Jeffrey Jackson

OPINION

I Know Trump

  • August 10, 2016
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Okay, I don’t actually know Donald Trump. But I do have one insight into what makes him tick and it’s something I haven’t seen anywhere in the media, so I thought I’d share it, for what it’s worth.

Trump is often called a narcissist, and correctly so. But we toss that word around so loosely these days it’s easily forgotten that Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a bona fide psychological diagnosis. I’m no psychologist, but over the past couple of years I’ve had my own reasons for studying a lot about NPD, and what I’ve learned sheds much light on Trump, and may answer the almost daily question “What the f**k is he thinking?!?”

One of the core principals of NPD is “narcissistic supply.” That’s the psychiatric term for the endless attention, affirmation, and validation that narcissists require to fill the void inside. But since that void is a bottomless pit, the supply never quenches the demand. They always need more. This is precisely why Trump keeps repeating—and will keep repeating—the same self-defeating behavior. Whenever we see news clips of Trump spewing out his latest venomous gaffe, it’s easy to forget that we’re not seeing what’s beyond the edges of the picture—namely, thousands of adoring sycophants. And Trump isn’t looking at the backs of their heads. When Trump the Narcissist is standing on that podium, he’s looking right into the faces of a wildly cheering throng that is lapping up his every word. This is his ultimate source of narcissistic supply—not polls, not media focus, but immediate affirmation—and he simply cannot resist it.

This alone may be enough to confirm his NPD diagnosis, as narcissists often do what is contrary to their best interests out of emotional compulsion.

No matter how obvious it may be to everyone else that tossing off remarks like yesterday’s wink-wink, “maybe someone should shoot Hillary” quip is political suicide outside the arena, he cannot see it because he’s blinded by what’s inside the arena. And inside the arena, those remarks are reaping the very love and self-esteem that every narcissist so desperately and insatiably lacks.

And, BTW, that is exactly what he intended by his “second amendment” remark. We know because that’s exactly the kind of bad-boy joke that his in-person audience eats up with a spoon, and every narcissist instinctively learns how to seek out his or her most reliable source of narcissistic supply.

The final irony is that the very phenomenon that fueled his rise—the Big Trump Rallies—is the very thing that will be his downfall. And make no mistake, down he will fall, and hard. NPD has no cure. Only victims. And the biggest victim often turns out to be the narcissist himself.

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