“There is no anchor any more. At the core of the administration of the most powerful country on earth, there is, instead, madness.”
~ Andrew Sullivan, “The Madness of King Donald,” The New Yorker
It came as a twilight, an eerie dusk whose faded light revealed the shadows of long-hidden beasts. Trepidation hung in the air like a damp chill as a steady wind blew, carrying whispered warnings. Low clouds gathered overhead as thunder rumbled from some distant place.
And then the storm was upon us. Lightning crashed and hard, cold rain fell as the wind howled like a chorus of injured beasts. Somewhere in a dark forest, an ancient door creaked open and mad dogs were loosed—an army of them—barking and ravenous, tearing to pieces everything in their path.
The storm didn’t pass. Every day brought with it more darkness, more cold rain, more barking, more chaos, more outrage and injustice. What becomes of a society when the mad dogs take over? What becomes of it when truth and reason are torn to shreds, and replaced by greed and hate?
What becomes of us when morality has nothing to do with anything?
“In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
(George Orwell, 1984)
Something bizarre is going on. Every day, there is more drama. Everywhere, despite mounting evidence, people are denying facts. At every turn, we hear words unbound by truth or logic. False arguments have replaced reason and rationality. Even the Russians are involved! Thoughts of Kafka and Orwell dance through our heads. It seems that reality itself has fallen down the rabbit hole.
This could only mean one thing:
There’s a pathological personality in our midst.
“One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.”
(G. Orwell, 1984)
Although plenty of mental health professionals have given their opinions and unofficial diagnoses, no one needs a psychology degree to know that the president-elect isn’t mentally fit for the job. Those of us with knowledge about personality disorders know that he is affected by pathological narcissism, at the least.
“The lessons I learned in kindergarten — not in medical school and years of psychiatric practice — are what tell me that Trump is unfit for the job,” said Matthew Goldenberg, assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine,“A professional opinion: You don’t need a psychiatrist to know there’s something wrong with Donald Trump” (LA Times)
According to Glenn Carle, retired CIA officer and interrogator, “The facts hurt. Trump won’t like the truth, and he will without question seek to destroy those individuals or organizations that say or do anything that he thinks harm his precious grandiosity…
Look, in my professional assessment as an intelligence officer, Trump has a reflexive, defensive, monumentally narcissistic personality, for whom the facts and national interest are irrelevant, and the only thing that counts is whatever gives personal advantage and directs attention to himself. He is about the juiciest intelligence target an intelligence officer could imagine. He groans with vulnerabilities. He will only work with individuals or entities that agree with him and build him up, and he is a shockingly easy intelligence ‘target’ to manipulate.”
(Glenn L. Carle served twenty-three years in the Clandestine Services of the Central Intelligence Agency. Mr. Carle holds a B.A. in Government from Harvard University, and a M.A. in European Studies and international Economics from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Currently he is an Associate Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School Carr Center for Human Rights Policy.)
Far more significant than the opinions above are these official statements:
- In a joint statement, twenty Nuclear Launch Officers wrote:
“Only the president can order a nuclear launch. That order cannot be vetoed and once the missiles have been launched, they cannot be called back. The consequences of miscalculation, impulsive decision-making or poor judgment on the part of the president could be catastrophic…
The pressures the system places on that one person are staggering and require enormous composure, judgment, restraint and diplomatic skill. Donald Trump does not have these leadership qualities. On the contrary, he has shown himself time and again to be easily baited and quick to lash out, dismissive of expert consultation and ill-informed of even basic military and international affairs – including, most especially, nuclear weapons…
Donald Trump should not be the nation’s commander-in-chief. He should not be entrusted with the nuclear launch codes. He should not have his finger on the button.”
Read the rest here: JOINT STATEMENT BY FORMER NUCLEAR LAUNCH OFFICERS
- In another joint statement, 50 former national security officials wrote:
“We are convinced that he would be a dangerous President and would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being. Most fundamentally, Mr. Trump lacks the character, values, and experience to be President.
He is unable or unwilling to separate truth from falsehood. He does not encourage conflicting views. He lacks self-control and acts impetuously. He cannot tolerate personal criticism. He has alarmed our closest allies with his erratic behavior. All of these are dangerous qualities in an individual who aspires to be President and Commander-in-Chief, with command of the U.S. nuclear arsenal…
We understand that many Americans are profoundly frustrated with the federal government and its inability to solve pressing domestic and international problems. We also know that many have doubts about Hillary Clinton, as do many of us. But Donald Trump is not the answer to America’s daunting challenges and to this crucial election. We are convinced that in the Oval Office, he would be the most reckless President in American history.”
