Simple Psychology Trump Used for Victory, By Bisi Daniel

Photo: cnn.com
Photo: cnn.com

A social media joke compares 9/11, the day hundreds of Americans died in the humiliating terrorist attack, to 11/9, the day Donald Trump was announced President of the United States of America. They described the former the worst day in America, and the later the second worst day.

Whatever 11/9 turns out to be, it has already made history with the delivery of the most shocking, against-all-odds, electoral victory in recent memory. And it has put the world on edge because Donald may be a popular Mickey Mouse cartoon character, but this Donald (Trump) is an unfamiliar political brand.

His ongoing flip-flops show he lied a lot during the campaign: He said President Obama founded ISIS (now he is a nice person Donald would like to consult often); he would throw out Obamacare (now, emmm, some of the pillars will be left intact); he would erect a wall across the border with Mexico (now, hmmm….part of it will be fence). The count continues, and the world is getting more confused.

Donald said all the wrong things during the campaign against his opponents, all other women, immigrants and fellow Republicans, but that didn’t seem to matter, and, indeed, in the end it didn’t. Neither did the three debates he lost.

Bulletproof

According to one expert, Donald appeared to be almost totally bulletproof.

In the eyes of his supporters, “The Donald can do no wrong.”

Even Trump himself seemed to be astonished by this phenomenon. “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK? It’s, like, incredible.”

It was clear then and now that Donald is a narcissist, but that also didn’t matter. Psychology readily confirms that as a problem. Narcissism is the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistic admiration of one’s own attributes. The term originated from Greek mythology, where the young Narcissus fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water.

Narcissism

Wikipedia defines Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) as a long-term pattern of abnormal behaviour characterized by exaggerated feelings of self-importance, an excessive need for admiration, and a lack of understanding of other’s feeling. People affected by it often spend a lot of time thinking about achieving power or success, or about their appearance.

The Atlantic revealed recently that, “For psychologists, it is almost impossible to talk about Donald Trump without using the word narcissism. “George Simon, a clinical psychologist who conducts seminars on manipulative behavior, says Trump is “so classic that I’m archiving video clips of him to use in workshops because there’s no better example of narcissism. Otherwise I would have had to hire actors and write vignettes. He’s like a dream come true.

“When I walk north on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, where I live, I often stop to admire the sleek tower that Trump built on the Chicago River. But why did he have to stencil his name in 20‑foot letters across the front?

“As nearly everybody knows, Trump has attached his name to pretty much everything he has ever touched—from casinos to steaks to a so-called university that promised to teach students how to become rich.

“Self-references pervade Trump’s speeches and conversations, too. When, in the summer of 1999, he stood up to offer remarks at his father’s funeral, Trump spoke mainly about himself.”

Fear-mongering script

So how did a man, even fellow Republicans denounced, win? He knew what he was doing, but who wrote the script? When he visited the UK after the BREXIT vote, he said the US election would be “BREXIT ten times.”

And when the most popular Republican, Speaker Paul Ryan, withdrew his support, Donald was happy “the shackles had been removed,” to enable him act out his script of fear-mongering, which has kept psychologists busy since the elections.

Donald largely played on the psychology of many former blue-collar workers who lost their jobs and considered themselves victims of globalization. He succeeded in taking advantage of their discontent and resentment with his protectionist rhetoric. Those people were described as the silent majority who were not very forthcoming about their political views and therefore their support for Donald was not reflected in mainstream polls.

Also, he played the “Americentrism” card to win the hearts and minds of conservative whites who were feeling increasingly threatened by ethnic minorities and refugees but also rather surprisingly resonated with many long-time immigrants as well.

Authoritarianism

Here is where the Donald story gets more interesting! He is clearly an authoritarian, but rather than being a disadvantage, this played to his huge advantage. Many distressed Americans found refuge in Donald’s authoritarian personality

Experts explain that in times of perceived threat and distress, people look up to an authoritarian personality type as a father figure, characterized by extreme obedience. Hitler played on that.

According to a new research, people experiencing significant mental distress caused by adverse life events, authoritarianism could be psychologically protective. Authoritarianism could be related to improved general health, when facing dire straits, whereas this relationship is absent for those not experiencing mental distress.

Previous research had also found that authoritarianism has more psychological benefits for members of societies experiencing threats to their communal sense of worth and standing, than for members of higher-status groups.

Hypersensitivity to Threat

Dr Bobby Azarian, a cognitive neuroscientist, researcher and writer explains the Donald strategy with studies. According to him, a 2008 study shows that conservatives have a stronger physiological reaction to startling noises and graphic images compared to liberals. Specifically, the brains of self-identified conservatives generated more activity overall in response to the disturbing images.

So for Donald’s supporters “their brain responses are automatic, and not influenced by logic or reason. As long as Trump continued his fear mongering by constantly portraying Nigerians, Muslims and Mexican immigrants as imminent dangers, many conservative brains involuntarily lit up like light bulbs being controlled by a switch. Fear kept his followers energized and focused on safety, and less concerned with remarks that would normally be seen as highly offensive.”

Terror Management

A well-supported theory from social psychology, called Terror Management Theory, explains why Donald’s fear mongering is doubly effective. According to Azarian, the theory is based on the fact that humans have a unique awareness of their own mortality. The inevitability of one’s death creates existential terror and anxiety that is always residing below the surface. In order to manage this terror, humans adopt cultural worldviews — like religions, political ideologies, and national identities — that act as a buffer by instilling life with meaning and value.

Terror Management Theory predicts that when people are reminded of their own mortality, which happens with fear mongering, they will more strongly defend those who share their worldviews and national or ethnic identity, and act out more aggressively towards those who do not.

To those people, Hillary, a woman, was not an option. Worse, she carried a heavy baggage. President Obama, who tried to help, didn’t have a solid record to reference even for African-Americans.

“By constantly emphasizing existential threat, Donald created a psychological condition that makes the brain respond positively rather than negatively to bigoted statements and divisive rhetoric. Liberals and Independents who have been puzzled over why Donald didn’t lose supporters after such highly offensive comments were lost.”

The fear

Experts say people with strong narcissistic needs want to love themselves, and they desperately want others to love them too—or at least admire them, see them as brilliant and powerful and beautiful, even just see them, period.

According to the Atlantic, the fundamental life goal of a narcissist is to promote the greatness of the self, for all to see. “I’m the king of Palm Beach,” it reports Donald as telling Timothy O’Brien for his 2005 book, TrumpNation.

“Celebrities and rich people ‘all come over’ to Mar-a-Lago, (Trump’s exclusive Palm Beach estate). They all eat, they all love me, they all kiss my ass. And then they all leave and say, ‘Isn’t he horrible.’ But I’m the king.”

Can Americans check Donald and family from personalizing a super-power nation?


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