Being Raised by Two Narcissists Taught Me How to Deal with Trump – Commentary

Karen Geier [living in Toronto] | Vice

Two years in, some people are still expecting one of his scandals to bring him down. I know better.

If you’ve watched the past three-plus years of the Donald Trump circus looking for some glimmer of hope he’ll get owned, some sign he’ll finally be proven to be an amoral con man and a fraud, I am here to disabuse you of that notion.

Because no one with power or authority seems to understand how to deal with Trump’s unique brand of asshole behaviour, it’s not likely he’ll ever be checked until the next election – if then.

Why am I so sure? I’m the child of two narcissists.                 

When you’re a child of narcissists, you get very good at noticing patterns in behaviour. You learn to recognise the signs leading up to “meltdowns” – public tantrums over the tiniest of slights that are held up as great injustices; “dressings down” – forcing someone to listen to a complete accounting of all the ways they’re terrible; and “wagon fixing” – teaching someone a lesson for imagined slights by doling out an outsized punishment.

You learn this because it is necessary for your survival, to keep out of the line of fire, or at least out of the shrapnel zone. Narcissists as parents are all about wielding control over people, and they don’t care what kind of asshole they have to be to do it.

Now, I’m not weighing in on the president’s mental health or trying to diagnose him with narcissism from afar – that’s a controversial topic even among psychiatrists, and I’m no professional. But children of narcissists are hyperaware of asshole games being played because we’ve had the most experience with it, and often, we know how best to deal with it.

If I can’t technically call Trump a narcissist, he sure looks like an asshole. And assholes will do what’s needed to elicit behaviours from the people around them to ensure they get what they want.

Most people without proximity to narcissism can be easily snowed by assholes. Assholes know how to finesse situations to their advantage. This doesn’t always mean by yelling or forcing people’s hands. A lot of times, it’s just about making their opponent feel like they don’t have any moves left.

Consider the many vendors who have tried unsuccessfully to sue Trump over unpaid bills. He relied on their unwillingness to take him to court, or their lack of resources to see the fight through to the end. He was frequently right.

This is where the media comes in: Trump has finessed his situation – being the president – into where media have no real moves left. The press needs eyeballs, and they can’t just ignore the guy in the White House, so they have to report on the circus.

Sometimes, coverage takes the form of fact-checks, but no one should hold out hope that that will prod Trump into admitting he was wrong or showing any kind of remorse. Children of narcissists will tell you that their biggest fantasy growing up was that their parent would somehow realise they were wrong, and make things right with their child. Ask any child of a narcissist if this ever happened – it never happens.

Why doesn’t this work? Democrats, and even some Republicans, apologise all the time when caught out by the media. The answer comes down to a simple truth: Assholes are incapable of being shamed.

I’ve never seen either of my parents show legitimate remorse for anything they’ve ever done – and the list includes my dad running over my foot with his car by accident. Shame is a consensual activity. For someone to be shamed, they have to accept your reality that they have committed a bad act.

In order for someone to accept someone else’s reality, they have to hold that person in high enough esteem. Assholes make sure no one ever hits the bar. If you object to asshole behaviour, you’re “crazy”, “a whiner”, “doing it for personal gain”, etc.

There’s no evidence anyone has ever successfully shamed Trump. Not over his alleged sexual assaults, not over images of migrant children being taken away from parents and locked in cages, not over his family’s documented history of dodging taxes.

The media and Democrats alike may be used to a more traditional model of public politics, where extremists can be brought low by “Have you no sense of decency, sir?” – style moments. In the past, it was assumed that when someone was caught out in an obvious lie, they would retreat and admit fault.

Except Trump’s answer to, “Have you no sense of decency, sir?” is pretty clearly a solid NO.