Read the rest here: STATEMENT BY 50 FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY OFFICIALS
“We are convinced that in the Oval Office, he would be the most reckless President in American history.”
How did so many give him their approval anyway? And…
What made it possible for people to vote for a candidate who refused to disclose his tax returns?
After all, it’s extremely important to examine a presidential candidate’s taxes. It’s not legally required, but it should be. If anyone in our congress had a spine, they would be demanding to see it now, in light of recent events regarding election tampering.
As Mitt Romney put it,
“Tax returns provide the public with its sole confirmation of the veracity of a candidate’s representations regarding charities, priorities, wealth, tax conformance, and conflicts of interest. Further… the potential for hidden inappropriate associations with foreign entities, criminal organizations, or other unsavory groups is simply too great a risk to ignore.”
It seems like Trump was (and still is) hiding something. Why didn’t that matter to his supporters?
“simply too great a risk to ignore.”
“The real division is not between conservatives and revolutionaries but between authoritarians and libertarians.”
(George Orwell, The Lost Orwell: Being a Supplement to The Complete Works of George Orwell)
How is it possible so many people got on the Trump bandwagon?
Authoritarianism might be the foundation of Trump’s popularity.
Trump is authoritarian, and so are his followers.
“The political phenomenon we identify as right-wing populism seems to line up, with almost astonishing precision, with the research on how authoritarianism is both caused and expressed,” according to the Vox article, “The rise of American authoritarianism.” Psychological profiles of individual voters were characterized by a desire for order and a fear of outsiders. When people who score high in authoritarianism feel threatened, they look for strong leaders who promise to take whatever action necessary to protect them from outsiders and to prevent the changes they fear.
The researchers concluded that “the GOP, by positioning itself as the party of traditional values and law and order, had unknowingly attracted what would turn out to be a vast and previously bipartisan population of Americans with authoritarian tendencies. This trend had been accelerated in recent years by demographic and economic changes such as immigration, which ‘activated’ authoritarian tendencies, leading many Americans to seek out a strongman leader who would preserve a status quo they feel is under threat and impose order on a world they perceive as increasingly alien…
Authoritarians are thought to express much deeper fears than the rest of the electorate, to seek the imposition of order where they perceive dangerous change, and to desire a strong leader who will defeat those fears with force. They would thus seek a candidate who promised these things. And the extreme nature of authoritarians’ fears, and of their desire to challenge threats with force, would lead them toward a candidate whose temperament was totally unlike anything we usually see in American politics — and whose policies went far beyond the acceptable norms. A candidate like Donald Trump.”
Trump pledged to defeat all that his base feared—globalism, crime, immigration, terrorism, and changes in social norms and demographics (Read Trump’s RNC speech, with fact checking, here). “I am your voice,” said Trump, in his RNC speech. “I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people who cannot defend themselves. Nobody knows the system better than me. Which is why I alone can fix it.”
“The extreme nature of authoritarians’ fears, and their desire to challenge threats with force, would lead them toward a candidate whose temperament was totally unlike anything we usually see in American politics — and whose policies went far beyond the acceptable norms.”
“How dependent are our fundamental values—values such as decency, reason, and compassion—-on the fellow we’ve elected President? Maybe less than we imagine. To be sure, the country voted for a leader who lives by the opposite code—it will be a long and dark winter—-but the signs are that voters were not rejecting these values. They were rejecting élites, out of fear and fury that, when it came to them, these values had been abandoned.
… Many of them saw an establishment of politicians, professors, and corporations that has failed to offer, or even to seem very interested in, a vision of the modern world that provides them with a meaningful place of respect and worth…
Repealing Obamacare, which has provided coverage to twenty-two million people; cutting safety-net programs; downgrading hard-won advances in civil liberties and civil rights—-these things will make the lives of those left out only meaner and harder.”
Read the rest of this short essay, along with fifteen others: HEALTH OF THE NATION, By Atul Gawande, The New Yorker
“2 + 2 = 5”
(George Orwell, 1984)
How have people been manipulated into irrational denial of facts? Could it be that Trump ran his campaign in a fascist manner?
