Bandy Lee is a forensic psychiatrist who clearly thinks Trump is impaired in ways that are a danger to the security of our democracy. Tony Schwartz is an author who spent 18 months shadowing Trump in order to co-write, or perhaps more appropriately ghost-write, The Art of the Deal. In their jointly written piece for Politico, they agree on the following point:
“It isn’t possible to reliably diagnose any individual from a distance, but it is reasonable to flag clear, observable signs of impairment and to make inferences based on repetitive patterns of behavior. There is a significant difference between diagnosing a specific disorder and analyzing the meaning of the qualities Trump exhibits, such as paranoia, grandiosity, lack of empathy and pathological deceit. Trump’s behavior, we believe, is the predictable outgrowth of this psychological disposition, exacerbated by the stress of the intensifying criminal investigations he faces.”
Most helpful to me in this article — besides finding other kindred spirits who think Trump is a world class nut case — are the suggestions on how to avoid letting Trump, the master manipulator, get into your head.
“So how can we hold onto our own mental health in the face of the danger Trump poses? First, don’t use logic or rationality to try to understand or counter Trump’s statements and behaviors. He is driven not by reason but by negative emotions that are infectious. Trump thrives on creating fear and sowing confusion. He lies without guilt. Don’t match his emotion with your own.
Second, be clearer than ever about your core values, beliefs and principles, and rely on them for guidance and comfort, especially when you are feeling most triggered and fearful. Challenge every day the natural inclination to feel overwhelmed, fatigued or numb in the face of Trump’s behavior. This is what people with his psychological inclinations count on. Trump is aware that whatever he says repeatedly—no matter how outrageous—many people are more likely to believe, or at least to stop resisting.
Lastly, recognize that fear is your enemy. Holding onto the opposites of realism and optimism is the best antidote. James Stockdale, a Navy vice admiral, was imprisoned for eight years in North Vietnam and tortured repeatedly. What he said afterward about how he survived is relevant for anyone dealing with feelings of helplessness and hopelessness: “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
Most useful, perhaps, is the first: don’t try to counter Trump’s serial distortion of reality with logic or rationality. That doesn’t work, at least with his core supporters who are cult-like in their following of him. I’m not sure we the American people, or the press, has figured out how to counter Trump’s alternative reality, if not with facts. That’s the next challenge.