What do Donald Trump and serial killers share? Maybe just this—like serial killers, Trump has highly psychopathic tendencies.
I recognize how provocative this sounds, but hear me out. Trump is no serial killer, and nothing in his history, of course, suggests the lust or compulsion serial killers possess to inflict death (or physical pain) on others. Nothing about Trump suggests he is violently psychopathic, as serial killers are.
But many psychopaths aren’t physically violent, and fewer are homicidal. And among violent psychopaths, few (only a tiny minority) will be serial killers. But something links all psychopaths and psychopathically-oriented individuals—their psychopathic mentality.
I think we can say confidently that Trump would probably find it difficult to relate to the serial killer’s lust to take a life. But this doesn’t make him non-psychopathic, just not a serial killer. On the other hand, I’d argue that he’d find it much less difficult to relate to the mentality with which serial killers pursue their peculiarly violent, perverse compulsions. Meaning–psychopaths won’t always find it easy to relate to what gratifies their fellow psychopaths, but they’ll be able to relate to the mentality with which their fellow psychopaths pursue the gratifications that compel them.
We can describe what I call the psychopathic mentality. Psychopaths have a transgressive mentality, meaning a vast contempt for rules, limits and boundaries; and they will have a long track record of violating them. And when psychopaths transgress, they do so remorselessly.
When the psychopath identifies what he wants, such as a gratification he’s determined to satisfy, naturally he will locate, first, its source. If the source is an individual, the psychopath will view that individual as an “object” from whom to seize the gratification. He will hope “source” of his targeted gratification will make it easy and convenient for him to obtain. But if not, the psychopath will scheme how to neutralize the inconvenience, troubleshoot the “obstruction” that becomes the source itself. The individual, and source of the psychopath’s targeted gratification, is now not only an “object,” but an “obstructive object.”
The psychopath will transgress (i.e., exploit and violate) the individual however necessarily to accomplish his aim. He will be strangely callous and indifferent to the harm he may cause—the latter, in his experience, is the collateral (and sometimes necessary) damage he must inflict to obtain his gratification.
Because he sees others as objects, less as people with rights to dignity, safety and security, psychopaths can target, exploit, prey on, and violate others unconscionably. Or, seen from another perspective, the psychopath’s deficient conscience enables his twisted view of others less as people worthy of true dignity and respect than as resources put on earth to be transgressed and exploited when necessary.
Psychopaths aren’t transgressing 24/7, and when they’re not, they may live seemingly normal lives and seem to be very normal people. They exploit and violate selectively—sometimes impulsively, sometimes more calculatingly. Although intellectually they are likely to recognize that what they’re doing is “wrong,” that they may be angling for something that’s not theirs, that they are exploiting others, or systems, this intellectual awareness impacts them very little because what is paramount in their experience, what is preeminent and supersedes everything in importance, is their seizing their gratifications heedless of the cost to others.
In fact, their underlying contempt for others is so great, however well masked, that they believe that if someone is vulnerable enough to be exploited, it’s basically their bad, their fault—they were, in a sense, asking for it, or “sitting ducks” for it. And even if they weren’t “asking” for it, they made themselves vulnerable enough to be exploited—therefore, if it were inevitable that they’d be exploited, why shouldn’t it be I who exploits them, when I want what they’ve got so much!
Donald Trump has a highly psychopathic mentality. Yes, his narcissism is classic in many ways—his hunger for attention and the spotlight; his gargantuan need to be catered to; to be recognized as important, these are insatiable. The undisguised sense of entitlement and unceasing displays of narcissistic rage are deeply, constantly present and alarming. But Trump is much more than classically narcissistic and the latter has never adequately explained him. That’s because Trump’s personality, beyond being rife with classically narcissistic traits, is rife with psychopathic traits and attitudes. And as I’ve been asserting for a long time, it is his psychopathic orientation more than his narcissistic personality that best explains him.
Let us look a bit more specifically at Trump’s mentality and just how psychopathic it is. Trump is a profoundly unrepentant human being. He lies with brazen contempt to achieve his present ends. Just as he has no deep loyalty to anyone who ceases to serve his present needs, he’s equally disloyal to his history of stated positions, which is why, on a whim, he’s prepared to throw others, and his own history of positions, under the proverbial bus—that is, he will jettison, disavow or distort his association to people and previously documented positions the moment they become inconvenient to him. When exposed for lying blatantly, he glibly lies about his lies, prevaricates shamelessly and/or expresses contempt and attacking hostility towards his confronter.
His defective conscience abets his abject shamelessness, the latter freeing him to be the “loose cannon” he is—that is, gravely missing shame, he is free to do and say whatever he likes with utter disregard for the impact of his lying and slander (see, as just one example among too many to count, his psychopathic fabrication of Barack Obama’s supposed illegitimate citizenship). When he wants something, Trump pursues it ruthlessly, even if what he wants is to sully or bury someone’s reputation.
In a word, Trump is quintessentially transgressive. He relishes opportunities to “get over” on others, and systems. He is a rule breaker, a limit tester, an envelope pusher who expresses absolute contempt and outrage to be held to account. He is continually evoking incredulity with antisocial exhibitions of audacity because that is exactly what psychopaths do—evoke incredulity with their antisocial exhibitions of audacity.
For these reasons, although provocative, it’s not so farfetched to find commonality between Donald Trump and serial killers. He wouldn’t want to hang out with them, that is probably true. He’d probably find them disgusting and unsavory. And he’d be clueless to, but probably not overly alarmed by, the extent to which he shares a similar mentality with them.
This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Steve Becker, LCSW.