Timothy Snyder, professor of history at Yale University and author of “Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning,” talked about fascism on “The Diane Rehm Show,” December 13th, 2016. Some excerpts:
“Fascism was a reaction against globalization. It was the claim that one should put one’s own country and one’s own people first. Fascism put a face on globalization. It said that globalization wasn’t just a matter of rules or challenges, but of specific enemies, usually ethnic enemies, often arrayed in some kind of a conspiracy. Fascism said we shouldn’t try to understand the world with a reason, but instead rely on faith — not faith in God, but faith in a particular leader. So fascism put emotions ahead of thoughts. It put will ahead of reasonability…
Fascists and their followers by way of elections or other means, were able to overturn democracies throughout Central and Eastern Europe. And we see something like a similar pattern emerging now…
We’ve gotten ourselves convinced that ideas don’t matter anymore, that all the big ideas have left the framework, which is just not the case. The idea, for example, that truth doesn’t matter, the whole post-factual business that we’re now getting used to. That’s actually a fascist idea for the 1920s and 1930s, that one should have faith in individuals, one can ignore the facts, right? Those are old ideas. Those are the kinds of ideas which allow regimes to change. So those are — that’s another thing one should pay attention to…
I find it very hard to know what the man [Trump] actually believes. And I would be suspicious of anyone, you know, except perhaps his family and closest friends, who would make confident claims about that. But I think that, itself, is precisely one reason to be concerned. The way fascism works is to deny the importance of consistency. And Mr. Trump is someone who has generally taken both sides of every position…
If you watch the rallies… there are some patterns which are quite familiar to those of us who have watched the films or read the transcripts of rallies from the 1920s and 1930s. The first is the total hostility to facts, right? That you just most of the time say things that aren’t true. The second is the kind of shamanistic incantation, which in Trump’s case was, ‘build the wall’ and ‘lock her up.’ Things which are criminal, things which we know are not actually going to happen, but which establish a kind of mystical relationship between the crowd and the person…
The third is magical thinking. You know, the constant promise at the rallies that we’re going to simultaneously cut taxes, pay off the national debt, increase spending on domestic policy and on defense. We all know that this is impossible, right? But we embrace it.
And then, finally, the final element, which is very similar to Interwar fascist rallies would be the misplaced faith. Where Trump says things like, ‘I alone can solve this,’ or ‘I am your voice,’ which can lead people to confuse their faith in the leader with truth or can lead people to abandon their own claim to individually discern what’s actually going on. That’s very similar and that’s alarming…
I think it’s very important for us to take history seriously and rather than focus on what fascism means to you and to me, to remember that fascism was actually a thing in the world which brought about tens of millions of deaths and a Second World War and a Holocaust. It was something — to move to the question of whether, you know, one is insulting one’s fellow Americans or not — it was something that appealed to patriotic Italians, patriotic Romanians, patriotic Germans, and in the ’20s and ’30s, also many patriotic Americans. That is precisely the problem. We can’t get away from the problem by saying we’re insulting this or we’re insulting that…
That things that happened in the past, teach us about what’s possible in the present and in the future. So we have to be alert to this, precisely because we are vulnerable to it…
[Trump] uses technology to get through, to get by, to get over the normal conventions about what’s true, right? And in that, I have to say, it’s extremely important — and it’s something I think conservatives in particular should be alert to — the indifference to facts, or the attempt to create a new reality, isn’t just some kind of detail…
When we get to a world where fiction trumps fact, we’ve taken a big step towards fascism. Not towards conservatism, that’s something completely different, but towards fascism. This whole post-factuality business, I think, is pre-fascist…
The reason why this question, Diane, is so interesting is that it calls us back to what I think the really important question is, not the analogy with fascism, not the comparison with fascism, not the term but what we learned from it. And what we learned from the history of fascism is how democracies die, right, and one thing which Hitler, just to take that example, was in fact very good at was communicating in one way to his followers, in a way they understood, and in a different way to the political establishment. And thereby if you look at the end of 1932 and the beginning of 1933 when he came to power, in this respect it actually was very similar…
I think this is what Americans should be thinking of, and don’t — the question of how democracies die, what it looks like when a figure comes to power who we don’t know — I agree, we don’t know, but a figure who may be an anti-systemic figure. What are the things that happen next? The history of the ’20s and ’30s gives you landmarks. One of them is this kind of confusion. Another is a disaster which happens, which then leads to a state of emergency…
The interesting thing about fascism is that as a historical phenomenon, it’s precisely neither right nor left. The claim that fascism makes is that’s beyond all of that, which is, by the way, another similarity to our present situation…
Fascism is not something that can be dismissed from history just by saying that left-wing people call other people fascists. Fascism is something that happened to people who were very similar to you and me. That’s why we have to be concerned…
Global capitalism brings wealth, but global capitalism also brings inequality and lots of challenges. Because people feel inequality, subjectively, objectively, you get extreme reactions, both fascism and communism. The repair job that we did in the second half of the 20th century was to remember that if we want to have capitalism that doesn’t radicalize people, we also have to have a state which gives people a sense that they and their families have a future. That’s a kind of bare minimum.
