Tag Archives: Donald Trump

Memory is a Construction – Donald Trump’s Struggling Brain

By Dr David Laing Dawson

When we remember an event we are synthesizing bits of information and feelings into a plausible whole, and when we speak that memory we organize those bits into a narrative to suit the present context.

We adults may catch ourselves in an implausible narrative and then correct it. (It could not have been my sister because she was not yet born and we still lived in the farmhouse in Harrisburg.)

But if the current context reinforces that narrative, responds to it positively, then it becomes memory and the basis for the next elaboration, especially for children and teens.

I have been thinking about this because of two very removed events: Though I have known about the culpability of my profession in the transformation of a device of fiction (dual or multiple personality) into a diagnostic category, I was not aware, until recently, of the role a Canadian psychiatrist played in fomenting the pandemic of “satanic ritual child abuse and sacrifice” that caused so much grief to parents and child care workers in the 1980’s/90’s. (Please note that though hundreds of parents and professionals were accused of this, and some sent to jail, it did not happen; there is absolutely no evidence it ever happened in North America in the 20th century) . These were all creative tales spun by children under the influence of naive and prurient therapists.

I remember almost falling off my chair when I heard, at the time, a prominent child psychiatrist pronounce that “Children don’t lie”. Not only do children and teens lie but they are especially susceptible to the implications of their context, the perceived wishes of the interviewer, the adult in the room, and to including bits of information from story books, folk tales, TV, film, video games along with actual experience to formulate a narrative. And the child and adolescent brain is not good at screening for implausibility.

Which brings me to Donald Trump and some of his most recent statements. The first is an interview in which he substituted the word “orange” for “origin” several times without, apparently, hearing himself do this. The second is his repeated story of his father being born in Germany, “a …wonderful.. place in Germany”. You can almost hear his brain struggling with some cliches such as “a little village” before leaving it at “wonderful”. (His father was born in New York City in 1905).

Two possibilities for that first one: Either he does not hear himself when he speaks, or his narcissism won’t allow him to catch and correct: “Did I say orange? I meant or i gin.”

For the second, well, he tells whatever story he feels will reap kudos, admiration, and praise from his current audience and he sticks with it because he has a child’s screening process for implausibility and no one, apparently, except the “fake news”, will point these falsehoods out to him.

Advertisements

Two Years of Trump on the Psychiatrist’s Couch – Ad Banned by Pinterest

By Marvin Ross

Everyone keeps telling me what a wonderful site Pinterest is and the value of posting information there and of advertising. Frankly, I find it totally confusing but I decided to try it out and set up a Bridgeross Communications board (or is it a pin?). And then I thought I would create an ad which comprised a cover of the Trump book, a link to the Amazon kindle sales page and a brief explanation.

That explanation also comprise a quote from the write up of out two new books from the Hamilton Spectator which said the book  “is a fascinating, insightful, often humorous, usually chilling plunge into the coral folds of the brain under that Cheeto-coloured scalp”.

I thought I would test with a $10 limit and, as a publisher, I’ve done these types of ads on both google and facebook.

Much to my surprise, about a day after submitting the ad, I received a rejection from Pinterest that said, in part, that it “didn’t meet our advertising guidelines.”

Specifically:

Sensitive content
We want to keep Pinterest a safe place for discovering possibilities, so we don’t allow divisive or disturbing ads that could trigger users. We don’t allow language or imagery that is:

• Offensive or profane (censored or not)
• Excessively violent or gory
• Sickening or gross
• Sexually suggestive
• Politically, culturally or racially insensitive
Unless paired with educational or charitable information, we also don’t allow:

• Content that capitalizes on recent controversial or tragic events
• References to sensitive health and medical conditions

They then offered me the chance to revise the ad.

Like I’m going to do that but since when is it offensive to criticize a politician or any public figure. Libel laws protect people from invalid comments but where is the freedom of speech in the US these days? Where is the 1st amendment?

To date, the book has sold in North America, the UK and Australia and has been bought by libraries in the US, Germany and the Netherlands. But, I guess that it is too sensitive for the poor souls who inhabit Pinterest. Pity!

 

Amoral Operatives

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Some years ago I wrote an email to an old High School and University friend suggesting we launch a class action law suit against our parents, our teachers, the city fathers of Victoria, BC,  the department of education, our coaches and profs, for misleading us about the nature of human society. I think at the time an egregious scandal was erupting in the USA where he lived and, of course, a smaller, slightly less outrageous scandal was being investigated in Canada.

And I am now, though not by choice, acquainted with the likes of Manafort and Stone and Corsi. Despite being something of a student of human behaviour I am quite astonished and bewildered by these and other “operatives.”

