President Donald Trump is unphased by our cries of injustice, outrage, anger or resistance. He doesn’t bat an eyelash at our ideological outrage or political fears. He isn’t concerned with our reproductive rights, marriage equality, health care access or the fabric of our democracy.
So while the traditional strategies of political engagement and fiery activism are certainly necessary public acts, they don’t do much to chip away at his Achilles’ heel in quite the same way that a scathing SNL skit or all-day media coverage of women’s marches around the world do.
In fact, what was so effective about the marches scheduled the day after the inauguration was that women collectively refused to be psychologically abused by the ultimate archetypal narcissist and, in response, hit him wear it hurts, where it’s likely to do the most damage: the ego.
For a narcissist, denial runs deep
Narcissism, while relatively common, still remains one of the most difficult psychological afflictions to cure owing to the simple fact that many don’t seek help or advice on their psychological dysfunction because of their high self-regard. For a narcissist like Trump, the end game is (and always has been) winning and then punishing and humiliating naysayers, detractors or competition. (Just ask Mitt Romney or Chris Christie.)
Fears for democracy, daughters highlight Women’s March by William W. Savage III
The President’s constant self-aggrandizement, furious refusal to acknowledge facts, apologize or admit fault for obvious mistakes, or furious late-night twitter tirades about SNL or Meryl Streep are indicative of a disintegrated and fragile psychic structure.
However, it’s not necessarily that he’s willfully denying the inauguration attendance comparisons between him and Obama, it’s more likely that he looked out into the crowd and actually observed millions of adoring fans. It’s not necessarily that he’s just saying “women love him” simply to save face: He really believes that all women love him, and the few that don’t are probably just ugly or lesbians.
His perception (like all human beings) is directly affected by his mental programming; where many of us see incompetence, anger, flagrant posturing and prideful ignorance, he sees strength, fortitude, healthy self-esteem and courageous truth-telling. Don’t get me wrong: He lies, and he lies frequently without apology or regret, but the denial runs deep.
Power complicates coping strategies
Paradoxically, dealing with rooted psychological narcissism differs from other forms of psychological dysfunction in that the usual therapeutic tools of empathy, understanding and unconditional regard do little to counteract the damaging effects of their behavior. Typically, the softer compassionate emotions are far from the person’s cadre of psychological strategies (except maybe with a few close intimates).
Instead, the compassionate emotional spectrum tends to translate as weakness and, thus, serves as an opportunity for exploitation. Often, the most effective strategy for dealing with a narcissist, or at least in aiding their own self-realization, is to actively challenge their self-aggrandizement. This is risky business and, in Trump’s case, made more difficult by the scope of his power.
His tirades and the retribution he will surely inflict on all of his naysayers, critics and detractors and well-meaning idealists seeking to free him from the surely painful (even if unconsciously) cell of his isolated psyche will have a far more grievous and immediate effect on our everyday lives.
Nonetheless, as he executive orders his revenge, he will also dig a deeper, darker ethically and politically questionable (if not downright illegal) hole, so deep that even Kellyanne Conway won’t be able to throw him an artfully spun grappling hook. And this, actually, is a good thing. Anyone who has facilitated, embarked upon or witnessed the hard work of psychological growth knows the ego will fight like hell to hold onto its position.
America’s psychological shadow
The women’s marches were a statement of necessary and vibrant democratic political activism at its best, and the psychological effects on the president will continue to burrow into his psyche. The afterglow of the glitzy inauguration festivities were ferociously drowned out by the battle cry of millions of human beings all over the world who refuse to be terrorized, gaslit and muzzled by one man’s unchallenged narcissism.
So we embarked on the hard work of helping a very unconscious man to possibly, maybe wake up. His unconsciousness and the unconsciousness he awakened is our wake-up call. But we must collectively take some responsibility for his dysfunction since it was allowed to grow so wildly precisely because of the infectious and intoxicating effects of misogyny, racism and greed we thought we had buried.
He is our “creature,” created (at least in part) on the red, white and blue bed of our own Mary Shelly-esque laboratory of historical oppression. Of course we must protest, write our legislators and other elected officials. The work of activism remains the same and more urgent. But it is not simply political; it is arguably America’s most raw and potentially transformative confrontation with its own psychological shadow.