This is a strange and new moment for the U.S.: a moment less political, more psychological. Our country has allowed – not for the first time, but for the first time in my life – a blatantly mentally ill person to step into its leadership position, and thus into the most powerful position planetwide. DJT … Trumpy … the Tangerine Man ( I still struggle to say or write the name) has become our symbolic head of household, our symbolic Daddy: our newest, sickest, most Freudian, most dangerous Father, ever. We’ve become nation as dysfunctional family, a family headed by a narcissist whose rages and passing fancies will terrorize, imprison, and brutalize us all.
The mind-boggling part? We have entered this family, we have become this abused child, voluntarily, and with full knowledge beforehand.
And this travesty, this slow motion implosion, has happened at a time when more people than ever before have the tools to recognize his specific mental illness.
(I do want of course to acknowledge that the “voluntarily” part was voluntary only for the minority, and that the vast majority of this country knowingly rejected the role of hostage we now find ourselves in.)
Of course, I feel some fascination with our abuser, even as I’m filled with revulsion. I’m also fascinated by the fact that most of the media and the existing government seems to have made an unspoken agreement that, since it would be rude, they’re simply going to ignore the fact that the emperor has no clothes. They’re going to pretend that somehow, this situation is tenable, that somehow, this is fine, and we can just keep up appearances.
Buying into the madness, rationalizing it, suspecting that hey, maybe I’m the problem in this scenario … I can cope … Let’s not overreact .. . this is fine …
Again, we all have the tools to recognize that triggering those coping mechanisms is a precise hallmark of the disorder itself.
Once more, with feeling:
making you feel like you’re the crazy one is itself a symptom of the Cluster B personality disorders.
You’re not the crazy one.
And this is not fine.
I have long lived experience with the Cluster B group of personality disorders. I spent childhood in the orbit of a Cluster B who destroyed her own life, her husband’s life, and significantly disfigured the lives of her seven children. I married a person whose ex is a Cluster B, a person who, because of custody laws, will remain in my life for perhaps the next decade. I have a once-beloved brother who has sunk into the Cluster B morass and who seems, from the safe distance I keep myself, to be a direct physical danger to anyone in contact with him. I’ve learned, in other words, a thing or two about the situation we’re now facing with The Trump.
In my nightmares about this personality disorder – and I’ve had many – tropes from horror movies recur. Like a zombie virus, the disorder takes over a unique soul and converts it to a shuffling husk. It inflicts a double death, as you first watch the person disappear, replaced by the tics and mannerisms of the illness, and again as you excise the zombie from your life – which you must, if you want to remain sane. Other times, I dream of this disorder as the vampire, the deathless, life-draining vampire who patiently waits, charmingly smiling, for the OK to pass through your door – and who, once allowed in, will fall on your throat with an open, clotted, charnel-house mouth. These people, disordered people, are like golems, like flawed and endlessly recursive machinery, like scraps of miscoded and destructive programs looping, looping, like malware infecting node after node and shutting down every functional core. In all my dreams, the recurring thread: this disorder is infectious, and this disorder has no cure.
People with these disorders have no deep or lasting friendships; they have no passions other than themselves, no interests other than themselves, no drive to create anything other than conflict. Their world is narrow and shallow and consists of only themselves and their reflections. Those around them, people, animals, the entire natural world – it all exists only to either prop up or attack their sense of self. In the hall of mirrors where these people exist, only themselves and surrogates for themselves are real. Their only fuel, their only sustenance, is conflict, and like malware they toggle between a very few sets of behaviors: creating alliances, creating enemies, and setting up conflagrations. There is no autonomy in their world; there is only what feels good (to them), and what feels bad (to them). Others, since they do not truly exist, are not ceded the right to have feelings or experiences separately from the disordered person. You can imagine the particular hell that children of these people must endure. And as for the person with the disorder — I can think of no life more barren.
But even I, the ultimate empath — I just can’t care all that much about their pain.
Personally, when I think about our political moment, I am still flailing, stuck in shifting levels of confusion, fear, anger and grief. I’m still trying to fathom what it means to stand here on this particular brink of this particular national disaster and still trying to feel my way forward. But I am absolutely clear on one thing: We need to look at the disaster and understand it. This is so very, very not fine. Stay out of the fog and keep your focus on that fact.