President Donald J. Trump and Political Psychology

President Donald J. Trump and Political Psychology
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I could only imagine the scene in the Mexican and Australian equivalent of The Situation Room. A room full of political strategists trying to dissect, word-for-word, the conversation that occurred between their Prime Minister and the new enigmatic leader of the free world President Donald J. Trump. What was said? What was meant? What are his true intentions? What are the geopolitical ramifications of the conversation? What can we learn from this conversation in order avoid future altercations?

The one thing missing from all these meetings was a psychologist.

The days when the primary tools necessary to understand global leaders included political strategy, understanding of ideology and political thought, facts on the ground, and geopolitical forces are over. President Trump's decisions are not fundamentally driven by any of these factors. His decisions and actions are all mediated by his flamboyant personality. Understanding his decisions and working with him is going to require input from everything we know about psychology and personality giving us some insight in to this man’s subconscious turmoil, needs, desires, and insecurities.

Dealing with this administration, or more correctly this president, is going to require a concerted effort by the world of psychology in order to understand how to read him. From Democrats and Republicans, the media, to the leaders of Mexico, Australia, and Russia, understanding how to interact with President Trump is going to require the immediate hiring of political psychologists. These professionals will have to use the over 100 years of theory and research emanating from the arenas of developmental psychology, clinical psychology, social psychology, and personality psychology to try to understand what makes this president tick. Drawing from a rich tradition of analysis beginning from Sigmund Freud all the way through more recent studies in needs, drives, and personality, the world of psychology may offer a glimpse into President Trump’s method of engagement. This insight may assist in efforts to navigate, or even influence, his methodology.

Dealing with President Trump is not about understanding his ideology or a geopolitical understanding of the situation on the ground. It is exclusively about understanding who he is as a person, what makes him tick, and the drives and needs that fuel him. It necessitates understanding his personality and tapping into the world of political psychology.

Although psychologists don’t like to psychoanalyze people who are not actively and presently sitting on their couch, we may need to make an exception during this tumultuous era. We are going to have to be comfortable using whatever data is available in terms of Trump's early family experiences, childhood development, his relationship with his mother and siblings, adolescent life, college years, young adult life, videos, interviews, books, and whatever else we have about him to try and understand what fuels President Trump.

We desperately and immediately need to strengthen the field of political psychology. Corporations have industrial organizational psychologists helping them understand market forces, marketing, and consumer behavior. Law firms have legal psychologist or forensic psychologists to recognize reactions of juries or to understand the mind of a criminal. Political strategists are going to need to hire political psychologists to try to understand the inner workings of the mind and subconscious of President Trump. It’s time to make the field of political psychology great again.

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