And a million snowflakes cried out in the darkness, via Politico:
CNN before love-making is not his idea of a turn-on.
But she can hardly turn it off—engrossed as she is in the latest unnerving gyrations of Washington.
Who else to blame but Donald Trump? A president who excites hot feelings in many quarters has cooled them considerably in the bedroom of a Philadelphia couple, who sought counseling in part because the agitated state of American politics was causing strain in their marriage.
The couple’s story was relayed to POLITICO by their therapist on condition of the couple’s anonymity. But their travails, according to national surveys and interviews with mental health professionals, are not as anomalous as one might suppose. Even when symptoms are not sexual in nature, there is abundant evidence that Trump and his daily uproars are galloping into the inner life of millions of Americans.
During normal times, therapists say, their sessions deal with familiar themes: relationships, self-esteem, everyday coping. Current events don’t usually invade. But numerous counselors said Trump and his convulsive effect on America’s national conversation are giving politics a prominence on the psychologist’s couch not seen since the months after 9/11—another moment in which events were frightening in a way that had widespread emotional consequences.
Empirical data bolster the anecdotal reports from practitioners. The American Psychiatric Association in a May survey found that 39 percent of people said their anxiety level had risen over the previous year—and 56 percent were either “extremely anxious” or “somewhat anxious about “the impact of politics on daily life.” A 2017 study found two-thirds of Americans’ see the nation’s future as a “very or somewhat significant source of stress.”
These findings suggest the political-media community has things backward when it comes to Trump and mental health.
For two years or more, commentators have been cross-referencing observations of presidential behavior with the official APA Diagnostic and Statistical Manual’s definition of narcissistic personality disorder. Journalists have compared contemporary video of Trump with interviews from the 1980s for signs of possible cognitive decline. And even some people on his own team, according to books and news reports, have been reading up on the process of presidential removal under the 25th Amendment of the Constitution—fueled by suspicions that the president’s allegedly erratic and undeniably precedent-shattering approach to the Oval Office might prove eventually to be a case of non compos mentis.
A more plausible interpretation, in the view of some psychological experts, is that Trump has been cultivating, adapting and prospering from his distinctive brand of provocation, brinkmanship and self-drama for the past 72 years. What we’re seeing is merely the president’s own definition of normal. It is only the audience that finds the performance disorienting.
In other words: He’s not crazy, but the rest of us are getting there fast.
Jennifer Panning, a psychologist from Evanston, Illinois, calls the phenomenon “Trump Anxiety Disorder.” She wrote a chapter on it in a collection by mental health experts called “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump.” In an interview, she said the disorder is marked by such symptoms as “increased worry, obsessive thought patterns, muscle tension and obsessive preoccupation with the news.”
A study from the market research firm Galileo also found that, in the first 100 days after Trump’s election, 40 percent of people said they “can no longer have open and honest conversations with some friends or family members.” Nearly a quarter of respondents said their political views have hurt their personal relationships.
This goes beyond office arguments or the Thanksgiving gathering in which some cousin or in-law drinks too much and someone storms out after the diner-table conversation turns to politics. Even the closest daily relationships can suffer.
The Philadelphia couple who found Trump had a detumescent effect on their love life weren’t arguing about the president, said their therapist, Cynthia Baum-Baicker. They were just coping with shared distress in different ways. Information for many people reduces anxiety, and so TV news was a kind of psychic tether for the wife.
“I remember the husband basically said, ‘If you ever want to be intimate again, you’ll turn the TV off in the bedroom. I can’t have that man present and listen to him and feel any sense of arousal,’” said Baum-Baicker.
Trump is an obviously toxic narcissist. This comes with equally obvious borderline behaviours that leave the vulnerable grasping for reality.
But that does not mean his presidency is crazy. It comes from an identifiable tradition of Jacksonian politics, as I wrote last year:
This is the key to the period ahead. Trump’s Jacksonian impulse is a paradox. It is not going to result in a smooth world of American first prosperity and power. On the contrary, it is going to egg-on every tin pot dictator and rising power to ever greater transgressions against the Wilsonian liberal order when in their interests to do so.
America First has no military way to counter this on a day-to-day basis. By definition, it aims to retreat from global responsibility even as its unintended consequences grow. This is a stunning and ongoing humiliation for the withdrawing Superpower. In effect, America now leads with its chin wherever it goes.
We can thus expect its rhetoric to mount ever higher to conceal crumbling imperial foundations. This will be amplified by the megaphone diplomacy of a clearly narcissistic president.
Thus for markets it will mean heightened anxiety, oddly amid less actual martial outcomes.
It’s never good idea to project your own abandonment issues onto political leaders. In Trump’s case it is a pathological mistake. But don’t confuse that with political outcomes either.