Trump White House: Just How Bad a Narcissist, Really? Sam Vaknin Relates


The tulip tree (liriodendron tulipifera) official state tree of Indiana, as in “out of one’s tulip tree”

AW:  The Third of May was quite an auspicious day in American history. First, we had Donald Trump’s freakish Lee Harvey Oswalding of Ted Cruz’ father Rafael. It was as if he shouted at the top of his lungs, “America! Listen! I am not fit for the U.S. Presidency!” This brought Cruz’ epic lambasting of Trump as the malignant narcissist he is (reader, catch it if you haven’t). Then, of course Hoosiers deftly proceeded to tilt the whole Republican pan of marbles to Trump, whereupon Cruz suspended his campaign. I think God is showing our country just how sensible we have gotten.

It’s been two months since I interviewed you and I’m really annoyed about a number of things, Sam. The news media are derelict of duty about Trump and his readily apparent Narcissistic Personality Disorder, despite the warnings from you and a number of other experts who have put your reputations on the line. “Trumpkins” in social media claim all politicians are narcissists, so what? Maybe the core of the matter is people don’t understand how dangerous and harmful this all is. Let’s start with that.

So, just speculatively, from your experience and observations, how dangerous do you believe a President Trump would be?

Vaknin: Laymen confuse “narcissistic style” with “narcissistic personality disorder.” Many politicians have a narcissistic style: narcissistic traits and behaviors that may amount to a narcissistic personality. They are vain, self-centered, haughty, bombastic, and infantile. Narcissistic Personality Disorder in general and “malignant narcissism” in particular are an entirely different ballgame. It’s like the difference between a social drinker and an alcoholic.

Narcissists (people with a full-fledged personality disorder) are positively dangerous: they are delusional, their thinking is clouded by grandiose fantasies, they are vindictive, contemptuous, aggressive, destructive, bullying, sadistic, and have no self-awareness. They are not curious and vehemently and sometimes violently reject any criticism, suggestion, or disagreement. They lack empathy and they exploit people, having objectified and abused them.

One more thing: it is common practice to evaluate someone’s mental health not having interviewed him or her and without administering psychological tests. Mental health evaluation (as distinct from a proper diagnosis) does not require physical access to the evaluated person. The CIA has an entire department dedicated to the psychological profiling of world leaders (read Jerrold Post’s analysis of Saddam Hussein, now available online – or the OSS psych-profile of Adolf Hitler). The FBI uses psychiatrists to construct psychological profiles of serial killers and terrorists. Scholars habitually publish “remote diagnoses” of public personalities in weighty and venerable academic journals. It is common practice!

AW: To put Trump into perspective, can you rate him among the candidates, regarding narcissism and perhaps any other mental defects you may see?

Vaknin: Evaluating the mental health of a public figure requires an inordinate amount of research. Over the past 5 years, I have watched well over 600 hours of Trump in various settings and read everything he has written and was quoted as saying. I have no such in-depth acquaintance with the other candidates except Clinton.

Trump is a malignant narcissist. This view is shared by dozens of mental health professionals who went on public record with their analyses of his mental infirmity. He is dangerous, antisocial, destructive, vindictive, sadistic, and hypervigilant (paranoid and hypersensitive).

Clinton strikes me as somewhat psychopathic: she is a pathological liar, a rank manipulator, a confabulator, and is exploitative and dysempathic. But, she is far less likely to implode and self-destruct than Trump. While she is far from an optimal choice for any public office, she is no way near as ominous as Trump.

AW: In Trump’s actual behaviors, whether before or during his candidacy, can you point to examples or patterns that would indicate harmful behaviors were he to actually be our next president? Attach any likelihoods? Or is that too much to speculate?

Vaknin: Trump is so unfit to be president that I am not sure where to start. But here are a few issues that are likely to raise their collective ugly heads even in the first weeks of a Trump Presidency:

Trump regards himself as omniscient, an authority on anything and everything, from aesthetics to ethics. He, therefore, lacks intellectual curiosity and regards outside advice as both superfluous and injurious (because it implies that he is less than perfect). He is likely to surround himself with timid yes-men and sycophantic acolytes, and generate an impregnable echo chamber rather than a council of wise men and women.

