Calm before the storm: the shame of admitting defeat too much for Trump’s psyche

by | Nov 18, 2020 | Government

Donald Trump’s bigger-than-life persona hides an empty inner core. Exposure of any flaws in his façade has the potential of destroying him, at least in his mind, since there is nothing of substance to fall back on. Some experts believe the period ahead could therefore be the most dangerous period of Trump’s presidency. Dr Bandy X. Lee and Elizabeth Mika report.

What is Donald Trump doing right now? While we cannot read a person’s mind, mental health professionals have an excellent understanding of Trump, thanks to the abundant and high-quality information available about him, more information than almost any patient we have ever treated.

Direct reports from close associates about their interactions with him, under sworn testimony, from the highest-order criminal investigations are just one example. Personal interviews are of little value at best and misleading at worst with the kind of pathology in Donald Trump.

Since dozens of mental health experts put together our bestselling public-service book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, at the start of this presidency, all our warnings have been realized, almost as if on schedule.

We now feel the need to warn again — against his rage. We were on the mark when we warned against what became a massacre of our Kurdish allies and the assassination of a top Iranian general, to the surprise even of Pentagon officials.

We knew what the outcome of his disastrous mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic would become, before it happened, as our blow-by-blow account reveals.

Destructive rage

When we speak of his rage, we do not mean any garden-variety rage but the kind pathological narcissism portends, with any level of destruction.

First, there is an over-the-top pronouncement of his greatness. That there could be no possibility other than his winning this election may seem almost delusional, especially when he has been the cause of a quarter million deaths, a bankrupt nationchildren in cages, and our endangered natural habitat.  But his overinflated sense of self is meant to overcompensate for the level of emptiness, inadequacy, and worthlessness he feels inside.

Second, should anyone question him, next comes the unloading of a colossal victimhood complex. He accuses Democrats of rigging the electionmassive voter fraud, and conspiracy theories about how seemingly unrelated events were orchestrated to bring about his downfall.

And third, if the above two methods do not work, there follows predictable yet still shocking sadism. He would rather wreak havoc and revenge on the nation and the next administration than to allow them to succeed, all for having rebuffed him. Hell hath no fury like a pathological narcissist scorned.

Shame = humiliation

The pathological narcissist is very sensitive to shame, which he perceives as humiliation: a blow to his self-image and a threat to what he believes himself entitled to, which is a status superior to all others.

Democracy has no place in this world view. This sensitivity is the reason why Trump lashes out at those who appear to shame him in any way. His rage reactions are always disproportionate to “the offence”. The loss of election means he will hold a grudge and seek revenge till death, his own or his “offenders” or both, whichever comes first.

Shame is worse than death for a pathological narcissist, because it exposes some flaw in him, even if it is a natural human flaw.

Trump will have many more serious shortcomings because of this shame intolerance, but then he must all the more insist he is perfect and surpasses everyone else. He must retain this grandiose delusion of superiority and perfection at all cost because this becomes all he has. His bigger-than-life persona hides an empty inner core, devoid of meaningful values and attachments. Exposure of any flaws in his pathological façade has the potential to collapse and destroy him, at least in his mind, since there is nothing of substance to fall back on.

An inner emptiness

The rage with which a pathological narcissist reacts to shame or humiliation thus helps him to fight against this inner emptiness and easy depression, which he cannot tolerate.  Deprived of the admiration and special treatment he believes he deserves—and this need is bottomless, as is his sense of entitlement—it does not take much to provoke it: a simple, neutral observation or even a well-expected electoral loss can unleash it like hellfire on an unsuspecting victim.  This vehement defence against shame is a common cause of violence.

Shame intolerance is another reason why a pathological narcissist never takes responsibility for his behaviour. Nothing is ever his fault, no matter how great a mess he creates.  Responsibility and blame are for other people, as is any loss.  Admitting his fault in any way creates a crack in his false façade, and that is a matter of life and death for him—psychically speaking.

Satisfaction from hurting others

We know this from the way Trump humiliates others. He derives satisfaction from calling others “losers” and “suckers”, precisely to deny and to distance himself from the qualities he cannot stand. Humiliating other people is therefore one of the few pleasures in a pathological narcissist’s life — almost as good as “winning”.

Should the truth — those inconvenient facts about his life and his character — be revealed, there would be emotional annihilation. Therefore, it is nothing for a pathological narcissist to kill to protect his fragile ego from this unforgivable, to him, insult — that is, the truth. For this reason, we have said that the interregnum would be the most dangerous period of his presidency after an electoral loss.

