Monthly Archives: May 2016

Not a Ho-Hum Threat

Can psychoanalysis help us understand, for instance,  Marco Rubio? Three months ago, at a public rally, he said Trump was a con man. Today, he would be honored to speak on Trump’s behalf at the Republican convention. Or can psychoanalysis make sense of Rick Perry, who, a few months back, called Trump a cancer? Today, he offers to serve as his running mate in the general election. In the past week, once Trump had secured the nomination, nearly the entire Republican establishment fell in line in Trump’s support, whereas -was it yesterday? – he was a loose cannon, utterly unfit for the Presidency.

I agree with Robert Kagan, a scholar at the Brookings Institute, “This could be one of those moments that’s quite dangerous and we’ll look back and wonder why we treated it as ho-hum at a time when we could have stopped it.” A member of the Melting Pot observes, “What’s disturbing is that Trump is not disturbing commensurate with his disturbance.” If Trump becomes president, in my judgment, this past week was an essential turning point in history, when “everything was changed.”

From a psychoanalytic point of view, Republicans’ 180 degree turn-around regarding Trump’s qualifications to serve as their nominee is diagnostic of a thinking disorder. How can Rubio, Perry, the entire Republican leadership villify him for his narcissism, grandiosity and malignancy for a year and then promise him their unconditional support?  Answer: By a paranoid-schizoid state of mind, a thinking disorder that now threatens our political way of life.

Schizoid means “split off from.” Schizoid mechanisms refer to the mind splitting off from awareness unwanted facts that it experiences as disturbing or threatening or inconvenient. Republican politicians reversed their judgment on Trump without batting an eye, splitting off facts as close to home as speeches they themselves made. But isn’t that par for the course, you may ask? Isn’t that what politicians do? How does paranoid-schizoid add to our understanding?

Suppose every member of the Republican establishment is fully aware of the fact he has changed his position on Trump. Rubio hasn’t forgotten that speech he made three months ago. Rick Perry knows he referred to Trump as a cancer.The facts haven’t disappeared into the ether, mysteriously split off. Facts are facts. Not so! A result of splitting is that facts lose their emotional resonance. They become two-dimensional, as it were,  flattened into merely “dry facts,” irrelevant, with no oomph. They do not figure into Republican thinking. They have transmogrified from energy-charged to ho-hum. The facts about Trump are unchanged, but they now have an entirely different emotional valence in the Republican Party. Splitting has enabled Trump to go from con man to champion.

Since the Obama presidency, Republicans have been crippling our government by paranoid-schizoid thinking. There are endless examples. Take Obamacare. The facts of what it means to be uninsured and the fact that nearly twenty million are finally insured have had no emotional reality for Republican congressman, who voted over 60 times to repeal it. Consider infrastructure. The facts are endlessly elaborated, but they have no resonance. They are simply split off, denuded from love of country or guilt about neglecting its needs. For the last months, the effort to get Congress to vote on a Supreme Court justice attempts to undo schizoid mechanisms.

A paranoid-schizoid thought disorder has the Republican establishment hailing Trump as a Caesar. If he becomes president, everything will be changed in our political life. It is not a ho-hum threat.

(to be continued)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Murder!

Psychoanalysis listens. It keeps its ears open. What it hears is often dismissed as far-fetched. With Trump in line to win the Republican nomination for the presidency of the United States, what psychoanalysis makes of Trump sounds hyperbolic, even hysterical.

At our country’s grave peril, It goes unnoticed that Trump is pre-occupied with murder. Not just violence, which he eggs on, but murder!  He claims that Ted Cruz’s father was involved with Harvey Lee Oswald in the murder of President Kennedy. He claims the Clintons were involved in the murder of Vince Foster, who suicided twenty years ago. At his rallies he features family victims of murders by alleged illegals. For Trump, like Macbeth, his thoughts are bloody or are nothing worth.

In his speech at Hiroshima today, President Obama reminded the world that during the 20th century, man murdered 60 milion of his own kind. The poet, Hagiwara Sakutaro, discovers that lethal capability in himself. His puzzling and perverse self serves as a warning that civilization is a difficult pursuit and that benign political structures are fragile.

“Ah, a day when my depressions are endless.

“I close my eyes and try chomping into a plant root so I can suck its sap the way I suck depresssion’s bitter juices. I have no hope that doing so will help, for my life is but one incomprehensible depression after another. Ever since my long-past boyhood, this cheerless heart has cast a shadow over my path through life. The shadow of solitude deepens little by little, and the glooms of my dreadful depressions surge.”

