+
A psychologist explains Trump's lack of conscience and warns of what a 2nd term would bring
Public Domain/Elizabeth Mika/Twitter

The president of the United States is not insane—probably. He is not mentally ill—probably. His word salads and boorish, bullying behavior aren't explained by a psychological disorder that could be treated with medication or therapy—unfortunately.

All signs seem to point to President Trump having a personality disorder, which is actually far, far more troubling. Personality disorders are virtually untreatable, meaning his poor character qualities are baked into who he is. It cannot be altered and will not change.

This is not news to many of us, of course. But it's an important thing to understand, as the president of the United States continues to hold superspreader events in the middle of an uncontrolled pandemic and as we careen toward the most consequential election of our lifetime.



Elizabeth Mika is one of dozens of psychologists who publicly raised a red flag when Trump first announced his run for the presidency. Reading her essays from pre-election 2016, it's almost spooky how well she nailed who Trump is, how he operates, why his base loves him, why the GOP pivoted to support him, and why the rest of us are left disturbed and frustrated by both him and his cult-like following. It's part of the president's pathology and what happens when someone like him gains power.

"My opinion, based on observations of his behavior, public accounts from his family and associates, and all the information we have about his developmental and relational history, is that he is a malignant narcissist." Mika tells Upworthy.

"Malignant narcissism is the extreme end of the narcissistic spectrum," she explains. "It is a condition comprised of psychopathy, sadism, manipulativeness, and paranoia, in addition to narcissism. The term, not found in DSM, was coined by Erich Fromm who considered malignant narcissism the most dangerous form of psychopathology known to humankind. Narcissistic psychopathy may also apply. I use these terms interchangeably, although malignant narcissism encompasses a greater range of clinical manifestations."

Mika says that there may be other issues present, but the core of who Trump is is based in his "lack of conscience (psychopathy)" and his "unusual ego fragility that manifests in his insatiable need for adulation (narcissism)."

"By the way, this is a character defect and not a mental illness," Mika adds. "It is fixed (unchangeable), permanent, and incurable. It is who he is. The defect, to be precise, is chiefly his missing conscience, which makes him incapable of empathy, guilt, and shame, unable to experience higher level feelings, and understand and respect higher values. We may not need clinical labels if I understand that this last sentence defines Trump's character."

Having grown up in post-WWII Soviet-occupied Poland, Mika has a unique perspective on the president and the threat his narcissistic psychopathy poses to the nation. She has lived in the U.S. since 1987, but Mika says her upbringing sensitized her to authoritarian regimes. "I have noticed that people who grew up in oppressive regimes, as well as victims of narcissistic abuse, were the first to raise alarms about Trump's presidency." she says.

One weird feature of the Trump era is that for millions of us, this assessment of Trump might best be summed up as "Well, duh." His pathology is glaringly, painfully obvious. Even if it's refreshing to see it laid out so clearly, none of it is surprising. And yet, for millions of others, hearing that the leader of our country is missing a conscience makes no difference. The worse he behaves, the more his base salivates.

Mika has an explanation for that as well.

"There are many people, of course, who don't see anything wrong with Trump," she says. "On the contrary, they adore those traits that we see as pathological and believe that they make him a great leader. They elect him because his pathological character traits best suit their agendas, namely the destruction of the existing socio-political structure and their 'enemies'—typically The Others—whom they blame for their life failures."

"As I write in 'Trumpian Victory,' she continues, "Trumpism is about rage and revenge: rage that stems from aggrieved entitlement, but also from the very real wounds, and the revenge on those who are seen, mostly erroneously, as responsible for those wounds...Malignant politicians will steer people's anger away from themselves and other responsible parties, and blame it on easy, vulnerable scapegoats—immigrants, refugees, minorities, women, eternal Others."

In her writings, Mika also talks about "collective narcissism" and "narcissistic collusion" to explain the bond between Trump and his base, who see in him a way to fulfill their own dreams and wishes.

"He makes them promises that he cannot and does not intend to keep, but it does not matter," she says. "What matters is maintaining the shared illusion of their glory, future prosperity, greatness, and scapegoating The Others for their misery—the last one an absolutely necessary component of the malignantly narcissistic leader's appeal."

In "Trumpian Victory"—which she wrote in July of 2016—Mika explained the cult-like qualities that some Trump supporters exhibit:

"Narcissistic leaders and their followers fit together like hand and glove, as their pathological needs become enmeshed, to everyone's detriment. The leader obtains thousands of mirrors to reflect his glory, an open and ongoing line of narcissistic supply that feeds his insatiable desire for adulation and power, at least for some time; and his followers receive The Ideal to emulate, which, via emotional identification, patches up their inner wounds and makes them feel whole, if only for a while. In this state of heightened narcissistic collusion that suspends reason and conscience, anything, no matter how unrealistic or vile, becomes possible and necessary, including a bloodbath or several."