Narcissistic rage attacks can be deadly.  We have seen it in the tragic instances of lethal domestic violence, where a narcissistically injured spouse kills his wife over her efforts to leave him. We can also see it brazenly displayed in the lives of murderous tyrants, under whom those who dare give their “Dear Leader” honest feedback may pay for it with their lives.  We may merely be in the calm before the storm.

Elizabeth Mika is a clinical psychologist.

Republished with permission from DCReport. Read the original here


Bandy Lee

Bandy Lee

Bandy Xenobia Lee is an American psychiatrist with Yale University, and a specialist in violence prevention programs in prisons and in the community who initiated reforms at New York's Rikers Island prison.


  1. Avatar

    good article – I totally agree

    pity Trump supporters are unlikely to read it – or if they did happen to be apprised of it, would reject it as Fake News and not fitting with their belief system

    ‘we tend to start with our prejudice, then accept only facts that support it, while rejecting all to the contrary’ …

    • Avatar

      Yep blind spots 101

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      We need to keep in mind that voting is not ‘compulsory’ in USA.

      It’s total population is 328.2 million people, and Trump is boasting with 71 million votes? A very rough calculation of that is 4.62253521127, which may or may not include the active voting suppression by the GOP.

  2. Avatar

    Shades of Hitler’s last days where he raged that the German people had failed him and were unworthy of him. Those Nazis were prepared to sacrifice the lives of thousands of youth so that they could live for another few hours. Is Trump this bad?

  3. Avatar

    Shades of Hitler’s last days where he raged that the German people had failed him and were unworthy of him. Those Nazis were prepared to sacrifice the lives of thousands of youth so that they could live for another few hours. Is Trump this bad?

      • Avatar

        Yes. My question (Is Trump this bad?) was meant to be rhetorical. Noam Chomsky rates Trump as the most dangerous man alive. Difficult to disagree with this assessment.

      • Avatar


        Of course, it’s something that many people, who study and understand the how and why of reading ‘natal’ charts are not surprised with at all. If you wish, take a peek here, you may understand more:

        The progressed chart on the right gives you the date of the article December 19, 2019.

  4. Avatar

    He’s monster created by the US itself. It’s focus on the importance of being a wealthy tycoon only concerned about image and material success, but in his case it is all puff pastry.

    How much this character has been driven by Ayn Rand’s views of ‘magnanimous men’, a failed philosophy that was absorbed by many men of Trump’s time and has spread right through the Republican Party. If you have ever read or seen Fountainhead by Rand, you’ll see Trump in Howard Roark, a man so full of himself that he cannot accept anything from other people. It’s his way or none, which brings him to committing what we would call a terrorist act on one of his own buildings because he has to have complete control. He brands his ego on everything, only he knows, others are of no importance. You can hear echoes of this philosophy in “I did it my way”, the song from Frank Sinatra.

  5. Avatar

    The Trump presidency will provide a rich source of books, university courses and psychological case studies long after his death. A product of the most corrupt, decadent, greedy and selfish of democracies.

    From narciscism, to xenophobia, racism, megalomania, sociopathy and any other -mania, -ism or -phobia you can think of. Perhaps the Republican Party will continue to worship him as a god?

    Perhaps Trump would be pleased? Except for the excoriating criticism.

  6. Avatar

    the U.S public deserve him and the George Dubbya bushes of the world, a dying empire destroyed by corruption and greed ,much like todays Australia and as long as we keep electing corrupted political parties their fate is our future.

  7. Avatar

    Interesting profession Forensic Psychiatrists. Medical degree and the implied/assumed high ethical character, though pay them enough money they will say whatever is required for whatever purpose. Fascinating if some time is spent reviewing Judges summations of psychiatric reports commissioned by the Catholic Church of plaintiffs suing them ( such as via austlii). How generally psychiatrists seem to find persons alleging church abuse always seem to be assessed as having generally, all of the issues Bandy above attributes to Donald Trump.

    Not sure given her professional specialities indicated above have a whole lot of relevance given the chosen subject of the article. Criminals that didn’t get away with it versus somebody who obviously did a little better in life. Then again perhaps that’s just her style given her middle name is a derivation of “strange” from the Greek.

    I find it comical some of the rather unbalanced “evidentiary” material referred to above. Which admittedly is presently repeated just about everywhere in the commercial media. Though these presentations lack depth of comparative context. In particular the references to massacres of kurds and assassination of Soleimani. How on earth is “rage” in the equation? I simply don’t see how these events can really be compared with the destruction of three nation states and the near destruction of a fourth by Trump’s two predecessors. Drones being used to blow up a whole wedding to get one guy and all the other goings on in other people’s countries under Bush Jr and Obama.That’s a lot of dead, maimed and displaced people who were nothing to do with the “justifications” for the interventions.

    I’ll leave it at the one example. Bandy seems to me much more suited to writing fiction.

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