Donald Trump and his Shame-Based Psyche

If we don’t know already enough about the character of Donald Trump, we now have another glimpse into the dark recesses of his heart with a new book, “The Truth about Trump” by Michael D’Antonio.  The author uses Trump’s own words from an interview two years ago to show us just how extensive is the shame-base that governs this man who could soon be the next President of the United States.  This shame-base is so deep-seated and pervasive that he cannot acknowledge any wrong or having lost in anything.  It boils down to an inability to admit, “I am wrong” about even the simplest matter.  Often when it would have been politically prudent to have acknowledged that “I misspoke” or “I now regret having said that” or some other euphemistic say of acknowledging he had made a mistake, he will merely double-down on the matter.  At times it has been comical.


All of us have a shame base and it serves a purpose, forcing us to “join the human race” and play by its rules…more or less…even when at times these rules seem to be more than we can bear.  But if we cannot play by the rules we will be an “out-lier” and possibly become the bully on the playground who fails to regard common civilities and perfunctory kindnesses necessary to “join in the reindeer games,”  those from which Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer was excluded. The playground bully is comfortable with the disruptive influence he has on the play-ground, and even thrives on it in some perverted manner.  Those that carry this impudence to an extreme and cross a certain boundary at some point will end up in the principal’s office and face frequent suspension from school.  For the “play-ground” must have rules as otherwise the “civilization” that it represents will disintegrate into complete chaos.


In any ordinary “play-ground” Trump would have already been suspended or institutionalized in one of the facilities at which I used to practice counseling for incorrigible teen-age offenders.  But Trump stumbled onto a “playground” that was amenable to his excesses, allowing him to reach a point at which he could not be stopped.  Oh, sure now his Republican Party is greatly troubled by his presence and by his power but most of them still will not acknowledge that they created an atmosphere in their Party the past few decades that would permit him to climb to power by fostering a culture of dishonesty and hypocrisy which would make someone like Trump viable.  If they’d have maintained some basic sense of moral and spiritual integrity, the resulting structure, i.e “boundaries”, would have made it impossible for demagoguery to gain traction.  To illustrate, for the past eight years of the Obama presidency they have been passive in response to members of its constituency that insinuated and declared that Obama was not an actual citizen of the United States, was actually a Muslim,.  Often I watched the GOP leadership sidestep opportunities to quash this type of non-sense but they would always equivocate on the matter, not wanting to alienate their base who thrives on hysterical non-sense.

But my main concern today is, “Why do intelligent citizens continue to support him when reports such as the D’Antonio book clearly reveal that Trump is mentally unstable?”  And furthermore just yesterday a Conservative firebrand, Glenn Beck, described Trump as a “psychopath” about whom he was frightened.  Trump’s instability is so egregious that it is commonly accepted but many conservatives sheeplishly declare they are standing firm in support of him, lest Hillary Clinton be elected..  So, where is reason in my country today?  Have we lost our mind?  Are we crazy?

Well, no.  The problem is that “reason” is not the guiding force in our lives and never has been.  Our reason is but the surface dimension of life and is always subservient to subterranean dimensions of the heart that we do not wish to acknowledge.  As Woody Allen once said about marrying his step-daughter, “The heart wants what it wants.”  Or as someone else once put it, “Our thinking is the belated rationalization of conclusions to which we have already been led by our desires.”  To put it still another way, our reasoning which purportedly governs our life is always governed by the unconscious.  But for many people the notion of being influenced by unconscious motivations jeopardizes their ego-driven belief that they are totally in control of their lives,  that they “know” what they are doing, and are “right” about what they are doing and believing.  To recognize this hidden dimension of their heart would jeopardize their illusion of being in control.  And control is the core issue in this political campaign.  It is a battle between people who are firmly entrenched in a now-threatened view of the world that we are in control of our lives and those of us that have imbibed of what I think can best be described as post-modern thought.  This modern view of the world recognizes that we only have a perspective on the world and do not see things objectively, making it necessary to lighten-up a bit with our view of the world and allow more diversity that we used to think was necessary or even possible.

And this, my friend, is scary!  What makes it so frightening is that the ego can no longer reign in our hearts and lives, forcing us to humble ourselves a bit and see, understand, and experience that our view of the world is very finite and given to being very self-serving.  By nature we see and believe only what we want to see and believe.  Or, in the famous words of Jesus, we “have eyes to see but see not, ears to hear but hear not.”

NYT book review of D’Antonio book:   (See NYT review of the D’Antonio book–


7 thoughts on “Donald Trump and his Shame-Based Psyche

  1. Monte Zerger

    Excellent piece, especially what I’ve included below! Jung would have loved this.

    Worthy of substantial pondering. Alas, those who most should ponder it, are too blind, cowardly and ego-driven to do that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bill Xenakis

      Hi Lew,

      I have a different take on Trump. I do suspect he has some shame issues effecting his character, but I think more so what we see is a style habit. Psychoanalyzing him in terms of a shame disorder is neither accurate or useful.

      Yesterday I heard Trump impromptu dial in to Rush Limbaugh’s show, and Rush questioned his “unique” style of getting off the issues to fight back against personal attacks, and Trump said, “Yeah, they keep telling me that I shouldn’t do that, and they’re probably right, but these attacks on me are not truthful and I believe I need to refute them.” It sounds to me like he’s personally capable of admitting wrong.