Sakutaro now plunges into the deepest region of the primitive mental apparatus. He commits murder, then hacks The Good Breast to pieces, the dismemberment of woman.

“Yes, what a depressing delusion! These weighty limbs, weighty hearts, gloomy knots of matter heaped endlessly on matter. Yes, what beautiful aberrations. I see in this wood both women’s weighty, cast-off limbs, and the bewitching ponderousness of dissipated thighs and breasts.”

Melanie stressed that our original home is the mother’s body, and the containing and detoxifying function of The Good Breast is the origin of the human mind. Preventing this work is Greed that aims to scoop out and suck it dry, and Envy, that not only robs The Good Breast but also puts badness in, to spoil and destroy it.

The fact that needs to be shouted across our land is that Trump is out of his mind. The poet uses language to recognize his murderousness is a “depressing delusion.” He uses language to make thinkable an unthinkable thought. Not so for Trump. Possessed by greed and driven by rivalry, he uses language to destroy anyone who challenges him. His speeches feature his grandiosity and his vindictiveness. There is no evidence of mind. Language is not the handmaiden of reason but has been forged into a lethal weapon.

The poet discovered what psychoanalysis has discovered: the mind is fragile. Civilization is fragile. Its institutions are fragile. That nearly the entire Republican establishment is in support of Trump is a terrifying demonstration of how easily mankind can lose its mind.

 

A Terrifying Mandate

In the May 20th edition of The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik wrote,

“If Trump came to power, there is a decent chance that the American experiment would be over. This is not a hyperbolic prediction; it is not a hysterical prediction; it is simply a candid reading of what history tells us happens in countries with leaders like Trump. … The national psyche never gets over learning that its institutions are that fragile and their ability to resist a dictator that weak. If he can rout the Republican Party in a week by having effectively secured the nomination, ask yourself what Trump could do with the American government if he had a mandate.”

I agree with Gopnik. His predictions are neither hyperbolic nor hysterical. Trump threatens to explosively destroy our 230  years of  democratic government. His presidency would quickly evolve into a dictatorshp. Consider the following:

Ten minutes after the news services reported the mysterious disappearance of a commerial jet flying from Paris to Cairo, Trump told the world what had happened. He knew. It is now six days later, the cause of the tragedy still not established. Trump is unfazed.  “I’m right. I’m always right. Always right.”

That is the chest-pounding of a dictator. It is a declaration of omnipotence, making Trump an existential threat to our democracy. One thing is certain: what he does now in the green leaf, he will do on an unimaginable scale in the dry, Consider what exactly is the “mandate” Gopkin is talking about. Here’s one currently in action. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad assumes the mandate to kill hundreds of thousands of his civilians and set off the flight of several million refugees to remain in power. Can psychoanalysis help us understand such madness?

Melanie Klein discovered that grandiosity, such as a claim to omnipotence – “I’m always right” –  derives from envy of The Good Breast and its life-giving powers, setting up a murderous rivalry. For some, perhaps constitutionally, the fact of our helplessness and dependency is not to be endured. “We came crying hither. The first time we smell the air we waul and cry.” Envy will not abide such a truth. This rivalry is evident in every word out of Trump’s mouth, his narcissism legendary, his powers omnipotent.

With Trump determining the civic climate, our body politic is driven by hatred and violence.  Civility is despoiled. Attack! Attack! Attack! is the received political wisdom. Vindictiveness is in full galllop. Gopnik tells us our way of life is fragile, vulnerable to the blandishments of a dictator like Trump. True, he’s already set up shop. He’s the dictator of the Republican party. However, what needs to be diagnosed is our vulnerability to Trump’s delusions. His mandate is already poisoning our land. One doesn’t need the gift of prophesy to fear for our country’s future if he becomes president.

Hagiwara Sakutaro, his poetry intended to make sense out of his “perverse and puzzling life,” discovered what Melanie discovered about envy and rivalry of The Good Breast. I will share his experience.

(to be continued)

 

 

 

 

Trump’s Mind

Can  psychoanalysis help us understand Trump and his appeal? I have proposed it can, using only data that is public and accessible to all. This is my sixth blog concerning Trump.

Hagiwara Sakutara,  unraveling the workings of his “perverse, puzzling self” through free verse, discovered constant dread made him tremble like a wind-jostled reed. He needed Woman – to hold him, to calm him, to speak to him. He generalized his observation. “We men have endlessly joyless hearts. Our male hearts are destitute and charged forever with grief.”

