Hi All, This sharing below is my attempt to shed some light on some of the psychological reasons why many of us are experiencing an uncanny dread in the face of the looming Trump era of our lives. It’s based on my almost 40 years of practicing psychotherapy. Best wishes, Michael
A Very Big, But Elusive Reason Why I Believe That President Elect Trump Scares Some of Us
I’m writing this because I believe a powerful but elusive factor causing so many Americans and others around the world to be feeling an uncanny sense of dread in response to Donald Trump, in addition to the possible, overt threats that he may pose to us, is because people who are very narcissistic, by their very existence in our lives can radiate a menacing presence.
I hope this article may help bring some additional understanding to the psychological dynamics that may be contributing to some people’s fear.
For over a year we all have been exposed to, and soon will be even more vulnerably enveloped in the force field of now President-elect Trump, who will be the most powerful human being on the planet as our President, but who I believe has shown himself to be very narcissistic, to be extremely self-centered and vindictive. For me, the most telling and chilling experience of the campaign was when he menacingly threatened to imprison Hillary Clinton if he were to be elected.
He seems to share the same tragic fate as the mythic figure Narcissus, the vain and self-absorbed figure of Greek legend who lost all human connection to other people through his overwhelming adoration of his own self-image and his inflated sense of attractiveness. That self-absorbed lack of human heartedness is the biggest problem that people who are very narcissistic pose for those in their orbit.
We all have been in the orbit and force fields of people who are very narcissistic before- we have felt a similar sense of persistent menace.
Many times in our lives there has been someone in our family, social group or on the job who we instinctively knew would take revenge on us if we crossed them. We intuitively knew that even if we respectfully challenged them or opposed them that it would be very risky.
People who are very narcissistic create a very subtle or not-so-subtle menacing force field around them whose effects on us can be confirmed, if we recognize that our own feelings of fear in their presence are not over-reactions, but are our genuine, emotional warning reactions.
Via their eyes, facial expressions and verbal tone, we can often detect a menacing presence before they ever speak a threatening word of looming payback, for what they may perceive as our transgression of crossing them.
In my experience, people who are very narcissistic must feel safe from the slightest personal diminishment, and that means no one gets to cause them a drop in the emotional inflation that they tragically must maintain every minute of their lives.
I thinks that’s so, because of a deep unconscious terror of plunging into the deflation of intense shame that is an ever present possibility. Therefore anyone who is perceived as a threat to their rigid defense of inflated self-importance, must be severely dealt with, without there hardly ever being an exception to the code of retaliation.
Those are the rules of engagement.
If you criticize, laugh at, compete with or in any way threaten their ever tenuous super structure of self-aggrandizement, entitlement and their constant need to induce envy in others, you will almost certainly pay. Period.
Our visceral expectation of such retaliation I believe, is the source of the uncanny sense of looming menace that so many people have shared with me and that I am experiencing too because of our vulnerability to President-elect Trump.
That certainty of retribution I’ve observed, is more easily perceived when children dare or accidentally do something to interfere with a very narcissistic parent’s need to use their children as objects whose sole purpose is to reflect positively on the parent in the eyes of other adults.
I have done therapy with many people who often did not realize the extent to which their very narcissistic parent or parents frightened them into total submission and servitude to the parent’s self-serving needs.
Much has been written about people who are very narcissistic not having empathy, but most of them that I’ve known have had the most exquisite empathy for others – because empathy is simply defined as being able to identify with another and accurately imagine what they might be emotionally experiencing.
Having empathy does not mean that the emotion of caring for another is also present.
Some of the most empathic people I’ve known have been super charming people who are very narcissistic, who can with uncanny swiftness read another person and empathically know what the other person is feeling.
The problem is that people who are very narcissistic unfortunately don’t really care – they don’t feel genuine concern, compassion or love, in addition to the self-serving empathy reading that they have just completed on the other person.
So people who are very narcissistic can be deceptively engaging up to the point that a deflating narcissistic wound occurs.
It’s a frightening observation I’ve had that folks who are very narcissistic can almost never restrain themselves from revengefully punishing someone that even innocently wounds them – for some of the reasons I’ve outlined above. When wounded they feel an incredible inner pressure of unrelenting intense emotions – they are swamped with the emotion of vengeful rage that masks the deeper underlying terror of their possible deflation.
None of us will receive President-elect Trump’s potential revenge directly if he ever becomes vengeful as some of us fear – that is, face to face.
But we are in his force field now and our vulnerability may take its toll on us.
Like one person told me, “Please understand, I’m a grown adult now but I still get physically sick when I have to be around my very narcissistic parent, because I know in my guts that as sure as the sun comes up in the morning, if I cross them in any way, they are going to make me hurt. There is no doubt they will punish me. It’s a certainty.”
I hope we all find very good ways to do self-care and also actively support each other too, in the days and years ahead of the Trump presidency.
We are in President-elect Trump’s force field now, but he also is now very much in ours.
Our spiritual and human-hearted energy may be able to fill that shared crucible with protective love, and with a passionate strength and defiant solidarity that demands justice, a solidarity of resistance to any abuse that never can be broken.
Final note: This essay is in no way an attempt to diagnose President-elect Trump from afar. As some of you who may have read some of my work know, I don’t believe in the validity of the DSM or the disease model of psychiatry that created the paradigm that pathologizes human emotional suffering.
I have compassion for anyone who may suffer the timeless and tragic fate of Narcissus as well as deep concern for the safety and well-being of any of us who may incur their wrath.
Copyright, Michael Cornwall, 2016