Trump’s grasp of nuanced reality, weak as it already is, is likely to deteriorate further to the point of paranoid psychosis. Faced with opposition, however tenuous, he is likely to react by scapegoating and by inciting street or state violence against targeted groups. Trump is the state, so his enemies (anyone who as much as voices doubt or disagrees with him) is, by definition, an enemy of the state.

Owing to his self-perceived innate superiority, Trump regards himself as above and transcending laws made by lesser mortals. Laws are meant to trap and ensnare giants like him, to drag him down to the pedestrian level of mediocrity. He plays by the rules only when and if they accord with his predilections and self-interest.

Like all narcissists, Trump believes that he is universally loved, adored, and admired. He attributes this ostensible (and utterly delusional) blanket approbation to his effusive charm and irresistibility. He is firmly convinced that he can motivate people to transgress against their own moral convictions and to break the law, if necessary, just by the sheer force of his monumental personality. Trump idealizes and then rapidly devalues people, collectives, and institutions. Trump is in sempiternal flux: he is inconstant in his judgements, opinions, views, and fleeting attachments.

Trump is intellectually lazy, so he is a firm adherent of shortcuts and of “fake it till you make it.” It is a dangerous approach that led him to botch numerous business deals and inflict untold damage and suffering on thousands of people. [AW: e.g., bankrupt businesses, Trump University.]

Trump is authoritarian in the worst sense of the word. In his disordered, chaotic mind, he is infallible (incapable of erring), omnipotent (can achieve anything if he just sets his mind to it), and omniscient (needs to learn nothing as he is the fount of all true, intuitive knowledge). This precludes any proper team work, orderly governance, institutional capacity, flow of authority and responsibility, and just plain structure. Trump is an artist, led by inconsistent and intermittent inspiration, not by reliable, old-fashioned perspiration. He is not a self-made man, but a self-conjured caricature of a self-made man. Trump is guided by his alleged inner divine wisdom. He is a malevolent guru and cult leader, not a politician or a statesman.

Ironically, Trump’s much trumpeted grandiosity is fragile because it is based on delusional and fantastic assumptions of perfection and intellectual brilliance which are hard to defend. Hence Trump’s relentless and compulsive pursuit of affirmation and adulation. He needs to be constantly idolized just to feel half human. Criticism and disagreement, however minor and well-intentioned, are perceived as unmitigated threats to the precarious house of cards that is Trump’s personality. Consequently, Trump is sadistically vindictive, aiming not just to counter such countervailing opinions regarding his Godlike status, but to deter and intimidate future critics. [AW: behaviors unfortunately lumped nebulously together in the media as “bullying”]

Vaknin-Narcissistic-Psychopathic-Leaders-Book-300wFinally, aiming to disavow his own fragility and the indisputable fact that his public persona is nothing but a fabrication, Trump ostentatiously and volubly abhors and berates the weak, the meek, “losers,” “haters” (of which he is a prime example), the disabled, women, minorities, and anyone else who might remind him by their very existence of how far from perfect and brilliant he is. The public Trump is about hatred, resentment, rage, envy, and other negative emotions because he is mercilessly driven by these very demons internally. Trump’s quotidien [daily] existence is a Kafkaesque trial in which he stands accused of being a mere, average, not-too-bright mortal and is constantly found wanting and guilty as charged. His entire life is a desperate, last ditch attempt to prove wrong the prosecution in this never-ending courtroom drama.

AW: Just what we all want as the basis of an United States Presidency, all its powers at his disposal, all the options from which to choose, either to gain narcissistic supply from others, or to punish rivals and opposers. Please, let’s resume this conversation to discuss some examples of things Trump has said and done. Let’s do a little psychological science fiction, to translate such behaviors into those of The Donald of The Oval Office.

Sam Vaknin is the author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited” and other books and e-books about personality disorders in general and pathological narcissism in particular. His work is cited widely in both scholarly literature and the media. His YouTube channels have 45,000 subscribers and more than 15,000,000 views.