We learned that lesson as an answer both to communism and to fascism. I think it’s a lesson worth remembering.”
“What are the things that happen next? The history of the ’20s and ’30s gives you landmarks. One of them is this kind of confusion. Another is a disaster which happens, which then leads to a state of emergency… “
To finish Snyder’s thought, read this short piece, if you dare: The Burning of Reichstag
What’s going on now, with Trump’s choices for cabinet positions and advisers?
He’s picked a Goldman Sachs executive to run the US Treasury; chose a woman who wants to dismantle public education as education secretary; picked a man who is on the record saying “fear of Muslims is RATIONAL,” for national security adviser; chose a lawyer who is an anti-EPA activist and who doesn’t ‘believe’ in climate change for Environmental Protection Agency administrator; wants the Department of Energy run by a man who wants to get rid of the department, and who has no background in science; picked a fast-food executive—who is against overtime pay and a living wage—to run the Dept of Labor; and for Attorney General—protector of our civil rights—the man he chose thinks the KKK is fine, except for the fact that some smoke marijuana.
The foxes are in the hen house, it seems. Are his followers concerned yet?
Laura Ingraham, conservative radio host, said “As long as they effectively implement and advocate for the Trump agenda, all this criticism will fade away.”
But what IS the Trump agenda? He never made it clear, and when he did reveal some of his plans, they were unrealistic and never backed by how he planned to carry them out.
For a clue we can look to Stephen Bannon, his chief strategist and senior counselor, ex-Goldman Sachs banker and former head of Breitbart news. Bannon has been searching for years for someone to carry out his own agenda, according to the New York Times article, “Combative, Populist Steve Bannon Found His Man in Donald Trump”:
“More quietly, Mr. Bannon systematically courted a series of politicians, especially those who share his dark, populist worldview… Finally, in Mr. Trump, Mr. Bannon found his man. Mr. Bannon told a colleague in multiple conversations during the presidential campaign that he knew Mr. Trump was an “imperfect vessel” for the revolution he had in mind. But the upstart candidate and the media entrepreneur bonded anyway.”
And what is Bannon’s agenda? In his own words:
“Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal, too . . . I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”
Remember what the former CIA officer, Carle, said about Trump: He groans with vulnerabilities. He will only work with individuals or entities that agree with him and build him up, and he is a shockingly easy ‘target’ to manipulate.
ThinkProgress author Ned Resnikoff offers an explanation of Bannon’s manipulative strategy. An excerpt:
“In [Trump’s] political universe, facts are unstable and ephemeral; events follow one after the other with no clear causal linkage; and danger is everywhere, although its source seems to change at random… President-elect Trump offers an ever-shifting phantasmagoria of sense impressions and unreliable information, barely held together by a fog of anxiety and bewilderment…
It is tempting to suppose Trump built this phantasmagoria by accident — that it is the byproduct of an erratic, undisciplined, borderline pathological approach to dishonesty. But the president-elect should not be underestimated. His victories in both the Republican primary and the general election were stunning upsets, and he is now set to alter the course of world history. If he does not fully understand what he is doing, his advisers certainly do. Steve Bannon… knows. In a recent interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Bannon suggested that the key elements in his strategy are dissimulation and ‘darkness.’
“Darkness is good. Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power,” he said. “It only helps us when they get it wrong. When they’re blind to who we are and what we’re doing.”
