Dr. Bandy Lee, editor of The Dangerous Case Of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President (2017), confesses that possibly the oddest experience in my career as a psychiatrist has been to find that the only people not allowed to speak about an issue are those who know the most about it. Hence, truth is suppressed. Yet what if that truth, furthermore, harbored dangers of such magnitude that it could be the key to future human survival? How can I, as a medical and mental health professional, remain a bystander in the face of one of the greatest emergencies of our time, when I have been called to step in everywhere else? How can we, as trained professionals in this very area, be content to keep silent, against every other principle we practice by, because of a decree handed down from above?
In spite of its title: The Dangerous Case Of Donald Trump Dr. Lee emphasizes that the main point of this book is not about Mr. Trump. It is about the larger context that has given rise to his presidency, and the greater population that he affects by virtue of his position. The ascendancy of an individual with such impairments speaks to our general state of health and well-being as a nation, and to how we can respond: we can either improve it or further impair it. Mental disorder does not distinguish between political parties, and as professionals devoted to promoting mental health, including public mental health, our duty should be clear: to steer patients and the public on a path toward health so that genuine discussions of political choice, unimpeded by emotional compulsion or defense, can occur. Embracing our "duty to warn" as our professional training and ethics lead us to do at times of danger, therefore involves not only sounding an alarm but continually educating and engaging in dialogue our fellow human beings, as this compilation aspire to do.
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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says he's redesigning the State Department to make it more efficient. But his critics say he's gutting it at a time when the U.S. needs diplomats and development experts to promote national security interests. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are sounding the alarm, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.
MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: An open letter from the State Department's union sparked the latest wave of concern about Rex Tillerson's management style. It warns that the top leadership ranks are being depleted at a, quote, "dizzying speed." And that has the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Ben Cardin, worried.
BEN CARDIN: If this was happening at DOD, where our generals were resigning and our top management was missing in action, there would be I think greater alarm. So I just really want to raise the alarm.
KELEMEN: The State Department says the union figures are a distortion. The highest-ranking diplomats, the career ambassadors, may be down more than 60 percent, as the union says. But there were only six to begin with this year, and the department is now down to two. But the lower ranks are also thinning, says Senator Cardin, who again compares the foreign service to the military, where experience matters.
CARDIN: We're losing that, and it takes a long time to rebuild that capacity.
KELEMEN: Cardin plans to use his position on the Foreign Relations Committee to push back. He'll have some help from the Republican chairman, Bob Corker, who, though a backer of the secretary of state, expressed frustration about Tillerson's reform plans.
BOB CORKER: We had a very unsatisfactory meeting last week with the State Department. I don't think they're anywhere close to having a plan to present relative to the reforms they want to make there.
KELEMEN: State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert says the redesign is still a work in progress, and diplomats are having their say.
HEATHER NAUERT: The people who are implementing the redesign, the people who are deciding the future of the redesign - you know, it's not coming from a brand new political appointee like myself. It's coming from people who have worked for the State Department for many years, in some cases decades and decades.
KELEMEN: That, she says, is separate from some of the other concerns raised by members of Congress. Senators John McCain, a Republican, and Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, wrote to Secretary Tillerson urging him to remove a hiring freeze and resume promotions in a system where, like the military, it's up or out.
In another letter, Democrat Chris Murphy questions Tillerson's plans for buyouts, saying that could lead to a dangerous loss of expertise. Nauert says the department is just trying to meet the budget goals set by the White House. But that's part of the problem, says Senator Cardin, who doesn't see Tillerson defending his department.
CARDIN: Secretary Tillerson has not been an effective voice to represent the State Department through reorganization.
KELEMEN: Morale is low, too, something Nauert addressed in her briefing today.
NAUERT: Sure, there is a morale issue in this building. And that's why I say, you know, folks, hang in there. We have a lot of work to be done. Please don't give up. Don't give up on this building. Don't give up on what America's doing. Don't give up on the importance of this job and this career.
KELEMEN: President Trump has sent a different message. He doesn't want a lot of positions filled at the State Department, telling Fox News recently that when it comes to foreign policy, quote, "I'm the only one that matters." Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department.
Copyright © 2017 NPR. https://www.npr.org/2017/11/17/564936590/critics-say-tillerson-is-g...
Dr. Leonard L. Glass in "The Essentially Dangerous Nature of Donald Trump as Commander in Chief" offers a cautionary tale. Glass writes that what he and many others discern in Mr. Trump's behavior and speech is a pattern of impulsivity that leads to vengeful attacks on those who challenge him. He doesn't seem to pause to consider the validity of facts and perspectives that are unfamiliar or displeasing to him. He presents himself as "knowing more than the generals" and having "great plans that are sure to succeed: "You will be sick of winning," he has said. This combination of overconfidence and rash reactions may have been an asset in the world of real estate deals, where the stakes are financial, personal, and presumably recoverable. But "shooting from the hip" without feeling the need to obtain a genuine understanding of complex matters has much graver consequences when the safety of the nation and the global environment are on the line.