That brings us to tantrums. Most adults would rather die than have someone witness them melt down. But if you can’t be shamed, tantrums become a powerful tool. I’ve seen my mother have a four-hour stomping fit, slamming doors and going nonverbal, because she simply didn’t want to attend a family dinner. If anyone asked her why she was behaving that way, she reacted like they were supposed to know why and be very sorry they caused her to have to do these things. Children of narcissists will tell you their tantrum coping skills are legendary, because they’re well practiced.

Assholes view tantrums as another means to an end. You might compare them to a crying baby, but babies get results. Babies get people to drop everything and cater to them. When you’re the president, of course, your tantrums can be on a much bigger scale – your tantrums can shut down the government and leave 800,000 workers without pay for weeks.

The media can’t ignore a news event as consequential as the government shutdown, but they could follow advice psychologists give about tantrums when it comes to Trump’s smaller fits of pique. That means not amplifying Trump’s tweets and on-stage rants. It means not including them on shows, or embedding them in articles, or using their content as uncritical headlines for stories. Even when the purpose of such stories is to explain why Trump is wrong about something, the narrative inevitably shifts to be whatever the president wants it to be.

What good is having power if you can’t hold it over people to get what you want?

Growing up, my parents would refuse to pay for things they didn’t want to pay for and tie it to some “moral failing” of mine they wanted to control. My mother wanted to give my pet away so she could renovate the room his cage was in, so she entrapped me in a situation where I was forced to lie, then insinuated I was “a sneaky kid, and there’s nothing worse on this earth than a sneaky kid.”

Assholes will always know the extent of leverage they have and they will always, ALWAYS use the threat of it to get what they want.

Trump loaded the White House with his purported friends, but more importantly, these were people he had experience with, and most importantly, leverage on.

He has controlled the White House with the implicit threat that he would fire anyone who didn’t play ball with him. Those with independent streaks have by now been mostly cast off.

Wielding rejection is the most classic case of asshole behaviour. But it’s also the one that’s the most exploitable by the press.

This White House is one of the leakiest administrations of all time, and for all the turnover, Trump hasn’t been able to stop people from gossiping to reporters. It’s those leaks, and his inability to stop them, that should scare Trump – grifts don’t work if you can see the trick being pulled.

Assholes can be and do get defeated, but expecting a true Watergate moment – where the president steps down to prevent the country from falling further into chaos – is not based in reality.

Media outlets and Twitter personas do a disservice to everyone when they hype up the cinematic ending that’s never ever going to arrive. Understanding what others know about aberrant behaviour and how to navigate it might be the only way to hold the president even minimally to account.

The number-one most sobering realisation you have when you are in therapy for narcissistic parents is that they will never change. But the best realisation you get out of that is you can free yourself of their control over your emotions. Assholes usually don’t change, because there’s too much benefit to the way they do things. But the country does not have to feel beholden to the asshole.

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  • Clyde Duncan  On February 16, 2019 at 5:27 am

    Trump, The Demagogue, Takes On Congress

    He Displayed His Full Wannabe-Dictator Form

    David Cay Johnston | DCReport Editor-in-Chief

    In the 2019 State of the Union address, Donald Trump revealed yet again that his administration is based on REALITY TELEVISION practices, NOT the faithful execution of duties assigned by our Congress.

    His speech was also bad with numbers — very bad, especially for anyone concerned about winning the war on cancer.

    That said, to those who believe that Trump is their self-proclaimed economic and white-skin-privileged savior, a DEMI-GOD rather than a demagogue, this was a powerful speech, rich with dog whistles to those who favor authoritarianism over the messy business of democratic self-governance.

    The text was written largely by Stephen Miller, a white supremacist Trump adviser. Interestingly, you won’t find the text of the speech at WhiteHouse.gov, at least not the morning after, only the video.

    Trump began behaving in his wannabe-dictator style and with the social graces of a modern Philistine. HE WAS LATE.

    Trump was there as a guest of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who opened the House chamber doors to him only after she marshaled the political power to force him to reopen the government.

    Pelosi could have just told Trump to write a letter, as many presidents have done, instead of giving him the platform he wanted so badly after he caved on his shutdown threat.