It’s working. The media’s coverage of the Trump transition is blurry and confused. Stories that should be real scandals — such as Trump’s apparent efforts to manipulate international diplomacy for personal financial gain — get lost in the shuffle. Because of the constant media focus on his campaign, Trump was able to bombard the airwaves with an unending stream of surreal falsehoods… Many… were obviously false and easily debunked. But the sheer volume of these stories had their intended effect. When fake news becomes omnipresent, all news becomes suspect. Everything starts to look like a lie…
It is tempting to take solace in the belief that, if Trump cannot be taken literally, his extreme rhetoric might conceal a secret moderate streak. But that hope would be misplaced. Non-linear warfare is intrinsically authoritarian.
The president-elect is speaking the language of dictators.
… When political actors can’t agree on basic facts and procedures, compromise and rule-bound argumentation are basically impossible; politics reverts back to its natural state as a raw power struggle in which the weak are dominated by the strong…
That’s where Donald Trump’s lies are taking us. By attacking the very notion of shared reality, the president-elect is making normal democratic politics impossible. … If he succeeds, then the very notion of political reality will have been reduced to little more than a bad joke. The logic of democratic discourse will have been wholly replaced with the surreal anti-logic of nightmares.”
(Excerpt from “Trump’s lies have a purpose. They are an assault on democracy,” ThinkProgress)
Despite all of this, some people are still giving Trump the benefit of the doubt, which means they somehow still have doubt, and others are cautiously optimistic:
“I think the next few years will be a kind of stress test for the liberal, democratic constitutional institutions that we have built with such pain and such struggle over the last two-and-a-quarter centuries,” said former Clinton White House aide Bill Galston. “I am cautiously optimistic that our institutions will pass that test, but they will be tested.”
That might be the best we can hope for with a pathological narcissist for a president.
“Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two makes four. If that is granted, all else follows”
(George Orwell, 1984)
Debunking One of the Many Lies
Trump has dismissed the US intelligence community’s findings that Russia was behind the DNC’s hacking, and that the act was committed to interfere with the election. He calls the claims “ridiculous,” and said that the US has no idea who was behind it.
“No, I don’t believe that at all,” Trump said. “They have no idea if it’s Russia or China or somebody. It could be somebody sitting in a bed some place. I mean they have no idea.”
That’s not true, and he knows it. But he expects to be believed anyway, which would mean believing that every intel agency in America is either incompetent or corrupt. As he tries to change our perception of reality, his attempts to gaslight us have no bounds. He doesn’t even hesitate to ruin his relationship with the very agencies he will be expected to rely upon in order to make important decisions regarding our national security and that could seriously effect the rest of the world.
All 16 US intelligence agencies agree that Russians hacked the DNC, and that the goal was to interfere with the US election process. Trump’s claim that the US has “no idea” who is behind recent email hacks is just not true.
On October 7, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a joint statement on behalf of the U.S. Intelligence Community, which is made up of the 16 agencies. Here is the statement, from the Department of Homeland Security’s website:
“The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations. The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts. These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process. Such activity is not new to Moscow—the Russians have used similar tactics and techniques across Europe and Eurasia, for example, to influence public opinion there. We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.”
Yet Trump—and some of the right-wing media—still insist the story is “fake news” created by the left to “make excuses” for Clinton’s election loss.
During the third presidential debate, Clinton said about Trump: “He’d rather believe Vladimir Putin than the military and civilian intelligence professionals who are sworn to protect us.” Trump was able to manipulate his followers into believing Putin, too, even though the joint statement from the US intelligence community printed above had been released two weeks prior to the debate.
Trump succeeded in his ongoing manipulative campaign to create distrust of the media, which he did to keep his potential voters from the facts. Most of them likely never even saw the statement from US intelligence, or the statements from the nuclear officers and former national security officials declaring Trump a danger and unfit for the presidency.
Today, the New York Times published a well-written and detailed report: “The Perfect Weapon: How Russian Cyberpower Invaded the U.S.” If you have doubts, read it, and then decide for yourself. It should create the point at which the evidence clearly outweighs claims based on someone’s uninformed opinion, especially when he has personal motivation to deny it.
At this point, no one is saying that the voting process itself was tampered with. The release of the DNC emails was intended to damage public opinion about Clinton and thus effect how many would vote for her, according to the CIA, in an effort to tip the election in Trump’s favor.
