How does someone who has a severe case of narcissistic personality disorder deal with humiliation? I think we will know much more about this around November 10th – 15th when Donald J Trump loses badly the US Presidential election.
He is already preparing the ground for coping. His argument that the election is “rigged” is focused on ensuring that he himself cannot be blamed for the loss. It is everyone else’s fault – the “corrupt media”, “spineless losers” leading the GOP, the “criminal” Clinton campaign, poor advice. He was fine, it’s just everyone around him and those against him that cause the problem.
As recently as this week, after a very poor showing in the third Presidential debate in Las Vegas, he was still telling his faithful followers that he was going to win and that the polls are part of the conspiracy against him. [Whatever happened to the rule that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas - if there was ever a time this should have applied, it was to this debate!]. Rudi Giuliani, now his prime surrogate given that Governor Christie has backed away, tries to sell a line that there is massive voter fraud at the election and that some 1.8 million “dead” people will vote for Clinton. This is all part of the plan to explain away the loss and why Trump is not to blame.
Let us remind ourselves of the clinical conditions for narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). The Mayo Clinic’s definition of NPD is:
“A mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. Behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that is vulnerable to the slightest criticism. If you have NPD, you may come across as conceited, boastful or pretentious, you often monopolize conversations, you may belittle or look down on people you perceive as inferior, and you may feel a sense of entitlement (when you don’t receive special treatment, you may become impatient or angry). At the same time, you have trouble handling anything that may be perceived as criticism. You may have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation. To feel better, you may react with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make yourself appear superior.”
The Diagnostic State Manual version 5 (DSM-5) criteria for NPD includes these features:
- Expecting to be recognized as superior.
- Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance.
- Exaggerating your achievements and talents.
- Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate.
- Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people.
- Requiring constant admiration.
- Having a sense of entitlement.
- Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations.
- Taking advantage of others to get what you want.
- Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others.
- Being envious of others and believing others envy you.
- Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner.
Narcissistic personality disorder crosses the border of healthy confidence into thinking so highly of yourself that you put yourself on a pedestal and value yourself more than you value others.
Psychologists may dispute that all of these features have been seen in the behaviour of Trump since he entered the Presidential race, but these features have been seen and observed by many. Several were on show at his exceptionally poor performance at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Catholic charity dinner this week.
But he still thinks he has a chance of winning, despite most of the serious analysts giving him no chance at all. His thinking – fantastical though it may seem – is that he was written off so many times in the primaries and look at what happened there. What he is discounting is that the way the US system works is not about the popular vote, but where these votes are and their impact on the electoral college. Hilary needs 270 college votes to win. The betting is on her getting closer to 350. Nate Silver – who has the strongest forecasting record of any analyst – suggests that she is 87% sure of getting 341. There are 538 votes in the college – Silver sees Trump getting no more than 196.
The bad news is not likely to be just that Trump loses. There is also a 73% chance that the Democrats will take the senate, given Hilary a fantastic opportunity to stack the Supreme Court, push through major tax changes and improve Obamacare. Meantime, the combination of both a Presidential loss (the third in a row for the GOP) and a senate loss, should it occur, would be devastating for the GOP. The party would dump all over Trump as the “cause”, despite the fact that they were his enablers throughout the process.
But let’s return to the question: how would someone with a severe case of NDP react to such a massive loss of face?
Trump will experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which is often confused with NDP. But for him, PTSD will be severe:
- There will be more angry outbursts – his twitter account will go wild with accusations.
- He will lash out at people by name and cause a pile of lawsuits, either filed by him (defamation, libel) or filed against him.
- He will be abusive to those who advised him, especially those closest to him.
- He will seek revenge on those “who did this to him”, not accepting that he did “this” to himself.
- He will be even more distant in relationships, especially with family members.
- He will tell even more lies and untruths based on his version of events, many of which come from his “alternative universe”.
- He will relentlessly pursue conspiracy theories about who “was out to get him”.
He will be more difficult to live with, so his wife and children will need support and help in coping with the “tiger in the tank” ready to explode.
This will especially be true if cases of sexual assault are pursued and if he loses the Trump University lawsuit.
It will not be pretty. There is talk of him pursuing a new avenue of interests – Trump TV (which might be better named Deplorable’s TV). This would provide an outlet for all this anger, but will probably not be a wise investment for him (or anyone else) to make. It will likely go the same way as his Casino investments, which ended in one of the many Trump business bankruptcies.
What will make all of this even worse is that the Trump business will also suffer, as it is doing now, from the scrutiny it will receive. Trump hotels are losing customers and his staff in some hotels have unionized. He would be smart to sell the empire and retire – he is 70 after all.
As a psychologist, I can also pretty well guarantee that he will not seek help for his PTSD/ NPD conditions. He doesn’t “do advice”, as his several campaign managers will attest. Nor does he follow advice, once given, as his performances on tour and on the debates show.
I wouldn’t like to be around him come November 10th when it will be clearly all over, bar the shouting.