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Who Do We Have In Power - A Snake In The Grass Or An Untrained Rottweiler?

02/02/2017 10:25

We're all experts when it comes to diagnosing Trump. Twitter confidently informs us that he is a 'psychopath', a 'narcissist', 'schizophrenic' and possibly suffering from 'Alzheimer's'.

Seeing as everyone else is at it, I'm going to jump on the psychology bandwagon too and have a go myself. However, I don't agree that we should label Trump schizophrenic or suggest he is suffering from Alzheimer's. He might be. But, even with my incredibly limited knowledge, I am confident that the Trump headlines are not typically representative of either diagnosis. So let's leave those two be. It's an assumption that I feel is a massive insult to anyone who lives with those conditions.

So, what have we got left to play with? Psychopath, narcissist or both?

According to the experts I have spoken to, psychopathy and narcissism can be seen as personality traits or tendencies that sit within a spectrum, and we can all move up and down the scale throughout our lives. However, in rare cases, true psychopathy and narcissism can create extreme patterns of behaviour.

Having read The Wisdom of Psychopaths by Dr Kevin Dutton, I have learnt that psychopaths exude confidence, grandiosity and self-worth. They remain calm under pressure, are meticulous, have no empathy and are not easily scared.

A narcissist shares many of the same traits as a psychopath, however, remaining calm under pressure is not a given for the narcissist. Dr Claire Hart, a researcher in narcissism from Southampton University told me, "Narcissists can be fragile, uncompromising and they don't manage well in day-to-day life."

I'm starting to think that, if I were to give Trump my unprofessional diagnosis, it would be the latter. I just don't feel he possesses all the qualities that make a true psychopath.

All those enraged reactive, nonsensical tweets, often with typos, always with CAPITAL LETTERS. They're usually aimed at the New York Times, or Meryl Streep, or Madonna or anyone who dare share an opinion or speak out against him. He doesn't meticulously consider the most powerful response, he just shouts. LOUDLY.

You could compare these traits to an animal. Full of rage when threatened, lashing out - loudly and seemingly nonsensically. It sounds like the behaviour of an untrained Rottweiler with an incessant bark.

I can imagine that untrained Rottweiler loose on the streets. He's got his head held high, a diamond studded collar and a walk so powerful that it pulls its much larger owner in whatever direction it fancies. This way then that, dragging us down overgrown paths that haven't been taken in decades. Unpredictable, constantly changing its mind, grunting and barking loudly as it goes. It cocks its leg to pee on a carefully maintained garden, in full public view, destroying years of hard graft, and it rudely sniffs other dog's butts without consent. Then barks about it. That's one narcissistic canine.

The psychopath, however, might be more of a snake, hiding in the grass, cool, calm, considered. Attacking with precision?

In agreement with many other armchair psychologists on Twitter, and given Trump's erratic tweeting, I am sure he can't qualify as a fully fledged psychopath.

However The Wisdom of Psychopaths author Dr Kevin Dutton, who conducted a systematic psychometric profile of Trump (as well as the three other Presidential candidates) for Scientific American Mind in the run up to the 2016 election, disagrees.

"People high on the psychopathic spectrum can often turn emotions on and off like a tap. If they feel that extreme anger and hostility can get them what they want then they will use that. I guess you could say that they deploy emotion more strategically than others."

Hmm...maybe we have all been fooled. Perhaps these outbursts are not quite as nonsensical as they appear...

Back on the narcissism spectrum, Dr Hart explained that while narcissists often find themselves in positions of leadership, it does not automatically make them effective. "Narcissism has been linked to irregular company performance." she explained. "They are visionary leaders who make bold decisions and may contribute to organisational innovation and evolution. However, their focus on the self over others means that they often make poor mentors, and react with rage when challenged or insulted."

Dr Dutton makes a similar point regarding psychopaths. "There are what we might call 'good' psychopathic traits such as coolness under pressure and the ability to handle stress and 'bad' psychopathic traits such as rampant egocentricity and impulsivity. The extent to which someone high on the psychopathic spectrum may succeed in office is in large part dependent on their ability to max on the good traits and suppress the bad."

Given this expert knowledge, then, it sounds like Trump might indeed score highly on both the narcissism and psychopathic scale. Perhaps he just doesn't possess all of the 'good' psychopathic traits?

Ego and rage is apparent in Trump's world. Asserting power and aggression appears to be the highest priority on the Trump agenda. But is consideration truly lacking? Is his rage out of control and at the mercy of his emotions? Or, are the apparently reactive outbursts part of a planned and well thought out social media strategy?

I certainly haven't been the only one thinking that, while we are all focused on the one that barks the loudest, there is a more dangerous creature waiting in the depths with a clear goal in its sights - and the patience to wait until the dog has mauled itself to death.

But perhaps it's not quite so simple. Maybe what we currently have in power is a snake in wolf's clothing. We keep clinging on to the fact that his over emotional outbursts will be his downfall. But, if they are in fact part of the plan, we might be waiting much longer than we had hoped for the fall of President Trump.

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