Should the US have to live with the results of an election that was tampered with by foreign agents? The course of history will be changed. Unless the electoral college overturns the election on December 19th, or some other bombshell drops, Trump will be president. Political experts warn that an Electoral College revolt next week — particularly one waged on the heels of such a bitter election — would cast the nation into crisis.“It would give a lot of people serious confusion and create a sense of panic, even though it would be a perfectly legal, logical progression,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston. Trump’s presidency could cast the nation into a crisis, too, but it’s impossible to be certain of that, so he’ll continue to be given the benefit of the doubt.
“Throughout the campaign, Trump described his philosophy as one of ‘America first.’ He drew an enthusiastic response from his supporters for signaling that he would refocus U.S. foreign policy, away from the course pursued for the past eight years by President Obama and seemingly abandoning a broader consensus that has guided presidents of both parties for decades.
But if standing up to Russian attempts to interfere with American democracy isn’t a foundational principle of an “America first” policy, what is?
Trump’s response has suggested a different focus and different philosophy, one that might be described as ‘Trump first,’ rather than ‘America first.’ His instincts appear to be aimed at shielding himself.”
With all of this chaos—and speculation about Trump’s ties to Russia because of it—you would expect that he would release his tax returns immediately to resolve any ideas of wrongdoing or conflicts of interest on his part. Unless there is some reason to keep them hidden, it does not make sense.
“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”
(Trump, at a campaign rally)
Trump was probably right. He knew his campaign of manipulation had its intended effect. Trump waged a war on reality, one fought with tactics such as gaslighting, distraction, and blatant lying—often in a way that was (and continues to be) outright bullshitting.
In his 2005 book On Bullshit, Harry G. Frankfurt, emeritus philosophy professor at Princeton University, writes that bullshit is more dangerous than lies, since it removes even the possibility of truth existing and being found. Frankfurt observed that even though the liar might spread untruth, he or she inhabits a universe where the distinction between truth and falsehood still matters. The bullshitter, by contrast, does not care what is true or not. “By virtue of this,” Frankfurt writes, “bullshit is a greater enemy of truth than lies are.”
A few examples of Trump’s BS:
- He said that Obama “came out of nowhere,” and that “the people that went to school with him, they never saw him, they don’t know who he is. It’s crazy.”
- He claimed to have seen “thousands and thousands” of Muslim Americans cheering 9/11 New Jersey. When asked why there are no videos of it, Trump told reporter Joe Scarborough that the evidence has disappeared. “Don’t forget, 14, 15 years ago, it wasn’t like it is today, where you press a button and you play a video.”
- He has repeated and vigorously defended his claim that 81 percent of whites who are murdered are killed by blacks, even though the actual number for last year is 15 percent.
Trump’s bullshitting isn’t an anomaly. The Republican party has increasingly adopted positions that defy facts and science. If climate change doesn’t exist, there is no reason to discuss it and no way to solve the problem, because there isn’t any problem to solve.
Trump lied when he feigned outrage over the Clinton email issue. After all of that outrage and all of his promises to “lock her up” because of her threat to national security, Trump considered Gen. David Petraus for Secretary of State—a man who is still on probation after being found guilty of sharing classified documents. And for his national security adviser, Trump picked Ret. Gen. Michael Flynn, who Army officials found guilty of sharing classified material with foreign officials. Trump admitted at a post-election rally that he never really intended to prosecute Clinton, saying that it was good for getting elected and now it was time to forget about it. “That plays great before the election,” he told supporters at a rally. “Now we don’t care, right?”
Trump lied to create distrust in mainstream media. He kept up his anti-media rant throughout his campaign, calling journalists liars, biased, disgusting and scum, and even threatened to sue them and to end freedom of the press if elected, to keep voters from the facts. “Distrust of legitimate journalism is no joking matter. What happens to democracy when an uninformed, misinformed, or dis-informed populace tries to make sound decisions? The simple and terrible answer is, democracy fails,” wrote Kathleen Parker in Fake news, media distrust and the threat to democracy. After the election, Trump met with NY Times editors and said, “The New York Times is a great, great American jewel. A world jewel. And I hope we can all get along well.”
“As a candidate, Trump’s gas lighting was manipulative; as President-elect it is a deliberate attempt to destabilize journalism as a check on the power of government. The threat of deception is not a partisan issue.”
Lauren Duca, Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America.
