Why Trump Won't Change

 © 2016 Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq.

Now that Donald Trump is the only Republican candidate, many people wonder if (or promise that) he will change into a Presidential type of person. As I describe in depth in my new book, Trump Bubbles, which is now available, he will not and cannot change, for the following reasons:

High Conflict Personality: Trump appears to have all the traits of a high conflict personality, which include: a preoccupation with blaming others; all-or-nothing thinking; intense or unmanaged emotions; and extreme behavior or threats of extreme behavior. I have been studying high conflict personalities in legal disputes and workplace disputes for the past fifteen years and one conclusion is clear: when someone has these traits they are extremely unlikely to change. What you see is what you will always get. And blaming others is at the core.

Possible personality disorder: While I cannot diagnose someone with a mental health problem who I have never meet and thoroughly assessed, he seems to have some possible traits of this as well. All personality disorders share three traits in particular:

  1. An inability to reflect on their own behavior and to see the cause and effect of their own behavior on other people.

  2. A narrower range of behavior, which doesn’t change and is repeated across many different settings.

  3. Externalizing responsibility for what happens in their lives to other forces in general (like the universe or the government) or to specific individuals (like a spouse, co-worker, boss or government official). If he has a full personality disorder, then he will keep repeating his present narrow range of behavior, even when it hurts him and others.

Social science: Research on business leadership shows that dramatic, charismatic CEO’s get more attention at the start, but they don’t last as long and the organization doesn’t do as well. They don’t change and become more focused on the organization once they reach the top, as compared to those who are more focused on the organization from the start. Yet people fall in love with the charismatic leaders and tend to follow them passionately – until the fall. Trump seems to have this dramatic, charismatic style – and he enjoys it!

Business history: Trump has a history of failed businesses, bankruptcies and lawsuits – by him and against him. Yet he has not changed his tune or seemed to have learned any lessons from this. His efforts to get students to lie about their ratings of Trump University seem to be a prime example that didn’t come out until he ran for President.  Yet he always has excuses or it’s someone else’s fault.

Political history: Trump’s pattern of blaming ethnic groups and even the Republican Party establishment is fairly similar to those of dictators throughout history. There is a surprisingly close fit with the pattern that Adolf Hitler used to rise in the 1920’s and 1930’s, which I explain in detail in Trump Bubbles, along with the social science and psychology research. Hitler didn’t change when he was appointed the Chancellor of Germany. They hoped he would become more reasonable, but instead he became more aggressive and led his country into World War II.

There is no reason to believe that Trump will become more Presidential if he becomes President. There’s no incentive and it’s not what psychology, social science and history indicate for leaders like this. I believe we will face a national emergency if he – or anyone with this type of high-conflict personality – ever becomes President. It doesn’t get better, it gets worse.       

Bill Eddy is a lawyer, therapist, and mediator. He is the co-founder and Training Director of the High Conflict Institute, a training and consultation firm that trains professionals to deal with high-conflict people and situations. He is the author of several books  and methods  for handling high conflict personalities  and high conflict disputes with the most difficult people.

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