They are no longer young men, and they may spend their final decade in prison, but it seems from their teens through adult life they have wormed their way into front row seats within the opera house of corruption, despotism, greed and power. And here is my question: How does a Roger Stone seek out, find, acquire such jobs as consultant to or lobbyist for Ferdinand Marcos and Mobuto Sese Seko, along with Reagan, Nixon, and Trump?

I do not recall my University advisor and second year philosophy professor including in his list of possible career choices (along with suggesting I consider teaching English) making pots of money consulting to Viktor Yanukovych and Jonas Savimbi.

How do you get these jobs?

It appears that as amoral operatives these men were able to successfully partake of the spoils of a wide range of criminals, dictators and despots around the world, as well as American presidential candidates, throughout their adult lives, without running into trouble, at least until they hitched their wagons to Donald Trump.

Roger Stone has a tattoo image of Nixon on his back.

Matthew George Whitaker apparently said his job was to “throw himself on a grenade for Donald Trump.”

Paul Manafort is playing both hands, cooperating with but lying to Mueller, going for both a lighter sentence and a pardon from Trump.

Perhaps these men are necessary for the Idi Amins, the Marcos, the Hitlers, the Putins, the Yanukovych’s and the Trumps of this world.

Amoral operatives willing to feign sacrificial allegiance to anyone who might be able, at least for a while, bestow upon them money, status and power.

Perhaps they are more dangerous than the would-be despots, for who would that silly little failed artist with the silly mustache, or that blonde comb over con artist and that short bare-chested strutting Russian sportsman be without these second tier amoral operatives?

Also Coming in January – Two Years of Trump on the Psychiatrist’s Couch

By Dr David Laing Dawson

cover dawson trump

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

Dumb as a Rock

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Having lost the centrality and privilege of childhood and now struggling with their own insecurities there is a moment some teens decide, and announce to me, that ALL their peers are stupid, dumb as rocks, and lying. Usually for teens trapped in this moment of narcissistic injury they make one exception. For boys it may be an online friend supporting his complaints in a gaming forum, for girls it is a best friend who goes to a different school.

Usually they grow past this period of developmental disappointment: A combination of time, some success at something, some judicious counselling, the love of a parent, finding a boyfriend or girlfriend, and sometimes taking the right medication for excess anxiety.

The analogy with Donald J. Trump is imperfect. For the teenagers their “dumb as rocks” peers comprise a classroom of 30 or a school of 1000. It is the limit of their experience at this age. New acceptable friends are hard to find.

But Donald, for every friend, associate and peer he decides is “dumb as a rock” there are two new friends waiting in the wings for a role in the play, and a chance to be best of buddies.

But the language he uses is the same:the playground accusations, the remarkable hyperbole, the name calling, the self reference, the projections, and the underlying insecurities.

I suspect the only reason Donald’s tweets sometimes sound more sophisticated than a 15 year old complaining to me is that he is quoting some words and numbers from Fox & Friends, as in “the 245 times James Comey told the investigators he didn’t know.”.

As this drama unfolds over the next few months I hope the adults in the room remember we are dealing with a very narcissistic 14 year old with the moral compass of a peanut.

Perhaps we can resurrect Donald’s parents and have Mueller and Congress hand the whole thing off to family court.

 

A Cornered Narcissist is not a Pretty Sight

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Here is what to expect:

Increasing displays of petulance, irrational accusations, self-pity, rage, and depression, while he continues to seek out adoring crowds and fawning world leaders wherever he can find them.

This depression will take the form of blunt affect, self-imposed isolation, and paranoia.

I was struck by Trump’s demeanour right after the midterms. The news channels referred to it as upbeat, positive. His words (the actual words) started out upbeat, declaring the midterms a Republican “victory”, calling it “great”, before taking pot shots at all his favourite enemies and hinting at a democratic/deep state conspiracy against him, but his affect throughout this was flat, his pronunciation dull, his face blunted. even when using the words “great” and “victory” – at least until his petulant rage at Jim Acosta.

With the democrats now having the majority in the House, the republicans weakened in many State legislatures, the firing of Jeff Sessions, we are now into the endgame.

I don’t profess to feel any certainty how this will unfold. The possibilities include everything from impeachment to endless investigations to a thin gruel of feigned bipartisanship to more unrest, polarization, and violence.

But Donald Trump’s responses are predictable, and highly visible in his five tweets today attacking the press and the Mueller Investigation with even more recklessness and less attention to reality than we have seen before.

There was a time when a mad king could be isolated and the kingdom protected from his madness. Unfortunately we now have twitter and more than a few sycophants surrounding this president. And many more commentators still trying to shine a kind light on his outrageous words and notions.

