Donald J. Trump: Unbridled and Extreme Hedonist
About the Title
"Unbridled and Extreme Hedonism" is the title of a paper written by Dr. Philip Zimbardo1 and Rosemary Sword2. The authors conclude that one of Donald Trump's many issues is "Extreme Present Day Hedonism." It's extreme because it drowns out other balancing "time perspectives" that lead to a healthy personality. This field of study is just one that is used to help understand our unprecedented president.
This paper, along with many others is included in the book The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump by Bandy X. Lee, Ph.D., M. Div. which is a compendium of papers by a variety of mental health experts which examine the vast public record on the behavior of Donald Trump. I will address other papers in future articles.
1Philip Zimbardo, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus at Stanford University, is a scholar, educator, and researcher
2 Rosemary Sword is a counselor and Time Perspective Therapist, coauthor of The Time Cure: Overcoming PTSD with the New Psychology of Time Perspective Therapy and Living and Loving Better With Time Perspective Therapy: Healing from the Past, Embracing the Present, Creating an Ideal Future
The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump
Duty to Warn
This begins my review of an extremely disturbing and startling book by Bandy Lee, MD., M.Div. who organized the Yale "Duty to Warn" Conference. It is a compendium of essays submitted by mental health experts from all fields who explore various aspects of Donald Trump's mental health. While the topics differ, the unambiguous common thread is that -
Donald Trump is a danger to himself, the United States, and the world.
To kick off our look at what these phychiatrists and other mental health professionals, let me give you the disclaimer from the book's introduction (p. 19):
"In spite of its title, I [Dr. Lee] would like to emphasize that the main point of this book is not about Mr. Trump. It is about the larger context that has given rise to his presidency, and the greater population that he affects by virtue of his position. The ascendancy of an individual with such impairments speaks to our general state of health and well-being as a nation, and to how we can respond: we can either improve it or further impair it. Mental disorder does not distinguish between political parties, and as professionals devoted to promoting mental health, including public mental health, our duty should be clear; to steer patients and the public on a path toward health so that genuine discussions of political choice, unimpeded by emotional compulsion or defense, can occur. Embracing our "duty to warn," as our professional training and ethics lead us to do at times of danger, therefore involves not only sounding an alarm but continually educating and engaging in dialogue our fellow human beings, as this compilation aspires to do."
So let us begin.
To Warn or Not To Warn
Do you think mental health professionals have a "duty to warn" society when their training and experience lead them to believe someone is a societal danger even though they have not interviewed them?
The Time Perspective
The subtitle to this paper is: How the Leader of the Free World Has Proven Time and Again He is Unfit for Duty. Authors: Dr. Philip Zimbardo and Rosemary Sword
This is the first paper in Lee's book The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump. It explores1 a related set of characteristics that strongly suggests Donald Trump is mentally unfit to be President of the United States. Their area of expertise is a theory called Time Perspective. To understand this, a few definitions are in order.
- Past Positive: People who focus on the good things that have happened
- Past Negative: People who focus on the negative things that have happened
- Present Hedonism: people who live in the moment – seeking pleasure, novelty, and sensation, and avoiding pain
- Present Fatalism: people who feel that decisions are moot because predetermined fate plays the guiding role in life: “What will be, will be.”
- Future Positive: People who plan for the future thinking things will work out
- Future Negative: People who feel the future is predetermined and apocalyptic or they have no future orientation.
These are ideas used in Time Perspective Therapy (TPT) which psychiatrists use to help them understand the people they are observing. "Normal" people have a healthy time perspective in all of these areas with no particular bias toward any. People who have less of a grip on reality favor one or more of these attributes over others. Since there are three time periods, there are three biases:
- Past Bias: Good and bad things happen to everyone. Past Positive bias is where people tend to often see things through the proverbial "rose-colored glasses" while Past Negative people use much darker-colored glasses. People who focus too much on the past tend to value Old over New; Familiar over Novel; a cautious conservative approach vs a more daring, liberal or riskier one.
