From the beginning, amateur shrinks have attempted to psychoanalyze Trump from a distance. Verdict: "The Dark Triad" = narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathology. What's new here is a focus on the codependent relationship between the adoring followers and the self-aggrandizing leader. While opiate addiction get's all the headlines, America's greatest addiction is codependency.
Trump's dysfunctional mind-set ironically gives him keen insight on understanding this ubiquitous pathology and he is a savant in manipulating that dynamic in the same way casinos program betting machines to engage people's neural pleasure centers-giving them false hope that nirvana is not far off.
It is not unusual for Presidents to be labelled narcissistic; after all it takes a lot of chutzpah to run for the top job in the land. Moreover, many candidates with more polarizing rhetoric than Trump, have tried and failed to get the coveted job. What is it about "Trump's brand of narcissism" that has resonated with so many people? The answer lies in Trump's co-opting of the basic tenets of Addiction 101: Family Systems Theory(FST), Codependency and its extension to Collective Codependency.
While many feel he is an unscripted box of rocks, he actually is running a pristine addiction template by utilizing a group extrapolation of FST to form an aberrant social engineering model. While he might appear to be the Oval Office's version of the empty suit, his management template is similar to the aforementioned slot machine programmed to give you enough dopamine (with the near hits or near misses) to obscure your executive function-which temporarily cleans you out and you willingly reload while he is emptying out the machine-leaving you hungering for more until he presses the reset button and the circle of fraud continues.
Before I elucidate on "Trump's Addiction Machine" it is important to discuss the FST operating system it runs off of. FST was developed by Dr. Murray Bowen in the 1950's as a means of looking at the family dynamic as one emotional unit whose health was affected not only by each individual, but more importantly a sum of its whole. Consequently in analyzing eight universal characteristics of the family structure and its application to individual families he unearthed the widely accepted notion that when one individual is out of sync, the family's homeostasis is affected.
Although Dr. Bowen and his cohorts brilliantly deciphered a broad based paradigm in examining the family unit, it was not until decades later that the monikers "dysfunctional family" and "codependency" emerged as ubiquitous phrases in pop psychology for quantifying the distinction between a healthy family and a unhealthy unit using a group addiction model. Simplistically, for this paper's intent, codependency is used to measure the functionality of the family (or larger group) based on three variants: boundaries, communication and attachment.
A thriving family has permeable boundaries supporting authentic communication inside and outside the family system. A dysfunctional family: has rigid boundaries with unhealthy enmeshment that is born out of unprocessed trauma, that conflates with unconscious shame to become an incestuous secret to be hidden at all costs. Usually it takes place in a triangular context: with the authoritarian family leader forming a vacuous center that requires narcissistic devotion by means of enablement by the secondary players to protect their unconscious shame; this group machination is called "codependency".(The phrase "codependency" originated from AA, but authors like Melody Beattie have eloquently given it a ubiquitous place in FST lexicon)
Anybody who has spent some time in Alanon and/or ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) will tell you that unprocessed grief or trauma can be the launching pad for addiction; and if left untreated can hijack the whole family into a toxic dance to distort reality. In essence, whether you are the primary mover or codependent enabler, the whole family system becomes a malignant process to sublimate the truth. The repercussion: everyone in the system takes on the trauma and resultant shame by default; and each player now is acting with an addict's mindset, being drawn to unhealthy attachments that will blot out their real feelings. Putting it bluntly, they are now primed to be taken on "Trump's Magical Mystery Tour".
Trump is a savant in using his keen understanding of this dysfunctional group dynamic that he learned growing up in a home devoid of love. Unfortunately, Trump's hurt was so large, to paraphrase Dr. Joseph Frank: "he never learned to process his trauma in a repairative way; and long ago jettisoned his conscious and became addicted to narcissistic supply to offset his disenfranchised grief."
It is not that Trump's inferiority complex developed in childhood is unusual, as the late great codependency guru, John Bradshaw was fond of saying: "we all grew up as wounded children". Furthermore, a cursory view of twentieth-century theorists, specifically the work of Albert Adler suggests: "that whether by nature or nurture a small minority never become integrated and overcompensate for their inferiority by developing what Adler called a "superiority complex".
