Are There Two Trumps?
© 2016 Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq.
In March, before the primaries were over, I wrote a book titled Trump Bubbles: The Dramatic Rise and Fall of High-Conflict Politicians. In it I predicted that there was a 50-50 chance that Trump would be elected President in November. (I guess I beat the polls that said he would lose for sure.) I went on to predict the following:
“If he becomes the President of the United States, within 12 months we will be at war with somebody. He tends to inspire violence and lack of restraint – which leads to lack of physical restraint, which leads to organized aggressive behavior – which leads inevitably to war. He will “split” the world into allies and enemies. We will have more chaos than we do now in the Middle East – and on American soil. Friends and family members will start hating each other, and school children will become disrespectful and violent towards people who look different from them. I hope I’m wrong about this.”
Yet on Sunday, President-Elect Donald Trump was interviewed on the CBS program “60 minutes.” He presented himself as moderate, reassuring people that they should not be afraid of this Presidency and telling any of his followers who are harassing minorities to cut it out. “Just stop!” he told them, speaking directly to the camera.
He also said he might keep some parts of ObamaCare, he might be satisfied with “just a fence” for some parts of his border wall, that he might not appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate and jail Hillary Clinton, that he might not deport 11 million illegal immigrants from Mexico (just the 3 million who are “criminals”) and that he would hire Washington politicians and lobbyists (rather than completely “draining the swamp” of Washington politics).
This was a Moderate Trump (Mod Trump I’ll call him), unlike the one we saw on the campaign trail and at rallies (I’ll call this Flame-Thrower Trump: FT Trump.), who spoke in all-or-nothing terms about all of these issues and more. Mod Trump also said in his acceptance speech last Wednesday, that he intended to be the President for all Americans and that he would make America great again for all Americans. And after he met with current President Obama (a man he spent five years very publicly challenging his birth in America), they both said it was a good meeting and Obama said we should “give him a chance to lead.”
But which Trump will be President? If he is a high conflict person (HCP), then these two Trumps are merely two faces of one personality—a narrow personality which will repeat and repeat negative behavior, characterized by: 1) A preoccupation with blaming others; 2) Lots of all-or-nothing thinking; 3) Unmanaged emotions; and 4) Extreme behaviors. If he is a Narcissistic HCP, then he will constantly be stuck in a pattern of self-promotion combined with an “attack-defend-deny” response whenever someone criticizes him or something goes wrong. We have seen this over the past 16 months and HCPs don’t change without a lot of effort to change. He has never made such an effort.
If he is a sociopathic HCP (the writer of his book “Art of the Deal” said he was a sociopath), then having two faces is normal. This is commonly known as a “Con Artist.” One face is that of the true aggressive abuser and the other face is that of a sugar-coated cover for disarming people. The pattern of a Con Artist is to lull his target into complacency (often by pointing over there at someone else) while he takes whatever he wants from you. In other words, Mod Trump and FT Trump may be one and the same person—and not to be trusted for a moment, let alone four years.
I fear that we are dealing with a sociopathic HCP. Of course, as a mental health professional, I will not give him a formal diagnosis, since I haven’t met him for the purpose of diagnosing and treating him. This is known as the “Goldwater Rule.” However, we are in a much more serious situation than with Goldwater, who lost his election for President fifty years ago. Now, I believe it is important to share my fears based on my knowledge about the patterns of this disorder, in the event that they do apply, and to help people prepare for setting limits on his future behavior.
To me the main message now is not to be complacent:
Don’t believe a word he says! He is not just hyperbolic or exaggerating—he is constantly lying. This is who he is: a known substantial liar. PolitiFact (the Pulitzer prize-winning independent news service) says that 76% of his statements were false, whereas 26% of Hillary’s were (and also 26% of Obama’s). His words create a narrative that is irresistible to his followers and cause passivity in those who disagree with him.
Watch his behavior patterns! Even his followers will be sorely disappointed by his promises to them. He does what is convenient for the Trump brand. Mod Trump has already reversed a lot of what FT Trump has said. Look at all the Washington insiders he’s bringing into his team. Look at how he’s keeping his ties to his businesses, after criticizing Hillary mercilessly for her connections to a human service foundation while Secretary of State.
Recognize his “US against THEM” message! He will never be a great unifier, when he has been such a great divider. This will continue. I believe we will see a lot more of FT Trump in the future. (Please read Trump Bubbles for a fuller explanation of this.)
Speak up! If he goes in his current direction, freedom of speech and of the press will become more curtailed over time. Now is the time. If people see that you are not afraid, they will be encouraged and act less out of fear themselves.
Support people who are already speaking out! If I’m right, he needs us all to set limits on him right away, otherwise he will feel more and more confident in his high-conflict behavior.
Perhaps over the next four years Trump will unite the world against his “US against THEM” words and policies. Then it would be all of US against HIM, which history shows is how many HCP politicians ultimately fall: Hitler, McCarthy, Johnson, Nixon, etc.
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.