|There's a reason why Edvard Munch's "The Scream" is the second most famous painting after the Mona Lisa. It represents an all too human, and all too normal reaction, to existential horrors. https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20160303-what-is-the-meaning-of-the-scream|
By Hal Brown, MSW
Update Aug. 15, 2023: I just read this article and say the reference (my bold):
Perhaps he's setting himself up to plead diminished mental capacity after a slew of recent posts on his favorite social media platform that sound like a horrible cry for help. Call it the wailing of the banshees or whatever else you want, but Trump now seems the living embodiment of Edvard Munch's famous 1893 painting in oil tempera, pastel and crayon, "The Scream." He is out there with only his Kool-Aid drinkers beside him as he melts down into a puddle of sweat, makeup and a Rodney Dangerfield suit. From:
Who would have thought we'd see profane words in headlines with dashes or asterisks referring to a presidential candidate, president, or former president. Probably the best known is a word which also is what you call a domestic cat.
Now we are reading that Trump's former chief of staff, John Kelly, is using a colloquial expression to describe extreme fright speculating that this is how Trump feels.
If you made it to middle age without being this scared, consider yourself lucky. You may have been this frightened if you were in combat or entering a burning building to fight a fire, but soldiers and fire fighters are trained to deal with this. Likewise, medical professionals like members of surgical teams deal dispassionately with life threatening emergencies.
Most people are not trained and thus prepared to handle this level of trauma. For example they may be sitting in a bomb shelter in Ukraine, or be an African villager who is victimized by genocide, or a Kansas farmer watching a tornado bearing down on his house, or much more commonly an ordinary person hearing a dire medical diagnosis for yourself or a loved one.
In these and similar situations if you are like 99.99% of the world's population you will experience being really, really scared. You may feel more frightened than you knew was possible.
You will feel this viscerally. Your mind will react with the flight or fight response, but you will often be unable to do either. You will probably experience a range of decidedly unpleasant physical reactions.
Then we have Donald Trump who, while very few people think will actually end up in prison, is actually facing charges which if convicted could end him up behind bars.
He's already experienced the loss of freedom for the first time in his life. The closest most people have come to knowing how this feels is during a traffic stop. Even though you aren't under arrest during a traffic stop, or being questioned by a police officer in another situation, for that period of time you are not free to simply leave until you are told you can do so.
Trump has been under arrest now. Despite the fact that he was surrounded by lackeys they could leave if they wanted to do so. He couldn't.
He didn't suffer what an ordinary suspect would have gone through when being booked. I have seen this from the point of view of a police officer (I was a reserve officer for 20 years). I helped arrest countless drunk drivers and observed the booking process in the county jail. This included mugs shots, finger printing, breathalyzer tests, and being put in one of several small cells behind the booking desk. (Our jail didn't house drunks together in what is often called the drunk tank.)
These would have been outrageous indignities for him. Instead he was treated like the celebrity he was.
Even so, Trump has had the experience of not being free, albeit for a very short time.
The following is from The Washington Post (subscription)
The former president, in growing legal peril, faced down the most serious threat to his personal liberty and political future like just another day on the campaign trail
The almost celebratory display on Tuesday, clashing with the more typical sobriety of court proceedings, highlighted Trump’s instinct to face down federal charges with the same bluster he marshaled against previous threats to his business and candidacy, and to project strength for his supporters, constructing an alternate reality where he is not in deepening legal jeopardy.
“He’s scared s---less,” said John Kelly, his former chief of staff. “This is the way he compensates for that. He gives people the appearance he doesn’t care by doing this. For the first time in his life, it looks like he’s being held accountable. Up until this point in his life, it’s like, I’m not going to pay you; take me to court. He’s never been held accountable before.”
Kelly is assuming that he knows what Trump is feeling. What ought to be recognized as a known unknown is whether what Kelly calls compensation is something Trump is aware of. He may be exercising what mental health experts consider the most primitive of all psychological defense mechanisms, denial.
To the extent Trump is engaging in denial he is more and more unmoored from reality and closer to becoming clinically delusional. A defendant who becomes so psychotic that they can't participate in their own legal defense might be referred to a psychiatric treatment facility until they are rational enough to do so.
Trump ignored at lawyers who gave him good advice. One was the lawyer Christopher Kise, who he paid a $3 million advance. He told him his best course of action was to settle with the DOJ on the documents case.
This is from The Washington Post (subscription)
The former president was not interested in attempting to negotiate a settlement in the classified documents investigation
The attorney, Christopher Kise, wanted to quietly approach Justice to see if he could negotiate a settlement that would preclude charges, hoping Attorney General Merrick Garland and the department would want an exit ramp to avoid prosecuting a former president. Kise would hopefully “take the temperature down,” he told others, by promising a professional approach and the return of all documents.
But Trump was not interested after listening to other lawyers who urged a more pugilistic approach, so Kise never approached prosecutors, three people briefed on the matter said. A special counsel was appointed months later.
In addition to Kise, "former Trump attorney Alex Cannon in the fall of 2021 repeatedly urged the former president to return documents to the National Archives, according to the report, which notes that he repeatedly admonished him that he was required to do so."
Instead will seek out those like conservative activist Tom Fitton who isn't even a lawyer. Fitton told him he should fight the DOJ because he had every right to keep the documents.
Consider the following, from The Washington Post article first cited:
Trump has wanted to show, according to his advisers, that he is ready to fight — instead of looking downtrodden and glum — as he appeared in court Tuesday. The advisers, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private interactions, have said in the past that few things bother him as much as news accounts of his surly mercurial moods and occasional volcanic temper.
“It’s fine,” Trump said when asked about his mood in a right-wing radio interview on the eve of his arraignment.
“You sound like you’re in great spirits,” the host, Howie Carr, concluded.
“I am,” Trump said. “I’m just fighting for the country.”
Having "surly mercurial moods and occasional volcanic temper" are signs of mental decompensation, of psychopathology. They suggest his defense mechanism of denial is failing him. But then the bravado demonstrated in the answer to Howie Carr and his other "what me worry" behavior in addition to his attacks of his accusers show that he is walking on thin brittle ice (representing his personality) over shark infested waters.
"... as Trump's legal troubles continue to grow, he will "look worse and worse. That is the psychiatric explanation. He is fundamentally different from normal people. We'll see more and more of that"Indeed, Trump is truly different from normal people. Not only that, there are no indications that this behavior will change which means we will see more and more abnormal behavior from him.
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