This isn’t exactly good news to the male ego. Men rather play games featuring superheroes than inventory their inner world  among wind-jostled reeds. Melanie Klein, the most creative psychoanalyst since Freud, with whom she trained, described two states of mind as different as night from day, each a response to man’s need for support – one, the depressive position and the other, the paranoid-schizoid position.

Sakutaro makes vivid a depressive state of mind, one endlessly joyless and charged with grief. However, a fundamental structure in Melanie’s concept of the depressive position is personal responsibility and acceptance of that fact. Self-awareness is the beginning of wisdom. It’s not a walk in the park to ‘fess up. The apostle Peter is a wonderful example of crashing into depression as psychoanalytically defined. The Roman soldiers had him in their sights as a follower of their prisoner, Jesus. No! No! Peter assured them. They had him mixed up with someone else. He began to curse and swear buttressing his innocence. And then, from afar, Jesus looked at him. His denial demonstrated a schizoid state of mind, splitting Peter from the facts. With that look from his Lord, he plummeted into depression, weeping bitterly. Not so with Judas. When he realized the truth, he could not survive the depression and went out and hanged himself.

Achieving the depressive position is a triumph of growth and development. In addition to living in personal truth, one recognizes that the relationship with reality is one’s responsibility. When President Obama talks of respecting facts, of dedication to science and math, he is drawing attention to the reciprocal relationship with The Good Breast. Acceptance of one’s need for care gives the power to care for others, especially to care for the sustainablity of Mother   Earth.

What about paranoid-schizoid? Everyone knows that paranoid means persecutory. Someone’s out to get you, real or imagined. What is not well-known is that paranoid also means grandiose. A term commonly used to describe paranoid grandiosity is omnipotence. The second term, schizoid, means split off. In Melanie’s usage, the mind is split off from the facts that are depressing.

As for Donald Trump, former Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal said,  “Donald Trump is not a serious candidate. He’s a narcissist. He’s an egomaniac. The only thing he believes in is himself.”

I’m sorry, Bobby, Trump has become a serious candidate, namely, electable to the Presidency. He has been described as a “pathological liar, a charleton, a con man,” by Republicans.The outcome to his political campaign has left the world disbelieving our “stupidity.” Believe it!  I’m counting on Melanie to help us.

Trump is locked into the paranoid-schizoid position. And his followers?

(to be continued)

The Good Breast

A Trump Presidency may be unthinkable, but it’s possible. Rachel Maddow is even more frightening than Nate Silver. Nate gives Trump a 25% chance to win the general election, whereas Rachel gives him a 50% chance. I am using the findings of psychoanalysis to help us understand how and why Trump is such a threat.

A fundamental fact of human life is that we can’t grow and develop by sucking our thumb. No creature in this world needs more attention and support, none more dependent on what psychoanalysis identifies as The Good Breast. Hagiwara Sakutaro, one of Japan’s greatest modern poets, describes his experience of this fundamental relationship, recognizing both its emotional complexity and its life-giving support.

“Dread constantly makes my honed sensibilities tremble like wind-jostled reeds. Woman! Hold me tight with your lovely, dauntless right arm and tenderly, so tenderly, calm my trembling afflicted heart. Just hold me tight, and as you caress my shoulder place your dear warm hand over my fragile heart. Ah, woman, speak to me with your tender, tear-tinged words: “There, there now, don’t be afraid, don’t you fear a thing. Always snuggle close to me, to my robust heart, to these beautiful hands, to these arms, to these dauntless breasts.”

Sakutaro is wonderfully sane. His honed sensibilities bring news he does not bestride the world like a superhero, but in fact he’s as vulnerable as a wind-jostled reed. He needs care and comfort.  Freud recognized we can turn this vulnerability on its head through the power of fantasy. We can imagine we are unassisted masters of our fate, heroic captains of our souls.

At a rally some months ago, Trump had piled up truck-loads of steaks and cases of wine on stage. He claimed these products came from Trump Enterprises. He lied. The steaks came from a  local meat-market, the labels still left on the packages. The wine came from a local winery. There, you see, as simple as sucking one’s thumb! Trump has destroyed 16 rivals. He marches through our land like Sherman marching to the sea.  By the magical powers of his personality, he will make America great again. From morning to night he tells us how fantastic he is. He lies as blatantly as his con with the steaks and wine. Why do so many citizens believe him?

President Obama spoke at Rutgers commencement last week-end. He stressed the need for facts, for math, for science and for logic. Pursuing these enterprises requires “submitting to the discipline.” They are at the farthest remove from magic and instant gratification. The President spoke of the need for community, for relying on others, for working as one people. Benjamin Peirce asserted mathematics draws necessary conclusions. It is not beholden to wishes and whims. Every science takes the proverbial 10,000 hours to master. Trump has not served one hour in an elective office, and yet he claims to be uniquely equipped for the most difficult one of all.

