No matter what they do, or how bizarre or seemingly inexplicable their behavior, it is not acceptable for those in the mental health professions to diagnose anyone in public life. Our only apt diagnoses are private ones, recognized after a thorough examination of a patient. I get this. I accept this. I understand this.
So a former mayor, like Mike Bloomberg (wearing a resplendent purple tie, blue plus red, above the fray message, do you think?), can let millions all over the world watching the Democratic Convention know his belief that a candidate and fellow New Yorker is out of his mind. And a writer like Maureen Dowd can dub a well-known former President and his presidential candidate wife ruthless and dangerous, the Bonnie and Clyde of politics.
But for us, an assessment is unprofessional.
As said, I get it.
But even though I get it, I do find it within the purview of mental health professionals to shed light and help make sense out of what seems to make absolutely no sense. At no time is it more important to offer this perspective than in this utterly unsettling election season. However, to be frank, I wish more had been done to demonstrate that one with a background like Bush '43 was a likely candidate to get us into a war with uncontrollable implications.
(For those who may have forgotten, in 2000 Al Gore won the popular vote by half a million votes, but lost the election by five electoral votes -- 271 Bush, 266 Gore. I will zip my lips regarding parts played by our Supreme Court and Ralph Nader and spare you the "what-ifs" on this one. But I will go out on a limb and say that had Al Gore won, he and Tipper would still be (happily!) married. I especially miss this thoroughly kind, sincere, truly lovely woman. How about you?)
Anyway, following are three (of many) psychological guidelines that shed light offered by my superb alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work (now known as the School of Social Policy and Practice):
1. If we get really ugly/nasty about something for absolutely no discernible reason, that something reminds us of something in ourselves that we fear facing:
In other words, if a crying baby causes us to lash out and ridicule the baby, inside we most likely fear we ourselves are whining babies. Or if we mimic a brave professional with a physical disability, inside we most likely feel deeply impaired. And (now this one is really both interesting and telling) if we ridicule a woman, using blood as a reference, and need to assure others of the size of our most private selves, well you get it, I am sure. We don't feel too potent and real women (who cannot be controlled) scare the wits out of us.
2. If after a huge success (such as a convention) that should help us continue to move forward, we go back to justify an unwise decision (like a faulty, dangerous email decision), taking a legal evaluation completely out of context, we cannot bear to be seen as less than perfect. This "I must be right all of the time, or else" insistence usually goes back to highly demanding and critical parenting, where making a mistake, large or small, could have led to rejection or humiliation. So you must only admit an error if your back is against the wall, and even then you continue to believe the mistake was not truly a mistake, but that you are unjustly being held to a higher standard than the rest of the human race.
There is a third guideline that merits mentioning: To some extent, each human being is flawed. And I believe that the wisest among us do our damnedest to face our flaws and not make others nuts because of them.
So given the limitations in each of us, in deciding who will get our vote, here's what is important to consider: who would be the wisest Commander-in-Chief, the wisest representative of this country in world interactions and decisions, and the wisest person to protect our economy -- as well as select new Supreme Court justices?
In other words, we do not have to like our next president. We do not have to invite her or him to breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner or cocktails. We can even say "no" to a White House invite. Of course, after writing this, regardless of the winner, I will never get one.