Viewed from a mental health perspective, a person who constantly extols his abilities and feels driven to diminish and ridicule others (here Glass is not speaking of political campaigning, where promoting oneself vis-a-vis one's opponents is part of the game) often arise from profound insecurity, the very opposite of the supreme confidence that is being projected.
This may seem contradictory, that someone who has succeeded in one realm of life will keep insisting that he is masterful in unrelated areas, areas where he has, in fact, no demonstrated competence, but it soothes such person's inner doubts and, simultaneously, may appeal mightily to those who crave an all-powerful ally.
This impulsivity, the need to support a supportable inflated image of oneself, added to a profound inability to acknowledge what one doesn't know, all augur profound psychological interference with the rational and considered exercise of power. We need to understand this, all the more so because it is the very awareness that Mr. Trump himself and his acolytes feel they mustn't acknowledge to themselves and us, the people whose safety he is entrusted to protect. Our understanding that this is a recognizable personality style that predictably impedes reliable judgment and a sound, considered response to crisis allows us to take appropriate action within the law to contain and limit the damage that we can clearly envision and, collectively, must try to prevent.
Dr. Thomas Singer in "Trump And the American Collective Psyche," from The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump (2017) posits that while he joins those who believe that we need to question Donald Trump's psychological fitness to be president, Singer's focus is less on individual psychopathology than on the interface between trump and the American collective psyche. There are ways in which Trump mirrors, even amplifies, our collective attention deficit disorder, our sociopathy, and our narcissism. Therefore, this is less about diagnosing a public figure than about recognizing our own pathology.
Trump has mesmerized our national psyche like no other public figure in recent memory. There is no doubt that his appeal (his wealth, power, celebrity status, and his brash willingness to shoot from the hip) resonates powerfully with the collective psyche of many Americans, while these same qualities are repulsive to many others. The more vulgar, bullying, impulsive, and self-congratulatory Trump's behavior and rhetoric, the more some people worship him, while others fervently denounce him as a grave danger to our republic. To probe the profound collective disturbance that Trump activates and symbolizes, singer draws on his experience as a psychiatrist and Jungian psychoanalyst.
A Psychological Theory About Trump's Appeal: A Marriage of the Shadow, Archetypal Defenses, and the Self at the Group Level of the Psyche to Form a Cultural Complex
Dr. Singer declares that you don't need to be a psychologist or psychiatrist to see that Donald Trump has a problem of narcissism. Ted Cruz announced on May 3, 2016, the day of the Indiana Republican presidential primary that Trump was "a pathological liar, utterly amoral, a narcissist at a level I don't think this country's ever seen and a serial philanderer."
Singer believes he has a working model of the theory of cultural complexes that may be useful for understanding Trumpist. He talks about the psyche of the group--what lives inside each of us as individual carriers of the group psyche and what lives between us in our shared group psyche. The group psyche engages with themes and conflicts that are not the same as our more-personal psychological struggles.
Dr. Singer hypothesizes a direct link between Trump's personal narcissism and the collective psyche of those American citizens who embrace his perception of America and who feel that he understands and speaks to them. This is not a political analysis. It is a psychological analysis of what we can think of as the group psyche, which contributes enormously to and fuels political processes. This analysis is based on the notion that there are certain psychological energies, even structures, at the level of the cultural or group psyche that are activated at times of heightened threats to the core identity of the group--what we might think of as the group Self. Three of these most important energies/structures:
2Archetypal defenses of the group Self
3The group Self itself.
These energies/structures take shape around social, political economic, geographic, and religious themes that are alien in specific contexts and with particular contents. This same type of analysis may currently apply in the Brexit crisis in Great Britain, or in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, with very different contexts and contents in which various groups can be seen as protecting their threatened or wounded Self from being further injured by pursuing a defensive, aggressive attacks against imaged or real, dangerous enemies.
What is it about Trump that acts as an irresistible magnet with ferocious attraction or repulsion? Is Trump the end product of our culture of narcissism? Is he what we get and deserve because he epitomizes the god or gods we currently worship in our mindless, consumerist, hyper-indulged cult of continuous stimulation and entertainment? Here is how Christopher Hedges state it in Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle:
It seems clear that Trump's narcissism and his attacks on political correctness dovetail with deep needs in a significant portion of the American population to enhance their dwindling sense of place in America and of America's place in the world. Trump's narcissism can be seen as a perfect compensatory mirror for the narcissistic needs and injuries of those who support him--or, stated another way, there is a good "fit."
Conclusion: grouping the American psyche and Psychic Contagion Over the Group