    America has the third-generation head of a white-collar crime family in the White House.

    In polite or merely civil society the host introduces guests both in private gatherings and State of the Union speeches. But while Trump tepidly took her hand, he did not wait for Pelosi to introduce her guest before rudely launching into a speech whose main goal was to call for everyone to do as Trump says.

    His rude action was from the same vein as when he shoved Duško Marković, the prime minister of tiny Montenegro, out of the way at a May 2017 NATO meeting so the news cameras would focus on Trump.

    Marković, like all people who understand a bully they cannot defeat, meekly said later that he did not mind. That’s how it goes now that America has the third-generation head of a white-collar crime family in the White House.

    And that fearful reaction was also on display as Republican lawmakers praised Trump the way in and out even though much of what he had to say is a contradiction of Republican party platforms – principles being too strong a word for these views, given their current convertibility into ideological mush.

    Trump called for everyone to get behind whatever he wants, regardless of their differences. In doing so he revealed that he slept through history classes from grammar school through college.

    As part of his call for everyone to get behind what Trump wants and ignore their differences he declared “if there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn’t work that way.”

    Actually, that is exactly the way it has always worked, even when our union was rent asunder by civil war.

    Just before the inevitable entry of America into World War II, which military planners expected would last well into the 1950s with no certain defeat of Berlin and Tokyo, debate on the policies of President Franklin D. Roosevelt ran at full throttle.

    And who led the investigations into the FDR administration’s military preparedness and then prosecution of the war?

    That was a member of Roosevelt’s own party, Missouri Democrat Harry S. Truman who became FDR’s 1944 running mate. Contrast that with the craven refusal to investigate by Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and the rest of the Republican leadership to oversee the Trump administration during the just-finished 115th Congress.

    Much of the speech was closer to REALITY TELEVISION than reality.

    Trump called for national unity, not to defeat actual threats to America such as the Putin regime, but against invading women and children fleeing the brutal streets of Guatemala and Honduras, where violence traces back to decades of American foreign-policy mistakes including the endless war on drugs.

    Seeking to rebut Pelosi’s description of the Mexico border wall as immoral, Trump said: “This is a moral issue.”

    To prove this, he introduced some guests who deserve our sympathy having lost a loved one to violence from a criminal illegally in the United States of America.

    But anecdotes are not a sound basis for policy, especially when both data and logic tell us that most of the people who live in the United States without official permission try to avoid any activity that would bring them into contact with police.

    The data show they are much less likely to commit crimes than native-born.

    Smart reform of our immigration laws would do more to deal with the crimes that Trump exploits to advance his desires than the wall with Mexico that is never going to be built.

    Trump then plunged right into promoting class divisions in a way that revealed his shallow thinking and inability to speak without making stuff up.

    “No issue better illustrates the divide between America’s working class and America’s political class than illegal immigration. Wealthy politicians and donors push for open borders while living their lives behind walls and gates and guards,” Trump declared.

    There are no signs that Americans are about to turn to pitchforks and knives to address their grievances, but if they ever do it is likely that plutocrats, or in the case of Trump people who claim to have great wealth, will be the ones who get the points from the mob.

    Of course, THERE IS NO NATIONAL POLITICIAN CALLING FOR OPEN BORDERS.

    Rather the call is for comprehensive immigration reform that avoids making America a pariah among the nations of Earth, which is what Trumpian walls and Muslim country travel bans foster.

    Trump did try to make himself a champion in the war on cancer. He introduced a 10-year-old cancer survivor and then pledged to propose in his next budget $500 million of funding over 10 years.

    That’s just $50 million annually, which is less than 1% of the money spent by our government currently on cancer research. – LESS THAN ONE-PERCENT OF THE TOTAL CURRENTLY SPENT BY THE USA GOVERNMENT.

    Given that inflation is running north of 2% annually, this vague pledge could be reasonably seen as a plan to cut cancer research funding. It certainly is when examined as a share of the economy, which Trump insisted is growing because of an “economic miracle”.

