Don E. Gibbons, Ph.D., NJ Licensed Psychologist #03513
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Friday, June 22, 2018

Trump and Hitler: The Psychology Behind the Myth

In view of the recent indictments of  an organized Russian group working to influence U.S. elections in favor of Donald Trump, and the disclosures of his recent affairs with Playboy and porn stars, many of my psychology clients have been asking whether or not Trump's success might be due to his using  hyperempiria, or NLP, especially because his major sources of support seem to be Fundamentalist Christians. Whenever you use "alternative facts" in place of the real ones, as his former spokesperson Kellyann Conway admitted, it is an attempt to harness the power of suggestion. But if no induction is used and if the situation is not defined as hypnosis, why are suggestions which may strike many people as bizarre still sometimes effective?

A recent article in Psychology Today stated that half of all Americans couldn't come up with a sudden demand for $450 in a crisis. Although Trump may be unwittingly using some techniques which are commonly referred to in lay hypnosis circles as NLP or neuro-linguistic programming, almost everyone now agrees that there are a lot of angry voters out there. on both the right and the left, who supported Trump because they feel that the system has failed them (see below).



My wife grew up in New Jersey, and I have lived here for 25 years. We have read the first-hand newspaper accounts of how Trump has bankrupted several casinos and walked away with millions, paid his workers sub-standard wages, and stiffed his contractors by paying them much less than they were actually owed. Beneath his outward bluster lies a narcissistic personality disorder with antisocial traits, but don't just take my word for it. Here's a link to a story in The Independent which bears the headline, "Donald Trump has Dangerous Mental Illness, say Psychiatry Experts at Yale Conference." (His recent psychiatric examination was not a test for personality disorders.)

It is generally agreed that people often tend to make up their minds based on emotions rather than  facts, and hear what they want to hear in order to confirm these emotionally-based opinions. Trump's base has shrunken only slightly, but there are a lot of people who stayed home during the last national election because they didn't like either candidate and are now as energized as a space probe. This time, it will become increasingly difficult for special interest groups to persuade these energized voters either not to vote at all, or to vote against their own best interests. 

Is President Trump using hypnosis, hyperempiria, or NLP, then? No, but he has his NRA backers, his Russian data miners, and his dog-whistle racism. Hitler, on the other hand, limited his "alternative facts" to only two: the alleged superiority or the German race and the allegation that all the difficulties the Germans had suffered were due to a "world Jewish conspiracy." If Hitler were living in twenty-first century America, these beliefs would probably be categorized by mental health professionals under the diagnostic categories of narcissistic personality disorder, delusional disorder grandiose type and delusional disorder persecutory type. 

Hitler also taught that a big lie would be believed easier than a little one if it were repeated often enough, so by and large he restricted his big lies to only these two, with other lies invoked in support of them.

The most important reason that Trump does not pose as much of a danger as Hitler did is obvious. Hitler was a much better speaker! He even made use of lighting, symbols, and audience involvement to drive home his points. Here, with English subtitles, is one of his classic speeches. Judge for yourself.




Note that after Hitler boasts to his cheering supporters that he has eliminated all sources of political opposition, Deputy Fuehrer Rudolf  Hess strode to the platform at the conclusion of his speech, and ecstatically proclaimed that the Party was Hitler, and Hitler and Germany were one, thereby making Hitler's power absolute.

Trump has gone a long way towards capturing the Republican Party, but he is unable to eliminate other political parties as Hitler did.  With the recent horrifying visual images of weeping children being ripped from their mothers' arms and being abused and drugged in order to control them, what has now become the Party of Trump is probably headed for a series of defeats at the polls as his support gradually erodes. 

But why are Trump's followers so loyal that they have made the Republican Party the Party of Trump? There is a powerful force called cognitive dissonance which makes us reluctant to admit that we have been wrong, especially when made a previous commitment to it. This is what doomed Hitler's followers to eventual destruction because they could not admit that their leader was a pathological narcissist and this is what is currently in the process of destroying the Republican Party in the United States. Here is how cognitive dissonance works in a romantic relationship with a narcissist. The parallels with a political relationship with a narcissist, whether we are talking about Trump or Hitler, will be readily apparent.
















  
  

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