Dealing with Trump is at least giving us a lot to work with while considering mental health, a subject desperately in need of review for a number of reasons: the rising tide of Alzheimer’s, recreational use of deranging drugs, interference of cultural concepts with more formal scientific concepts, competing claims about cures, and the enormous new knowledge about neurology. Then there is the persisting phenomenon of people who protect those who think they are chickens because the protectors need the eggs. This is sometimes called enabling, or co-dependence.
Lately the new term has been “reverse narcissism” which is feeding the narcissist a steady stream of praise and reassurance. Characteristically, the narcissist is the one with the power, prestige, and charisma, and then the “tender” tries to appear humble or even secret, traditionally “the power behind the throne.” In our culture they are gender-role assigned, women meant to be the co-dependent because in the past only men could earn a living — a gender assignment going back to hunting mastodons — or provide protection likewise prehistoric. In modern times we sometimes see “folie å deux” where symbiotic, interdependent relationships share a delusion that is hard to assign to one or the other. Which is the primary narcissist between the Duke and Duchess of Windsor?
I’ll come back to this. First it has become clear that Trump has Alzheimers at a fairly advanced stage. The average length of time from first diagnosis to death by brain dysfunction is about eight years. One of the most obvious signs is disconnection and fabulizing to cover up failure to comprehend or remember. Watching vids of Trump, even edited, shows these signs. If you are interested in this aspect, use Google, but probably if you are interested it’s because you know someone with it or worry about yourself. Both scientific and narrative material abounds. Alzheimers is the 8th most prevalent cause of death in the US.
Second, what Alzheimer’s does by its destruction of the ability to reflect is remove what’s called “executive function.” Wikipedia is handy. “Executive functions (collectively referred to as executive function and cognitive control) are a set of cognitive processes – including attentional control, inhibitory control, working memory, and cognitive flexibility, as well as reasoning, problem solving, and planning – that are necessary for the cognitive control.” In short, the stuff the Executive Branch of the US government (the President) is supposed to do. By now it’s clear that Trump is simply unable to do these things. It’s not a matter of temperament or strategy: he can NOT be presidential, he can NOT perform presidential duties. He is being stage-managed into an illusion.
In addition, his baseline personality is released from restraint by the Alzheimers. Persons with benign and friendly personalities remain that way. This is where the narcissism diagnosis comes in. Narcissism is a personality syndrome badly named, since it is NOT about being in love with oneself because one is beautiful. It is rather being totally absorbed in oneself but needing constant reassurance from outside oneself, completely unaware of the reality of others. The result is lashing out, vindictive revenge, rewards and punishments meant to control, and other refusals to face reality. This is not cruelty, enjoying the pain of others, but rather amorality, inability to realize that others can be in pain and mocking them when they are. (Sorry, Sen. Schumer. If you can’t cry for the debasement of America at this point, what CAN a person cry for?)
So, psychotic, amoral, sociopathic — who approves? Bannon. Does he have Alzheimer’s? No sign that he does except that he’s a slob. He declares himself to be Leninist, a revolutionary who wants to smash government, which is conceived as like the dictatorship of the Russian Tsar. Lenin (which is an alias) was from a gifted, privileged, educated family that became revolutionary because of resisting Tsarist control. This has to do with the struggle of an emerging middle class or proletariat. I don’t know what Bannon’s personal story is. In this relationship with Trump he stands somewhere between co-dependent and manipulator. There’s enough evidence to describe him as a sociopath (one who doesn’t care for society) but also a psychopath (one who injures himself or others without regard for the consequences because of delusion).
We have assigned roles to deal with such people: psychiatrists, who are medical doctors authorized to prescribe meds, and psychologists, who use the research in the field of psychology. There are also psychoanalysts, who try to understand a person’s thinking in order to find mistaken ideas, unhelpful beliefs, and the like. (They might be either psychiatrists or psychologists. The first would treat Alzheimer’s patients. The second might more likely support and comfort the families of the patients.) Over the years these functions have become rather gender-assigned in the same way that doctors and nurses are. MD psychiatrists tend to be men and clinical psychologists are often women.
A curious criteria for psychosis that I ran across was that the client must be in distress himself. Trump doesn’t seem to be suffering overtly, though many feel he is insecure and grasping at straws.
Because there was an attempt to impeach or otherwise remove Goldwater from the presidential race an ethical rule was devised. (From ever-useful Wikipedia.) “The Goldwater rule is the informal name given to of Section 7.3 in the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) code of ethics which states it is unethical for psychiatrists to give a professional opinion about public figures they have not examined in person and obtained consent from to discuss their mental health in public statements. It is named after presidential candidate Barry Goldwater.
“The issue arose in 1964 when Fact published the article "The Unconscious of a Conservative: A Special Issue on the Mind of Barry Goldwater." The magazine polled psychiatrists about American Senator Barry Goldwater and whether he was fit to be president. In Goldwater v. Ginzburg Goldwater filed a libel suit in response to the article, and he won $75,000 in damages.”
This is what is putting the brakes on the 25th Amendment, which was also a 1964 response to a problem, specifically the death, resignation, impeachment, or otherwise removal of a president. In a society of laws, it’s ambiguous but useful. In a sub-society of lawyers (the US Congress) it is a recipe for paralysis. I don’t know what $75,000 would be in equivalent 2017 dollars.
When one googles these issues, it gradually becomes clear that the medical doctors are more willing to say that Trump is demented and unable to perform his duties. Partly they are helped by video evidence which demonstrates his behavior. Partly they are helped by our consciousness of genetics, and the fact that his father had Alzheimers. But they have to consider their code, though many doctors these days brush codes aside; for instance, when they help torture.
But the clinical psychologists, who tend to be women whose practices are consoling, supporting, and guiding people in distress, trying to understand how they see the world, seem to want to believe that Trump is “crazy like a fox,” merely pretending to be Mortimer Snerd in order to cover his real motives and abilities. Of course, if one is conscious of his close relationship with Bannon, this is not reassuring because those motives might not be benign. Bannon has said he is out to destroy the standing order (he seems to ee the small percentage of rich folks controlling the world at the expense of the middle class as a modern version of the Tsar) and it appears that Trump is his instrument, lacking both conscience and awareness.
One suspects that the American subconscious so involved in “Game of Thrones” is particularly susceptible to all this melodrama, especially if they think it is aimed out outsiders. It may be approaching spring, but winter is coming in the minds of many.