Blog, Politics, Psychology

Psychopathology on full display

Originally published November 21, 2018 on Nation of Change

While not perfect or overwhelming, the people decided in the midterms to check on the President’s power. Expect more to come. It’s our only hope.

If there were any doubts whatsoever about President Trump’s mental state, they were completely dispelled by his performance on the day after the elections.

Because of the grave danger he poses not only to our country but to the world, in The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President, all of the contributors felt strongly that it was their moral duty to break with the long-standing, self-imposed rule of not diagnosing someone that they had not examined personally. The feeling was that on a daily basis Trump exhibited more than enough instances of disturbing behavior to reach definitive conclusions as to his mental health. The overwhelming judgment is that he suffers from literally every known form of mental illness: pathological narcissism, delusions, paranoia, frequent breaks with reality, etc.

What they came tantalizing close to saying it but did not is that Donald Trump fits all of the traits associated with psychopaths. Does this thereby make him one? In my judgment, the answer is unequivocally “Yes!” Indeed, not only does he not hide his disturbing behavior for all to see, but he flaunts it daily. Once again, it was on full display on Wednesday.

While all of the traits associated with psychopaths are highly unsettling, the callous lack of compassion and empathy for others stands out. Indeed, it’s one of the primary characteristics. The latest is his total lack of compassion for those who suffered in the California wild fires. No wonder why he constantly hurls insults and mocks others. And, why you’re either with him or not; no grey area is tolerated.

It helps as well to explain his pronounced inability to accept any responsibility for his words and actions and the need to constantly blame others. It also accounts for his lack of remorse or any sense of guilt. And, it explains his propensity for violence.

The constant need for stimulation in the form of adoring rallies, highly impulsive behavior, and a highly inflated sense of self-worth are also major characteristics. Promiscuity is a major trait as well. And last but not least is lying pathologically.

What is most disturbing is how those who voted for Trump and continue to support him no matter what not only rationalize his behavior, but revel in it. While they may not be psychopaths themselves, they are enablers of it nonetheless.

One cannot reason with psychopaths because reason is not part of their makeup. Nor is it part of those to whom they appeal. The only remedy left is political.  While not perfect or overwhelming, the people decided in the midterms to check on the President’s power. Expect more to come. It’s our only hope.

Blog, Politics, Psychology

Post Traumatic Trump Disorder

Originally published November 17, 2017 on The Huffington Post

A strange, highly disturbing affliction is haunting the land: Post Traumatic Trump Disorder or PTTD. It’s characterized by intense feelings of anxiety, frequent and uncontrolled attacks of anger and hostility, fits of shouting at the news, and pronounced fear of strangers.

PTTD is due basically to a highly disturbed and unstable leader who suffers from a cluster of serious mental issues such as acute paranoia, frequent and persistent psychotic breaks from reality, uncontrollable fantasies and delusions, pathological narcissism, the inability to engage with complex ideas, and no impulse control. The issues are so pronounced that they have caused mental health professionals to break with their long-standing tradition of not commenting on the psychological states of mind of those they have not examined personally.

Except from removing the disturbed individual from office, there are no know treatments for PTTD, especially since the person refuses to acknowledge the nature of their illness and thus to seek treatment.

The people in blue states are particularly affected by PTTD. The only option they have is to huddle in small groups and pray that a healthy leader will finally emerge to reverse the onerous effects of PTTD and heal the nation.

Blog, Politics, Sociology

Engulfed By Madness: Abnormal Times Defy Normal Explanations

Originally published 10/25/2017 on The Huffington Post

We live in deeply disturbing times. They defy normal explanations.

America is beset by the confluence of three powerful forces. Any one of them by itself is overwhelming. But all three acting together and reinforcing one another have made us especially vulnerable. They are: 1. Massive Denial; 2. Splitting; and, 3. Unmistakable Pathology emanating from the highest office in the land.

One of the strongest examples of Massive Denial is the fact that ardent gun proponents are generally not just dismissive, but contemptuous of the fact that owning a gun increases substantially the occurrence of a homicide and/or suicide in one’s household. The preponderance of studies is unequivocal in this regard[i]. Indeed, those states with looser gun laws have substantially higher rates of gun homicides and suicides. Guns, the things that are supposed to make us more secure and safer, have just the opposite intended effect. They pose extreme dangers to their owners, and not by just a small margin. And, this is only one of the many things of which Americans are in denial.

