of actual human (i.e., face-to-face) interaction that children have, thus depriving them of the experiences needed to develop essential social skills such as empathy, compassion, and consideration for others.
- The shift in societal values away from collectivism and toward individualism (“You’re on your own”), away from civic responsibility and toward self-gratification, and away from meaningful contributions to society and toward personal success (as defined by wealth, power, and status), have also contributed to the cultural messages of narcissism in which young people are presently immersed.
Last year, Taylor went on to ask just what I’m asking today: