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Trump Reveals Sad State of our Knowledge of Psychology

February 11, 2017

Character matters. Emotional maturity matters. Especially in a person who runs a country!! I could go on with a number of widely accepted ideas which were discounted in our 2016 presidential election.

Discounted so much that we got a president who I think even his supporters would not describe as having strong moral character.  Nor emotional maturity. Nor a number of other personality traits we say we value for high elected leaders.  I won’t go into the reasons why people in the states that mattered gave him enough votes to win.  (Not even an electoral plurality nationwide, let alone a majority, so at least that serves as an affirmation of the often-seen “wisdom of the crowd” over smaller subsets. In this case, the totality of our voters.)

In practical terms, it matters little that Trump was not chosen by even a plurality. He did become president.  And thus we are served a costly, costly lesson. We have already gotten demonstrations of things that were repeatedly pointed out as warnings before the Republican nomination process concluded and before the general election.   People were either not paying attention or not listening… no doubt a mixture of both.

Voters were warned about, or saw and heard directly, many disturbing behaviors of Donald Trump. While psychologists and psychiatrists generally, for professional ethical reasons, withheld their well-informed analysis, other credible researchers didn’t.  They told us that his life history, publicly available (not speculative depth psychology), fit the description of character disorder “to a T”.  More specifically, narcissistic personality disorder.  And the sociopathic aspect of it was also regularly on public display, along with the extreme self-reference and orientation.

Now the driving forces of this kind of “disorder” (apropos title) go way beyond merely irritating habits or quirky ways of saying things.  And of this a great many Americans seemed to be ignorant. Some may have been generally aware but willing to take a major gamble out of one kind of misconception or another (such as how “horrible” and dangerous Hillary Clinton was or how much Trump could do in creating jobs).  Rather than detail what can be expected from a person with a long-sustained personality disorder, I’ll suggest readers do some quick research.

I’ll merely highlight what pop-level psychology notes as one negative aspect of an insecure ego (or core sense of self): being hyper-sensitive and, in this case, aggressively hyper-reactive to any kind of threat or slight.  It doesn’t take a psychologist to figure out that this kind of trait is a serious, serious problem in a person trying to lead a massive and highly complex government in an even more complex world.

The fact that people had and did not heed more than ample warnings both in the man’s own words and behaviors and from many who worked with or around him, or who researched and spoke about his history is disturbing!  There are numerous reasons they didn’t pay heed – again, I realize.  I focus here on just one: a dismal level of knowledge and respect for even the basics of our culture’s rich, deep knowledge of human personality and its healthy or unhealthy expressions.  And other aspects of human and societal “inner workings”.  We can also pretty precisely analyze just how a demagogue and con artist is able to manipulate people.  But enough targeted people are not “savvy” and don’t care to be.

I will make a single plea.  It is to fellow writers and leaders in churches of all kinds, or in other positions from which to educate about psychological forces and factors – parents certainly included! If your own knowledge of psychology is weak, shore it up.  Then start sharing what you’re learning.  If it is strong or you can call on teachers for whom it is, and you lead a church or education in a church, set up classes such as these:

  • Human development with view to spiritual development (see below)
  • Psychology as applied to political alignments (always at least partially religious) and to social activism 
  • William James’ concept of “religion of the healthy-minded”
  • The nature and results of religious conversion (including its failures)
  • Psychology of religion (including social psychology and sociology)

For my slant on healthy spiritual development, summarizing the work of several key researchers and theorists, you can view my Kindle ebook, “Spiritual Growth: Live the Questions, Love the Journey” here. Or read it free if on Kindle Unlimited.

Additional educational options are nearly endless… We’ve needed this all along, but the need is all the more obvious now. Let’s get on with it!

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