Many of us feel like we barely recognize what our society and political life look like in the Trump era. We've seen people we thought were smart fall into deep wells of disinformation, we've watched norms and institutions and checks and balances crumble before our eyes, and we struggle to make sense of it all. Mika explains that this as the predictable path of a pathological president.

"Once these characterologically defective individuals assume power," she says, "their unaddressed pathology is normalized—because normal people are either hesitant to talk about it and/or don't see and understand what it happening—gradually taking over and reshaping the entire system (organization, country) according to their primitive, valueless, transactional view of the world and relationships. In pathocracy, truth is erased, norms are destroyed, and propaganda turns reality upside down. When pathocracy is led by a malignantly narcissistic leader, as it is usually the case, the society and its institutions are perverted into vehicles of meeting his primitive needs for power and self-aggrandizement."

So what does this mean for a second term, if Trump happens to win on Tuesday?

"It would be the end of America as we know it," Mika says bluntly. "A full blown reign of pathocracy of the kind that we are already seeing at work in the Trumpian unreality fueled by lies, grandiose boasts, rage directed at The Others—immigrants, minorities, political opponents—and wide-ranging incitements of violence, which would become policy as well. Trump's second term will be oriented toward revenge on his critics, solidifying his power, padding his pockets, and destroying the last remnants of the institutions that stand in his way to absolute power."

Mika described the psychology of that process in her essay, Tyranny as a Triumph of Narcissism that was published in the book "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump."

Why have we not seen more focus on the president's obviously dangerous pathologies? Many psychologists have been reticent to speak publicly due to the "Goldwater Rule," which says that it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion about a person's mental health unless they have conducted an examination and been granted proper authorization for such a statement.

"It is a reasonable rule, protecting both patients and psychiatrists," says Mika, "but it is not set in stone, obviously. And in our situation, where the nation has been beset with the mentally unsound leader, the rule has been viewed more as a gag order, against which many have rebelled anyway."

"We have a pathological president whose character defect is the defining feature of everything that happens in our political life today, and that includes our botched COVID response that has resulted in so much needless death and suffering," says Mika. "Pretending that these problems—namely, Trump's psychopathology—do not exist is an insult to our decency and common sense."

"Such denial is, however, a predictable mechanism in the spread of pathocracy—the rule of people without a functioning conscience (psychopaths, narcissists, and their ilk)," she adds. "And pathocracy is upon us, which is why silence is not an acceptable response from those who see what has been taking place around us."

As grim as that may sound, Mika is hopeful about the future.

"One major reason I started to write about Trump and Trumpism in 2016 was to warn that 1. Yes, he would be elected, and 2. Once elected, he would destroy America as we know it. He would not pivot, as some hoped, nor surround himself with good advisors and other such self-serving futile tales passed around during that time." (Like I said, she nailed him from the get-go.)

"However," she says, "I am more optimistic now than I was in 2016 when I wrote about what was to come for us under Trump. Those things did come, of course, and the nearest future will be very difficult, but my optimism comes from the belief—knowledge, even—that our developmental trajectory as a species is trending toward realization of higher values. Slowly, and with scary detours, but surely. It is a process of positive disintegration. Our task here, on this planet, is to transform pain and suffering into compassion and love, and this is more clear, to me, now than it was in 2016. Thus the greater optimism, despite the darkness on our horizon."

"Trump's presidency is a necessary confrontation with our shadow," says Mika, "which allows us to see ourselves more truthfully, and thus unleashes the forces needed for healing and transformation. The surge of new voters we are seeing now alone is a sign of the change spurred on by Trumpism."

We know what we're looking at. We've seen what psychologists warned us about play out, and we see it continuing to play out in Trump's rhetoric and rallies.

"We have now this opportunity to become aware of the deep psychological processes working in and through us and thus change them," Mika says. We can only change things of which we are conscious. This is our chance.

Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
Keep ReadingShow less
All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

via Dion Merrick / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.09.21


At 1:30 am on Monday morning an AMBER Alert went out in southern Louisiana about a missing 10-year-old girl from New Iberia. It was believed she had been kidnapped and driven away in a 2012 silver Nissan Altima.

A few hours later at 7 am, Dion Merrick and Brandon Antoine, sanitation workers for Pelican Waste, were on their daily route when they noticed a vehicle that fit the description in the alert.

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

Nurse turns inappropriate things men say in the delivery room into ‘inspirational’ art

"Can you move to the birthing ball so I can sleep in the bed?"

Holly the delivery nurse.

After working six years as a labor and delivery nurse Holly, 30, has heard a lot of inappropriate remarks made by men while their partners are in labor. “Sometimes the moms think it’s funny—and if they think it’s funny, then I’ll laugh with them,” Holly told TODAY Parents. “But if they get upset, I’ll try to be the buffer. I’ll change the subject.”

Some of the comments are so wrong that she did something creative with them by turning them into “inspirational” quotes and setting them to “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton on TikTok.

“Some partners are hard to live up to!” she jokingly captioned the video.

Keep ReadingShow less