Saturday, August 5, 2017

Trump's recent displays of restraint and his psychological problems

Now that Kelly is in as Trump's Chief of Staff, Trump seems to be acting... differently.  Let's talk about that.

As you may have noticed, Trump has fetishized Generals.  Why?  He has a thing about "toughness."  He wants to be "tough," or at least, he wants people to think he is "tough."  So, he idolizes anyone who displays what he thinks of as "toughness."  That runs the gamut from dictators like Putin, Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Un to psychopaths like Rodrigo Duterte to the military.  Of course, he'll run down anyone in the military if they don't idolize him (remember him disparaging John McCain, and all other POWs for having been caught...), but he does have a relatively consistent thing about toughness, whatever that means to him.

Mostly, it means belligerence to him, but the point is that he has some ideas that lead him to put Generals up on a pedestal.  Hence, Kelly as Chief of Staff.

What he doesn't get about Generals is that the military isn't just about "toughness."  It runs on discipline.  In the abstract, Trump likes the idea of imposing discipline, and if you asked him whether or not he considers himself a disciplined person, of course he'd praise himself, but despite the fact that he was shipped off to military academy as a kid, he doesn't actually have a very easy time living a disciplined life.

And this brings us to... um... well, I'm not a head-shrinker, and I have no obligation to follow the Goldwater Rule, so fuck it.  Let's talk about "anti-social personality disorder."  The psychology profession looooooves their euphemisms and they love to change their terminology because doing so makes them feel all special, 'n stuff.  There is loaded history with terms like "sociopath" and "psychopath," so a lot of head-shrinkers don't like to use those terms, but that's basically what "anti-social personality disorder" is all about.  Any difference is splitting hairs, as far as I'm concerned.  Of course, I'm a political scientist, not a head-shrinkologist, so they probably don't care what I think, but whatever...

Anyway, the American Psychiatric Association periodically re-writes its definitions to say who is sane, who isn't, and what we call each type of insanity in a big book called the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders," or, DSM.  They are currently on the DSM-V.  Normally, I like to give y'all links, and while I have access through a VPN (benefits of being an academic), I can't find anything that gives you access without a VPN.  Sorry.

However, I like giving you at least some proper links, being picky about this kind of thing myself, and I didn't want to use one of those stupid pop quizzes to determine whether or not your roommate is a psychopath.  (Hint:  probably not).  But, I'm also lazy and just writing this over my Saturday morning coffee, so I'm not lookin' too hard.  This will work: here's something real, available at the NIH, that isn't behind a paywall, and that you don't need a VPN to access.  Unfortunately, it references DSM-IV rather than DSM-V, and there have been some changes to "anti-social personality disorder" diagnosis, but the critical element for our purposes today didn't change substantively.

Skip down to section 2.2.1.  So, actually, the pop outlets get it kind of right, right?
The diagnostic system DSM-IV, the preferred diagnostic system for this guideline (see Section 2.2.2), characterises [Tally Ho!  I'm a British author!] antisocial personality disorder as a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others that has been occurring in the person since the age of 15 years, as indicated by three (or more) of seven criteria, namely: a failure to conform to social norms; irresponsibility; deceitfulness; indifference to the welfare of others; recklessness; a failure to plan ahead; and irritability and aggressiveness (APA, 1994).
That "failure to conform to social norms" thing...  The passage cuts that condition short, but there's a whole can-o-worms there and it isn't just about whether or not you are a proper social conformist.  Remember that there was a time when being gay was considered mental illness by this same group of asshats, and consensual gay sex was illegal...  Just sayin'...  I could get into this a lot more, but that's not the point of today's post.

Regardless, doesn't that passage sound like Donny-boy?  If you have access to DSM-V, it doesn't get any better for him.  Of course, that's not a new observation, and I wouldn't claim it as such.  I'll just call your attention to the "recklessness" criterion.  That's kind of big, and consistent in the diagnosis of "anti-social personality disorder."

Let's just be blunt.  Trump is a textbook case of anti-social personality disorder.  And in case you missed this, the American Psychoanalytic Association* basically relaxed their version of the Goldwater Rule, telling their members that it is OK to diagnose Trump.

Trump is reckless.  He always has been.  And that recklessness is going to run right up against Kelly's military-style demand for order.  Trump will lose it.  Why?  He can't help it.  He can't.

Since Kelly started as Chief of Staff, Trump has held back on the tweets and showed a modicum of discipline.  It can't last.  What happens, then, when Trump lets loose a bunch of stupid tweets, or admits guilt to federal crimes on national tv, like he did with Lester Holt?  What happens to his relationship with Kelly?

Trump thinks they are peas in a pod.  Two tough guys.  He doesn't understand the nature of personal discipline.  Recklessness is at the core of his disorder.  We've seen this before.  Trump tones down the tweets.  For a little while.  Then, they come back, because he can't stop himself.  That is one of the central aspects of being a psychopath.  He can't control himself.

When most people think of psychopaths, they think of pure malevolence, or perhaps just the lack of empathy that seems to be required for such malevolence, but not all cruel people are psychopaths.  People can be driven to cruelty by all sorts of factors.  If you want a truly dark read, try Hitler's Willing Executioners, about how the Nazi regime convinced basically ordinary people-- non-psychopaths-- to participate in the most evil horrors ever.  Or how about just Stanley Milgram's ground-breaking book, Obedience to Authority, demonstrating that nearly anybody, including probably you, can probably be convinced to murder an innocent person for no reason other than the fact that someone in a position of authority tells you to do so.  People are horrendous.  Anti-social personality disorder is distinct from just being a shitbag, though.  The American Psychoanalytic Association relaxed it's version of the Goldwater Rule because they think that Trump is worse than a regular shitbag.  They think he is seriously mentally ill, and a part of that illness-- a central part of that illness-- is Trump's poor impulse control.

Trump's self-discipline won't last.  It can't last.

We'll see what happens to his relationship with Kelly once Trump goes on another tear, or loses it and fires Sessions even though Kelly told him that his job was safe, or something like that.  The idea of Trump maintaining military-style discipline? Yeah, right.



*Note that the American Psychoanalytic Association is not the American Psychiatric Association.  The latter is the one that wrote the DSM.

1 comment:

  1. FWIW, he had a relatively decent week (in his mind) after hiring Kelly. He doesn't look at the Miller "Fuck the Statue of Liberty" thing as bad. This matters because he has a well-documented pattern of lashing out (and, particularly, indulging the Bannon/Miller wing) when he feels like he's down.

    So, he'll probably be able to keep himself in check for a little while....oh, there he goes with the tweets because he saw bad poll results. Hmmm.

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