(to be continued)

 

 

 

The Donald’s Thumb

Nate Silver gives Trump a 25% chance to win the Presidency in the general election. I agree with George Will that we must do everything in our power to avoid this tragedy. For my part, I will blog psychoanalytic concepts that may prove heuristic in understanding why Trump is so dangerous. In my last blog, psychoanalysis demonstrated the durability of character. Trump is not going to turn Presidential next week or next year or ever. He is who he is.

Melanie Klein studied with Freud and added  enormously to our understanding of the inner world. She recognized we don’t become human by sucking our thumb. Changing the metaphor, no one pulls herself up by her own bootstraps. Understandably, it is terrifying to arrive as a helpless infant, in need of constant attention. But it is what it is. We got “thrown” into the world. We arrive on the planet with our inner self shapeless, a collection of bits and pieces. We get put together through the care of emotionally indispensable others. We need to be taken in personally, in ways never realized. Melanie subsumed this interaction under the concept of The Good Breast.

One doesn’t need the genius of Melanie nor even the competence of an ordinary psychoanalyst to recognize the defining feature of Donald Trump:

IT’S HIS THUMB!

The Donald is a world-class thumb-sucker. Melanie may insist one can’t grow and develop through such fantasy, but Trump will have none of her crap. The Good Breast? He has no idea what Melanie’s talking about. Trump rants endlessly about his powers, his mastery of the world. He begins every rally by waving his thumb. That’s not his metaphorical thumb, but it can serve as a reminder that this man lives in fantasy.

The question we need to ask is this: If that Thumb is a central feature of Trump’s inner mind, how does this fact shape Trump’s behavior in everyday life?  Answer, and it is wholly predictable: Trump will demonstrate a relentless narcissism and instigate interminable wars on women. For nearly a year, no end of observers have recognized his narcissism. Trump makes endless reference to himself and his great powers. By the force of his personality, he will manage Russia, likewise China; he will deport eleven million illegals; he will use nuclear weapons as he sees fit, and so forth.

There’s an old expression, “Talent hits a target no one else can hit, whereas genius hits a target no one else can see.”  Melanie recognized that when someone believes one can suck life on one’s own, one is in a murderous relationship with The Good Breast. The upshot is endless war, fueled by envy. Women are demeaned, humiliated, controlled. They are the enemy, and every relationship with them becomes hurtful and crushing.

Trump’s history with women was documented at length in yesterday’s New York Times.  We have witnessed with our own eyes and ears his belittlement of and belligerence to women this past year. We don’t need to troll the Unconscious or history. However, the article is useful in that it demonstrates the durability of character.

Trump’s grandiosity is delusional. Obviously, he doesn’t have the vast powers he claims for himself. There is no such animal as a self-made woman or self-made man. Trump’s narcissism poses a terrifying threat, given Nate Silver’s prediction. A simple example. Folks have wondered about his pre-ocupation with small hands. At some level, Trump knows he is a phony. He is extremely sensitive to any slight, real or imagined. Given the vast powers of the Presidency, he will have unlimited resources for dealing with his enemies. Now he’s having fun. He holds all the cards. When he is outed as an imposter, he will make Nixon look like a teacher in Jimmy Carter’s Sunday School.

 

The Durability of Character

In a recent column, George Will wrote,  “Donald Trump’s damage to the Republican Party, although already extensive, has barely begun. Republican quislings will multiply, slinking into support of the most anti-conservative presidential aspirant in their party’s history.” Will asserted the responsibility of the GOP is to prevent a Trump presidency!

I am in agreement with Will. In my judgment, a President Trump would do unimaginable damage. What can I contribute, if anything, to  avert such a political catastrophe? I have spent most of my professional life as a psychoanalyst, so I decided I will present insights from this discipline in the hope they will help us, an aroused citizenry, better understand Trump and the dangers he threatens.

At the beginning of my training, I was listening to Herbert Rosenfelt present a clinical case. He was an internationally recognized authority in psychoanalysis, and he had come from England to chair a two week seminar. His patient was in her ninth year of treatment. He detailed a recent session. It was thrilling, the patient working brilliantly with the analyst. Shockingly, at the next session, the patient was back to square one, attacking their successful partnership with murderous envy. After nine years! All the wonderful work in the previous session had simply evaporated.

Rosenfeld’s personality  wasn’t peaches and cream, and I silently figured a cheerful chap like me would get a better result. Wrong! As I worked with patients through the years, I was stunned over and over again how incredibly difficult it is to change one’s character, even when desperately desired. My patients fought the good fight, but recidivism shadowed every step forward.