Later on, channeling the work of Adler and many developmental theorists before him, Heinz Kohot defined similar symptomatically as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), which was officially adopted as an APA diagnosis in 1980. It is broadly understood that a small percentage of the general population become hardwired for hate and spend perpetuity in the stage of Infantile Megalomania or the adult version called (NPD). This is Trump's Reality! NPD as defined by the DSM5 (the APA diagnostic bible) as having at least 5 tenets on a 9 point clinical narcissism scale, and if you have all nine (which thousands of clinicians agree Trump has) then you view life from a psychopathic prism of chasing after your childhood insults, like a compulsive gambler, to compensate for that void regardless of any ethical concerns.(DSM5, 2015)
In street vernacular this is played out in a streaming dialogue in Trump's mind that probably is akin to: "since I got no love as a child it is my right to screw everybody over; rules do not apply to me"
But do not be misled to believe Trump's blunted emotional development reflects a larger cognitive deficit, on the contrary, his ability to spawn multiple fantasies delivered in a myriad of creative machinations reflects a fluid brain. Yes it is deviant, but it shows sophisticated (skewed) logic in its use of rationalizations, such as Ad Hominem and Straw Men fallacies: to impart pseudo tautologies that are deftly masked by his charisma to connect with those in his wheelhouse-folks who project their untreated trauma in the form of vitriol to any group they secretly envy.
Consequently, President Trump's M.O. for gaining power is: projecting his anger from his unresolved insults onto a slice of the electorate that is overflowing with similar wounds. So as thoughtful theorists grapple with the question: why his electorate has remained loyal to him despite his wayward actions? The answer lies in: Trump's keen understanding of dysfunctional families and his ability at harnessing that construct, into a larger group phenomena I call, collective codependency.
Trump addicts his base with charismatic pandering to the subconscious unprocessed grief that has festered for decades in the souls of those Americans that have been ravaged by inequitable social and economic policies. Trump masterfully fosters this victimization through disingenuous and capricious behavior, that encourages their primal malevolent underpinnings that is contagious and has the effect of letting them off the hook for any legitimate self-reflection.
Consequently, Trump is telling them it is OK to behave as arrested adolescents; and any of us who remember high school or college, know how enticing it can be running away from responsibility; Trump creates a juggernaut of folks abandoning their inner ethical governing mechanisms, which is the hallmark to all addictions.
The ensuing behavior manifests in the co-opting of defense mechanisms that ignore or project onto others their sense of not being in control of their lives. In effect, this false dissolution from their unconscious angst, takes on a life of its own: where anger gets displaced onto people and issues that they secretly envy, but their victimization cries out for negative attention.
Consequently, the wounded child reigns supreme and their dislocation from reality, takes on either an outward hatred of any vague notion of an in-group, or a life of addictive use of substances or behaviors to avoid their feelings.
Trump is well aware of the legions of folks who are caught in this deception reality and knowingly reinforces their behavior by feeding into their loop of disinformation with hatred and bigotry. His machinations are an elixir to their contorted thinking and they become addicted to him in the same way opiates hijack their users. Trump knowingly offers a reprieve from their conflicted abyss, by giving them a perceived reality steeped in distrust and animosity.
Trump realizing this vagary, has added fuel to the fire by validating this discord in a conspiratorial way that pits him and his followers against the perceived haves, while egregiously enacting legislation that favor the haves.
Even though, on first blush he appears to be part of the haves, to his base it does not matter; as long as he pretends to distance himself from the status quo with an unending coarseness of politically incorrect statements that might come from the mouth of a juvenile delinquent starring in a reality show. His locker room banter, childish tweets and litany of lies, play nicely into a group that are so fundamentally impoverished that they believe anarchy is the best way forward and that King Trump is the messiah that will deliver the chaos needed to get there
In essence if the leader of the free world can act in a sophomoric way, we can too! As we all know from our adolescent days, rebellion can be exhilarating and it quickly takes on a mob dynamic. Trump shares the same keen understanding of dysfunctional group codependency that many dark leaders before him have used in a Machiavellian way.
Consequently, Trump's Terrorist Management style is based on promoting peer addiction among hate mongers. And what makes it so virulent and ironic is the hate they are protesting is their indignation of themselves: in other words, it is fami(ly)iar to themselves and plays into their unconscious dance of self sabotage, which is just another way of defining addiction.
In effect, he is strategically harnessing and proliferating addiction in his loyal followers by manipulation. Trump knows how pervasive and powerful addiction has become in our society. His means of building a following in this traumatized coalition is by empowering their defense mechanisms, most notably denial, that creates peer pressure that results in an enmeshed triangulation: solidifying his base to one another, while Trump forms the apex that provides the necessary narcissistic supply.
This vice grip Trump holds over his dysfunctional base emanates from the old mantra: "you can always tell an addict but you can't tell them much". But if you can tap into their pathological exclusivity you have unfettered devotion. And trump's machinations of acting like a rogue vigilante, despite his Brioni suit, gives them the impression he is one of them and can be trusted. Once in their sacred society, Trump's charismatic debauchery or what I refer to as "pornographic statesmanship" is given free reign and a pyramid of falsities metastasize into collective distortion reality.
Trump is playing the role of the devil's enabler by penetrating the subterfuge in our psyche by EXPUNGING OUR INNER MORAL COMPASS in order to unleash our dark inner being. His machinations are adroit at making us feel okay about our submerged hatreds, this is done by eliminating the middleman--we call the conscious.