      In comparison, in the Wikileaks excerpt below written by Hillary adviser Neera Tanden to John Podesta, she questions if Hillary has a “character problem” in not being able to admit a mistake and move on. I don’t think that is correct either. I believe that Hillary is simply a disciplined lawyer who diligently avoids saying anything that could be construed as admitting fault, even if that might be a better political strategy.

      “On Saturday, August 22, 2015, Neera Tanden wrote:
      I know this email thing isn’t on the level. I’m fully aware of that. But her inability to just do a national interview and communicate genuine feelings of remorse and regret is now, I fear, becoming a character problem (more so than honesty).
      WikiLeaks – The Podesta Emails

      Best Regards,
      Bill Xenakis


      1. literarylew Post author

        Bill, thanks for your thoughtful and critical response. Yes, Hillary is such a flawed human being but she has some modicum of the Shakespearean milk of human kindness” that he lacks. And, yes, my analytical perspective is intrinsically a slant, “give a kid a hammer and everything is a nail” as someone has said. There is so much to say to your thoughtful response which I deeply appreciate. I plan to post in response which, now having your email, I will give notice to you should you wish to check it out. Thanks again.

        Oops, I thought I had seen your email. But I was wrong Hope you check in again and you will see a reference to your concerns.


  2. landzek

    Good stuff. I am less tempted to reduce human activity to some sort of realizable psychological standard. I kind a like the approach that given any group of people is about a third of them her just plain idiots. And this is not a insult of anyone’s intelligence, but as you say intelligence rationality and such is just a particular aspect of consciousness that our society likes to emphasize as somehow at the top or somehow controlling the situation.

    I think a very small percentage of people are actually intelligent in the manner that we like to speak of intelligence, there’s a middle portion that’s the majority of people that are just oblivious and don’t really care regardless of what you call intelligence or stupidity or whatever; these middle people really have no basis or grounding of what they do and any sort of soluble reason, if asked into their reasons they inevitably lead to a sort of unsubstantiated faith; and then there is the kind of leftover people that are just plain idiots that think even less or use their “rational” resources even less in the first two categories.

    Basically my take on the human situation is that most people are idiots. Lol. And that it is no coincidence or mistake that Trump is a candidate for president of the United States. If we want to get philosophical, our society is decadent and unthinking and basically idiotic and so as a representative of the people United States we have Donald Trump as one possible item.


    I mean any place of work say for example, within any organization the matter how successful there is always at least half the people there that are just complete and total idiots. All they do is the work in front of them and they speak what they should speak or they speak with they don’t speak. But beyond the mirror function of their job they are just mindless atomotons that you can’t get into any real discussion about issues or politics or ideology or ideas or philosophy or anything because they have no thoughts on them, and if they do then you quickly have to end the conversation with a kind a jovial kind of it’s all bullshit acquiescence to their simple minds.

    But this is humanity. Yippie!

    (Im such a pessimist. ;)).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. literarylew Post author

      Thanks. I share your cynicism though I manage some kind of “hope” perhaps from a delusional system that grips me! There is a lunacy to life and people like myself, hyper “rational”, are not immune from the lunacy. I increasingly understand Shakespeare’s observation that “life is a tale told by an idiot” though I also deeply believe in another observation of his, “There is a divinity that doeth shape our ends, rough hew them how we may.” Thanks so much for your thoughtful response


  3. Bill X

    Hi Lew, I read your follow-up post and I appreciate your balance and objectiveness.  I am very impressed.  Thank you. One more item I would like to recommend to you is a speech I heard this morning by Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, entrepreneur and investor.  Peter explains the appeal of Trump at a National Press Club meeting.Peter Thiel Defends Trump: His ‘Agenda Is About Making America a Normal Country’

    | | Peter Thiel Defends Trump: His ‘Agenda … | |

    Best Regards, Bill Xenakis


    From: Bill X To: literary lew Sent: Wednesday, October 26, 2016 11:18 AM Subject: Re: [New post] Donald Trump and his Shame-Based Psyche Hi Lew, I have a different take on Trump.  I do suspect he has some shame issues effecting his character (I’m married to a shame-based wife, so I recognize it), but I think more so what we see is a style habit.  Psychoanalyzing him in terms of a shame disorder is neither accurate or useful.   Yesterday I heard Trump impromptu dial in to Rush Limbaugh’s show, and Rush questioned his “unique” style of getting off the issues to fight back against personal attacks, and Trump said, “Yeah, they keep telling me that I shouldn’t do that, and they’re probably right, but these attacks on me are not truthful and I believe I need to refute them.” It sounds to me like he’s personally capable of admitting wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. literarylew Post author

      Thanks. I will look up the Peter Thiel address. I’m glad you liked my response. Let me say, perhaps again, the most pressing issue for our country is for the Republican Party to get on its feet so that people like my sisters, very conservative, are not “embarrassed” to have to vote for their nominee. I, for one liberal Democrat, would love to live long enough to see myself voting for a Republican…and I could do it. I am not an ideologue and we liberals certainly can fall into that category. Friend, I’m glad you are out there. Carry on!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s