    • Arlen Williams says

      I appreciate this woman’s convictions. But this video:

      o is begging the question with emotional appeal, in a distracting way
      o may indeed show how the apparent benevolence of influencing others to gain narcissistic supply works
      o ignores the devious and malignant nature and behaviors of Donald Trump, and what they would tend to portend
      o does not show qualities that would necessarily compensate for the above

      Try thinking of an opposite of the story of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, where the actual person is Mr. Hyde, who often presents a persona of Dr. Jekyll for his very unfortunate inner needs. That is a persona which however, he can not reliably maintain, very often not even from one moment to the next.

      Why should Americans elect a man who is guaranteed to be abusive, to one degree or another?

      Why should we elect someone of whom we are left only to guess which of his often self-contradictory promises and appeals he will carry out and which he will fail to, or actually reverse?

      I appreciate some of the things Donald Trump has done; also some of his concerns for America. Yet, his good effects among his bad ones, don’t tend to recommend him for the one special office of President of the United States of America.

      Sadly: #NPDTrump

      • Trump has megalomania with narcisstic tendencies… he also has a rage disorder.. Not good with foreign countries… Now since Cruz stood up to him, he will waste money and time on 3 superpacs to destroy Cruz’s career.. along with Kasich… does that mean all the people that opposed him will suffer?

  1. This is nothing more than a politically biased hit piece masquerading as a legitimate psychological analysis.

  2. David M. Christhilf says

    I am a die-hard conservative, and also a member of the Republican party. I have been supporting TedCruz in for the Republican nomination, and have been aware that Donald Trump was in no way competitive with Ted Cruz as far as standing up for the principles (limited government, etc.) that I support.

    Now, Ted Cruz is far and away the best champion of the things that I believe in, so I have only taken a limited look at Trump. Now that Cruz has suspended his campaign, I’ve been looking at what other options are available.

    The political pact is that whoever gets the nomination also gets the support of all the rest.

    Now that I have been looking more closely at Trump, I have developed deep misgivings about his suitability to be President. Actually, his words and his actions over the campaign season have been broadcasting his lack of qualifications for such high office, the entire time.

    The traits enumerated in this article describe Trump to a T. The diagnosis of the true implications of such characteristics are indeed troubling.

    Thank you for confirming and expanding what I already suspected, that having Donald Trump as President would be a very bad idea.

  3. How do I know if Vaknin is not motivated by political bias?

  4. Sam admits: “I am NOT a mental health professional” The study of psychology is intended to help people. How is Sam helping anyone with this unprofessional diagnosis? If a true mental health professional could actually diagnose Trump unfit for command, the Hillary Camp with its half a billion dollars in contributions would be wasting no time in paying such a true mental health professional to write a verifiable book of scientific facts. Instead we have this posting by someone who I wonder is motivated by political bias. You say many things here that are opinion but not really true. Such as “Ironically, Trump’s much trumpeted grandiosity is fragile because it is based on delusional and fantastic assumptions of perfection and intellectual brilliance which are hard to defend” That is your opinion. My opinion is that they are easy to defend. Believing in ones self is not being a narcissist. If that was the case, anyone who follows Tony Robin’s self help book could be labeled as a narcissist. You say “Like all narcissists, Trump believes that he is universally loved, adored, and admired” That is simply a lie and if you have followed Trump like you say you have, you would know it is a lie.

  5. hey dumbass’s Sam is a self-proclaimed a narcissist himself…so he knows what he’s talking about. another thing for all you Trump supporters. President Putin from Russia is also a narcissist and look what he’s done to his country. I don’t see them two getting along as leaders I see both of them capable another nuclear war.. Trump ins incapable of being taken seriously by other foreign leaders… what the hell does he know about foreign policy nothing and unfortunately we need our allies and we risk to lose them if he’s our president. Hillary is going to be in office soon. She’s okay unfortunately America is blinded by controversy drama and unfortunately Bernie Sanders will not to be nominated and that’s who should really be leading our country he’s got values he’s NOT about big business he knows foreign policy he’s a good person. he ran a solid campaign with Integrity unlike the rest of these dumbfucks douchebags that you all are going to vote in great job America. Let’s watch the environment go to s*** and let’s watch big businesses become richer the poor get poorer. and more people blowing up ship in the name of jihad and Allah.