- Present Bias: People who predominantly live in the present are little influenced by either past or future considerations. They focus mostly on what is happening NOW. Decisions are based on immediate needs and wants and what others are urging them to do.
- Future Bias: How people react to Past and Present bias' help determine their Future bias. Those who live in stable family and stable economic/political situations, have learned to trust what is said to them and to believe promises will be kept, and are educated tend to Future Positives. Those stuck in the past along with the associated negativism see no point in even planning for the future.
Experience has shown that healthy, well-adjusted individuals exhibit the following time perspectives:
- High past positive with low past negative
- Low present fatalism associated with moderate present hedonism
- Moderately high future positive orientation
On the other hand, unhealthy, maladjusted people show they are:
- High past negative with low past positive
- High present fatalism and/or high high present hedonism
- Low or no future orientation
So, how does all of this relate to Donald Trump? Well, when Trump was thirteen, he was summarily sent off to military school; effectively abandoned by his parents; banished from the lavish household he had become accustomed to. By any standard, the authors feel this was an extremely traumatizing experience. One so severe that it could (and they feel did) arrest his development. And if true, then one consequence is a high degree of present hedonism.
As the authors note
"[Adults] suffering from arrested emotional development, usually caused by childhood trauma, are also present hedonists. Without therapy, the ability to mature emotionally beyond the age of trauma is difficult to impossible. When they reach adulthood, they may be able to hide their lack of emotional maturity for periods, but then, when in a stressful situation, they revert to behaving the emotional age they were when they were first traumatized."
And by his own admission, he hasn't changed that much since he was in the first grade. Further, most biographies are in agreement that young Trump was a loud-mouthed bully.
Zimbardo and Sword then go on to say that if the trauma was particularly severe, the adult might morph into "extreme present hedonism" (EPH); and here is where we find Trump today. An EPH will:
"say or do anything at any time for purposes of self-aggrandizement and to shield themselves from previous negatively perceived activities, with no thought of the future or the effects of their actions."
Coupled with paranoia, this is the most dangerous set of attributes a person with power can have. They offer a case in point about this behavior.
- Trump tweets "How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process. Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!" (Associated Press 2017)
- As a result, members of his staff scrambled to find evidence to make the false and slanderous claim "real".
- This one EPH tweet has led to multiple probes into the Trump campaign's possible Russian connections (which he repeatedly now calls a 'witch hunt")
Almost by definition, a person that is an EPH lacks compassion and foresight, has a propensity to dehumanize people, and, in order to justify their outrageous claims, lies a lot. All of which are also traits of narcissism and bullying.
The question is, does Donald Trump exhibit any of these? It would seem so.
"Sometimes, part of making a deal is denigrating your competition" (Art of the Deal, 1987)
"When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best ...They're sending people that have a lot of problems, and they're bringing these problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people" (speech, June 16, 2015)
"Written by a nice reporter. Now the poor guy. You ought to see this guy" (See video above to understand how dehumanizing this was.)
Would anybody disagree this is extreme dehumanizing behavior?
"Made in America? @BarrackObama called his 'birthplace' Hawaii 'here in Asia'" (twitter, Nov 18, 2011)
"I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down ... And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering." (Nov 21, 2015. No such thing happened.)
"In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide (by 90,000 votes), I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally"(Twitter Nov 27, 2016; extremely few people voted illegally)
These are a few of the over 3,000 documented Mostly False, False, or Pants-on-Fire Lies which Donald J. Trump has uttered since he became President. Of course we aren't counting the 1,000 more he made during the campaign.
"You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her - whatever?" (CNN interview Aug, 2015)
"Look at that face! [presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina] Would anybody vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president? ... I mean, she's a woman and I am not supposed to say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious? (Rolling Stone interview Sep 9, 2015)
"When you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything .... Grab 'em by the pussy ... You can do anything" (hot mike on Access Hollywood in 2005)
The only way this isn't Misogyny is if you believe these are three of Trump's 3,000+ lies.
