This is a blog with my opinions on politics, psychology, and other subjects. My posts are sometimes serious and sometimes snarky. I'm a retired MSW clinical social worker/psychotherapist and mental health center director who was also a cranberry farmer. Scroll archives on bottom of page to see previous blog stories. There are new ones added almost every day, although if I don't have anything original to say I try not to say anything at all.
In my 40 years as a psychotherapist I had many women in therapy who were married to men who were abusive. That's why these two articles piqued my interest this morning:
Click above to read
Click above to read (you can subscribe for free)
The salacious and tawdry nature of what Trump did made the coverage of the recent E. Jean Carroll trial more compelling to many viewers. Let's face it, if there were reports of Trump emotionally abusing a wife or girlfriend it wouldn't have received the media attention it did, although Ivana's serious accusations made the news.
Since I worked in a community mental health center I not only counseled many women myself, but all of our clinicians also did. Our program was in Mason, a rural suburb of Lansing, Michigan and most of our clients were blue collar with many of them working in auto factories. The area was mostly Republican.
Rarely did we have female clients who were physically abused. By far the majority who came because of marital problems were emotionally abused by spouses who demeaned them, bullied them, had no empathy for their feelings or in the worst cases relished controlling and demeaning them.
There is one case I can write about since our therapy was referred to in "The Burning Bed" The True Story Of An Abused Wife" which is a book about her. The book is about Francine Hughes. She became famous because she set her husband's bed on fire when he was sleeping and he died. Subsequently she was acquitted of murdering him by reason of temporary insanity.
Although her husband did psychically abuse her, he also attempted to thwart all of the gains in self-esteem she made in therapy. We talked about her wanting to advance her education. Then when she started at the local community college he burned all her books. He did things to her that were much worse, but this act was symbolic and in retrospect his demise could be seen as karma.
As far as I know, what hasn't been the subject of studies is how many of the women who support Trump who believe that he has physically abused women or has publicly demeaned and disrespected them would put up with the same behavior in their spouses or boyfriends.
I think it would be enlightening to determine what percentage of these women have been or are in relationships with men who abused them, whether physically, emotionally, or both.
You cannot pivot from your core identity. You cannot reshape a Republican party that likes or helps women, because it would no longer be the Republican party as we know it. The GOP is right to worry about its woman problem, because no party can survive if it loses women. But the Republicans’ best hope, at this point, is that women who have been shocked into new political awareness will become more complacent once Trump has left the picture.
For the rest of us, we can only hope that those women realize their problems go deeper than one bad president — and that their collective anger continues to erode the foundations of the GOP until the whole rotten structure tumbles to the ground.
The political problem with women who will vote for Trump no matter what his behavior with was, or his attitude about women all his adult life has been, is a psychological and societal problem. It is rooted in women's beliefs about themselves and is a combination of their accepting outdated views that women should be subservient to men and low self-esteem.
A segment of society is stuck in the 1950's when "Father Knows Best"began on radio in 1949, and then aired as a television show for six seasons and 203 episodes.
Parents need to know that the classic series Father Knows Best is pretty mild when it comes to iffy topics, but reflects overtly sexist and subtly racist attitudes by today's standards.
Everyone gets along and tries to do the right thing. Dad is recognized as the head of the household. "Good" women are characterized as being feminine and not "like men"; the Anderson children are raised according to this standard.
Check out the expressions on the stars faces:
Click above to enlarge
I may be reading my own bias into this but it seems to me that Jim is far happier than Margaret. She can't fairly be called "a long suffering wife" because she was depicted as being satisfied with her marriage. Today if she came to me for therapy for depression I would work on how this was related to her self-esteem and how her husband might be holding her back from pursuing endeavors to build her feeling better about herself.
Today no show would be named "Father Knows Best" unless it was a parody.
There is no way that Jim Anderson would abuse Margaret. However, he was a husband of his times and in subtle ways he treated her as his inferior and she accepted this.
How many Republican women are living their lives as if they are in a re-boot of "Father Knows Best" is impossible to determine.
Original title from before Trump lost the election. "How I think the president may cope with losing." By retired therapist Hal Brown, MSW
I wrote this in June 2020.
This is my speculation as to how Trump will deal psychologically with losing the election. It is not particularly about what he will do to meet his narcissistic need to be the center of attention although I make some guesses. I try to apply what I know about the psychology of loss to what I understand about Trump’s personality.
No doubt you’ve been reading articles in the progressive media and listening to MSNBC and been alarmed by the dire predictions about Trump’s losing the election and using the time left before his term formally ends to wreak havoc on the rule of law and the foundations of American democracy.
As a psychotherapist who is retired after 40 years of clinical practice I have written numerous essays about Trump’s psychopathology here on Daily Kos and previously on the website Capitol Hill Blue. I am not nearly as famous as other mental health professionals who will come up if you do web searches by adding terms like psychology or narcissism to Trump’s name. If you do this you will find a plethora of articles. On Google search of Trump and psychology you have to go to number 26 on page three to find a link to my articles. (These are the only links in this diary. They will each take you numerous references.)
There is something that occurred to me which I haven’t seen addressed. It is that by the time of the election Trump will have been forced to have dealt psychologically, probably unconsciously, with the very real, if not the likelihood, that he is going to lose.
It is true that Donald Trump utilizes the most is also the most primitive psychological defense mechanism, the very most basic one, denial. It is called primitive because according to psychodynamic theory it is the one which is used earliest in life to cope with anxiety and with stress in general.
