I grew up with a narcissistic mother, so Trump’s behavior is entirely comprehensible to me. Growing up with a narcissist is different from studying the condition in a book, or learning about it in a clinical setting. I get narcissistic personality disorder on a very gut level.
Narcissists flourish when you flatter and agree with them. If you disagree about anything, even something small, they experience it as a full-on existential attack, and respond accordingly. Worst of all, absolutely intolerable, is to ignore them — not because you’re doing it intentionally, but because you’re focused on something else. Narcissists must be the center of attention at all times. If not, they will create a crisis to draw attention back. It doesn’t matter if the attention is good or bad — it’s attention. They are renewed. Their anxiety subsides. They are on a playing field that they can understand, one where everyone is looking at them. Ah the joy, the sheer necessity, the overwhelming comfort of it — look at me, look at me, look at me. Life is good. The world is as it should be.
Trump has no idea why the reaction to his meeting with Putin in Helsinki was mostly negative. Putin flattered him. Putin didn’t disagree with him. Most of all, Putin didn’t ignore him. By definition, the meeting was good, wonderful, the best ever. Trump was apparently forced by his senior staff to read a statement that was sort of a retraction, but his heart wasn’t in it. What was to retract? Putin liked him. Putin really liked him.
Is it dangerous to have a president with a narcissistic personality disorder? Of course. Remember that Trump is ahistorical. He doesn’t read. He has no mental framework larger than his own endlessly needy self. Having a president with a narcissistic personality disorder is also tiresome. Trump is, at the end of the day, not all that interesting. He is emotionally shallow. He cares only about making money. He has no real relationships, only transactional ones. He isn’t that smart. If you met him he’d have no interest in you, except as a potential member of his cheering section. You’d know in five minutes if you were willing to be that, in exchange for whatever he is willing to bestow upon you. He’d know too.
His voters, in true cult-like fashion, haven’t yet figured out that narcissists make lousy presidents. I’m hoping that enough do by the November elections to help the rest of us turn the tide.