What Is Narcissistic Injury And How Does It Apply To Trump?
Numerous mental health experts have raised concerns over behavior exhibited by President Donald Trump since he took office, with many noting the narcissistic traits readily apparent in his tweets, statements and other interactions.
In fact, earlier this month, 350 psychiatrists and other mental health professionals signed a letter to Congress warning that Trump’s mental health is rapidly and dangerously deteriorating as impeachment draws near.
They wrote that "failing to monitor or to understand the psychological aspects" of impeachment on Trump "or discounting them could lead to catastrophic outcomes” and went on to describe what is known as narcissistic rage due to narcissistic injury.
"What makes Donald Trump so dangerous is the brittleness of his sense of worth. Any slight or criticism is experienced as a humiliation and degradation. To cope with the resultant hollow and empty feeling, he reacts with what is referred to as narcissistic rage.
"He is unable to take responsibility for any error, mistake, or failing. His default in that situation is to blame others and to attack the perceived source of his humiliation. These attacks of narcissistic rage can be brutal and destructive."
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines narcissistic injury as such, according to Psychology Today:
“... vulnerability in self-esteem which makes narcissistic people very sensitive to ‘injury’ from criticism or defeat. Although they may not show it outwardly, criticism may haunt these individuals and may leave them feeling humiliated, degraded, hollow and empty. They react with disdain, rage, or defiant counterattack.”
Narcissistic injury creates in the narcissist a desire to strike back, and there is no chance the individual will simply “get over” the perceived injustice — even if they present outwardly as continuing their usual arrogant, haughty ways.
“The counterattacks and force of disdain and rage from the narcissist can make you feel bullied with no restraint. It can come in the form of emails, texts, letters, verbal abuse, social media attacks, or in-person abuse. This narcissistic rage seems to come out of nowhere and can leave you feeling confused and afraid,” Dr. Karyl McBride wrote in Psychology Today. “‘What will they do next?’ ‘Why did that person do this?’”
“It really makes no rational sense,” she said, “because it is clearly the projection of their own feelings onto others.”
Projection is likely a term many Americans are more familiar with today than before Trump took office. The president has offered myriad examples of psychological projection, from accusing others of lying when he is perhaps one of the most pervasive liars to inhabit the White House to insisting "there was no Collusion [with Russia] except bye Crooked Hillary and the Democrats."
Understanding Trump’s behavior is imperative, the mental health professionals warned Congress, and that warning is apt for every other American as well.
As McBride noted, narcissistic injury can be found in “our relationships, our leaders, our bosses, and our families,” and “it affects us because it is harmful and abusive.”
It remains highly unlikely that issues related to Trump’s behavior will be resolved, because “the narcissist also does not have the ability to give empathy” and such individuals are the least likely to acknowledge that they are part of the problem.
America can expect the situation with Trump will only become more dire if action is not taken to quell his impulses or remove him from office.
Yale psychiatrist Dr. Bandy Lee, one of the mental health professionals who signed the letter to Congress, told The Independent that Trump appears to be "doubling and tripling down on his delusions," based on his "ramping up his conspiracy theories" and "showing a great deal of cruelty and vindictiveness" in his "accelerated, repetitive tweets."
The president’s tweet on Wednesday morning — as House Democrats were expected to vote on articles of impeachment — indicated that his pattern is not set to break any time soon: “SUCH ATROCIOUS LIES BY THE RADICAL LEFT, DO NOTHING DEMOCRATS. THIS IS AN ASSAULT ON AMERICA, AND AN ASSAULT ON THE REPUBLICAN PARTY!!!!”
It is impossible to predict exactly how Trump will respond to impeachment, but his reaction will not be one of self-reflection, acceptance or a desire to move forward in a manner that is best for the country.
It will be ugly — and according to the experts, it will be dangerous.