Splitting is evidenced by the fact that the present occupant of the Presidency constantly proclaims to the sentiment “You’re either with or against me.” The world is thereby sharply split into “good versus bad guys,” with nothing in-between. But then so does the NRA by ignoring the fact that “good guy guns” are substantially at fault in home homicides and suicides.

Unmistakable Pathology is evidenced by the clear signs of disturbance that emanate daily from the President: little if any impulse control as indicated by a never-ending series of rambling tweets, if not the overuse of tweets themselves to convey the “thoughts” of the President; dangerous bluster that threatens nuclear annihilation; sheer and utter contempt and disregard for America’s critical institutions, etc.

Defense Mechanisms

If Sigmund Freud had discovered nothing more than the phenomenon of Defense Mechanisms, it would have been more than enough to ensure his lasting fame.

On occasion, everyone uses various devices to protect their psyches from disturbing, unpleasant ideas, thoughts, and realities. These range from out and out denial to compartmentalization, grandiosity, idealization, intellectualization, projection, and projective identification.

If an event or situation is highly disturbing or unpalatable such as directly witnessing the death of a loved one, becoming a victim of incest or a serious crime, experiencing the horrors of war, etc., then one’s mind can literally shut down and refuse to register the event, or at least not to do so consciously. This is an example of outright denial. But since denial is never perfect, unpleasant experiences often resurface in the form of dreams, nightmares, and severe anxiety attacks in response to, say, loud noises that are mistaken for gunshots.

America is in denial of so many things that it would take a legion of articles to cover them all. The most potent example is those who not only voted for Trump, but continue to defend him. They are in Massive Denial when it comes to the dangers he poses daily.

Compartmentalization occurs when one part of the mind registers one aspect of a horrific event—say, the sounds—and others register the sights and smells associated with it. But since it would be too overwhelming, and hence traumatic, if the sights, sounds, and smells were brought to together as parts of a single unified experience, the mind unconsciously keeps them apart. One of the clearest examples is the oft-expressed rationalization by those who voted for Trump. Namely, “We wish we would say things better, but at least he’s saying what needs to be said.”

Grandiosity occurs when one believes that one is all powerful such that he or she can defeat any force however strong it is. To say that Trump suffers from delusions of grandiosity is a gross understatement.

Idealization occurs when one takes on the attributes of perfection such that one is without any imperfections whatsoever. For example, one exaggerates one’s abilities to meet and surmount any challenge however onerous it is. Count Trump here again! ! It also occurs when one is unwilling to acknowledge and thereby apologize for any discretion whatsoever.

Intellectualization occurs when one overly uses and hence becomes lost in abstractions that have little to do with the realities of everyday lives. A prime example is Secretary Clinton’s oft-repeated assertion during the 2016 Presidential campaign that she had a “policy for attacking unemployment”—if not for every problem we face—that people could look up on her website. This may have worked well with elites, but it failed miserably to connect with ordinary workingmen and women. It only reinforced the impression that not only did liberals not care about ordinary working people, but held them in contempt.

Projection occurs when we disown parts of ourselves that we don’t like and project them onto others. Thus, the media “lie” but not those who are making the accusation. Projective identification occurs when we accept or identify with—“own”— the projections of others.


The highly influential child psychoanalyst Melanie Klein is generally credited with discovering the phenomenon of Splitting. It’s said that if Freud discovered the child in the adult, then Klein discovered the infant in the child. She thus pushed back even further our understanding of the roots of human behavior.

Klein discovered that under the age of two or so, children believed that there were two distinct and separate mothers: the “good mother” that catered to the child’s every need when he or she wanted it, and the “bad mother” that couldn’t always be there when the child demanded it, and even more, had to discipline the child. In short, the child’s mind was not yet mature enough to accept that “both mothers were one and the same. “

In a word, Splitting is one of the earliest and most primitive Defense Mechanisms available to humans. It protects very young children from the frightening experience and thought that the caretaker on which one is totally dependent is a threat to one’s very existence.

Most children typically develop out of Splitting as part of the normal process of development, but some form of Splitting stays with us our entire lives. It’s especially prominent in times of great stress and danger. Thus, Splitting is responsible for the sharp division of the world into “good versus bad guys and forces.” In other words, in times of great stress and danger, we revert to one of the earliest, most primitive Defense Mechanism. With his continual sharp division of the world into “good versus bad guys” –those who are completely with him versus those who are opposed and thus the enemy—President Trump is under the grips of Splitting.