There is a time when, to put it bluntly, reality bites when someone is about to or actually suffers a loss. In other words, to extend in imagery, reality gets its teeth into a person and try as that person might to dislodge it, reality just won’t let go.
Trump still believes he can manipulate reality and his minions play into this delusional thinking. Like anyone else he believes that if something worked in the past it will work again. He currently seems to believe he can bend the truth to his will. The polls showing Vice President Biden defeating him are a good example. As you’ve probably read he thought he could deny the CNN poll and even threaten a law suit against them. Then the not well-regarded Rasmussen Presidential Tracking Poll, considered conservative due to the politics of the man whose company conducts it, came out agreeing with the other polls. I haven’t seen a reaction from Trump to this so I assume until he tweets something we can assume he’s in denial.
I don’t think I need a reference to remind readers of the five stages of grief described by Elisabeth Kübler Ross in her writing about death. It has been applied to other kind of loss having nothing to do with dying and found to have validity in how people handle other kinds of loss.
1 - Denial.
2 - Anger.
3 - Bargaining.
4 - Depression.
5 - Acceptance.
Note that the first stage is also the most primitive psychological defense mechanism
While grief researchers modified the Kübler Ross list as they discovered that the stages don’t always occur in order, and that people go back and forth between stages, the basic model trends to hold true for everyone.
There’s a concept called anticipatory grieving which can help someone face inevitable loss before it occurs, for example if a loved one is terminally ill. However, this won’t work for Trump until it is quite clear from the polls that there is virtually no chance he can win, and even then he may remain in denial until the actual election.
This is when he will become the most dangerous because if he holds true to form he will lash out in anger in any way he can. This coincides with the Kübler Ross model. There is no telling for sure what he will do in the interim between his election loss until Biden is sworn in. There are lots of dire predictions.
My sense is that Trump will not go through the bargaining stage because it generally applies to grief associated with death. For example, for those who are religious it may involve promising God they will reform their lifestyle to stave off death just that much longer.
There are no indications that Trump has ever experienced depression as such. This is a man who has said he has never cried. I would look to him to somaticize his depression. We probably wouldn’t learn about some of the typical physical manifestations of depression such as sleep disturbance or minor aches and pains. However some symptoms like severe digestive problems or chest pain could cause him to take another trip to Walter Reed which he’d claim was the second half of his physical. This is something we should be alert for.
As Biden’s swearing in day approaches I think it is possible if not likely that something will “click” in Trump’s psyche which is akin to a survival mechanism. He would then enter to the acceptance phase albeit with a twist unique to him.
This would be when he realizes in his extreme narcissism that he can turn his loss into a win by parlaying the fact that he still has a huge following and is, in his mind, rightfully one of the most famous people in the world.
This is when I would look for him to go back to what has worked best for him in the past which is to do what he does best: perform. I anticipate that in losing he won't take time to lick his wounds because he won’t allow himself to admit he brought defeat upon himself. Instead I see him taking his act on the road where he will continue to draw large, if not huge, crowds. Whether or not they'd pay to see him, and what I expect would be an actual show with the D list performers he can entice to perform, remains to be seen. Of course there’s always the sale of made in China merchandise as a revenue source.
I think Trump will find ways to be in the limelight and will reconstruct his life in a way that satisfies his needs. He’ll never reach the healthy resolution of the grief stages because this would require true acceptance that he suffered a profound loss.
As time goes on we can speculate that his crowds will be smaller and smaller and his events will stop being covered as newsworthy, but he’s smart enough to make sure that he never books a venue he can’t fill and where he won’t make a profit. After all, if the reports are true that Melania reinitiated the prenup before she agreed to move to Washington, he’ll need the money to pay the alimony.
Keep in mind if you want to comment about your own ideas about what you think Trump will do the following:
His intense psychological need to be the center of attention
His practical need to make money
Note that doing things like starting his own cable network requires investors and sponsors.
Up until now his rallies were free. (How many MAGA hats to his supporters need to buy”?)
As a loser he will see deep pocket donors and investors disappear.
Would Fox News, even if they wanted him to host a show, be willing to pay him enough to make it worth his time? Sean Hannity is the highest paid TV host in all TV news at $40 million annually, runner up at Fox is Tucker Carlson at $6 million.
Examples of how the GOP is cruel went though my mind as I thought about their immigration policy and abortion bans. I thought about DeSantis and his war against what he calls woke, and how woke is really a synonym for having empathy for all, not merely some select, people.
I then thought about the phrase which has become a meme ever since The Atlantic writer Adam Serwer published his book of essays entitledThe Cruelty is the Point: The Past, Present and Future of Trump's America. (You can read or listen to an interview with him here.)
It is just that so many people don't care about the hardships of others. It is that they actually relish knowing these "others" are suffering or, if they are policy shapers, making them suffer.
Thinking I might write something about this I did a web search of the phrase "the cruelty is the point" and scanned though a number of the articles (showing in illustration to this blog). I realized that I didn't have anything particularly original to add.
Suffice to say that if empathy was a human gene which could be measured in a DNA test the results would show many Americans would come up woefully lacking.
What did occur to me to write about was how frequently I found myself using a font in blog illustrations which I don't see anybody else using, perhaps because it isn't in the standard lists of free fonts. The font is called butcherman and you have to search for it. I use BeFunky to add it to images I sometimes use in my blogs...
To me these letters represent those people who are literally or figuratively bleeding whether as a result on not being able to get an abortion, immigrants fleeing persecution, or in Ukraine where every day citizens know they may be killed.
I think of those who can look at the misfortune of others and not feel even a glimmer of empathy for them. The font is called butcherman, but these people are actually butcher men.