The Psychological Roots of Narcissism

Trump’s Tower of Vulnerability – Part 3

Having identified narcissism as the key to Donald Trump’s behavioral patterns and self-image, profilers will want to dig deeper to identify the underlying sources of his narcissism. From this deeper analysis they will be able to identify the buttons they can press to activate or suppress different aspects of his narcissism and thereby manipulate his behavior in favor of their own needs and purposes.

Psychiatrists who have studied and treated narcissists have identified many subtypes of the condition, all of which seem to be grounded in deep unconscious feelings of intrinsic self-worth or self-esteem. Although there appears to be a moderate genetic and  hereditary component to narcissism, most etiologies point to early childhood and adolescent experiences and parenting relationships as the main source of NPD.

Narcissists tend to have parents who are either over-indulgent, unrealistically praising, and permissive, or the opposite: insensitive, over-controlling, dismissive, or hyper-critical. These different parenting styles lead to different forms of narcissism. The over-indulged child tends to develop a highly-inflated sense of self that is also highly impervious to doubt or criticism. Such narcissists tend to be “thick skinned.” In contrast, the emotionally-unfulfilled child tends to enter adulthood with very low self-esteem and a fragile sense of self. For such individuals, narcissism is a defensive mechanism that protects them from confronting their deeply buried feelings of insignificance and worthlessness. But the protection is never complete, resulting in a “thin skinned” form of narcissism in which the self must always be defended against perceived or real attacks that threaten to expose the emptiness within.

Anecdotal accounts of Trump’s childhood – his disciplinary problems, aggressive behavior, highly-demanding father, and banishment to a boarding school in his early teen years – all point to the self-protective form of narcissism. But it is his consistent display of “thin skinned” reactions to perceived slights and challenges that makes this diagnosis all but certain. All of Trump’s most self-destructive actions in the 2016 campaign – his disproportionate attacks on Judge Curiel, Alicia Machado, the Gold Star Khan family, and the women who accused him of sexual assault – only make sense when seen as misplaced and irrational attempts to protect a highly-vulnerable and fragile sense of self-worth.

The bottom line of any psychological profile of President Trump now being finalized by psychologists and psychiatrists might read something like this:

Donald Trump is an empty vessel with no intrinsic sense of self-worth and no self-awareness regarding the real sources of his emotional reactions and behaviors. His narcissistic lack of any inherent sense of right and wrong beyond his own perceived self-interest makes him both highly manipulable but also, in the absence of external control, highly dangerous.

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