As a mental health professional, I’ve been viewing the rise of Donald Trump’s political career with a different lens than many. Surely, I’m not the first to diagnose Donald Trump as a narcissist. And I’m also sure that whenever he hears the label, he says, “Thank you.”
That’s what’s been so disheartening about his unique brand of narcissism: It’s a badge of honor. He is shamelessly selfish, and misogynistic, and completely lacking in empathy. Yet his fans/supporters like this about him!
What does that say about our culture, and the celebration of narcissism? What does it tell our children?Too often, it feels like narcissism is rewarded. People rise to the top by being ruthless, by putting themselves above all else. Normally, they pretend this isn’t the case. CEOs pretend they are there to enrich their workers as well as their shareholders even as they jump from private jets with golden parachutes.
But Donald Trump? He doesn’t have to even pretend that he’s about anyone but himself. He’s not even feigning that his presidential bid is about helping people. And many find that refreshing. Here’s a politician that tells the truth, finally!
I don’t generally use this forum for editorializing. I certainly don’t use it for talking about politics. But to me, this is bigger than politics. It’s about our collective mental health as a nation, because when we aggrandize narcissism, when we applaud its candor, we’re saying that empathy is for losers and liars. That’s a dangerous idea.
One of the most important things we can teach our children is how to balance their own needs with the needs of others. Life is a constant battle between self-interest and self-control–achieving our own goals but not at the expense of others. There’s where true happiness (and mental health) lies.
The way Donald Trump conducted himself at the debate involved a shameless disregard for others, and it masqueraded as humor and as power. He was proud that he took the money and ran even when it cost other people their jobs. He seemed tickled by his denigration of women. The message: I can do anything I want, and say anything I want! He’s an absurdly rich toddler.
Some of our kids might find his example worth emulating. Being outrageous and self-involved is earning Donald Trump more coverage than all the other candidates combined. I’m a little abashed that I’m even writing about him here.
So I guess I’ll stop. Please, let’s all do the same, pronto.