Dissecting the mind of Trump

I am one of many individuals around the world who continues to wonder, and of course to worry, what has become of the United States of America (USA) with Donald Trump as its president.

It makes one even wonder more if Trump really meant what he said when he made popular his rallying cry, ‘Make America Great Again’ (MAGA).

Or could it be that, for a populist president like Trump, what he wants his slogan to be, absolutely, is ‘Make Trump Great Again’ (MTGA).

It is for this reason that I reprinted here a very engrossing and thought-provoking article I found published in POLITICO Magazine and authored by Ms. Bandy X. Lee and Mr. Tony Schwartz because I want to share with you how ably and aptly they have dissected Trump’s mind and persona that only confirmed, without any doubt, who we truly believe Trump is and what his ambitions are as the leader of the greatest nation on Earth.

In a way this piece is comforting.

Inside the Mind of Donald Trump

He’s grandiose, deceitful and paranoid—but don’t let him drive you crazy.

By BANDY X. LEE and TONY SCHWARTZ

July 27, 2018

Why is President Donald Trump behaving in ways that seem ever more irrational, impulsive, self-destructive, dangerous and cruel? Many Americans have been shocked by Trump’s behavior, most recently by his taking the side of a known enemy in Vladimir Putin and Russia over his own intelligence community.

It isn’t possible to reliably diagnose any individual from a distance, but it is reasonable to flag clear, observable signs of impairment and to make inferences based on repetitive patterns of behavior. There is a significant difference between diagnosing a specific disorder and analyzing the meaning of the qualities Trump exhibits, such as paranoia, grandiosity, lack of empathy and pathological deceit. Trump’s behavior, we believe, is the predictable outgrowth of this psychological disposition, exacerbated by the stress of the intensifying criminal investigations he faces.

Our assessment is based on descriptions from those who have worked with him, his own voluminous responses to real situations in real time, and above all by our unique vantage points. One of us is a forensic psychiatrist who has treated more than 1,000 individuals with characteristics similar to Trump’s. The other spent 18 months shadowing, observing and interviewing Trump in order to co-write The Art of the Deal.

Trump’s increasing grandiosity is evident in the superlatives he uses to refer to himself—“stable genius” among them—and in the way he has consolidated his power by getting rid of aides and Cabinet members who have challenged his authority. Because no person or circumstance can possibly satisfy his needs, nearly everyone in his life eventually becomes expendable, and he becomes more and more isolated.

Trump’s growing paranoia is reflected in the vitriolic comments he has made about a range of perceived enemies, including Democrats and Republicans, allies in the G-7, the intelligence community, the news media and immigrants. His hunger for absolute power is evident in his bizarrely admiring words about despots, including North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte. His frequent lies reveal his need to redefine reality when the truth doesn’t serve his needs.

Given Trump’s volatility, incuriosity and severely limited attention span, his decisions are not significantly influenced by reflection or analytical reasoning. Because he cannot tolerate even the mildest criticism, he is largely immune to learning and growth. Instead, unable to regulate his emotions, he reacts angrily, and often with threats of revenge, to any challenge to his authority. Even success provides him with only momentary satisfaction.

Trump’s psychological disposition has profound implications for our personal, national and international security. Unfortunately, Americans remain deeply reluctant to talk openly about mental health or to recognize how profoundly it can influence behavior. Because the president’s level of mental impairment is so unusual to observe, it is difficult for most of us to understand what catastrophic desperation such people can feel to fill their own inner sense of emptiness.

Trump described to Tony a cold father with whom his relationship was “almost businesslike” and a mother who was mostly uninvolved in his life. Through Bandy’s work interviewing men who were deprived in childhood of the love and support necessary to develop a core self, she concluded that the stable internal center that holds their beliefs, principles, attachments, loyalties—and even their capacity for humanity—never gets well established.

Instead, most such men become almost completely dependent on others for their sense of self-worth. They become hypersensitive to slights. In the most extreme cases, their envy can prompt them to take sadistic pleasure in tormenting perceived enemies, and those they think are getting more respect than they are. In Trump’s case, his need to demonstrate over and over that he is worthy of admiration overwhelms his capacity to focus on nearly anything else.

While our elected officials and much of the news media have avoided the topic of Trump’s mental health, it is clear that our adversaries have carefully studied his psychological weaknesses and determined how to use them to their advantage, as we saw during his negotiations with Putin and Kim Jong Un. Ironically, our own intelligence community does just this sort of analysis about foreign leaders.

