If I had to sum it all up, the word I’d use would be “fear”.
I won’t speak for anyone else, but I come by my fear honestly.
I grew up under the brooding anger of a drunken narcissist.
My father always drank, and he was always angry. And it was always about him.
So, as a tiny youngster, and then as a scrawny adolescent and teen, I learned how to interact with him. I guess, in my innocence, I thought I was “managing” him, by not doing anything to make him angry.
He was a monster, really. A massive, sweaty, angry shirtless man of over 350 pounds who stomped around the house looking for a reason to justify his anger.
He was brutal. He hit my mom in the stomach when she was pregnant. He hit her on her head when she had migraines. He bellowed a lot. Most of his sentences contained one word only. He eschewed the use of adjectives, and sometimes even verbs.
“Would you please pass the salt” came out as an angry one-word demand. “SALT!”
I’ve written about my father before. This is not about him.
There’s another narcissist making the news today. He’s being sworn in as President of the United States.
This narcissist doesn’t drink. Presumably, he doesn’t do any drugs either. Those are strong points in his favour.
However, he is a narcissist with a delicate ego. Already we’re watching as his “enemies” (his word for anyone who doesn’t explicitly support him) are scrambling around trying to get in his good graces. They have to work with him, after all.
And like my father, he holds nothing but contempt for them. I think he holds contempt even for many of his friends.
A lot of my friends are conservative, and they wonder why there is so much fear coming from those who don’t support him. They seem to think it’s all about partisanship. They seem assured that since Trump is not a Democrat, his opposers believe he’s evil.
It’s not that.
It’s that he’s a narcissist and reactionary. It’s not that he can’t control his reactions to perceived slights; it’s that he has no interest in doing so.
When it comes to reporters and celebrities, there’s no real harm in him reacting in anger on Twitter to what they say.
The fear is about how this translates to the political and diplomatic life.
As much as his “enemies” are trying to find ways to placate him, his followers – his “true believers” – have a much harder job. They too have to find ways to manage him so that they don’t set him off. They have to bow to him, and “yes sir” him around the clock. They have to advise him on what to do, without looking like they’re telling him what to do.
They have a difficult job. But….it’s their job. Many of them will end up contradicting him one way or another, and they’ll be fired. It’s what he does. And he does it a lot. We saw him fire advisers during his campaign.
America’s enemies have no such urgent need to keep them sensitive to his sensibilities. They don’t have to “manage” him at all. Neither the Syrian nor Russian presidents will stay awake, tossing and turning as they think about how to placate him. They too are narcissists and are only concerned with maintaining their power over their people.
They’re going to piss him off at some point. And he will react, because that’s what he does. Diplomacy and strategy won’t factor into anything once his dander his up.
So now there’s this sense of impending danger. I know the feeling. I’ve grown up with it.
A thing a therapist once told me about my dad: “you do know, right, that there was nothing you could do to prevent your dad from getting angry. It didn’t matter how careful you thought you were being, he was going to make the choice to be angry.”
I remember being surprised by that.
The American president is the same. A bull in search of a china shop.