"The world is a vicious and brutal place. We think we're civilized. In truth, it's a cruel world and people are ruthless. They are nice to your face, but underneath they're out to kill you ... Even your friends are out to get you: they want your job, they want your house, they want your money, they want your wife, and they even want your dog. Those are your friends; your enemies are even worse!" (Think Big: Make it Happen in Business and Life, 2007)
"My motto is 'Hire the best people, and don't trust them' "(Think Big: Make it Happen in Business and Life, 2007)
"If you have smart people working for you, they'll try to screw you if they think they can do better without you. (Daily Mail, Oct 30, 2010)
What other definition of paranoia can there be than these Trump quotes?
"You haven't been called, go back to Univision" (when dismissing Latino reporter Jorge Ramos at an Iowa rally, Aug 2015)
"Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States" (rally in Charleston, SC Dec 2015)
"Look at my African American over there. Look at him? (California, June 2016)
While these statements are terrible in their own right, the jury is still out if Donald Trump is a true racists like many of his most ardent supporters are.
"I'm, like, a really smart person" (during interview July 11, 2015)
"It's very hard for them to attack me on my looks, because I am so good looking" (interview Aug 7, 2015)
"I'm speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I have said a lot of things ... My primary consultant is myself." (interview March 16, 2016)
He has also called himself a stable genius several times.
Having explored Extreme Present Hedonism, the authors turn to two other related, synergistic traits - narcissism and bullying. Traits Zimbardo and Sword easily attribute to Trump. For example,
"I ALONE CAN FIX IT!" (Republican National Convention, July 2016)
Can extreme narcissism be any clearer? I think not. I'll leave it there, since this will be covered in much more detail in the next article, and turn to bullying.
Bullying is defined as systematically and chronically inflicting physical hurt and/or psychological distress on one or more people. Bullying is:
- Often learned at home
- Often caused by stress in the bully's life
- Bully's have often been abused at home
- Bully's generally have very low self-esteem
- Bully's bully in order to feel superior.
- Consequently, their targets are who they perceive as weaker, inferior, and/or different
Zimbardo and Sword identify six types of bullying:
- Physical Bullying: Use of physical actions to gain power and control over their target.
- Verbal Bullying: Use of words, statements, and name-calling to gain power and control over their target. Verbal bullies use relentless insults to belittle, demean, and hurt others.
- Prejudicial Bullying: Can encompass some or all of the other types of bullying when directed at someone or group that is "different"; which opens the door to hate crimes.
- Relational (emotional) Aggression: Uses social manipulation in order to ostracize others to gain social standing and control over others.
- Cyberbullying: Uses the Internet and other technology to harass, threaten, embarrass another person. Also known as Cyber-harassment or cyber-stalking.
- Sexual Bullying: Uses repeated, harmful, and humiliating actions. These might include sexual name-calling, crude comments vulgar gestures, unwanted touching, and sexual propositioning. Sexual assault often follows.
Of the six types of bullying the authors identify, I feel (and it should be obvious to all) that the decades long recorded history of Trump supports four of them (the authors think all six apply): Verbal, Prejudicial, Relational, and Sexual. The authors correctly point out that up until the 2016 presidential election, most of America thought of bullying as abnormal behavior. After that date, it appears fully 1/3 of American voters now view bullying as "acceptable" behavior given they ignored clear evidence of this feature in the person they voted for - Donald J. Trump.
The authors of this piece and all of the others go to great pain to convince the readers of two things: 1) without sitting down with Donald Trump, they cannot definitively diagnose him with any particular disorder or no disorder at all and 2) because there is such a treasure trove of documented history about Trump they, with their training and experience, are quite capable of making very educated assessments about the likelihood of whether Donald J. Trump is a danger to society or not.
While exhibiting one or a few of the traits common to mental disorder is not particularly noteworthy, exhibiting such a large number of these warning signs in one person as well as to extreme degrees some of these symptoms are presented does indicate the distinct possibility of mental illness. These two mental health professionals, as well as all of the others, have concluded that they have a professional Duty to Warn America that President Trump is very likely a danger to our country and the world.
Is Donald Trump Mentally Ill?
Do you think Donald Trump exhibits enough signs of mental illness that he is a danger to America?
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Scott Belford