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Is there a bit of Donald Trump in all of us?

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By Oliver Burkeman New York

Most of this week's column, I promise, won't be about Donald Trump. But the man's such a walking psychology textbook I can't resist using him as an example. In this case: his tendency to criticise in others precisely the faults he suffers from himself.

"Something I saw early on with Trump," his remorseful former ghostwriter Tony Schwartz tweeted, is that "most negative things he says about others are actually describing him."

It's not merely that he's an insecure man who lashes out when attacked; it's that his specific ways of lashing out are advertisements for his greatest insecurities.

He claims Hillary Clinton shouldn't get classified security briefings, since she's "a lose (sic) cannon with extraordinarily bad judgment". He mocks her power naps and uses "low energy" as an insult, despite being obsessed with sleeping in his own bed, and often looking exhausted.

And he slams Nato members for not paying their bills -- when that's precisely what he's famous for in business.

This, of course, is "projection", one of those Freudian terms we're supposed to reject for lack of scientific evidence, but that keeps reasserting itself as an invaluable way of interpreting the world.

When we're troubled by a shameful emotion or half-acknowledged thought, this theory goes, we identify and condemn the failing in others, to avoid confronting it in ourselves. (It's not just that we pretend to see it in others, which is how people sometimes interpret Trump's sputterings; it's that we really believe it.)

A cheating husband accuses his wife of infidelity; a bigot sees prejudice everywhere she looks. It works with positive emotions, too: in the first flush of romance, Carl Jung argued, projection runs the show; we see in the other person some good part of ourselves we've yet to understand.

That's why so many relationships flounder after a few months, once you start to notice the discrepancies between the real person and the projection. "Projection," Jung wrote, "changes the world into the replica of one's unknown face."

The tricky part is that projection usually attaches itself to something real in the other person's personality, making it hard to see what's going on. For example, I get enraged by drivers in my neighbourhood honking their horns for no good reason. In a sense, I'm right: they're breaking the law.

But that can't be the whole explanation, since I get nowhere near so emotional about other annoyances -- frankly, I don't get so emotional about most terrorist attacks. Could it be that I'm specially bothered by the drivers' selfishness because I'm worried I live too selfishly myself?

On that logic, it's no surprise I'm less viscerally angered by terrorist atrocities, since I don't secretly fear I might commit one.

It's illuminating to examine your hostile feelings toward others, and theirs about you, through this lens. Plus, it lets you read Trump like a book -- not one penned by a ghostwriter, but written, however inadvertently, from the heart. - Guardian News and Media

"Most negative things he says about others are actually describing him"

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Publication:Gulf Times (Doha, Qatar)
Date:Aug 23, 2016
Words:522
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