Trump’s grip on reality will likely continue to diminish as he faces increasing criticism, accusations, threats of impeachment and potential criminal indictments. We can expect him to become more desperate, more extreme in his comments, more violent in his threats, and more reckless and destructive in his actions. His latest extreme threat to Iran is one example, and he is likely to return to similar threats to North Korea if he feels that Kim Jong Un is making him look weak and unsuccessful.

So how can we hold onto our own mental health in the face of the danger Trump poses? First, don’t use logic or rationality to try to understand or counter Trump’s statements and behaviors. He is driven not by reason but by negative emotions that are infectious. Trump thrives on creating fear and sowing confusion. He lies without guilt. Don’t match his emotion with your own.

Second, be clearer than ever about your core values, beliefs and principles, and rely on them for guidance and comfort, especially when you are feeling most triggered and fearful. Challenge every day the natural inclination to feel overwhelmed, fatigued or numb in the face of Trump’s behavior. This is what people with his psychological inclinations count on. Trump is aware that whatever he says repeatedly—no matter how outrageous—many people are more likely to believe, or at least to stop resisting.

Lastly, recognize that fear is your enemy. Holding onto the opposites of realism and optimism is the best antidote. James Stockdale, a Navy vice admiral, was imprisoned for eight years in North Vietnam and tortured repeatedly. What he said afterward about how he survived is relevant for anyone dealing with feelings of helplessness and hopelessness: “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

Bandy X. Lee is assistant clinical professor in law and psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine and a project leader for the World Health Organization.

Tony Schwartz is the chief executive of The Energy Project and the co-author of The Art of the Deal.

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The incredible rescue and amazing power of meditation

 

The world have seen the incredibly daring but successful mission of saving the 12 boys and their soccer coach trapped in the Tham Luang cave for 18 days, when they were exploring it after a soccer practice session and it became flooded by monsoon rains.

The plight of the boys and their coach, who called themselves the Wild Boars, has captivated not only Thailand, but much of the world – from the heart-wrenching news that they were missing, to the first flickering video taken by a pair of British divers of the cold, anxiously smiling yet calm, dirty and emaciated figures sheltering on a pitch-black ledge surrounded by water and even to the dismaying possibility that the rescue could take months if the monsoon persists exacerbating flooding inside the treacherous cavern.

This was nine days later after being unheard of and their location was about two miles of narrow, flooded passageways from the main entrance. Indeed this was a hell of a place to be in, especially for someone who does not know how to swim.

Efforts to pump water out began immediately as authorities tried to take advantage of a break in monsoon rains.

It was reported that in three stages divers ventured into the claustrophobic caverns to retrieve two boys at a time, giving them a full-face mask for oxygen and tying them with a rope. Each boy was accompanied by two divers, one holding the youngster and a second air tank, while another followed behind. The boys were also given anti-anxiety medication to prevent them from panicking as they were carried and pushed through narrow crevices.

At least 13 specialist divers and 5 Thai Navy Seals were sent in to escort the boys and their coach out.

What an incredible and skillful rescue effort in a perilous situation involving a group of helpless, adventurous individuals in the service for humanity!

But that is not all there is to it.

What makes the whole heroic event also amazingly miraculous is the fact that the boys and their coach were able to survive the 9 harrowing days without food and perhaps, unknowingly, a depleting air for breathing, not to mention the uncertainty of the purity of dripping water being drank.

There is no doubt that credit should go to the coach, Ekapol Chanthawong, 25, who, earlier in his life trained as a Buddhist monk for 12 years before he decided to coach the Wild Boars soccer team.

Needless to say that it was meditation performed individually upon instruction of the coach that got the team through in what has started to be their calvary.

​For Buddhists, meditation is a go-to when distressed or in danger.

Meditation is a type of mental training that can increase your focus and compassion for others, among a wide range of other benefits. It calms you by slowing down your heart rate, your breathing and your metabolism, while decreasing cortisol levels, oxygen utilization and carbon dioxide emission. Cortisol is a steroid hormone released by the adrenal glands.

No wonder, therefore, that despite the odds the members of the Wild Boars team were facing, they all showed amazing disposition.

 

D-Day has come for the ‘Wild Boars’

 

I am talking of course about the designated-day, or what I call decision-day, that has finally arrived,  as I write, to rescue the ‘Wild Boars’, a Thai soccer team composed of 12 boys ranging from age 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach who have been trapped in a flooded cave complex in northern Thailand for more than two weeks now.

The Wild Boar football team went exploring in the Tham Luang cave network after a football game on June 23 and was trapped kilometers deep inside the cave system as floodwaters caused by heavy rains blocked the entrance.

The group was found, dishevelled and emaciated but alive, on a muddy ledge by rescue divers. Since then rescue workers struggled to find a way to extract the team from the cave.

