Trump’s Tower of Vulnerability – Part 4
The true test of a psychological profile is how well it can predict future behavior. If the diagnosis of Trump’s Narcissistic Personality Disorder is accurate, profilers will conclude that the crippling demands of his narcissism will impose very rigid limits on the range of behavioral responses available to him. This is because narcissistic behavior is driven by internal needs, which are constant and unrelenting, rather than external circumstances, which by necessity change rapidly and require different responses in different situations.
So, what are profilers around the world likely to be predicting about the behavior of President Donald J. Trump? Here are seven predictions that follow from this emerging Trumpian profile.
He will become mired down in personal conflict-of-interest controversies
This follows from Trump’s extreme self-centeredness and his driving need to accumulate wealth as an indicator of his self-worth. It is instructive that Trump has already begun, as President-elect, to prepare the country and the media for an Administration that will make no distinction between his business interests and his decisions as President. His sense of entitlement and his driving need to take advantage of opportunities for financial gain will irrationally override any cautions or warnings he might receive from his advisors.
Likely impact: Having no experience with the country’s implicit norms and expectations for Presidential behavior, Trump will be shocked and angered when his self-dealing is challenged by a watchful media and public opinion. Even though it is unlikely he will ever be held legally accountable by a Republican-controlled Congress, those in the media who oppose him will use these incidents to build a narrative of “Crooked Donald” that will eventually displace the current narrative of “change agent who’s going to drain the swamp.” Ironically, it will not be Trump’s greed that weakens his public image, but his failure to appreciate the dignity and symbolic meaning of the Presidency that will be most damaging to his credibility.
His Administration will be characterized by ongoing upheavals, scandals, and firings
Trump as President will be erratic – but consistently erratic – in his interpersonal relations and management style. Although he will demand complete loyalty from his underlings (and as President everyone will be an underlying), he himself will have no loyalty to anyone other than his family members. Combined with the likelihood that members of his Administration will be drawn from the least-prepared and least reality-based fringes of the political right wing, many mistakes will be made. Because Trump is incapable of admitting personal error, the Trump Administration will feature many feuds, “firings,” and replacements throughout his tenure.
Likely impact: This will have several repercussions. It will distract the media and public away from bigger problems, draw attention to Trump acting like a leader, and remind the public of Trump’s celebrity brand and catch-phrase (“you’re fired!”). Expect to see pundits constantly comparing the Trump Administration to a season of Celebrity Apprentice.
He will fail spectacularly as comforter-in-chief
Trump will be terrible at one of the most important functions of the Presidency, soothing fears and channeling distress in times of calamity or disaster. Due to his inability to feel or express sympathy toward others, President Trump will shock the public with how awkward and self-serving he will be when called upon as President to provide comfort and solace to families of mass-shooting victims, soldiers killed in action, victims of natural disasters or, perhaps inevitably, victims of terrorist acts. As was evident during the election campaign, his first instinct when confronting such events is to divert attention back to himself, engage in self-congratulation, and make wild and inappropriate claims of prophetic infallibility.
Likely impact: His inability to empathize is something the public will begin to sense as President Trump endures the relentless scrutiny of the media. His discomfort with the act of comforting will likely contribute to an erosion in his favorability ratings (already historically low at the start of his tenure) as each new opportunity for displaying empathy shows him to have no authentic concern for the plights or tragedies of others.
He will lack the skills or temperament to deliver on any but the simplest policy goals and campaign promises
Trump’s record of enacting policies and fulfilling campaign promises will be spotty at best, disastrous at worst, because he lacks the competence, patience, and knowledge to drive legislation and execute complex policies. President Trump will only be able to execute on the simplest, least process-intensive actions – executive orders he can sign on his own or pre-baked legislation brought to him by an opposition-proof Congressional majority. His lack of detailed knowledge of the legislative process and his disinterest in learning how to govern will result in many surprising and unpopular policies “slipping in” under his watch.
Likely impact: Repeated policy disappointments and abandoned campaign promises will weaken his image as a shrewd deal-maker and reveal him to be out of his depth and easily outmaneuvered in trying to craft his promised legislative agenda.
