Tony Schwartz, ghostwriter for The Art of the Deal, wrote this about Donald Trump a couple of weeks ago.
To survive, I concluded from our conversations, Trump felt compelled to go to war with the world. It was a binary, zero-sum choice for him: You either dominated or you submitted. You either created and exploited fear, or you succumbed to it…
He derives his sense of significance from conquests and accomplishments…Any addiction has a predictable pattern: The addict keeps chasing the high by upping the ante in an increasingly futile attempt to re-create the desired state. On the face of it, Trump has more opportunities now to feel significant and accomplished than almost any other human being on the planet. But that’s like saying a heroin addict has his problem licked once he has free and continuous access to the drug. Trump also now has a far bigger and more public stage on which to fail and to feel unworthy.
I thought of that as we watched Trump interact on the biggest public stage of all during his trip abroad. The Saudi’s were deferential and played to the president’s ego. That gave Trump the “fix” for his addiction to conquest and dominance.
But in his dealings with NATO and the G7, he came in with an attitude of belligerence, which triggered a negative reaction from our allies and further confirmed that, when it comes to the world’s liberal democracies, Trump is a threat and Germany’s Angela Merkel (a woman!) is the leader they will turn to. In other words, in the president’s world view, she challenged his dominance. This morning, he responded with this tweet:
We now face the reality that the President of the United States is working to convince the American people that Russia is an ally and Germany is a threat. That is a monumental shift—and a very dangerous one.
In addition to that, it is clear that the president feels threatened by the latest developments in the Trump/Russia probe. James Comey became the target in that one when he failed to comply with Trump’s requests to be “loyal” and end the investigation. Obviously, the media that is publishing leaks about the investigation is also a target. But with the White House developing a “war room” to deal with this threat, it is clear that things will escalate quickly in the coming weeks.
As I watch all of this unfold, I am reminded of what psychiatrists said about how dealing with someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) presents a no-win situation.
There are only two ways to deal with someone with NPD, and they are both dangerous. There is no healthy way of interacting with someone with this affliction. If you criticize them they will lash out at you and if they have a great deal of power, that can be consequential. If you compliment them it only acts to increase the delusional and grandiose reality the sufferer has created, causing him to be even more reliant on constant and endless compliments and unwavering support.
Trump is now dealing with criticism on both the global and domestic front and is lashing out. That creates the kind of spiral Joshua Grubbs, a researcher who writes about narcissism, alluded to recently. He tweeted, “Narcissistic spiraling happening right in front of us. Each attempt to bolster his ailing ego leads to another, graver self-inflicted injury.” He could have added that each grave self-inflicted injury leads to another challenge to his ailing ego. Do you see the spiral? While Trump lashes out to blame others, it is his own Narcissistic Personality Disorder that is creating the crisis—from which there is no turning back.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m generally not one to make predictions so I won’t even try to be specific about what Trump will do next. But there is no doubt in my mind that this spiral will lead to even more dangerous behavior from the president. As the only ones with the ability to intervene, that is something that both Trump’s staff and Congressional Republicans need to deal with…before it’s too late.