    Of course, we should not forget that Trump’s first budget proposed massive cuts in cancer research funding, as even the right-wing Washington Examiner reported.

    What we saw in SOTU 2019 was not the faithful execution of the laws that Congress passes, but a TELEVISION STAR from the faux reality of “Celebrity Apprentice” dividing America because he has no idea how to govern so he must cling like a barnacle to his political base.

    • kamtanblog  On February 16, 2019 at 5:52 am

      We know what should be done to Potus !

      Q
      Who will bell the cat ?

      B4 2020

      Kamtan

  • wally n  On February 16, 2019 at 2:12 pm

    Complete load of crap, jump high, don’t jump, HE IS STILL THE PRESIDENT! Liberals talk talk nothing gets done, but, the size of their mansions explode, bernie looking for a larger beach house, the US was sliding a shit hole status, everyone finally paying attention to politics and politicians. You so lucky obama was never placed under a microscope, your heads would explode. Move on nothing to see, here

    • kamtanblog  On February 17, 2019 at 1:00 am

      Wally
      Just another opinion like yours.

      Rite !

      Kamtan

      • wally n  On February 17, 2019 at 11:08 am

        Rite on, none of us have inside information, but, the lights will be turned on the democrats very soon, and the roaches, will be running for cover. Why do I say that, because one trait that PRESIDENT TRUMP has, HE PUNCHES BACK. Buckle up.

  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On February 16, 2019 at 2:41 pm

    Karen Geier’s insightful analysis makes total sense.

    • wally n  On February 17, 2019 at 11:13 am

      I forgot to mention, you are a much better writer, you deserve “insightful” I do not agree with everything, but you manage to stay closer to centre, rare today.

  • wall n  On February 16, 2019 at 3:52 pm

    Comedian, unfunny, idiot, the word “Insightful” was never used to describe any thing she wrote before. Is that the best you guys have???

    • kamtanblog  On February 17, 2019 at 1:09 am

      Q
      Is a narcissist conceited ?

      I love me …who else does !

      Trumpites….certainly.

      Maybe a bit of “idol worshiping”
      Love is blinded by naievety .. wilful ignorance ?

      Go figure

      Kamtan

  • Clyde Duncan  On February 17, 2019 at 8:07 am

  • Clyde Duncan  On February 19, 2019 at 10:38 pm

    ”Why Do British People NOT Like Trump?”

    Trey Speegle | WOW Report

    Nate White, a witty writer from England wrote the perfect response.

    “A few things spring to mind…

    Trump lacks certain qualities which the British traditionally esteem.

    For instance, he has NO class, NO charm, NO coolness, NO credibility, NO compassion, NO wit, NO warmth, NO wisdom, NO subtlety, NO sensitivity, NO self-awareness, NO humility, NO honour and NO grace – all qualities, funnily enough, with which his predecessor Mr. Obama was generously blessed.

    So for us, the stark contrast does rather throw Trump’s limitations into embarrassingly sharp relief.

    Plus, we like a laugh. And while Trump may be laughable, he has never once said anything wry, witty or even faintly amusing – not once, ever.

    I don’t say that rhetorically, I mean it quite literally: not once, not ever. And that fact is particularly disturbing to the British sensibility – for us, to lack humour is almost inhuman.

    But with Trump, it’s a fact. He doesn’t even seem to understand what a joke is – his idea of a joke is a crass comment, an illiterate insult, a casual act of cruelty.

    Trump is a troll.

    And like all trolls, he is never funny and he never laughs; he only crows or jeers.

    And scarily, he doesn’t just talk in crude, witless insults – he actually thinks in them. His mind is a simple bot-like algorithm of petty prejudices and knee-jerk nastiness.

    There is never any under-layer of irony, complexity, nuance or depth. It’s all surface.

    Some Americans might see this as refreshingly upfront.