He will back down and retreat much more often than expected
Like all low self-esteem bullies, Donald Trump is deeply fearful of being exposed – as a loser, as a coward, as a less powerful person than he claims to be. Although intimidation and threats are his preferred weapons in any confrontation, once he perceives he cannot win a battle, he is quite willing to retreat. Although his narcissism gives him little control over his emotional responses to perceived attacks on his self-image or sense of self-worth, he is not irrational in assessing the status of his self-interests. For Trump’s hierarchy of unconscious needs, losing is acceptable as long as he can protect himself from feeling like a loser. His willingness to back down has already been demonstrated in the post-election period, as he has pulled back from many of his most prominent campaign promises: about his border wall, about Obamacare, about climate change, and about torture, to name a few. Of course, these retreats may just be convenient lies to support his needs of the moment, but they do conform with a broader tendency on Trump’s part to back down when he becomes convinced he will be unable to get his way.
Likely impact: Trump supporters will be shocked by the ease with which he will shed promises and positions, both those he proclaimed as a candidate and those he will try to implement as President. This will further erode his image as a deal-maker and leader of the constituency that elected him.
His penchant for lying will be his undoing as President
Trump’s pathological need to lie – even when the truth would do – will eventually undo his Presidency. For the most part, Trump’s lies during the campaign, as ubiquitous as they were, served him well for three reasons: first, people remembered and often believed them because they were more vivid than the truth, second, they drew attention to him (even if that attention was negative), and third, lying produced no lasting negative consequences (he won). Because lying has been a successful tactic for Trump throughout his career and, as noted, fulfills several unconscious needs stemming from his narcissism, there is no reason to expect that he will not continue to employ lies and exaggerations as he enters into his Presidency.
Likely impact: Although the media is still struggling with how to report on a President of the United States who is a serial liar, it is inevitable that President Trump’s lies will be treated much more seriously than candidate Trump’s lies, and definitely much more seriously than aggressive businessman Trump’s lies. It is also inevitable that Trump will be unprepared for the microscopic scrutiny that will accompany his every utterance as President. His inability to admit that he is lying will compound his dilemma, as has already been seen in his lashing out at the “dishonest” and “unfair” media when it accurately reports his lies and misstatements. This cycle will only escalate when he starts lying while standing behind the Presidential seal. Over time, Trump’s dishonesty and outright hostility toward the truth will seep into the public consciousness, lowering his credibility and eroding his image as a “tell it like it is” anti-politician.
As he comes under increasing criticism, he will revert to self-defeating outbursts of bullying, insulting, demeaning, lying, and revenge seeking
If the above predictions hold true, Trump’s Presidency will quickly get mired down in policy paralysis, missteps, scandals, and firings. As a consequence, the media will begin to dwell more and more on the narrative of Trump as a flawed, troubled, and ultimately, failed President. This narrative, in turn, will begin to feed on itself as Trump responds angrily and impulsively with escalating “counter-punches” of insults, lies, and petty acts of vengeance.
Likely impact: If the profilers are right and Trump is indeed an unaware narcissist compensating for a damaged and fragile sense of self-worth, then his defensive and protective behaviors will only accelerate as they fail to achieve their intended objectives. In a vicious cycle of escalating panic and desperation, Trump’s life-long weapons of choice will turn against him, becoming not offensive weapons of power and domination, but pathetic examples of his personal failings and unfitness for office.
In summary, there is only one thing a narcissistic personality cannot tolerate, and that is scrutiny that results in exposure of the empty and vulnerable self that underlies its carefully constructed narcissistic facade. Unfortunately for Donald Trump, the Presidency of the United States will inevitably bring precisely that kind of scrutiny and exposure, which his damaged personality will be least capable of handling. As the Trump Administration unwinds, we can expect to see cyclonic storms and epic battles as Donald Trump attempts to shore up his walls of narcissistic defense as they crumble all around him. It will not be a pretty sight. And it will be extremely dangerous for the nation and the world.