As a teenager, I spent two years in a mental hospital (ages 13 to 15). I have what people call a personality disorder which is the subject of this entire blog.
I am against President Trump as are so many. But I have one reservation about how people are speaking about him. Every time I see the words “mentally ill” or “narcissistic” or “psychopathic,” I cringe inside. I wish we could oppose his politics without this mental health jargon. Many, many people have these “disorders” without ever acting like Trump. Some people would like to actually ban psychopaths from office. Tina Taylor of No Psychos, No Druggies, No Stooges believes every candidate for high office should be subjected to a brain scan to find out if they are psychopaths. I have opposed this as prejudicial. My blog post, Testing Politicians for Psychopathy: Common Sense or Witch Hunt? presents arguments against it. Another blogger, James, also explained what was wrong with this idea in The Case against MRI Scans. Yet the crisis that Donald Trump’s presidency has created for the United States has made Tina’s idea more palatable to many people.
The concept of “mental illness” was used to exempt crazy people from blame when they do things they can’t help. Saying they are not bad but only “ill” looked like a humane way of dealing with these cases. The problem is that the stigma attached to criminal insanity carried over to the concept of “mental illness.” Now people sneeringly through the accusation, “You’re SICK!” at each other. Calling people “sick” didn’t free them of stigma. It made sickness stigmatized as well. In addition, the concept of “mental illness” has expanded to include all forms of psychological distress or impairment. Many people who are not psychotic and never will be are in therapy for help with issues that trouble their psyches. All these people can be technically called “mentally ill.” Certainly someone like me who has a history which includes a stay in the loony bin is so labeled.
One of the most freely misused words in the English language is “psychopath.” People thoughtlessly call anyone who does something terrible a “psychopath” although most crimes are committed by people who are no psychopaths. This sloppy use of language attaches the ugliness of each of those crimes to people who really are psychopaths. That’s unfair. Because of the stigma, most people with a mental health label, particularly psychopathy, are “in the closet.” But many blogs and web sites describe how to “spot” us, basically to “out” us.
The Problem is not Psychology. It’s Politics.
Donald Trump became president due to a multiplicity of complex causes, economic, social and political. Our country is deeply divided. There is also a severe gap between economic classes. The top 1% has more power than the rest of us and whoever is president is unduly influenced by those people. Those of us who don’t like the way Trump is running the country need to speak out loudly and clearly. But we need to speak out against his politics. Whether he is “mentally ill” or not doesn’t matter. His bad politics matter. We can condemn political malfeasance as well as heinous crime without recourse to mental illness jargon.
- Here’s what’s psychologically wrong with Donald Trump.
- Donald Trump ranks high on Hare Psychopathy test. This page uses the word “psychopathic” and “psychotic” interchangeably. It attributes this semantic confusion to Dr. Kevin Dutton who would never talk that way. Shame on them.
- Rae Abileah, formerly of Code Pink. A wonderful person. (No, there’s no reason to put this link here but I found it while doing this blog. She never uses psychiatric language talking about Trump. I think part of the reason some people do is to make him look like the other. So straight of them.
- From Democracy to Pathocracy by Tina Taylor. A perfect example of psychologizing a political disagreement. The article starts with a quote from Martha Stout, “That a small minority of human beings literally have no conscience was and is a bitter pill for our society to swallow…” As I explained in Free to Choose, our lack of conscience scares people because it means we are free to do anything. But that doesn’t mean will will do the worst things possible.