What is the effect of all of this manipulation and psychological warfare on us? It’s probably not going to stop any time soon.
Trump supporters will be affected, too, as they come to realize that the reality of their candidate is very different from what he presented.
I suspect the effects will be the same ones that so many of us experienced from having been involved in manipulative, abusive, exploitative relationships: Mistrust, betrayal, doubt, confusion, moral injury, grief, depression and shame. We’ve been thrust unwillingly into the chaos and unreality a highly narcissistic and sociopathic public figure has created, one who will soon have the power to change our lives. It’s important for us to have strong boundaries, and to take extra-good care of ourselves at this time.
Read about post-election stress and trauma, and how to deal with it:
This calls for kittens.
I once wrote here that “in the psychopath’s world, things are topsy-turvy. The psychopath sees our strengths as flaws, and sees his flaws as strengths. Things like love and trust and compassion make us fools who are easy to manipulate, while their ability to lie, manipulate, and act without remorse makes them strong and superior.”
Hate, and a lack of compassion, make people easy to manipulate, too. And so do frustration and desperation. We just witnessed this firsthand. Because of it, we now live in a world that is more topsy-turvy than ever.
Why did you stay?
Why did I, and why did the rest of us? If you’re still involved, why can’t you leave?
Find out below. In the process, free yourself from needless self-blame and shame. It is tremendously powerful to understand the facts of your experience. It can help you heal.
The person you loved—maybe more than you ever loved anyone before—and who loved you just as much, is gone from your life, never to return. Of course you’re grieving.
But wait a minute, you tell yourself. You shouldn’t be grieving because you know this person didn’t really love you, and, in fact, your soul mate didn’t even really exist at all. You know now that after the glorious beginning, your relationship slowly became an ever-worsening emotional hell because of manipulation and from being treated with a stunning lack of empathy by person who was incapable of it, and who was also unable to love.
What are you supposed to do with that? (more…)
Early on in my trauma,
I felt incredibly and unbearably vulnerable. And I hated the psychopath I’d been involved with. In fact, I hated all psychopaths. I feared them, too. They terrified me. I felt there might be one lurking behind every bush and every smiling face. I felt paranoid; every time I interacted with someone I drilled my eyes into them, searching for some kind of sign. For a short time, I believed the one I’d known may very well have been the devil himself (something I’d never even believed existed before).
All of those feelings were normal reactions to the trauma I’d experienced. And all of them resolved eventually, because they could not co-exist with empowerment.
None of us wants to be involved in another abusive relationship. How can we prevent it? I regularly hear from people who want to know the difference between narcissists, psychopaths and sociopaths and how to tell them apart. They want to know what to look for, in order to prevent another abusive relationship.
I propose another solution, one that is simpler and much more effective, and that doesn’t require us to become some sort of experts in diagnosing mental health disorders.
“I was addicted to a high that only my abuser could give me. Because the lower an abuser puts someone, the higher they can elevate them.”
~ Amanda Domuracki, Culture Shock, The Highs and Lows of Emotional Abuse
I t seemed that magic had entered our lives. It brought with it once-in-a-lifetime soul-mate love, true romance, amazing sex… We were swept off our feet and taken to an enchanted world just for two, one that floated like a bubble high above the mundane world below.
We never expected that bubble would burst. We believed the incredible intensity we shared indicated a deep connection, one that would last for a lifetime.
Normally, romantic love is an experience that fosters bonding and emotional intimacy. That can’t happen if you’re with someone who isn’t capable of bonding and intimacy. You might not even realize those things are missing when you’re caught up in the extraordinary intensity of your experience and being manipulated and lied to. Smoke and mirrors distract us from the truth.
“I have flown and fallen, and I have swum deep and drowned, but there should be more to love than ‘I survived it.'”
~ Lisa Mantchev, So Silver Bright
Intimacy has to do with trust, understanding, and feeling understood. People who are emotionally intimate can reveal their vulnerabilities without fear of being rejected, ridiculed or invalidated. Intimacy is based on emotional safety, acceptance, respect, and a mutual give-and-take. Without self-disclosure, there can be no intimacy—but intimacy requires that self-disclosure be met with empathy. Empathy means recognizing how someone else feels, understanding it, caring about how that person feels, and then expressing that care.
“There is nothing more intimate in life than simply being understood.”
