A FRIGHTENING VENN DIAGRAM
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.