Psychoanalysis is one of the few fields that offer deep insights into the human condition. For instance, all of the various factors that have been identified by psychoanalysis are capable of acting both as the causes and the effects of major crises. Causes become effects, and effects become causes. At the very least, they are deeply intertwined. Thus, a preexisting tendency towards paranoia not only makes one more susceptible to anxiety as the result of experiencing various threatening events, and thus paranoia fuels, if not causes, tremendous anxiety, but paranoia is often one of the major effects/outcomes of intense anxiety and trauma as well. Such is also the case with other factors such as being predisposed to as well as experiencing the effects of illusions, delusions, psychotic breaks, etc. These in turn are capable of leading to one’s susceptibility to conspiracy theories, being a member of White Supremacist and Neo Nazi groups, etc.

If the goal of psychoanalysis is always the same, this doesn’t diminish its importance one iota: the weak Ego of the individual and society need to be strengthened so that both individuals and groups can withstand the growing threats of an increasingly hostile and unstable world. In brief, the Self needs to be strengthened so that it’s able to face, thus withstand, increasingly complex and dangerous realities.

This is the difficult task facing us. I pray fervently that we can rise to it.

[i] Melinda Wenner Moyer, “Journey to Gunland, “ Scientific American, October 2017, pp. 54-63.

Blog, Politics

The Never-Ending Battle of Life and Death

Originally published August 25, 2017 on The Huffington Post

America is in a deep funk!

We are battered daily by dysfunction and threats on scales once thought unimaginable. From the constant swirl of highly dangerous international events and inflammatory bluster, incessant right wing hate talk, continual disarray in the White House, it feels that all of the semblances of human and natural order have completely broken down. It’s as if the world has gone totally mad.

One of Sigmund Freud’s most important contributions to our understanding of the human psyche was his initial recognition and subsequent formulation of the Life Versus Death Instincts. While the initial distinction was due mainly to Nietzsche, whom Freud greatly admired for his deep insights into human nature, Freud developed the concept much further, and by doing so, went far beyond Nietzsche.

The awareness of both the fragility and the finality of life—the sheer contemplation of death—were so overwhelming that they exerted a constant and powerful effect over humans every moment of their lives. Indeed, humans expended an incredible amount of effort into denying death. But this only furthered its hold over us. At the very least, the contemplation of death, and thereby the Death Instinct, was always in the background. At worst, it was ever-present in our frequent and unbridled acts of aggression, for instance, our constant preoccupation with wars and readiness to use violence. Its most frequent manifestation was the rejection of reality and reason themselves, which as we’ve seen is an all-too-prominent feature of much of today’s world. In sharp contrast, the Life Instincts are readily present in our many peaceful and joyous celebrations of life.

Tragically, at this moment in history, we are not only inundated by the varied manifestations of the Death Instinct, but it feels as if we are caught in their relentless grip. The following are just a sampling of its many forms and types. The frightening feeling is that they can be multiplied endlessly:

1. The constant threat, all too frequent, and deadly acts of terrorism worldwide.

2. The ever-present danger of nuclear war.

3. The dangerous instability of the entire Middle East with the tragic displacement of hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing death and destruction, not least of all being bombed and gassed by their own “leaders,” if that’s what they truly are.

4. The constant threats to bomb the U.S. by the dangerously unstable leader of North Korea.

5. The interference in recent U.S. elections by a threatening Russian President and regime.

6. The recent rise of undemocratic governments around the world.

7. The rise of rabid nationalistic, so-called populist movements precisely when the world is more globally interconnected than ever before and is thus in need of greater cooperation.

8. The wanton, open displays, and marches of fanatical hate groups such as White Supremacists and Neo-Nazis.

9. The increased threats and actual acts of violence towards Blacks, Hispanics, Muslims and other minorities.

10. The extreme polarization and outright contempt between members of different political parties.

11. The distrust of elected leaders and governments worldwide.

12. A President who at best is highly erratic and unpredictable and who many consider temperamentally unfit and unqualified for the most important job on the planet.

13. A White House and Administration in constant disarray and thus unable to cope with the serious forces and issues that demand the most somber and thoughtful attention.

