The Psychology of Donald Trump
When Northwestern University psychologist Dan P. McAdams first wrote about Donald Trump’s psyche for “The Atlantic” in 2016, he knew his subject was not your average politician. He just couldn’t nail down why.
His new book, “The Strange Case of Donald J. Trump: A Psychological Reckoning” (Oxford University Press, March 2020), provides some surprising answers. Trump, McAdams asserts, may be the rare person who lacks any inner story, something most people develop to give their lives unity, meaning and purpose.
McAdams argues Trump can’t form a meaningful life story because he is the “episodic man” who sees life as a series of battles to be won. There is no connection between the moments, no reflection and no potential for growth when one is compulsively in the present.
Donald Trump is a “truly authentic fake,” writes McAdams, professor of human development and social policy at the School of Education and Social Policy. “Trump is always acting, always on stage — but that is who he really is, and that is all he really is. He is not introspective, retrospective or prospective. He does not go deep into his mind; he does not travel back to the past; he does not project far into the future. He is always on the surface, always right now.
“In his own mind, he is more like a persona than a person, more like a primal force or superhero, rather than a fully realized human being,”