A prominent psychoanalyst who specializes in understanding narcissistic personalities says that President Trump suffers from a grievous lack of self-esteem, causing him to crave the approval of others to the point that he is willing to take “dangerous” risks in order to look like a “winner.”
Michael Maccoby is the editor of a new book, “Psychoanalytic and Historical Perspectives on the Leadership of Donald Trump,” which includes evaluations of Trump’s leadership style by multiple mental health professionals. He, along with one of the book’s contributors, Dr. Judith Logue, was interviewed this week on the Yahoo News podcast “Skullduggery” about Trump’s personality type and leadership style.
“This is the kind of person whose whole sense of identity depends on whether significant others affirm him as being important,” Maccoby said in the interview. “He sees himself as a commodity. It’s a horrible feeling if he’s not affirmed — if he’s not felt to be a winner — so he’ll do everything possible to create this.”
Trump’s father played an important role in shaping him and used to tell his children that people can be separated into two categories: killers and losers. That early experience helped shape Trump, Maccoby said.
“Self-esteem is not based on any inner qualities,” Maccoby said. “His self-esteem is totally based on what others rank where he is placed in the market of importance and that makes somebody really desperate in a deep sense to constantly get affirmation. That’s why he demands he has to go out and give a talk to his followers even though it is dangerous right now. He needs that reinforcement.”
Maccoby’s comments and the publication of the book could prove controversial in light of the so-called Goldwater rule, an edict adopted by the American Psychiatric Association barring psychotherapists from diagnosing political figures who they have not personally treated. The rule dates to a notorious incident during the 1964 presidential campaign when Fact magazine published a survey of practicing psychiatrists that showed a large majority of them believed that then-Republican candidate Sen. Barry Goldwater was mentally unfit to be president. (Goldwater later sued and won a defamation suit against the magazine.)
But Maccoby insisted his comments about Trump do not violate the Goldwater rule.
“We’re not diagnosing,” Maccaby said. “What we’re doing is understanding. We’re doing what a historian would do.”
Maccoby’s evaluation of Trump’s leadership style is especially noteworthy since he is one of the only academics whose work has been approvingly cited by Trump himself. In his 2004 book, “Trump: Think Like a Billionaire,” the president wrote that Maccoby’s book “The Productive Narcissist” “makes a convincing argument that narcissism can be a useful quality if you’re trying to start a business. A narcissist does not hear the naysayers.”
Maccoby’s research on narcissism has led him to form opinions on several highly successful corporate titans who he believes are normal type narcissistic personalities. But he said they differ significantly from the president.
“The kind of person who has this very strong need to change things, who has very little conscience, a lot of energy, and some of these people can be productive — they can be Jeff Bezos or they can be Steve Jobs or they can be Elon Musk — the kind of person that Trump compares himself to,” Maccoby said. “But [Trump] is not at all like these people. He is really not essentially a narcissistic personality. He is essentially a marketing personality.”
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