Freud called psychoanalysis a “working through.” He recogniized that the inner world is durable, and that means that it is structured. Structure is not of the moment. It persists through time. If one wants to change structure,  one has work to do, demolishing the structure that is pathologic and building a new one afresh. As Freud came to recognize the complexity of the human character, the longer a psychoanalysis was required. My mentor, Wilfred Bion, never tired of pointing out the analytic couple comes into the story very late. It is estimated that from birth, when we are nearly helpless, to age 18, we need 13 million calories. Time and energy. Lots! We are, each of us, the archivist of a long history and enormously complicated.

Donald Trump is 69. And what do we hear? This week or the next, he will become Presidential. He will change his character. Simple as all that! That he has worked as a politician less than a year is no problem. Apparently politics is a trivial pursuit, requiring no special understanding of The Constitution, economics, the judiciary, the workings of Congress, nuclear weapons, history…the list goes on and on. In fact, it is a truism that the Presidency of the United States is the most important, the most stressful and demanding “job” on our vulnerable planet.

The candidate the Republican Party proposes for this office is Donald Trump. Who is Donald Trump?

HE IS WHO HE IS. HE IS WHO HE HAS ALWAYS BEEN. AND HE WILL NOT CHANGE.

As every psychoanalyst discovers, the durability of character is a fact of life. One doesn’t change structure with a wave of the hand. It takes energy, relentless effort and commitment. Even with an established methodology, enriched by a century of practice by the brightest workers, changing one’s inner world through psychoanalysis is a Herculean labor.

Trump is Trump. Trump is more than content in being Trump. What you see is what you got.

Only a quisling would claim otherwise.

 

Mitch McConnell

Eric Hoffer asserted that maintenance is the hallmark of civilization. It’s no fun doing dishes. Not exciting cleaning the toilet. No thrill mopping the kitchen floor. What motivates keeping things in order is not pleasure.. It is driven by reality, by a sense of responsibility to keep one’s world in working order.

On a national scale, maintenance of our country’s infrastructure was the hallmark of an intact and functioning civilization.  Keeping our roads, our bridges, our airports up to snuff had always been a non-partisan issue. Isn’t maintenance a matter of common sense? What more important work needs to be done? Not only that, throughout Obama’s presidency money was to be had at nearly zero interest, providing dirt-cheap funding for millions of our unemployed youth loitering on a million street corners, while boosting the economy. This land is your land, it’s my land. Yet McConnell let it go to hell.

Mitch said No! to our country’s needs. He was busy bogging down our instruments of government in an all-consuming hatred for Obama. He had no interest in governing. He cared only for power, vowing to make Obama a one-term President. He obstructed everything. He made clear to the American electorate that with him in power politics is a sham, an exercise in futility. Year in and year out we heard the importance of infrastructure legislation. It never happened. President Obama is still pleading the case.

Mitch McConnell made politics an exercise in futility. What was the point? Nothing was accomplished. Any work done would simply burnish Obama’s presidency. Out of the question! And out of that  “dark backward and abysm of time” came Donald Trump.

One can’t call him The Donald anymore. He is now in line for the Presidency of our country. What is the appeal of Trump? He will take action. He will govern! He will shake off the paralysis Mitch injected into the body politic. He will make America great again because he is a shaker and a mover. He will prove the second great emancipator, freeing us from that prison house called Washington.

The American people are doers. We are pragmatists. We settlled a great continent. And we are fed up with Mitch McConnell, who blocked normal political life. We’re starved for oxygen. And that’s what Trump recognizes and plays to.

His success is his ability to diagnose the problem. “You want action?” he shouts. “How ’bout deportimg eleven million illegals? That’s action. And blocking Muslims from around the world from entering our country. And when it comes to heroes, I like those who aren’t captured, who take action. McKain was a prisoner. Not what I prefer. And when it comes to China and Russia and whoever else, I’ll make deals. Get that: I will MAKE deals. No one does that better than me.”

His political rallies feature violence. He eggs it on. Why do his numbers go up? He takes action. “Go get ’em, Trump.” He destroyed 16 rivals, and he lists their high status, and he, The Trump, knocked them all to Kingdom Come.

Ttrump is all the terrible things they say about him. That’s not why he is so dangerous. The chilling fact is Trump knows exactly the America Mitch McConnell has tortured relentlessly.. We feel garroted. And in our fury, we the people are not reliable.

We actually may do the unthinkable and elect Trump for president.