~ Brad Meltzer, The Inner Circle
Intensity, on the other hand, is all about drama, anxiety, uncertainty, and fear. It’s all about push-pull, hot-cold, high-low.
“I was falling. Falling through time and space and stars and sky and everything in between. I fell for days and weeks and what felt like lifetime across lifetime. I fell until I forgot I was falling.”
~ Jess Rothenberg, The Catastrophic History of You and Me
“Intensity is being completely lost in the emotion of unreasoning desire. It is marked by urgency, sexual desire, anxiety, high risk choices, and the reckless abandonment of what was once valued. All-consuming euphoria similar to recreational drug use (addictive chemical reactions in the brain) …. loss of ability to make rational evaluations of what is true, valuable and worthy. Desire to be always close to that person at any cost.
An intimate relationship is one in which neither party silences, sacrifices, or betrays the self and each party expresses strength and vulnerability, weakness and competence in a balanced way …
Intimacy means that we can be who we are in a relationship, and allow the other person to do the same. ‘Being who we are’ requires that we can talk openly about things that are important to us, that we take a clear position on where we stand on important emotional issues, and that we clarify the limits of what is acceptable and tolerable to us in a relationship.”
~ Excerpt from DANCE OF INTIMACY, by Harriet Lerner, PhD
That’s simply not possible with a psychopath or narcissist. They aren’t capable of emotional intimacy, which means they aren’t capable of healthy relationships.
“The most important test of intimacy is to ask yourself the question, ‘Is this relationship a safe haven where I feel loved and accepted for being me?'”
~ Randi Kreger, Problems With Emotional Intimacy—Typical for BPs and NP
Bonding created by intense emotional highs and lows is maintained by oxytocin (the bonding hormone) and powerful surges of euphoria-inducing dopamine during the highs. During the lows, there is intense craving for more.
Learning theorists have found that a pattern of intermittent reinforcement, which is positive reinforcement alternated with punishment (a pattern of abuse and reward), develops the strongest emotional bonds.
Intermittent good-bad treatment triggers biological changes as well as emotional ones. Going ‘cold turkey’ (having no contact with him or her) may seem impossible. It is the same as an addiction to drugs, alcohol or gambling. This is why you can’t or couldn’t stop thinking about them, despite knowing how bad they were for you.
“Powerful emotional attachments develop from two specific features of abusive relationships: power imbalances and intermittent good-bad treatment.”
~ Dutton and Painter
This addictive attachment is known as a Betrayal Bond or Trauma Bond. A trauma bond is a highly addictive attachment to an abuser. Signs of a trauma bond include the inability to detach and self-destructive denial.
Rhonda Freeman, PhD, a neuropsychologist who helps survivors of psychopathic and narcissistic abuse, expertly explains trauma bonding in her article, The Spellbinding Bond to Narcissists and Psychopaths – What’s Happening in the Brain?
“We cannot walk away, though, because without us realizing it, our abuser has become our human needle; our Drug Lord of Love. The person who owns our self-value and self-worth and who, in the name of love, can reject us into deep lows with a single glare, or send us to euphoric highs with one simple smile.”
~ Amanda Domuracki
“As the relationship goes on, the less safe you feel. That’s a red flag that there’s something really wrong.”
“Your life is loaned to you through an abuser. It is on his or her whim that you thrive, struggle, hope, and fear. In abuse, you can endure a thousand losses for a single, shimmering penny that proves you’ve won something… “
~ Amanda Domuracki
Brene Brown, sociologist and expert on social connection, conducted thousands of interviews to find the root of deep social connection. An analysis of the data revealed that it was vulnerability. Vulnerability here does not mean being weak. On the contrary — what it means is the courage to be yourself. It involves uncertainty, exposure, and risk. We may want to run from vulnerability, but it is an inevitable part of social relationships that are to become close and rewarding.
Emotional intimacy comes from being vulnerable enough to allow yourself to be fully known, and to be accepted and understood when you do. That creates the potential for true intimacy. It does come with the risk of rejection, but if you’re rejected you’ll know that you’re not a relationship you should continue.
To know that you are loved for who you are, and to know someone else in all of their vulnerability and to love them as they are, may be one of life’s most fulfilling experiences. Intensity, on the other hand, is the opposite of fulfilling. It’s draining, exhausting, crazymaking, and ultimately empty.
In future relationships we can ask ourselves, “Is this real intimacy or just intensity?”
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