In his OpEd today, David Brooks writes about “the essential loneliness” of Donald Trump in “Donald Trump’s Sad, Lonely Life.” Brooks say he sometimes find himself “experiencing feelings of deep sadness and pity” as he pictures Trump as a deeply isolated and lonely person. As a psychotherapist I feel no sadness or pity for Trump. I have no sympathy for the Devil. Why should I?
Trump seems incapable of that. He is essentially adviser-less, friendless. His campaign team is made up of cold mercenaries at best and Roger Ailes at worst. His party treats him as a stench it can’t yet remove.
He was a germophobe through most of his life and cut off contact with others, and now I just picture him alone in the middle of the night, tweeting out hatred.
Trump breaks his own world record for being appalling on a weekly basis, but as the campaign sinks to new low after new low, I find myself experiencing feelings of deep sadness and pity.
Imagine if you had to go through a single day without sharing kind little moments with strangers and friends.
Imagine if you had to endure a single week in a hate-filled world, crowded with enemies of your own making, the object of disgust and derision.
You would be a twisted, tortured shrivel, too, and maybe you’d lash out and try to take cruel revenge on the universe. For Trump this is his whole life.
Brooks has his own psychological analysis:
Trump continues to display the symptoms of narcissistic alexithymia, the inability to understand or describe the emotions in the self. Unable to know themselves, sufferers are unable to understand, relate or attach to others.
To prove their own existence, they hunger for endless attention from outside.
Don’t worry if you had to look up alexithymia. I did too even though it is considered a psychiatric term. It means simply difficulty in experiencing, expressing, and describing emotional responses.
I forgive you for skipping the more technical definition:
Alexithymia is a personality construct characterized by the inability to identify and describe emotions in the self. The core characteristics of alexithymia are marked dysfunction in emotional awareness, social attachment, and interpersonal relating. Furthermore, individuals with alexithymia have difficulty in distinguishing and appreciating the emotions of others, which is thought to lead to unempathic and ineffective emotional responding. Alexithymia is prevalent in approximately 10% of the general population and is known to be comorbid with a number of psychiatric conditions.
I added to my psychological assessment of Trump’s overall this morning after I read about his inability to understand what other people would find funny:
This is about how difficult it was for writers to work with him when he was the subject of a Comedy Central roast. This is from the Huffington Post article.
“One thing that stuck out to me during rehearsal,” Larsen (executive producer) said, “is he would always poll the people around him if they thought it was funny. He never really seemed to have a grasp on what was funny and why it was funny. He was always looking at others to validate if it was funny.”
“I have done this a long time and nobody blacks out punchlines,” said Jesse Joyce, one of the writers. Scrapping punchlines represents “a classic lack of an understanding of how a joke works,” he added.
What people find amusing tell us a lot about them. The meanness of Trump, his taking pleasure in other people’s discomfort or pain which could be defined as sadistic is illustrated by this:
Trump made a few lackluster attempts at cracking wise. He changed a joke meant to slam MacFarlane from: “The only way you’ll ever draw a crowd is with a pencil.” Trump’s revision: “The only crowd you’ll attract is flies.”
My morning story here is “Here’s proof trump can’t act normal because he doesn’t know what normal is.” It is worth reading if this interests you.
I could treat Donald Trump if he became my client because I would engage in the intellectual discipline of empathy. It would be difficult. For most therapists, I’d say for all effective therapists, empathy comes naturally. But there are rare instances where you really have to work on putting yourself in a client’s place so you can, as the saying goes, walk in their shoes.
For example, I’ve had abusive men in therapy who had little insight and blamed their wives for their own behavior, but I still had to try to grasp their experiential world. When some of the men were Trump-like in having little ability to appreciate the pain (emotional especially) they were causing their wives, all I could try to do was work on convincing them that behavioral change would benefit them if they valued their marriage and family.
When I was working in a clinic I knew that their wives were in therapy with a colleague who was counseling them so they had the self-esteem to get out of the marriage. I can’t count the times when I had men drop out of marital couples therapy because they felt I was siding with their wives. However, when men and women (or in a few cases same sex couples) were both willing to admit they needed to change, my success rate was excellent. I could tell what the chances were by whether or not they both came in willing together for the first session. In all modesty I was a very good marriage counselor.
There’s about as much chance of my becoming Trump’s therapist as there is of a Zombie Apocalypse. Besides I’m retired and would have to renew my license, and he couldn’t afford my fee.
NPR Discusses Trump as “Psychologically Wayward” Case of “Narcissistic Personality Disorder”
by Webster G. Tarpley
Excepts from an earlier David Brooks OpEd about Trump’s personality.