    Well, we don’t. We see it as having no inner world, no soul.

    And in Britain we traditionally side with David, not Goliath. All our heroes are plucky underdogs: Robin Hood, Dick Whittington, Oliver Twist.

    Trump is neither plucky, nor an underdog. He is the exact opposite of that.

    He’s not even a spoiled rich-boy, or a greedy fat-cat.

    He’s more a fat white slug. A Jabba the Hutt of privilege.

    And worse, he is that most unforgivable of all things to the British: a bully.

    That is, except when he is among bullies; then he suddenly transforms into a snivelling sidekick instead.

    There are unspoken rules to this stuff – the Queensberry rules of basic decency – and he breaks them all. He punches downwards – which a gentleman should, would, could never do – and every blow he aims is below the belt.

    He particularly likes to kick the vulnerable or voiceless – and he kicks them when they are down.

    So the fact that a significant minority – perhaps a third – of Americans look at what he does, listen to what he says, and then think

    ‘Yeah, he seems like my kind of guy’

    is a matter of some confusion and no little distress to British people, given that:
    Americans are supposed to be nicer than us, and mostly are.

    You don’t need a particularly keen eye for detail to spot a few flaws in the man.

    This last point is what especially confuses and dismays British people, and many other people too; his faults seem pretty bloody hard to miss.

    After all, it’s impossible to read a single tweet, or hear him speak a sentence or two, without staring deep into the abyss. He turns being artless into an art form;
    He is a Picasso of pettiness; a Shakespeare of shit.

    His faults are fractal: even his flaws have flaws, and so on ad infinitum.

    God knows there have always been stupid people in the world, and plenty of nasty people too. But rarely has stupidity been so nasty, or nastiness so stupid.

    He makes Nixon look trustworthy and George W look smart.

    In fact, if Frankenstein decided to make a monster assembled entirely from human flaws – he would make a Trump.

    And a remorseful Doctor Frankenstein would clutch out big clumpfuls of hair and scream in anguish:

    ‘My God… what… have… I… created?’

    If being a twat was a TV show, Trump would be the boxed set.”

    • kamtanblog  On February 19, 2019 at 10:59 pm

      Absolute hilarious laughter !
      POTUS the ”orangutan”
      British sense of humour is very subtle and overpowering. Certainly one person on the planet we all would “love to hate”…
      Much more entertaining than the Irish jokes
      by stand up comedians.
      Reminds me of names of British kings

      King Canute who was going to stop tides.
      King Richard the lion heart.
      King William the conqueror.
      King Charles 1st who lost his head “literally”
      Claimed his power came from God !
      Names given to kings and queens by the common people.
      History teaches fools
      Forget at your peril.
      Best forgiven not forgotten

      Enjoyable read !

      Kamtan

  • wally n  On February 20, 2019 at 10:30 am

    TODAY…..British sense of humor……..is an oxymoron. As the raping hordes destroy whats left of “Britain” PRESIDENT TRUMP will be enjoying his life at Mar a Lago or maybe Trump Tower and I am sure a few ex Prime Ministers will be hanging around looking for handouts. So Sad So Sad

  • Remembering Lives  On March 21, 2019 at 12:03 am

    In my experience the biggest chink in the armour of a narcissist, is themselves. They eventually seem to trip themselves up.

    • kamtanblog  On March 21, 2019 at 1:34 am

      Question
      Was Hitler a narcissist ?
      Was Stalin also one ?

      Churchill certainly was not !

      QED

      • Remembering Lives  On March 21, 2019 at 9:52 am

        I do not believe history will judge this era kindly. Churchill showed regret following the disasterous Gallipoli campaign. He actually joined the soldiers back in the trenches at one point, I beleve. As I understand it, he took excellent care of his men too. He had the ability to show remorse and a desire to make amends for his mistakes-something which is usually lacking in narcissists.

      • Remembering Lives  On March 21, 2019 at 10:03 am

        Churchill showed humility-narcissists do not.

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