All of the preceding troublesome forces and manifestations of The Death Instinct are not only experienced as major threats resulting in overwhelming anxieties and fears, but they seriously perturb, if not destroy, one’s feelings of being safe and in control, that the world—reality itself—is predictable, orderly and comprehensible, that one can trust one’s fellows and leaders—government itself—to protect us from the manifold dangers of the world. In short, one’s basic beliefs about the goodness, safety, orderliness of the world, and thus humankind, are shattered, often beyond repair. No wonder why the crash of belief systems is not only experienced as major crises, but as major traumas. Indeed, the two are inseparable.

In sum, major crises severely attack and damage one’s foundational beliefs: one’s basic sense of identity, belonging, fundamental values, feelings of security, one’s true purpose in life, and one of the most basic issues of all, that one is respected for whom and what one is. The result is a severe existential crisis. How indeed does one make sense of it all when the taken-for-granted assumptions and beliefs that one uses to make sense of the world are suddenly ripped out from under one and rendered totally invalid? Most of us can survive and function if just one or two of cherished beliefs are invalidated, but not if all of them are destroyed simultaneously. No wonder why major crises more often than not fuel intense feelings of fear and paranoia.

Blog, Media + Politics, Politics

Fake News Is the Result of Fake Inquiry.

Originally published June 28, 2017 on The Huffington Post

The hallmark of rational inquiry is that nothing is accepted as a valid claim without well-founded evidence both to support and validate the claim. In stark contrast, Fake News is nothing but bald assertions based on little if any evidence.

Those who assert that there are “alternate facts” that support what they want to believe don’t understand the nature of valid inquiry. Yes, different theories are not only compatible with different facts, but are needed to unearth them. The point is that in order to assess the validity of one’s facts, one has to be able to assess the theories that are used to collect one’s facts in the first place.

Ever since the great philosopher Immanuel Kant, philosophers have understood that one can’t collect any facts without having presupposed some theory about the phenomenon that underlies the facts. Otherwise, facts by themselves make no sense. Indeed, the question always is, “Why are these particular facts a true representative of the phenomenon of interest?”

In short, Fake News is the result of Fake Inquiry. Those who blather about Fake News understand little of valid inquiry. Indeed, they are generally contemptuous of it.

Blog, Politics

The Republican Health Care Bill: Mean and Cold-hearted

Originally published June 25, 2017 on The Huffington Post

The principles of Republican healthcare are straight out of 16th century England where being poor was a sure sign of moral inferiority:

1. You’re completely on your own. No one should be required to pay for anyone else, let alone care for him or her.

2. Everyone should have the “freedom” to purchase only the amounts and kinds of healthcare they want, and nothing more, except of course the rich who should benefit in every way.

3. Competition among and between insurance companies is the only way to lower healthcare costs. Consumers are lucky to get what they are offered.

4. Everyone should be required to pay something for visits to doctors lest they take advantage of government-financed healthcare, and thereby overuse it. People cannot be trusted to use healthcare wisely.

5. People are sick because they don’t lead healthy life-styles. It’s their own fault if they are ill.

6. The poor are poor because they lack the proper moral fiber.

7. People who can’t afford healthcare deserve to die.

Every single one of these is cruel and mean-spirited beyond belief. They utterly destroy the concept of a shared society where people help one another in facing life and death issues.

There is no health care for anyone without health care for all. Health is not divisible.

Blog, Politics, Psychology

Stop Asking Trump for Policies He’s Incapable of Formulating

Originally publishes April 16, 2017 on The Huffington Post

Whether it’s Syria, healthcare, taxes, immigration, etc., every time I hear someone ask for a coherent statement of policy from the Trump Administration, I want to scream, “Don’t you realize that mentally disturbed persons are incapable of ‘well-thought-out, clearly formulated policies?’ ” Instead, they are the prisoners of their impulses and the delusional voices in their heads. No wonder why they flit uncontrollably from one stance to another without any sense of coherence or consistency.

So don’t bother me with cries for “rational, well-thought-out policies” when the person supposedly in charge is not in charge of themselves. All we can do is survive somehow the madness that swirls around us daily.

Blog, Politics

Seven Reasons Not To Work With Republicans

Originally published April 5, 2017 on The Huffington Post

1. The relentless, god-awful language and policies of Trump, his family and administration, and the Republican Party are not only a constant daily assault on our sensibilities, but completely unforgivable.

2. The recent failed Republican plan for replacing the Affordable Care Act shows clearly what the Republican Party stands for: sheer contempt and utter disregard for the poor and elderly.

