Trump Bubble Bursts? Not so Fast!
© 2016 Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq.
It’s not a pretty picture. He has gone from loud and self-centered, to racist and demagogic, to obscene and pornographic. What we are watching is the over-reach of a high-conflict person who is not at all prepared for his inevitable public failure and humiliation.
His grandiose self-image is a bubble that he has tried—and will keep trying with new daily counter-allegations —to keep up in the air. But it can’t stay up forever because it’s a false image—a false self that narcissism built from early in his life—that will come crashing down as raw reality sets in. He can no longer be protected by his money, star power, intimidation tactics and endless blast of blaming words. No, the time has come for Donald Trump’s downfall. But is it really that time yet?
Why did he put himself in this position? In the spotlight? He could have stayed slightly under the radar, being a playboy real estate mogul. As an entertainer, he wouldn’t get the political spotlight examination he’s getting now. But maybe he doesn’t realize it’s inevitable that he would be exposed by seeking the highest office in the land? Even he has grown to believe his own grandiose image. It’s called a “defense mechanism” in the mental health field, and it’s painfully obvious when narcissists can’t see the train wreck they are causing—to themselves as well as their families, friends (if they have any left) and businesses and followers.
I fear that we are going to see a serious psychological unraveling. While I can’t diagnose him, because I am a mental health professional who hasn’t met him in person, I think it’s important to understand some of the possibilities, based on his patterns of behavior:
First, his situation is going to get dramatically worse over the next few weeks. The public shaming has just begun. Thursday, three women went public with his sexual predator behavior, dating from the 1980’s to 2005. By Friday evening, ten women had come forward about being groped.
In San Diego we had a mayor, Bob Filner, go through this in 2013, less than a year after he was elected. Three women came forward in early July alleging his sexual harassment. By the end of August, 19 women had come forward and he resigned—eight months after taking office. He faced a felony count for false imprisonment (trapping a woman in a room, like Trump has done) and two misdemeanor counts for battery (less than Trump has done), but he didn’t serve any time because of a plea bargain. Maybe Democrats should chant about Trump: “Lock him up!”
I believe that Trump has many more assaulted women out there. After all, if he could grope a woman on a plane, and if he could do it in his house while his wife was home, he could do it anywhere. And, he openly said on the tape: “When you’re a star, women let you do anything.” Do you think a month or year has gone by without this behavior since he started doing it? Has it ended at all after thirty years of this nasty habit? Doubtful.
Second, he’s going to become unglued—much more so than you have ever seen before. Up to now, he has been able to get by with people tolerating him, fearing him or wanting him to help them get ahead (Christie, Giuliani, Gingrich). Besides, if he is a narcissist, then his glamorous image is part of the glue that helps hold him together. Yet this false image isn’t enough to sustain him, so he always has to grab for more. Buying buildings is heady stuff. Buying more buildings is his business—and his psychological need. But running for the Presidency has consumed him for decades. It would prove to the world that he really is somebody and not just an empty image.
Too bad that he started to believe it and couldn’t see that he would become exposed for who he really is under his image. Remember the movie Spotlight? There will always be investigative reporters out there who run the political beat, not the glamour beat. It’s a whole different world. He should have known. But high-conflict people are blind to the part they play in their own downfall.
Third, his followers are going to drop him after his fall. Everyone’s afraid of alienating them now, especially Paul Ryan and the remaining Republican leaders who haven’t jumped ship yet. But his followers are still enamored with Trump; he’s not enamored with them. He doesn’t know they exist, except as a mirror for himself.
He has taught them to blame Mexicans and Muslims and other minorities, as well as women; so that they will love him. It’s US against THEM. How romantic. He keeps them believing in him because he speaks to them so often. When he stops speaking to them—when he stops running for office—they will return to being unfocused and frustrated. And disappointed that he has lost interest in them.
Remember Sarah Palin? Remember when the news was all-Sarah, all-the-time? That all faded away, speeded up by the role her website played in inciting the shooting of Gabby Giffords and the killing of six others. Which brings me to my next possibility.
Fourth, I fear that someone is going to get hurt. The intensity of the past two years has stoked a lot of unfocused individuals with fear and anger toward certain groups of people. I think there will be violence right before or after the election. Perhaps Trump will point at a journalist, or a Democrat, or a Mexican or a Muslim and blame it all on them.
Or maybe he will become suicidal. We’ve seen it before, such as when stock markets have crashed and people who bet heavily lost everything. If I was one of his children, I would want to lock up any guns in the penthouse right now. Remember when Kissinger was worried about Nixon? It’s that kind of time we’re facing. And Trump is already showing signs of coming unglued; of extreme paranoia with his talk about the election being stolen from him. Remember, narcissists start to believe themselves.
But lastly, I don’t think it’s time yet. The Trump Bubble isn’t really bursting yet. While he’s “shed his shackles” and is acting unhinged, his followers—his negative advocates—still believe in him and will forgive his manly missteps. They think that he is an otherwise normal man who has just made some inappropriate remarks. They can’t see that these are all warning signs of much worse to come. So they will vote for him by the millions. If he loses, they will blame it on everything but Trump (“it was rigged”), just as he always does.
BUT the reality is that he still might win. Hillary Clinton has continued to have only 6-7 points above him since the sexual assault scandal, although various polls put her slightly higher or lower. Trump consistently gets at least 37-40 percent of the vote. His followers are solidly behind him and life-long Republicans are still with him despite everything he has said and done. They still believe he will be a mostly reasonable person once he gets into office. To me, it’s just a question of when the Trump Bubble really bursts: before or after Election Day. Like Brexit and the Columbia peace treaty, the public can still defy the polls and pundits and surprise everyone. You, dear reader, may be able to make a difference. Don’t assume it’s over til its over.
People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. And someone like Trump owns lots of glass houses. Much more will be revealed over the next six months. His tax returns are still outstanding and his Trump University fraud case will be decided after the election. It seems that he will trump himself. Now, it’s up to you!
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.