From Lubitz to Trump
At least I’m not alone.
As warning signals continue flashing in neon lights, more mental health professionals have been chiming in about Donald Trump’s unfitness to be president and trying to warn us of the danger he poses, everyday. We’ve heard him referred to as a “malignant narcissist,” sociopath, psychopath, delusional and paranoid an having a “dangerous disability.”
Two hundred years ago, it was Paul Revere. Now it is the mental health community of this generation whose duty it is to sound the alarm in the face of threats to our safety and well being. We bear the burden of having to shed light on human phenomena that pose such threats.
Much of the analysis we’ve seen thus far seems a bit abbreviated and restrained, which may be attributed to living in the time of the American Psychiatric Association’s Goldwater Rule (GR 1964), which considers any clinical information obtained outside of a traditional office setting invalid, unethically obtained, and subject to criminal and civil liability (regardless of relevance or profound enormity of what is at stake).
The GR prohibits the dissemination of clinical information sourced in the mother Lode of public archived information at our fingertips, such as clips of how Trump presents himself in interviews and speeches. There is a general consensus amongst mental health professionals that this gag order must be removed so we can do our jobs, tell a fuller story, fulfill our duty to warn fellow Americans just how unfit Trump is, and that he poses the gravest of risks to the wellbeing of hundreds of millions of Americans, and perhaps billions worldwide - as long as he is president.
My sense of professional responsibility compels me now to provide a strictly clinical perspective that details Trump’s unfitness and establishes a nonpersonal, nonpolitical basis for an intervention that leads to an impeachment plan.
History is repeating itself. I’m seeing a recurrence of one of the most disturbing and horrifying human events I’ve ever witnessed, playing out on an infinitely larger scale and leaving so many people scrambling for a way to diffuse this ticking bomb.
Let’s rewind back to March 2015 when Lufthansa aircraft, Germanwings flight 9525 crashed in the French Alps, killing 156 people aboard. All indications were that the pilot, Andres Lubitz, deliberately crashed the plane. Perhaps most disturbing was that he was deemed unfit to fly by psychiatrists who knew of his state of mind prior to its takeoff.
Details of the investigation leaked to the newspaper indicated that concerns regarding “imminent psychosis” were noted by a psychiatrist who was treating Lubitz for a period of time leading up to this fateful flight; that he was referred to a psychiatric clinic for treatment of depression and suicidal thoughts weeks before he flew the plane into a mountain. His journal revealed statements of his fear of getting into a plane and flying and having uncontrollable urges to crash the plane, specifically “flying into a mountain” - all expressions of imminent intent, and plan.
Lufthansa was found criminally and civilly liable for having knowledge of Lubitz’s unfitness prior to his stepping foot on the plane and for allowing 156 passengers to be flown to their deaths and for all intents and purposes, handing him the opportunity to fulfill his homicidal urges. Not only did Lufthansa have prior knowledge, they had known for quite some time that Lubitz had flown many times before when he was not fit to fly.
Lubitz did not act alone. Other people were involved and were responsible for egregious lapses of judgment, communication breakdowns and inaction. No one - or not enough people - heeded the warning.
There are a number of eerie similarities worth considering between Lubitz and Trump. Despite streams of questions regarding their respective unfitnesses, they were both ushered into positions where they could do the greatest harm. Whereas Lubitz’s unfitness was based on clear, irrefutable clinical evidence, Trump’s unfitness is open to debate and based on an unofficial and informal analysis. Lubitz’s situation was clear-cut, easier to assess. He was overtly depressed and had suicidal and homicidal thoughts; he was aware of those thoughts and feelings and talked about them.
In contrast, Trump is a psychiatric anomaly, an amalgam of personality disorders, who presents with a potpourri of associated narcissistic, delusional, sociopathic, anti-social and psychopathic features, all of which, together or separately, would disqualify him for the position of president.
