As a highly experienced clinical psychologist, I am an expert in the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. One of my most important responsibilities, I believe, is to translate scientific and clinical information so that it is accessible to the general public. I take this obligation even more seriously than usual in the case of Donald Trump, who may have been legitimately elected to the office in which he is now serving, as President of the United States.
How is President Trump different from all other recent presidents of the United States? He does not lead by logic or strategic planning. He does not have experience in the matters with which he is dealing nor does he value or attempt learning. He does not depend on experts for sage advice, which he could then weigh seriously. Instead he leads by manipulating emotions, particularly the darker ones such as hatred, greed and bigotry. He really does not even lead, but “stirs up” and excites his crowds of admirers. He stirs up what is already extant, although perhaps dormant, in most of them and offers them ready targets for their discontent.
Whether his comments and stories even resemble the truth is of little import in his scheme of things. The truth is not what matters to this sort of man. What matters is his own power, control and the unquestioning admiration of his followers. What matters is getting the best of those whom he sees as opponents or targets. What matters is the end goal and not the means of getting there.
The schoolyard bully displays all the emotional maturity and intellectual capacity of a six-year old, who wins elections by giving juvenile nicknames to his opponents and riling up those who are at his same level of immaturity. His supporters either identify with what they mistake for strength or are frightened and too traumatized to see what he really is, much like a long term victim of domestic violence who is not able to leave her abuser.
Only Nancy Pelosi, who as a mother and grandmother, has shown that she knows how to deal with a little boy’s tantrums, even if that little boy is in an adult body. She has revealed his lack of emotional impulse control for what it is, a severe and dangerous immaturity.
As a candidate, he clearly displayed his emotional immaturity and belligerence. He demonstrated his lack of intellect or knowledge. He is not an educated man and does not appear to understand the complexities of national or international political issues. He “shoots from the hip,” but he does shoot.
This man is a domestic abuser in the largest sense of the word, as he daily traumatizes women, puts children in cages and attacks people of color and LGBT citizens. He respects no one and is enabled by the greedy, the dishonest, the bigoted and the uneducated.
There is no doubt that he is a terrorist and that most of the citizens of a former democracy are suffering from severe anxiety, which hopefully some day will be able to become Post (as in PTSD). For now, I would consider it to be Chronic Traumatic Terror (stress is too small a word to describe this fear) and it is sweeping the nation, if not the planet, as rapidly as any highly contagious disease.
As we have learned more about him through his own words and those of his colleagues and, through his actions and attacks on those who disagree with him politically, it becomes easier to see that he undoubtedly suffers from more than just one psychological disorder. It is apparent that whatever intellectual capacity he may have possessed in his youth is rapidly deteriorating. This appears to be a consequence of some sort of organic issue, such as dementia or drug abuse, that can only be diagnosed by appropriate and close up medical and psychological examinations.
Clinical symptoms often overlap so that diagnosis proceeds by the elimination of possible issues. First and foremost, the clinician is required to assess for danger to self or others, along with grave inability to care for oneself. As he has a veritable army of caretakers and enablers, the last issue is moot. However, he is clearly a serious and present danger to others, not just to citizens of the country he is trying to take over, but all citizens of this planet. His uncontrolled and impulsive rage and tantrums, his serious cognitive impairment and his lack of concern for anyone but himself and his remaining supporters are a combustible combination.
As Mr. Trump has continued in this role far longer than expected, it is apparent that he becomes more belligerent and aggressive and more dangerous. As he is being systematically and legally forced into a corner by those who still respect the law, there is no telling how he will protect himself, but we know it will not be intelligent or reasonable.
We must also be concerned with the question of morality and ethics, the latter of which he fails every day in public, as do his chief enablers, Senator McConnell and Attorney General Barr, both of whom are on the wrong side of the law while appearing to be psychologically responsible for their own actions. I do not view them as lacking the capacity for intelligent judgment, as I do Donald Trump. Instead I consider them to be evil and malicious, indulging their own basest impulses to protect and enable Terrorist Number 1 in the world.
What may be the most distressing part of this entire presidency is that he has so many followers. They do not care about the presence of these qualities in their hero. They care about having a hero and they do. They care about expressing their basest impulses with impunity. They care about colonizing and subjugating women, people of color, gay people and immigrants. The list grows longer every day. You don’t have to divide people if you are not interested in conquering them. You don’t have to stir up violent emotions if you are not trying to incite violence. You do not have to prey upon others’ freedom of speech if you are not trying to destroy that very right.
It is crucially important for this last point to be understood by as many citizens as possible. Trump is playing games with their emotions, deadly games that might lead to something unimaginably disastrous. As a citizen and an experienced senior psychologist, I am one of many colleagues who have been trying to warn others by sounding the alarm bell. I am exercising my obligation to warn and my sincere wish that someone were allowed to exercise the right to hold him in an appropriate venue until, and only if, he is no longer a danger to anyone.