By Dr David Laing Dawson
To be released January 15, this is a collection of the blogs written in the past two years and a bit about Donald Trump and American politics. The excerpt below is from the introduction.
It is perilous for a psychiatrist to write about a political figure. First it is unethical to analyze or diagnose someone without actually examining that person within the social contract of a doctor/patient relationship. And to make those findings public one needs the consent of the patient.
And our analyses, formulations or diagnoses are context dependent. That is, the purpose of these labels and interpretations is to help (alleviate suffering first) someone who is a patient.
No matter how much science lies behind these formulations and diagnoses they are still words, words that carry implications, much baggage, and interpretation is required.
Let’s take the word “narcissism” for example. We all know what it means, roughly, and how it is derived from a Greek Myth of a beautiful hunter who had so much self-regard that he fell in love with his reflection in a pool and could not leave the pool. Eventually his passion for himself and his reflection consumed him and he turned into a flower.
Curiously that myth also includes devoted followers who commit suicide for him.
Of course narcissism is not a thing. It is a spectrum of implied inner traits (implied by others from observations of behaviour) of self-regard. How much is too little? How much is too much? How much is extreme? We all need a little just to get out of bed in the morning.
Within the social contract of a doctor/patient relationship, this idea of narcissism only arises when we see these implied traits limiting or hurting our patient. When they seem to be the central problem, limiting relationships, limiting vocations, causing harm to self and others, then we might add the words Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Even then we might argue whether it is a bona fide fixed trait, or an extreme overcompensation for its opposite. And what is an appropriate (or good, functional) level of self-regard for a child, a teenager, a young person, a mature person, especially in an age of “identity politics” and “being the best self you can be.”? At what point for a political leader does narcissism contribute to success, or make someone a wonderful subject for satire, or be dangerous for others?
And when we colloquially call someone “narcissistic” it is never meant as a compliment.
So many caveats.
But, but, we live in a moment of history when the leader of the free world (as the president of the United States is so often called) may hold in his hands the future path of democracy, the fate of millions all over the world, and, ultimately, the fate of our planet.
And that fact, I think, trumps (sorry) all the caveats. It is a time that anyone who can see the dangers posed by this man has a duty to speak up.
I started these blogs before Donald J. Trump was improbably elected. The most popular among them has been my assessment of Donald J. Trump’s mental and emotional age. I arrived at an age simply from observations of his behaviour and his statements, while asking the question, “At what age in development would one expect, or not be too shocked, to observe this behaviour?” I came up with an average of 14. Though occasionally his displays of sibling rivalry and his assessment of his own greatness are definitely pre-pubescent.
We become easily inured, desensitized. The outrageous and abnormal can be made to feel normal. A step at a time. The German government enacted something like 50 laws over a short historical period, starting with restricting Jews from Union Leadership.
Some of the political pundits on television comment regularly on the “abnormal” becoming “normal”. But the very presentation on TV contributes to the desensitization.
These blogs constitute my interpretation of the journey we are on with the Presidency of one Donald J. Trump as it is happening.
Two Years of Trump on the Psychiatrist’s Couch will be released on January 15 in print and in e-book formats. It is available now for pre-order at Amazon for the kindle version. Visit https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07LCSWKNF
Mind You: The Realities of Mental Illness by Dawson and Ross will also be released on January 15 in print and e-book formats. It is available now for pre-order at Amazon for the kindle version. Please visit https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07LCT2V4V