Teasing Apart How People Think
If we had a friend who was an abusive alcoholic, we would bring the full weight and vocabulary of modern psychology to discuss that person’s problem. The same degree of rigor should be brought to the people running the world. But the difficulty in teasing apart the psychological workings of politicians and corporate executives is that it’s hard to know whether they are lying to us or lying to themselves. Most likely, it’s a combination of both. In an effort to assist our thinking toward addressing this extremely important yet largely ignored issue, I propose the following acronym:
DAOS: Delusional And/Or Sociopathic
Dick Cheney warned us emphatically about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Of course, it turned out that those WMD’s didn’t exist, but the US still turned Iraq and the larger region into a total mess. Whether Cheney, Bush and their administration actually believed their own lies remains a question. I know that if I had done what they did, I would spend the rest of my life wracked by guilt and self-loathing. Cheney went on to do the Fox News talk shows where he criticized Obama’s handling of the Middle East.
In 2008, the extremely bright and likable Barack Obama was elected president on a platform of “Hope and Change” – none of which ever materialized. The too-big-to-fail banks got bigger. No criminal bankers ever saw the inside of a jail cell. The drone strikes increased. Libya and Syria were made to resemble Iraq. Nothing meaningful was done to address Climate Change. The US continued to be deprived the sensible approach to health care used by all the other civilized countries. And the ground was laid for the election of a narcissistic buffoon to the presidency.
My diagnosis is that Bush, Cheney, Obama and Hillary are DAOS: Delusional And/Or Sociopathic. The beauty of the acronym is that it works in spite of having no idea if they actually believe that what they did was acceptable or if they knowingly told bald faced lies but don’t experience guilt or remorse.
My diagnosis of Donald Trump is more straight forward. He’s a delusional narcissistic sociopath. Indeed, 50 years from now, if we still have a civilization with universities, when you open a university psychology textbook to the section on Narcissistic Personality Disorder, there’ll be a picture of Trump right there. I’m serious about that.
By point of clarity, I’m not trained to distinguish between psychopathy and sociopathy. They’re closely related. My limited understanding is that a psychopath was born that way and a sociopath came to be like that resulting from a bad childhood or other factors. For the sake of this writing, I’ll use “sociopath” to refer to both. In either case, it implies that a person is somehow incapable of experiencing guilt, remorse or empathy; that a person doesn’t have a conscience.
Another issue to ponder is the degree to which delusional and or sociopathic (DAOS) behavior develops over time as one’s circumstances make it necessary or convenient. The act of climbing up the ladders of success in politics or corporate life can certainly require compromising one’s relationship with truth and ethics.
Perhaps one good thing coming out of the Trump presidency is that, unlike other powerful people, he makes no effort to hide his delusional, narcissistic, sociopathic behavior. So, there’s now a slightly greater openness to discussing a sitting politician in psychological terms. But as illustrated above, Trump is far from being the only powerful figure meriting full psychological diagnosis. Countless politicians and corporate figures are DAOS and must be treated as such. And of course, this is very human behavior generally, but the average guy down the street isn’t employed to make big, complex decisions that effect all of our lives, so I view DAOS behavior in average people as taking a back seat to the behavior of those running the world – although, there IS the little matter of average people voting……