Perhaps the world’s frightening march back to 1913 with the rise of nationalism, the erection of fences, the dissolution of agreements, and the rebirth of oligarchs will proceed without Trump. Or, or, or America might return to an improved version of itself as the beacon of successful liberal democracy, perhaps even with universal health care, gun control, less racism and a major role to play addressing climate change. I hope they try. Whatever poison flows below the 49th parallel tends to seep into Canada.

So, my American friends, it is now time for damage control and careful planning. If only you could promise him a statue bigger than Lincoln’s and the rating of “best president ever” in the history books in return for his retirement to Mar-a-Lago, quietly and permanently.

Trump Trashes the Veneer of Civilization.

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Just as we humans always overestimate our memories and find ourselves regretting we didn’t commit to paper or snapshot yesterday or last week, we also overestimate the extent to which our actions are guided by thoughtful consideration and choice.

We are easily influenced, especially if the influence is playing to our rat brain, to centuries of old survival coding.

The crowd of ordinary people chant in unison, “Lock her up. Lock her up.” It is, of course, entirely irrational, a bit nasty, and quite contrary to all due processes of judgment and punishment that have developed within western civilization over the past 100 years. I scan the part of the crowd shown on my monitor and I can’t find one person who has chosen not to chant.

But then we already know this about humans within crowds and mobs and humans under the influence of a charismatic authority, even when that authority is self-proclaimed. It is a small percent that can resist at that moment, that can buck the trend, be contrary, who can ask themselves, “Is this right?”

We know this from history. We know this from the Nuremberg Trials, from human behaviour in times of armed conflict and occupation. And we know this from some simple experiments in social psychology.

And we also know that among us are a few who respond eagerly to license and sanction, the go ahead to unleash the beast within, to act on a simmering hatred. Again we know this from history and contemporary observation.

Though the assumption of free will and personal responsibility is a cornerstone of human society, it does not negate the reality of what is written above.

We know these things about human behaviour. All our leaders should know these things.

So, yes, when Donald Trump’s crowds chant “Lock her up.” and “CNN sucks.” and when he tells his people they should fear the caravan of “invaders”, and when he fails to condemn the Alt-right extremists or other tyrants, he is culpable.

The Culpability of a President

By Dr David Laing Dawson

There are always men around, men from age 18 to 70, who are capable of committing hate crimes. These are boys and men who always blame others for their failures, infirmities, losses, inadequacies, and perceived slights. They harbour resentments. Their thinking is delusional or just this side of delusional. They may fantasize revenge, the settling of scores, the righting of wrongs. This particular disorder of personality will usually preclude successful intimate relationships, long term employment and even good friends – the very antidotes to distorted and paranoid thinking.

Isolated it festers, grows and deepens. “They are to blame.”

But usually such men don’t act on their convictions, their fantasies. At least they don’t act on them without some kind of encouragement, support, and sanction.

Unfortunately such encouragement is now readily available on internet sites. This was probably the source of encouragement that set the man off to driving his van into pedestrians (women) on Yonge street.

But for the man who sent pipe bombs in the mail last week, his move from anger, conspiracy theory and threats to action, the encouragement undoubtedly came from the President of the United States. In fact the word “sanction” fits in this case because the encouragement came from authority.

The call has been to “tone down the rhetoric”. That is too weak. Men and women in power need to know their words can foster peace and cooperation or they can incite violence. There are always some men who are waiting for just such encouragement, just such permission.

Donald Trump is not personally and specifically responsible for those pipe bombs, but he is culpable.

He needn’t “tone down the rhetoric”, he needs to “stop inciting violence”.

As I was writing this another delusional man committed multiple murders in a synagogue. His encouragement to act on his antisemitic delusion seems to have come from a social media site called Gab and alt-right conspiracy theorists, but the caravan of “invaders” moving through Mexico may have been the final trigger, and we all know how much Trump has hyped that fear, and, for that matter, threatened to send in a platoon of men with guns. “Screw the optics,” wrote this killer, “I’m going in.”

Trump’s remedy for this was more guns, armed security within houses of worship, before he was distracted by a baseball game and tweeting out a criticism of the manager for pulling the successful pitcher in the last innings of the game.

Nero came to mind.

 

Conrad Black and Donald Trump

By David Laing Dawson

I made the mistake of reading an article by Conrad Black. I usually avoid reading Lord Black of Crossharbour (“on leave”) for I find his over-use of penultimate, supercilious, pretentious, swank, grandiloquent, Miltonian, show-offy adjectives very annoying.

But I did read his paean to Donald Trump, and then went for a bicycle ride to clear my head. But what should one expect from a man who gave up his Canadian citizenship for a Peerage in the UK, and once flew across the Atlantic to attend a costume party dressed as Cardinal Richelieu?

