Monday, March 6, 2017

Infantile Grandiosity

Back in the seventies, foreign aid to underdeveloped countries was not yielding any desired improvements. The third world countries obviously needed money for food, fuel oil and medical supplies. The only change that occurred from receiving millions was a bigger palace for the dictator. There were no roads, gas stations, trucks, farm equipment or schools before or after the funding. There was simply no infrastructure for putting an injection of capital to better use. The only way the underdeveloped country could spend the money was to expand the government headquarters that was already too big and luxurious.

A similar condition occurs in our psyches. We can get into a state of mind where we are in no shape to shape up. Any attempt to upgrade our outlook, self concept and sensitivity to others only results in our being more full of ourselves. A more familiar, but less accurate, concept for this state of mind is “arrested development”. A psychiatric diagnosis for this condition is infantile grandiosity, narcissistic grandiosity or infantile narcissism

Instead of growing into a fully functional adult, we become conceited, pompous and arrogant. We become slaves to our need to show off, to steal the attention away from others and to make ourselves appear more important than we feel inside. We constantly strive to cover up our perpetual insecurities and devastating shortcomings. We appear juvenile, adolescent or immature to others. We are trying to act grownup without convincing the real adults who see right through our posturing and pretending. We stick to our own kind like a tribe of lost boys. 

There are numerous occupations where infantile grandiosity succeeds in a big way. However, not everyone in these roles remains adolescent. The jobs can be filled by fully functioning adults as well. This is not an opportunity for stereotyping, labeling or profiling. This is an explanation for alarming behavior by people in leadership roles.

Professional sports stars and owners, television, film and stage performers or big money financiers can all become very wealthy and famous without fully maturing.  None of these roles require sincerely relating to, empathizing with or caring for others. Giving lip-service to all that selflessness is good enough to fill the role admirably. The jobs can be done with lots of insecurities, character flaws, hot buttons and baggage. The jobs do require putting on a big show for the print, social media and broadcast press. These occupations create “rock stars” complete with a robust and resilient fan base. Fortunately for the showoffs, the fans don’t judge the maturity or state of mind of their idols. The adoring crowd gets spellbound by the glitz and glamour of their big show.  

Our current President has exhibited so many of these traits during his political campaign and his subsequent conduct in the Office of the POTUS. Here are a few examples:

a. During the campaign, Senator Marco Rubio saw how easily Trump could be baited to react defensively to provocations. The Senator proceeded to speculate out loud about the implications of Trump’s small hands. Trump defended his virility immediately and uncontrollably. 

b. During his first week in office, Trump gave a Saturday morning talk at the CIA. He spoke in glowing terms about his amazing Electoral College victory. He announced big intentions to work well with the CIA regardless of all the cheap shots and put downs he had been using to belittle the agency. 

c. During the wee hours of each morning, Trump puts out tweets that get him into the next day’s news cycle. He stirs up controversies that put him into the limelight in a big way. He previously became the center of public attention and the focus of competing candidates’ rhetoric throughout his campaign. Now he’s upstaging members of Congress and the Federal Courts with his knack for being self-aggrandizing. 

Now back to my previous post: Trump’s Opening Gambit and narrowing down the five options to the most likely explanation for the gag order on January 7th.

1. Providing Democratic Leadership
There are no indications that the Trump Administration could be acting strategically and providing leadership to strengthen our democracy. The number of strategic blunders made by the Administration rule this one out. Our country has benefited from the gag order as if democratic leadership had intervened, but that’s been an unintended consequence of short-sighted maneuvers I’ll explore in my next post.

2. Extracting a concession from the opposition
By the end of the week that began with silencing four government agencies, the gag orders were rescinded by the Trump Administration. The outcry from Congress, the press and the public was deafening. The Administration appeared to not be using intentional escalation of tensions or a takeaway to extract a concession. The Administration made their own unilateral concession to abandon its bargaining position. No signs of a top-flight negotiator there. 

3. Distracting the guard dogs
We have witnessed a staggering amount of deceptions, coverups and distractions coming from the Trump Administration. At first glance, this suggest some skill at distracting guard dogs. But it looks to me like trying to use bird seed to distract the dobermans growling at the gate. There’s been no less barking at Trump and his advisors in street protests, at town hall meetings (with or without the elected Representative) or in the news media’s latest discoveries of numerous hidden truths. The deceptions getting used by the Administration seem to be reactive and ill-conceived. If they were proactive and insightful about the push back, there would be more public patience with the new Administration and tolerance for their initially awkward attempts at governing. 

4. Controlling the victim
The Trump Administration usually frames the objections to their barrage of Executive Orders as mere whining from sore losers. All that appears to matter is which side won the Presidential Election. There’s no indication that the Trump Administration can process the substantive issues getting raised by over-zealous executive actions and poorly qualified cabinet nominations. They presume they are in control because they won the election. Even the proceedings and conclusions of the Federal Judges blocking the ban on immigration did not appear to make sense to the Administration. Perhaps it looked to them that more losers were acting uppity. Beyond a blindness to right and wrong, sociopaths commit acts of felony assault, racketeering, reckless endangerment or other punishable offenses. There’s been no evidence so far of criminal activity to support indictments or to press charges against the Trump Administration. The gag order is a false positive of this diagnosis until more evidence comes to light.

5. Flexing their muscles
My write-up of infantile grandiosity above fits the data points we’ve accumulated thus far from the flare ups of the Trump Administration. This is the most likely explanation of the five possibilities I’ve enumerated for the gag order. This diagnosis does not bode well for international relations, human rights or environmental protections. It merely sharpens our focus on what we’re facing and how to deal with it effectively. 

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