There was a time when at social functions, I dodged having to tell people what I did for a living. I had early experiences in my career when the hush, pause and gulp at the dinner table was too awkward to bare. However these days, I feel quite cavalier with it all – I am a Clinical and Consulting Psychologist I state with a rising smile and glint in my eye. The response to my newfound confidence has also changed. In the past the question was usually ‘so have you analysed me yet?’ (accompanied with a rising blush and wince), but more recently the questions have been ‘So do you think Trump is a Psychopath?’ (Or something similarly pop psychology-ish – and it was usually spiced with a reference to Jacob Zuma too). It’s a fascinating question, and usually people ask it with disdain, and a metaphorical spit and mumble of disapproval. My response now causes a familiar hush, pause and gulp.
You see, there are Trump’s all around us, in our offices, homes, among our sports and pop culture idols, and communities. They have made it to the top, they have raised our kids and been generally rewarded and praised by society. They often think like the real Trump, they have a worldview of the real Trump, and suffer from similar inadequacies and challenges as the man himself. Their only saving grace is that they haven’t ascended to the highest echelons of power, been subjected to 24 hour a day scrutiny and pressure and been offered a global platform to liberally share their conservative positions. In my view, a large number of people have thick strains of Trump DNA within them and although they would struggle to admit it, they feel secretly emboldened by him (even those that ask me that question).
In my analysis, Trump’s sense of judgement is a window into his character. We get to see his moral and ethical orientation, and constantly assess his integrity and trustworthiness (to which he lashes out and attempts to discredit the honesty of all and sundry – oh how Psychologists are falling over themselves to name that trait). Depending on the level to which an observer can manage their own emotional reactions to him, we have the opportunity to explore why he may do the things he does. With more time and observations, we could predict exactly how he may behave under a wide range of circumstances (I have got quite close). We would also don a lens with which to look at many other people around us. We may discover a Trump living next door, a Trump as a boss or colleague, or even a half annoying friend. It’s as if the US president’s technicolor reality has exposed a millions-deep community of people who have bullied, trounced and at times discriminated their way to the top with regular bouts of petulance, ignorance, shouting and populist rhetoric (and that goes beyond just politics – think of the last ra ra business event you attended).
Beneath their behaviour – and their displayed and dubious character- is a psychology reality that is utterly intriguing. In my next blog, I will paint a picture of the psychology story that triggers the very public behaviour we see. Stay tuned, and in the meantime, let me know what you think is going on in that mind of the man, and who else in your life might be the Trump next door?