A FRIGHT­EN­ING VENN DI­A­GRAM

Newsweek - - DANGER - BY PHILIP ZIMBARDO & ROSE­MARY SWORD

through our ob­ser­va­tions, it was glar­ingly ap­par­ent that Don­ald Trump em­bod­ied a spe­cific per­son­al­ity type: an un­bri­dled, or ex­treme, present he­do­nist. As the words sug­gest, present he­do­nists live in the mo­ment, without much thought of any con­se­quences of their ac­tions or of the fu­ture. An ex­treme present he­do­nist will say what­ever it takes to pump up his ego and to as­suage his in­her­ent low self-es­teem, without any thought for past re­al­ity or for the po­ten­tially dev­as­tat­ing fu­ture out­comes. Our asser­tion that Trump is among the most ex­treme present he­do­nists we have ever wit­nessed comes from the plethora of writ­ten and recorded ma­te­rial on him.

The ex­treme present he­do­nist’s im­pul­sive thought leads to an im­pul­sive ac­tion that can cause him to dig in his heels when con­fronted with the con­se­quences of that ac­tion. If the per­son is in a po­si­tion of power, then oth­ers scram­ble ei­ther to deny or to find ways to back up the orig­i­nal im­pul­sive ac­tion. In nor­mal day-to­day life, this im­pul­sive­ness leads to mis­un­der­stand­ings, ly­ing and toxic re­la­tion­ships. In the case of Trump, an im­pul­sive thought may un­leash a stream of tweets or ver­bal re­marks that then spur oth­ers to try to ful­fill, or deny, his thought­less ac­tion.

Case in point: Trump’s im­pul­sive tweet, “How low has Pres­i­dent Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones dur­ing the very sa­cred elec­tion process. This is Nixon/water­gate. Bad (or sick) guy!” caused mem­bers of his staff to scram­ble to find ev­i­dence to make the false and slan­der­ous claim “real.”

An­other con­cern­ing char­ac­ter­is­tic

of ex­treme present he­do­nists is the of­ten un­wit­ting—we like to give some ex­treme present he­do­nists the ben­e­fit of the doubt—propen­sity to de­hu­man­ize oth­ers in or­der to feel su­pe­rior.

The Bul­ly­ing Kind

In the early 1900s, Sig­mund Freud in­tro­duced nar­cis­sism as part of his psy­cho­an­a­lytic the­ory. Through­out the en­su­ing decades, it was re­fined and some­times re­ferred to as mega­lo­ma­nia or se­vere ego­cen­trism. By 1968, the con­di­tion had evolved into the di­ag­nos­able nar­cis­sis­tic per­son­al­ity dis­or­der. Nar­cis­sis­tic peo­ple are out of balance in that they think very highly of them­selves while si­mul­ta­ne­ously think­ing very lowly of all those whom they con­sider their in­fe­ri­ors, which is al­most ev­ery­body. Nar­cis­sists are emo­tional, dra­matic and can lack com­pas­sion and em­pa­thy.

What lies un­derneath this per­son­al­ity type is of­ten very low self-es­teem. Nar­cis­sists can’t han­dle crit­i­cism of any kind, and will be­lit­tle oth­ers or be­come en­raged or con­de­scend­ing to make them­selves feel bet­ter when they per­ceive they are be­ing crit­i­cized. It’s not un­usual for a nar­cis­sis­tic per­son­al­ity to be blind to his be­hav­ior be­cause it doesn’t fit his view of his per­fect and dom­i­nant self.

Re­search in­di­cates that some bul­lies may suf­fer from nar­cis­sis­tic per­son­al­ity dis­or­der, while oth­ers may have dif­fi­culty in­ter­pret­ing or judg­ing so­cial sit­u­a­tions and other peo­ple’s ac­tions—they in­ter­pret hos­til­ity from oth­ers when none was meant. For ex­am­ple, a per­son un­in­ten­tion­ally bumps into a bully, who views this ac­ci­dent as an act of ag­gres­sion; he there­fore over­re­acts, which trig­gers the bully response of seek­ing re­venge. Bul­lies have of­ten been abused or are driven by their in­se­cu­ri­ties. They typ­i­cally want to con­trol and ma­nip­u­late oth­ers to feel su­pe­rior.