  6. Any regular reader of Vaknin has probably come to basically this same set of conclusions about Trump themselves quite some time ago. I’m surprised it to Sam 600 hours of watching him to feel satisfied in his conclusions. Trumps’ narcissism is so glaringly obvious and utterly textbook that to me the far more interesting question at this point is why so many people are taken in by him. Narcissists are a part of this world we have to deal with, but the fact that one of such intensity and fundamental instability could climb so high and inspire such devotion is something that ultimately must be understood and checks need to be added to the system to prevent from ever happening again.

  7. I’m sorry, but some people are not being honest and fair in their perception of Mr. Trump.

    How can Donald Trump be a “Rampant Xenophobe” when he employs people from all around the world for cheap labor? He also has obvious connections with wealthy people from all around the world making deals. He has businesses in Mexico, China and several other countries, so the comments made in public about ‘National Security, has made him a Xenophobe?

    How can Donald Trump be a “Misogynist” when he is selective about the type of women he says good and bad things about, it is clear he is very opinionated about certain people, men and women. 1st he loves beautiful women; 2nd he has married beautiful women. He has employed intelligent women, he loves his daughters and I’m guessing his lady in laws. 3rd all kinds of wealthy and influential women would say he has been a perfect gentleman to them.

    Yes a few times Donald Trump has incited “Political Violence” but that was his way of winning over millions of angry men and women at the beginning of his campaign. I’m sure it was calculated in order to get free air time as Senator Ted Cruz has alleged.

    I would say the say same about the charge of Trump of being a “Serial Liar” millions have heard his claims and accusations to attribute it to showmanship. Yes, I do believe he lies, as a result of him being a ‘Narcissist’ which is a mental disorder Marina left out. This is what makes him dangerous and unfit to be our President.

    Now some might ask, “who are you to make this assessment about Mr. Trump? Are you a psychologist or a shrink?” No, I’m just a 63- year old with a Psychology Minor from BBC in 76’ who put himself through college while competing with his dad who started college 2-years later. I had no understanding what a Narcissist was back in the 70’s but I found myself competing with my dad at every corner and it was not a healthy competition, instead of him being proud of my accomplishments, (1st in family to attend and graduate from college) it played into his insecurities. At every turn he was putting me down to other family members and now, some 46- years later, he still makes every attempt to make me and my sister look bad in front of our children. Mainly since he has no control over us; now our brother has his own insecurities, induced from our dad. My dad still makes every attempt to stay in control, by pitting us against each other or our brother by putting us down to everyone he talks to.

    This is the main reason I could never vote for ‘The Trump’ but I will wait to see who his running mate will be to pray about seeing past Trump to see if I could vote for his running mate. If Trump selects a strong Conservative who would never have been elected like Governor Huckabee, I would vote for that ticket to beat Liberalism.

  8. I can personally vouch for Mr. Vaknin’s insights and expertise on clinical narcissism. I corresponded with him during a time of personal crisis when dealing with a malignant narcissist who was inflicting damage upon my family and business. Vaknin provided invaluable insight that proved to be 100% accurate in the courts. His book “Malignant Self Love” is a known classic on narcissistic personality disorder.

    Most folks believe that a “narcissist” is simply someone with “a big ego” that thinks a lot of themselves. However, when we speak here about Trump being a narcissist, we are talking about diagnosable, clinical narcissism — a real mental illness. Trump is not mentally fit to be our President, and if he is not unseated will do great damage to this great nation and our world. He will continue to divide and weaken us, and create chaos, conflict, anger, and hate. To those of us who continue to support him, please remember this — he does not care about you, he does not care about me, he does not care about America: he only cares about himself and anything with a TRUMP logo on it.

    Time will show how much damage a malignant narcissist can inflict if left unchecked.

  9. Sam Vaknin knows it because he lived it. I worked for one for 28 months.

    Three medical things I think need examination and study re NPD.
    Does the illness control the victim all of the time? I think Yes.
    Does the illness control everything they do. I think yes.
    Does the description to date of the disorder cover all possible events you will see or experience with one? No, I don’t think so.

    The illness is vast in how it plays out and only over time, as they are secretive, do you see what the person with it is really capable of. And I am not sure that there is a cap on that.

    Only when we have more insight will we better be able to detect them and defend against them.
    First as individuals and then as a society. Otherwise, we are vulnerable to their extremes.

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