Here in lies the dynamic of why people are attracted to Trump: our fragmented society is so out of touch with our own policing mechanisms, what Freud called the "Super-Ego", that any legitimate discussion of ethics by politicians that hit a dissonant chord in people's dark under-belly, such as gun control, makes them feel threatened. This is keenly evident in supporters of Trump: they compartmentalize their humanity by rationalizing, "here is a billionaire who plays by his own warped value stream and if Donald Trump can do it, I certainly can." Anyone with the predilection of living a lie now becomes energized that it is fine to live an inauthentic life, as "The Donald" does!
Trump, congruent with any controlling authority, uses melodramatic persuasion to validate people's inner turmoil by unleashing the bigotry in many. This egotism is powerful for the many of us who long ago stopped the process of self integration and instead are in a state of arrested development that serves as a vacuum to encourage our deep-seated anger (akin to his incendiary statement referring Haiti to a "sh*t-hole"); the empowering of our unfiltered prejudices is in the meme-process of disavowing civility and following our primal needs.
Trump supporters are stuck in this struggle of opposing inner dialogues, the less developed adult inclinations become usurped by the fervent chase to transmute a traumatic childhood. This is where Trump represents the approval they never fully obtained from parenting sources. This stage is often necessary for survival in those traumatized because of inadequate nurturing (sexually or emotionally abused for example) and it is the foundation that many fractured people are stuck in. If it is not resolved in their early existence, it is the breeding ground, not only for addiction and codependency but racism as well. Any notion that is not a mirror representation of their polar existence is threatening to their self-concept, black and white duality replaces all representations of gray.
This is the psychological basis for extreme beliefs seen in the hatred of immigrants or climate warming deniers. This happens when a cognitive dissonance is not able to be worked out in a cohesive way in the adult mind and projected anger becomes their default mode. This disparity is relegated to the impulsive "fight or flight" brain, whereas for a child a temper tantrum would ensue, but as an adult, this manifests into fantasized anger, that is displaced on anyone and everyone who is not of their homogeneous ilk.
Their resentment of any appearance of "the establishment" encompasses their thinking, and they flock to contrarians who embrace fundamentally unsound beliefs in a desperate attempt to garner attention through "shock value". For example, legitimate scientists will disavow all the evidence-based metrics of global warming in a conscious and unconscious way if they can ruffle the feathers of scientists they secretly admire. Their hunger for attention (especially the negative kind) supplants all rationality and is the springboard for radical conspiratorial theory.
Trump, aware of the legions of people with deep-seated anxiety, exploits this instability by creating "collective codependency", whose feigned passion replaces any legitimate platform and replaces it with hatred infused banter that allows them a dual venting mechanism: one directly and the other via Trump proxy. Because of the human need to bind: the latter breeds a social contagion dynamic to vent their animus through a third party.
This conflict resolution is so powerful that it acts as malware to corrupt any existing moral software and replaces it with Trump's pathological vision of a world where the "inner child" dictates behavior. Simplistically, it is just a representation of the idiom: "you can't embrace the truth if you hate yourself". This perverse reality is the prism in which Trump supporters view the world; unfortunately, every once in a while a charismatic politician, like Trump or Joe McCarthy, will solidify this schizoid base and create a faction predicated on paranoia.
This dysfunctional attachment leads to a legion of supporters of people who are ardent supporters of a narcissist and go to great lengths to defend and show their allegiance to them. Their devotion shows how easily a leader's unchecked narcissism results in an infectious hijacking of the moral framework of codependent frustrated people. While the economically displaced are his dominant base, there is a large faction of people who are persecutors in their own enclave and feel validated by Trump's codependent nuances.
These troubled souls are perversely motivated by Trump's philosophy of promising hedonism by means of terrorism to undermine individuals and groups not aligned with his movement. His message: that they no longer have to struggle in a world they feel victimized by, is heroin to their fractured souls. In our fragmented world, these minions are very fluid in getting those discontented to drink his cool-aid.
So the frightful irony of Trump saying he is the solution for ending terrorism is, in fact, the living personification of what terrorism is based on the Machiavellian world of divide and conquer. However, today's Donald Trump, an idol to many displaced people on the right, could become a fleeting savior to those codependent on the left, or anywhere our society's collective conscious(or lack of) is trending. One thing for sure: Trump's Addiction Machine travels well and with every malfunction comes a bailout.
For now, Trump has woven a tapestry in the hateful faction of the Republican Party, which is where the public relation's Zelig can best exploit the weakness of the divided party. But be careful what you wish for because the emperor assuredly has many different threads. Do not be fooled into thinking he is a true supporter of the "haves" or the "have-nots", he is just a chameleon who panders to people's base instincts in pursuit of the mobilization of that hollow bias in the political arena where "denial is not just a river in Egypt."...Kenneth Gaughran