He refers to all immigrants entering the US through the border with Mexico as illiterate peasants and he thinks Donald Trump is the leader America needs. He does find Trump “grating” and that he takes “liberties with the truth”, but he thinks that Trump can make America Great Again, and by that I think he is referring to a degree of respect we all must show for the man holding the true weapons of mass destruction in his hand. And by “respect” I think he means fear. Donald does seem to be on track for making America a country we soon will all fear.

Of course, Conrad Black, as a man barred from entering the United States, may simply be, like so many others, currying favour with the one man who could and might pardon him.

And then I read another by Lord Black along the same lines but more of a dissection of the geopolitical game afoot. And I was reminded of an experience from 1964. Bear with me for a moment.

Our first year medical school class went on a weekend retreat with faculty. This entailed a 90 minute bus ride to a resort north of Vancouver. By chance I sat next to our Professor of Physiology. The Vietnam war raged and was about to expand. My companion on that trip had fled McCarthy era USA rather than testify against his colleagues, who might or might not have attended a communist party meeting. So we talked Vietnam.

I was 24 at the time, but worldly and cynical. I argued geopolitics along the lines that it was better for the two major superpowers, the two competing ideologies, to be squaring off in the jungles of Vietnam rather than in the skies over Moscow and New York. He disagreed. It was simpler than that for my professor, who must have been in his 40’s or 50’s at the time. For him it was simply immoral. It was immoral for Americans to take their guns, their napalm, their warships and their helicopters to Vietnam and kill people. It was simply wrong.

By the end of that trip I had concluded that if he could remain idealistic in his 50’s, surely cynicism in my 20’s was, at least, premature. It wasn’t long after that I found myself in a placard carrying crowd in front of the American Consulate chanting: “Hey, Hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”

But why I was reminded of this was because Conrad Black was writing with his usual elegance and erudition about the geopolitics of recent years, the new balance of power, the symbolic chess game played by nation states, and prognosticating about the geopolitics of the future. And it is this examination of geopolitics that I can hear from other politicians, commentators, advisors, other writers. And it reminds me of my self, age 24, arguing, albeit more naively, about these world events and shifts and movements and power struggles as if they are being played on large chessboards by giants, with the pawns and rooks representing a few million to a billion people. And talking about it and playing the game as if they experience, think about, Joseph Stalin’s famous observation as advice, rather than the cynical observation of a sociopath. “One man’s death is a tragedy; the death of millions is a statistic”.

My medical school professor could see beyond the geopolitics and the million death statistic to the terrified little girl fleeing the sticky horror of napalm.

The Bannons, Boltons, Millers, Trumps and Conrad Blacks of this world do not, cannot.

I do not want them to have any influence over myself or the lives of my children and grandchildren. We need to stop listening to them and focus instead on the little girl fleeing the napalm and the kid from Honduras locked in an American cage.

Trump, Dr Ford, and A Warning to Americans

By Dr David Laing Dawson

I wrote a blog before the 2016 election of Donald Trump titled “the mental and emotional age of Donald Trump”. I looked at a range of his behaviours and his speech patterns and considered the age at which such a behaviour would be typical for a boy or man, though not exemplary, not necessarily good, maybe even requiring some parental admonition, just typical. I arrived at an average of 14. Though some Trump statements required a pre-teen brain and some rose at least to 18 year-old jock talk.

A comment someone left on that blog was that I was being generous; it would have to be a particularly entitled and narcissistic 14 year-old.

More recently I listened to Trump mock the testimony of Dr. Ford and then go on about the threat the #MeToo movement poses for fine young men. He took on the voice of a boy talking to his mother about all the hard work he’s done, about being offered a great job, but all this is over because some woman he’s never even met is accusing him of things he’s never done. How terrible this is for men and boys.

I might run across a small group of 14 year old boys with one of them going on in this vein, and two might be laughing, though more at the outrageous display of disregard for propriety than the content itself; another two would be cringing, but unable to break the code of teenage boys to never be a “pussy”.

So the comment was fair. Only a nasty, narcissistic, and probably guilty 14 year-old could talk the way Trump so often talks.

Donald may be but a symptom of some other struggle in your country, my American friends, and I know you have some wide divides that need major bridgework, but he is doing damage to your country, more and more damage each day he has a voice.

They were laughing at him at the U.N. Much of the world is appalled by him and all he represents. He throws oil on your fires; he cozies up to nasty dictators; he is stripping the USA of any moral high ground it ever might have had; he is creating fizzures in your country it may take decades to repair. He has reduced political discourse to a schoolyard brawl and international relations to flea market bartering.

He represents you, my friends, and how we see him we will begin to view you. We don’t care how you see us, you may say, we are better than that. But there is a bit of psychology here you might not like. For gradually, whatever traits we assign to you, you will absorb, you will become.

This midterm you can show the world you are not all Trumpets; you can clip his wings and put him in a tail spin. Please do so.