11 October 2016

Trump and narcissistic alexithymia

David Brooks wrote an article for the Times today, in which he goes beyond the commonplace observation that Trump displays narcissistic personality disorder to say, specifically, that he displays narcissistic alexithymia (a condition where the person is incapable of recognizing, identifying, or describing emotions in himself, and often has physical responses in place of emotional reactions). I'd never heard the term. 

In Buddhism, even its most secular form, it is a fundamental practice to meditate on lovingkindness (metta or maitri) and compassion (karuna) towards not only people (or other beings) we like or feel love for but also towards "difficult" people or even enemies. This is a very important and liberating practice, which need not be in any way supernatural. I point this out only by way of saying, well and good to feel sympathy towards Trump, as a fellow human being who apparently is indeed mentally ill. But we have to recognize another element of wisdom, which is equanimity. (Upekkha). This is recognition that we cannot generally control the actions of others, but must act in ways that reduce harm. Here we have a mentally ill man who has aggressively put himself forward as a candidate for a job where he could do almost immeasurable harm to our nation and the world. We, as conscientious citizens, whatever our philosophy or religion, owe it to our compatriots and fellow citizens of the world to stop this menace cold. 

Which, fortunately, appears to be what is happening. 

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