3. They care only for the super wealthy.

4. They’ve been taken over by Right-wing extremists who are a threat to democracy.

5. They are boiling over with cruelty and meanness.

6. One is morally bound not to cooperate with those who values are so debased.

7. They are an abomination to everything that is wholesome and just.

Blog, Politics

Three Worldviews Fighting for Our Hearts, Minds, and Souls

Originally published March 20, 2017 on The Huffington Post

Three wildly different worldviews are fighting for our hearts, minds, and souls: 1. The Populist Revolt, 2. The Elitist Revolt, and 3. We Need to Heal and Come Together.

The Populist Revolt is of course what propelled Trump into the Presidency. It’s marked by extreme anger and distrust of elites and government. It’s also fueled by intense feelings of anger, despair, and hopelessness due to the loss of well-paying jobs and the respect that they once brought. At its core is the intense anger towards elites who have nothing but contempt for working class people. Give Trump a fair chance is the prevailing mantra. He’s their only hope.

The Elitist Revolt is just recently emerged. It’s based on the fact that the Red States receive back far more in federal dollars for support than what they initially paid out in taxes. In short, the Blue States are footing the bill of the Red States, who of course are anything but grateful in return. The Elitist Revolt actually hopes that President Trump and his Republican cronies eliminate federal taxes altogether so that they will then be free to set up their own healthcare plans, social support systems, etc. In effect, the Red States can all go to hell because The Elitist Revolt doesn’t care anymore about “What’s the Matter with Kansas?”. Oppose and resist Trump in every way possible is the rallying cry.

The We Need to Heal and Come Together worldview says that it’s fundamentally wrong to lump all the members of the Red States together and denigrate them as a whole. They all don’t think and act alike anymore than any group does. The different states basically need one another precisely because they are so different. What we gain by being part of a united whole is so great that it greatly outweighs the losses if the states go their separate ways.

Depending on one’s worldview, it’s all-too-easy to dismiss the others. But this is precisely what we must not do, for each contains a substantial element of truth. To appreciate this, it’s necessary to feel, and not just understand abstractly, the emotions that underlie each worldview. Both The Populist and The Elitist Revolt are fueled by anger due to the pains of enormous loss. Each feels hugely disrespected by the other. Overcoming disrespect is the onerous task facing the We Need to Heal and Come Together worldview. Given the tremendous rancor and deep polarization, it feels that it’s virtually impossible.

Those who subscribe to the Elitist Revolt feel that only way in which the proponents of The Populist Revolt will come to their senses is by being deeply burned by President Trump and the Republican Party, for example with respect to health care. In comparison, those who subscribe to the Populist Revolt feel that the only way in which the proponents of The Elitist Revolt will come to their senses is by being forced to face again and again that they are no longer in control.

It’s precisely because we are so bitterly divided that We Need to Heal and Come Together. Senator Bernie Sanders shows that it can be done. By going into West Virginia and listening honestly and respectfully to those who voted for Donald Trump, only then could he counter some of Trump’s ideas and those of the Republican Party. Indeed, nearly everyone he spoke to was deeply afraid of being thrown off the Accordable Care Act.

If we were truly smart, we would send Secretary Clinton and Senators Graham, McCain, and Sanders on a joint nation-wide tour to promote We Need to Heal and Come Together.

Blog, Media + Politics, Politics

The Ripping Point

Originally published February 24, 2017 on The Huffington Post

Years ago, Malcolm Gladwell popularized the concept of The Tipping Point. This occurs when a system suddenly moves into a dramatically different state. I believe we are confronting a far worse condition, The Ripping Point. We are in a very real danger of ripping apart as a nation. Worst yet, I don’t see any way out.

Differences are the essence of democracy. But some are injurious to its very existence and foundation. Take the issues of a free press and an independent judiciary.

To my knowledge, Trump is the only President who has called the press “The Enemy of the People.” In defending him, Republicans are at best disingenuous. At worst, along with Trump, they are suffering from a collective thought disorder: the inability to distinguish fantasy from reality, indeed to make up whatever reality suits them. When they try to excuse his odious remarks by saying that all Presidents have criticized the press for being overly critical of them, they not only distort the truth, but reality itself. It’s one thing to be critical of the press, which at some point all Presidents have been, but quite another to delegitimize it as an institution, which Trump has done repeatedly.

The same goes for the judiciary. One is always entitled to be critical of a court’s decisions, but not to defame individual judges or the entire judicial system.

The tearing down of the basic institutions of democracy begins with the corruption of thought itself.