Trump is best known for - his off-the-charts narcissism. He acts as if he is superior and more important than everyone else. What he says and does comes through a filter of self-aggrandizement. No matter what he says, it’s always about him - how great and powerful he is. He also conveys an inherent assumption that how it is for him is how it is for everyone else. (“It is if I say it is.”). He lacks the humility to discern or acknowledge whether he has ever erred or is sometimes prone to behaving narcissistically, and is oblivious to the impact he has on others.
Remember when Leslie Stahl (60 Minutes) commented, “You’re not known to be a humble man,” and Trump abruptly interrupted her to say, “I think I am humble. I think I’m much more humble than you would understand.” Only someone with no humility would say something like that.
Trump’s narcissism makes it is impossible for him to work collaboratively with anyone, except for a select few in his innermost circle. He tends to act unilaterally; as a lone wolf isolating himself from the rest of his team. This would make it nearly impossible to get anything done. He is incapable of two-way conversations and therefore has zero diplomacy skills, which are requisite for the position of president. Trump’s underlying need to feed his distorted view of himself will prove to be his undoing. His “America First” pitch was more like an oxymoron coming out of his mouth, and it has become clear that he is incapable of representing any interest outside of his own, or governing according to any core principles, ideology, or values because none exists.
Trump presents as delusional.
There are delusions of all types and severities. A delusion is a false belief or distorted perception. A delusion could be an isolated incident or a belief system woven into one’s personality. “If Trump really believes he had the largest crowd size in history, that's delusional." said Dr. Gartner, founder of Duty to Warn, an organization of mental health professionals who feel Trump is unfit to be president.
Trump’s delusions are delusions of grandeur and omnipotence. Remember his arrogance when he stated that he intends to run the government like it is his business, and that he doesn’t need a team because he could “Make America Great Again,” by himself? His delusions are so convincing that he gets away with them; either they go undetected or he is somehow given a pass despite them.
People with delusions of grandeur and omnipotence who are in positions of power and who abuse their power, are often referred to as megalomaniacs.
A megalomaniac is a type of maniac who has an inflated sense of power and is out to take over the world. Hitler and Putin are perhaps the best-known megalomaniacs in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries respectively.
Delusions of grandeur and omnipotence and megalomania are enough in themselves to render Trump unfit. Anyone whose version of reality and sense of themselves are as corrupted as Trump’s are would have severely impaired judgment and decision-making abilities.
Trump presents as sociopathic and anti-social.
Sociopathy is associated with being a threat to the safety of others; laced with cold-blooded hostility toward people and society, and a modus operandi of lying and deception, of acting impulsively and recklessly – a loose cannon, incapable of empathy, remorse, or humility. Mafia bosses who order the deaths of their enemies and pride themselves on carrying out vendettas are classic sociopaths.
Trump is notorious for acting arbitrarily and erratically, not thinking or pausing before he speaks, for his personal attacks on his perceived enemies and for being oblivious to the impact on those taking his punches. His deeply ingrained and pervasive hate and disdain come out in statements that are blatantly Islamo-phobic, xenophobic, racist, misogynist, anti-Semitic, anti-LGBT, bullying, and predatory (toward women).
We’ve become accustomed to endless streams of lies, denials and attempts to conceal information from Trump. However, Trump takes lying to another level, he has earned the moniker of pathological liar. Lying is not just something he does often; it’s a way of life for him. It’s woven into his personality and how he relates. He could be lying to everyone all the time. He cannot distinguish between lying and telling the truth, and he also denies that he’s ever lied.
We’ve seen Trump lie, change his story, flip-flop on so many issues so many times, and flat-out deny every charge against him, who believes what he says anymore?
Being a pathological liar automatically renders Trump unfit. He cannot be trusted to be truthful about what has happened and what he said he did or is going to do. He’s been rapidly losing credibility and looking inept, which could be a huge chink in his armor. His “loose cannon” persona has his enemies licking their chops, while his allies are aghast because they are no longer able to count on him.