In Trump, we have a fright­en­ing Venn di­a­gram con­sist­ing of three cir­cles: The first is ex­treme present he­do­nism; the sec­ond, nar­cis­sism; and the third, bul­ly­ing be­hav­ior. Th­ese three cir­cles over­lap in the mid­dle to cre­ate an im­pul­sive, im­ma­ture, in­com­pe­tent per­son who, when in the po­si­tion of ul­ti­mate power, eas­ily slides into the role of tyrant, com­plete with fam­ily mem­bers sit­ting at his prover­bial “rul­ing ta­ble.”

Ev­ery­thing Can Fall Apart

In pre­sent­ing our case that Trump is men­tally un­fit to be pres­i­dent of the United States, we would be re­miss if we did not con­sider one more fac­tor: the pos­si­bil­ity of a neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­or­der such as de­men­tia or Alzheimer’s dis­ease, which the pres­i­dent’s fa­ther, Fred Trump, suf­fered from. Again, we are not try­ing to spec­u­late di­ag­noses from afar, but com­par­ing video in­ter­views of Trump from the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s to cur­rent video, we find that the dif­fer­ences (sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion in the use of essen­tial words; an in­crease in the use of ad­jec­tives such as very, huge and tremen­dous; and in­com­plete, run-on sen­tences

“AN EX­TREME PRESENT HE­DO­NIST WILL SAY WHAT­EVER IT TAKES TO PUMP UP HIS EGO AND AS­SUAGE HIS IN­HER­ENT LOW SELF-ES­TEEM .”

that don’t make sense and that could in­di­cate a loss of train of thought or mem­ory) are con­spic­u­ously ap­par­ent.

Whether Trump suf­fers from a neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­or­der—or nar­cis­sis­tic per­son­al­ity dis­or­der, or any other men­tal health is­sue, for that mat­ter— will, un­de­ni­ably, re­main con­jec­ture un­less he sub­mits to tests, which is highly un­likely given his per­son­al­ity. How­ever, the lack of such tests can­not erase the well-doc­u­mented be­hav­iors he has dis­played for decades and the dan­gers they pose. When an in­di­vid­ual is psy­cho­log­i­cally un­bal­anced, ev­ery­thing can teeter and fall apart if change does not oc­cur. We be­lieve that Trump is the most dan­ger­ous man in the world, a pow­er­ful leader of a pow­er­ful na­tion who can or­der mis­siles fired at an­other na­tion be­cause of his (or a fam­ily mem­ber’s) per­sonal dis­tress at see­ing sad scenes of peo­ple hav­ing been gassed to death.

We are gravely con­cerned about Trump’s abrupt, capri­cious 180-de­gree shifts and how th­ese dis­plays of in­sta­bil­ity have the po­ten­tial to be un­con­scionably dan­ger­ous. Cor­po­ra­tions and com­pa­nies vet their prospec­tive em­ploy­ees. This vet­ting process fre­quently in­cludes psy­cho­log­i­cal test­ing in the form of ex­ams or quizzes to help the em­ployer make more in­formed hir­ing de­ci­sions and de­ter­mine if the prospec­tive em­ployee is hon­est and/or would be a good fit for the com­pany. Th­ese tests are used for po­si­tions rang­ing from depart­ment store sales clerk to high­level ex­ec­u­tive. Isn’t it time that the same be re­quired for can­di­dates for the most im­por­tant job in the world? PHILIP ZIMBARDO,RDO, pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus at Stan­ford Univer­sity, is a scholar, ed­u­ca­tor and re­searcher per­haps best known for his land­mark Stan­ford prison study.

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