Their ordeal has transfixed Thailand and the rest of the world, as authorities struggled to devise a plan to get the team out through twisting, narrow and jagged passageways that in some places are completely flooded.

“There is no other day that we are more ready than today,” rescue director Narongsak Osottanakorn said, in announcing that 18 divers have gone for the rescue. “Otherwise we will lose the opportunity.”

Osottanakorn was of course referring to the fast coming monsoon rains that could derail the life-saving plans. Rescuers have conceded that evacuating the boys is a race against time or the preparations made ahead, like draining the tunnels, would just go in vain and jeopardize instead the safety of the group.

Thirteen foreign divers and five Thai Navy SEAL divers are taking part in the rescue mission, which could take two to four days.

Aside from the fast approaching bad weather what could be worrisome also is the health of the boys and the fact that none knows how to swim.

Hopefully their determination, their will to live, couple with the surge of adrenaline will get them through these difficult challenges confronting them. They have all shown their indomitable spirit despite all the odds. Now it is just a matter of sustaining their physical and mental toughness.

We can only pray for them and their rescuers and wish them all Godspeed!

 

 

Duterte’s decision to close Boracay

Perhaps one can say that this piece is already water under the bridge since President Rodrigo Duterte has already approved the recommendation of the three government agencies, namely, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Tourism (DOT), and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to close the resort island of Boracay for six months.

The description by no less than the president of the famed place as “cesspool” indeed decidedly put a halt to the influx of tourist to the place.

“You go into the water, it’s smelly. Smells of what? Sh*t,” he had said.

Pretty strong and unfavorable words for the local government and stakeholders, but they all had it coming.

I am not writing this to discuss the inadequacies and ineptness of those governing and running their private entities while thinking only of the windfall of earnings they can make at the expense of the tourist who simply wants to experience fun in the Philippines, and the much talked about Boracay in particular, for this issue has received quite a beating already.

But it is perhaps proper and timely to mention here that the shortcomings, the myopic vision, and the vested interests of their own concerns took a toll on the environment, which is an important facet of tourism.

What I want to talk about, therefore, which certainly is not water under the bridge, is in the context of the urgency and necessity of the Boracay closure.

We must admit that the problems that caused embarrassment to Boracay, famous for its powdery white sand and shallow azure water, did not happen overnight, or to put it straightforward, during Duterte’s presidency.

It has been reported that Boracay’s degradation has been blamed on the failure of the local government to enforce ordinances on marine conservation, garbage and sanitation, and zoning and construction, among others.

Also, that at least 300 hotels, resorts and inns have been ignoring an ordinance that requires them to build their own sewage and wastewater treatment facilities. They have instead been dumping waste into canals meant only for rainwater and surface overflow.

Another upsetting revelation is that four of the nine wetlands on the island, meanwhile, are occupied by a shopping mall, a hotel and around 100 illegal settlers.

Talking about impunity by both the governing body and the governed!

While past administrations acted like the three proverbial monkeys exemplifying the proverbial principle of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”, Duterte used his leadership and political will to make a difference in Boracay.

After all, it is the long range plan of sustaining the grandeur of Boracay for the country’s tourism industry that matters most.

 

Dried fish packaging

 

While this article may legitimately apply to consumer advocates, I am addressing this, however, directly to the consuming public for their immediate awareness and vigilance when buying dried fish or any dried sea product for that matter in a transparent plastic packaging.

It used to be that the salted, sun-dried fish, especially the much sought after “danggit” variety (rabbitfish), which is a known delicacy for breakfast, can be bought loose at certain quantities and costs in transparent plastic packaging material.

The problem however is in the aesthetics as the goods inside simply piles up at the bottom of the container, especially when lifted, and does not appear as presentable and inviting as when the items inside are orderly arranged.

The marketing people perhaps thought that the best way of having the items in place, in lieu of a vacuum packaging machine, is to staple it to the plastic container so that even if it is displayed hanging from the hook or taken out for a closer look it remains immovable.

They may have considered it a brilliant solution to their marketing problem, but in the process their seemingly clever and artful act is posing a serious threat to the health and safety of the consuming public.

I am talking of course about the staple wires that one might miss removing once one decides preparing the dried fish for breakfast. You can bet that you will have a handful of these tiny wires once you start unpacking the whole thing.

I am also writing this just in case you get this kind of “danggit” packaging coming from Manila.

 

Assisted suicide

 

Professor David Goodall

This is about two resolute individuals with different medical concerns but with one gallant goal in mind – to be able to enlist assistance to bring about a “peaceful and dignified” death, a euphemism for physician assisted suicide.