There are many signs of the deleterious impact Trump has already had on our society. We’re seeing a prevailing sense of dis-ease. More and more people whose senses of well being and safety are being threatened are becoming increasingly stressed everyday. In only 106 days in office, he has already managed to create an atmosphere of inequality, divisiveness, hostility, hate, disunity, mistrust and fear.
Trump presents as psychopathic.
He holds the position of the position of the most powerful person in the world. Hitler and Putin can also qualify as psychopaths.
‘Psychopaths’ are considered to be the most dangerous of all person with personality disorders, never to be underestimated. They are the ultimate masters of deception, wolves in sheep’s clothing. Once you realize something is awry you’re in danger, it’s too late.
Trump’s blatant lies and outright denials, one after another, and his stonewalling are only the tip of the iceberg. What we don’t see is his psychopathy – how he thinks and what he is doing to undermine and disable our system and seize the opportunity to take over the government. We don’t see him from behind the curtain, controlling the flow of information, causing mass confusion to weaken our ability to mobilize against him. He’s famous for provocative Tweets that keeping people guessing about what they mean, and for making false statements in which he accuses others of crimes he has committed.
He backed up his counselor, Kellyanne Conway, who gave validity to “alternate facts” (as if objective reality is open to interpretation or opinion). He relentlessly attacks the media’s credibility, that they are all out to smear him – again, to cast doubt. He circumvents the media by going exclusively to his devoted fan base. He has somehow learned, or knows instinctively how to gaslight the people he’s supposed to be protecting.
Gaslighting is a form of manipulation or a weapon that sows seeds of doubt in targeted individuals. It eats away at their sensibilities, makes them question their own memories, perceptions, and sanity, i.e. persistent denial, or going as far as staging a bizarre event to disorient the victim. In effect, Trump is putting a spell on, hypnotizing or brainwashing the public.
Mental health professionals have made much of the practice of gaslighting, said to be a favorite of narcissistsand abusive spouses. However, more recently, we’re seeing the tactical tampering with the truth through computers used as weapons to disable enemies and take over their governments. Gaslighting was always a common feature of brutal totalitarian dictatorships. Now Trump has brought it to the United States.
The challenge gaslighting poses to mental health professionals, journalists and all Americans is having to check and double-check everything that comes out of Trump’s mouth.
NOW we stand warned, “A train is coming!”
What do we do? Can we stop another Lubitz from happening, if it is not already too late?
Trump poses a slew of daunting challenges Lubitz didn’t pose. The whole world eventually saw what happened because it was a publicized event and investigation.
We’re comparing a measurable and finite amount of damage (a plane filled with 156 passengers) to an immeasurable and infinite amount of potential damage. Lubitz was a depressed, suicidal pilot, and Trump is a megalomaniac, sitting in the pilot’s seat, running our country just as he said he would – like it is his business. The unfathomable risks and harm Trump poses take my breath away.
Lubitz is dead and gone, but Trump is just beginning. Our people are trapped on the plane Trump is piloting. He’s locked himself away where no one can reach him. All we can do is watch his plan unfold and watch ourselves spiraling down, having no idea of where or when we’ll hit the ground.
Just as was the case for Lubitz, in order for Trump to stay in office, there are other people with other agendas, blindly loyal to him, looking the other way and who are responsible for their inaction. No one - or not enough people are heeding the warning.
Entering Twenty-Fifth Amendment territory. . .
While there are some guidelines delineated in the Twenty-Fifth Amendment for removing the President as a result of unfitness, more clarification and specification are needed. A situation has never arisen that necessitated an intervention to impeach a president because of psychological unfitness.
The ice must be broken. Actions must be taken. Government officials must formally request a fitness-for-duty analysis from select clinicians. It would then be up to those officials to review the reports and hammer out the steps that need to be taken to push the impeachment process forward, sooner than later.
If we don’t see a plan or a unified effort within the government materialize anytime soon, it’s going to be up to the American people to break new ground, by mobilizing a galvanized effort to bring about a change. We must not only remove Trump from office but also ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself.