A recent Washington Post exclusive outlines the ways Donald Trump has denied Russian interference in the 2016 election. His family and staff have tried to get him to acknowledge the facts on the situation, but he refuses. The article states about a discussion prior to the inauguration: “But as aides persisted, Trump became agitated. He railed that the intelligence couldn’t be trusted and scoffed at the suggestion that his candidacy had been propelled by forces other than his own strategy, message and charisma.”
Of course, Trump was a big fan of Putin and Russia long before the interference in the election
was confirmed by 17 U.S. intelligence agencies.
Yet his behaviors and policy choices are largely driven by deep feelings of inadequacy and low self-worth. Trump clearly believes that to validate the intelligence would diminish his electoral win. Because of his tender self-image, the implication that he did not win this election solely on his own talents, but with Russian help, feels deeply emotionally wounding.
Rather than search for ways to deter Kremlin attacks or safeguard U.S. elections, Trump has waged his own illogical and counterproductive campaign to discredit the case that Russia poses a threat. He has resisted or attempted to roll back efforts to hold Moscow to account.
The article clearly highlights the frightening consequences for the country: “The result is without obvious parallel in U.S. history, a situation in which the personal insecurities of the president — and his refusal to accept what even many in his administration regard as objective reality — have impaired the government’s response to a national security threat. The repercussions radiate across the government.”
Read that again and let it sink in. Here we have the most powerful political figure in our country making decisions based solely on his narcissistic need to protect his fragile ego, rather than on the security needs of the country — even when that decision puts our democracy at risk and opens us up to further invasions in the digital war Russia is waging.
Trump’s personal insecurity has also led him to disparage the CIA and FBI, a move that clearly weakens the morale in these agencies, diminishes their power, and overall harms America’s standing in the world. What type of leader would do that? A frightened, insecure person who is reacting impulsively and irrationally in defense of his own emotional needs, with no care for the effect on the country.
This type of behavior is consistent with narcissistic or sociopathic behaviors that include blame-shifting to others, which is why I label both of these personality types “Other-blamers.” They have poor shame tolerance and dislike being shamed, being held accountable for their faults, or admitting a weakness or failure. They will blame others in irrational ways merely to protect themselves from additional feelings of shame, even if that blame-shifting makes them look out of touch with reality. When anyone can look at a picture of your inaugural crowd and see the truth, why continue to offer forth “alternative facts?” The answer is Trump does this because he cannot handle the truth and the shame that accompanies that truth.
Trump has also refused to investigate the Russian election hacking or look into protections for future elections. his certainly could be considered a dereliction of duty and a violation of his oath of office to defend this country “against all enemies foreign and domestic.” Again, what type of leader would allow his country to be invaded digitally by its archenemy without any response? Trump does this because he would rather protect himself from feelings of inadequacy than get to the truth and admit that his election was likely possible only with Russian meddling. His cognitive abilities are clearly being hijacked by his emotional needs. It should go without saying that this inability to think rationally, act deliberately and behave responsibly are not what we need in a president.
The article states that even Trump’s daily security briefing is being massaged in ways that coddle his delicate ego and steer away from or soft-pedal discussions about Russia.
Trump’s views on Russian interference have led him to behave in ways that make it look even more suspiciously as if he is in league with Putin in many ways. His long and tangled history of financial, personal and business ties to the Russian mob and oligarchy are well documented. He would be best advised to distance himself from Russia. Instead, he cozies up to them repeatedly, making anyone with a questioning mind wonder: Why? What does Russia have over him?
Shooting Himself in the Foot
These examples are proof that Trump’s emotional intelligence, character and moral choices are extremely subpar.
In my chapter in “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” I compare him to a domestic abuse perpetrator. Abusers of all types, whether the abuse is physical or mild emotional abuse, often act in ways that go against their own interests, My abusive ex-husband continued to behave in ways that guaranteed that I would leave him. He raged, make crazy accusations, spent his money and time on drugs, and got arrested for his physical violence against me. Yet he claimed he loved me and wanted to stay married to me, even though he made choices that were against his own best interest. He could not control his emotions and behaviors enough to get the outcome he said he wanted. This made no sense to me at the time, but after I became a psychologist and learned about the power of shame it is now apparent to me.
Abusers and those like Trump are people dominated by their poor shame tolerance, which triggers them into fear, anger and even rage. Humans rarely think and act wisely when enraged.
In the same way, Trump continues to make poor decisions, impulsive Tweets, and accusations that do not serve him. He favors Russia in his words and actions, even though this makes it appear as if he is colluding with them. As the article notes, he is driven by a feeling of being insulted, rather than any thoughtful, deliberate, mindful choice.
I cannot stress enough how concerning this behavior is psychologically. Healthy, balanced, wise, leaders are driven by the needs of their citizens and can overlook their own personal psychological issues in service of that goal. Instead, we have a man in office who does the opposite, with devastating consequences for our democratic norms, our health, our rule of law and our safety.
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