Let me first talk about Professor David Goodall, an honorary research associate in Ecology at Perth’s Edith Cowan University, who, at 104, is considered Australia’s oldest scientist.

Goodall has produced dozens of research papers and until recently continued to review and edit for different ecology journals.

He does not have a terminal illness but his quality of life has deteriorated that he has secured a fast-track appointment with an assisted dying agency in Switzerland where euthanasia is legal.

“I greatly regret having reached that age,” the ecologist said in an interview on his birthday earlier in April. “I’m not happy. I want to die. It’s not sad particularly. What is sad is if one is prevented.”

Assisted suicide is illegal in most countries around the world and was banned in Australia until the state of Victoria became the first to legalize the practice last year.

But that legislation, which takes effect from June 2019, only applies to terminally ill patients of sound mind and a life expectancy of less than six months.

If that is not ironic, I don’t know what is.

Exit International, which is helping Prof. Goodall make the trip, said it was unjust that one of Australia’s “oldest and most prominent citizens should be forced to travel to the other side of the world to die with dignity”.

Noel Conway

The other individual who had already been to the Court of Appeal in London to win the right for what he calls his “fight for choice at the end of life” is Noel Conway, a 68-year-old retired lecturer from Shrewsbury, England, who has been diagnosed with motor neurone disease in November 2014 and his health continues to deteriorate.

When this neurodegeneration occurs, everyday activities become increasingly difficult or completely impossible.

Over time, the condition progressively worsens as the muscle weakens and can visibly waste.

The majority of those diagnosed with the disease are given a three-year life expectancy starting from when they first notice the symptoms.

When Conway has less than six months to live and retains the mental capacity to make the decision, he wishes to be able to enlist assistance to bring about a “peaceful and dignified” death.

This is how Conway, who says he feels “entombed” by his illness, describes his dire predicament now: “I now can no longer walk at all and have to be hoisted from bed to chair, as well as experiencing increasing difficulty with breathing and having to wear my ventilator for 22 hours a day.”

Feeling fatalistic about the whole thing, Conway also issued the following statements: “I know this decline will continue until my inevitable death.”

“This I have sadly come to terms with, but what I cannot accept is that the law in my home country denies me the right to die on my own terms.”

The High Court judges said that as the “conscience of the nation”, Parliament was entitled to maintain a “clear bright-line rule” forbidding assisted suicide.

Again, what an irony for a man destined to die soon, who says, “The greatest fear I have is still being alive but not able to use my body.

Another new body organ discovery

 

Interstitium: latest body organ discovery

Sometime in early 2017 scientists discovered an important organ making it the 79th inside the human body.

Called the mesentery, it is a double fold of peritoneum – the lining of the abdominal cavity – that holds our intestine to the wall of our abdomen.

Accordingly, what is considered an organ now has always been inside the human body performing important functions that affect systems throughout the body, but was ignored throughout the centuries thinking it was just a few fragmented structures in the digestive system.

What it is in fact is a continuous organ that plays an important role in the intestinal, vascular, endocrine, cardiovascular and immunological systems, but more research is needed to determine the extent of those roles.

Among its functions, it carries blood and lymphatic fluid between the intestine and the rest of the body. It also maintains the position of the intestine so that it’s connected with the abdominal wall without being in direct contact.

Very interesting discovery, indeed, even to a known medical person, but what makes it even more fascinating to me is that I have known about this word already when I was running a meat processing plant where we butchered our own hogs and large animals.

The foregoing, however, is not the subject of this piece.

The new human organ discovery I am referring to in the title is called Interstitium, which according to scientists had previously gone unnoticed despite being one of the largest organs in the human body.

It was reported that Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center medics Dr David Carr-Locke and Dr Petros Benias came across the interstitium while investigating a patient’s bile duct, searching for signs of cancer.

The researchers noticed cavities that did not match any previously known human anatomy, and approached New York University pathologist Dr Neil Theise to ask for his expertise.

The researchers realized traditional methods for examining body tissues had missed the interstitium because the “fixing” method for assembling medical microscope slides involves draining away fluid – therefore destroying the organ’s structure.

Instead of their true identity as bodywide, fluid-filled shock absorbers, the squashed cells had been overlooked and considered a simple layer of connective tissue.

Having arrived at this conclusion, the researchers realized this structure was found not only in the bile duct, but surrounding many crucial internal organs.

“This fixation artefact of collapse has made a fluid-filled tissue type throughout the body appear solid in biopsy slides for decades, and our results correct for this to expand the anatomy of most tissues,” said Dr Theise.

How about that for the latest human organ discovery!

I would suppose this makes it the 80th important organ of the human body.