By Elayne Savage, PhD
Perhaps it was Ben Carson conjuring up Lucifer during his RNC comments, but listening to Donald J. Trump’s acceptance speech I found myself jumping to images of the “Prince of Darkness.” As I watched, Lucifer became superimposed on the face of Donald Trump, much like the Dixie Chicks cartoon backdrop. Hey, maybe Dr. Carson also was thinking of the same Lucifer image!
Well, my imagery about all that darkness was surely reflected by the media describing Trump’s 80-minute speech as “strikingly dark,” “painting America as a dark and desperate place.”
To my ears, it wasn’t just dark. It also seemed like a selling-your-soul kind of thing.
Not sure, however, exactly whose soul is on the market.
Is it the collective soul of we, the voters? What contract would we be signing? What deal would we be making?
Or is it Donald Trump using smoke and mirrors to sell his own soul in order to become president of the United States?
Might this be a new chapter on negotiating and persuasion to be added to The Art of the Deal?
Does his advice on strategies include making grandiose promises with few or no specifics? Someone must have told him these promises cannot be constitutionally, legally, ethically or morally carried out –– yet he continues to make them.
Smoke and Mirrors
I’m a big fan of definition and specifics. As a couples and workplace coach and communication consultant how can I help clients overcome their roadblocks unless I know I’m crystal clear on how they perceive their situation.
Because generalities don’t work here, my questions sound something like “and what does that mean?” Or “can you give me an example?”
The difficulty with generalizations of the Trump variety was brilliantly summed up in a letter to therapists from The Couples Institute in Menlo Park, CA:
Here is one of Donald Trump’s classic plans to make America great again.
“We’ll make things. The best things. The things we make will be the best.”
If you used this kind of glittering generality to create a treatment plan for a
distressed couple, it might sound like this,
“We will make a plan. The best plan. The plans we make will be the best.
This couple will be great again.”
We doubt the loosest of gatekeepers for insurance companies would accept
that kind of blather as a viable treatment plan for a struggling couple.
This was sent as a cover letter for family therapist and researcher William Doherty’s ‘Therapist Manifesto’ detailing concerns of the psychological community.
It's worth a read:
Building Walls as a Substitute for Personal Boundaries?
I keep wondering why this candidate, who seems to have extremely confused and inappropriate personal boundaries, talks incessantly about building walls along our Mexican border. Is this imagined wall a substitute for his lack of personal boundaries?
Do you have any idea what this boundary talk is all about?
“I will build the best wall, the biggest, the strongest, not penetrable, they won’t be crawling over it, like giving it a little jump and they’re over the wall, it costs us trillions. And I’ll have Mexico pay for the wall. Because Mexico is screwing us so badly. “
Fox and other media outlets quoted the Associated Press in summing up the speech: “The more than hour-long speech was strikingly dark for a celebratory event and almost entirely lacking in specific policy details. Trump shouted throughout as he read off a teleprompter, showing few flashes of humor or even a smile.”
“I Alone Can Fix It”
Bill Moyers reminds us of Donald Trump’s tweet on Easter morning “Another radical Islamic attack, this time in Pakistan, targeting Christian women & children. At least 67 dead, 400 injured. I alone can solve.”
And from his acceptance speech at the RNC: “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it,"
Moyers continues: This has been his message all year: “I alone can fix it.” Only he can save us. He alone has the potion. He alone can call out the incantation. He alone can cast out the demons. It’s a little bit Mussolini. A little bit Berlusconi. A little bit George Wallace. And a lot of Napoleon in a trucker’s hat.
"I am not an ordinary man," Bonaparte once said. "I am an extraordinary man and ordinary rules do not apply to me."
Things That Go Bump in the Night - Fears and Demons
Seems to me so much of this ideology is formed around instilling fear in Americans. Ever since the 2008 campaign I’ve been blogging about politicians’ attempts to influence us by fueling our fears, especially regarding feeling vulnerable to terror attacks.
‘Terror’ is defined as: “acts which are purposefully designed to scare people and make them fearful.” Most definitions of ’terrorism’ use this phrase: “intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.” So in a way, you could say it is our politicians who are terrorists just as much as those who appear to threaten us from outside.
The Politics of Fear erupts, playing to our anxieties. This leads to a Culture of Fear, permeating and fraying the fabric of our country. With each new push of the panic button, I feel my anxiety surge. And what about you?
As Master Yoda says, "Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
To be honest, I find it very scary that this grandiose talk seems reminiscent of the coercive persuasion, thought reform and mind control of the 70’s and 80’s.
As a child protective services worker in the 70’s, I had frequent dealings with cult-like organizations including Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple. I knew families who followed Jones to Jonestown, Guyana where 918 devotees were convinced to take part in a mass murder/suicide.
I’ll never forget the panicky call I received from a pay phone when one woman begged for help as the group was leaving San Francisco. In mid-sentence her call was disconnected. I’ll never forget how helpless I felt in that moment.
I was especially curious about the appeal of cults and characteristics of the charismatic cult leaders.
What kind of pied piper power did Jim Jones hold that they left everything and followed him to a promised utopia?
Merriam-Webster describes this pied-piper-kind-of-lure as enticing, promising and charismatic.
“If you just come along, all will be fine, and everyone will live happily ever after in these promised utopias,” is how cult and brainwashing expert Margaret Singer characterized the lure of cults.
Arthur Deikman a researcher and author of Them and Us: Cult Thinking and Terrorist Threat, describes how the desires that bring people to cults — including the need to feel secure and protected — are universal human longings. This includes pressure from peer groups to conform.
“The price of cult behaviour is diminished realism.”
50 Characteristics of Cult Leaders
Joe Navarro, a 25-year veteran of the FBI and author of Dangerous Personalities) lists 50 cult leader characteristics.
Here are a few characteristics of cult group leaders, which stand out for me as Donald J. Trump-ish.
– He has a grandiose idea of who he is and what he can achieve.
– Has a sense of entitlement - expecting to be treated special at all times.
– Has an exaggerated sense of power (entitlement) that allows him to bend rules and break laws.
– Publicly devalues others as being inferior, incapable, or not worthy.
– Needs to be the center of attention and does things to distract others to insure that he or she is being noticed by arriving late, using exotic clothing, overdramatic speech, or by making theatrical entrances.
– Haughtiness, grandiosity, and the need to be controlling is part of his personality.
– When criticized he tends to lash out not just with anger but with rage.
– Anyone who criticizes or questions him is called an “enemy.”
– Habitually puts down others as inferior and only he is superior.
– Is deeply offended when there are perceived signs of boredom, being ignored or of being slighted.
– Treats others with contempt and arrogance.
– The word “I” dominates his conversations. He is oblivious to how often he references himself.
– Hates to be embarrassed or fail publicly - when he does he acts out with rage.
– Believes he possesses the answers and solutions to world
– Seems to be highly dependent of tribute and adoration and will often fish for compliments.
Here’s the link to Navarro’s list of all 50:
It's quite amazing how many of these have to do with reactions to feeling rejected and taking things personally. . How many can you find?
How many of these 50 characteristics do you recognize?
So Now Let’s Explore the Goings on at The DNC
This brings us to the Democratic National Convention in Philly this week.
Do you see any similarities between the speakers/atmosphere?
Do you notice any important differences?
Let’s see how many of Navarro’s 50 characteristics show up in the DNC’s cast of characters during the week.
Would love to hear the results of your scoring on the 50 characteristics . . .
Until next month,
© Elayne Savage, PhD
Elayne Savage is the author of ground-breaking relationship books published in 9 languages.
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