Psychologist John Gartner posted a petition on Facebook declaring that President Donald Trump must be removed from office because he has "a serious mental illness". Gartner has diagnosed him from afar as being a malignant narcissist. Nearly 12,000 psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals have signed their agreement.

This is dodgy as.

Doctors don't usually feel comfortable diagnosing someone without a consultation and an examination. There are basic professional standards.

And, spoken as someone who would probably have been diagnosed with Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD) as a child, I find it unhelpful to label people at all. The diagnostic manual of the American Psychiatric Association, known as the DSM-V, is at best arbitrary and worse, plain dumb.


In one example from the most recent edition it was decided to remove the grief exclusion to Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) which means (according to Reuters, not my words) "If a father grieves for a murdered child for more than a couple of weeks he is mentally ill."

In addition, I believe the "N word" (narcissism) is over-used to the extent of being meaningless.

A specialised clinical term (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) has metastasised into a sweeping description of our entire culture, and is now used as a weapon of intergenerational and romantic warfare.

Kristen Bombek turned this sentence into a whole book. ("If there's one thing a girl with a bad boyfriend has," she writes, "it's the moral upper hand in the religion of mental health.")

I agree with her. I've made a vow to cease talking about narcissism, full stop, since "calling out" narcissists can become pretty much impossible to separate from narcissism itself; given that both being a narcissist and pointing the finger is projecting our toxic shame onto another.

But, mea culpa. I still can't help joining in the game of diagnosing President Trump. Wanting to name things is a basic human drive, and part of our wish to find a comforting, unifying pattern amidst the randomness of life.

So here goes. It seems to me Trump is fragmented. By that I mean he lacks a stable sense of self. He also has a terror of abandonment because he needs others to mirror him. On his own he fears he does not exist. That terror makes him dangerous.

I still can't help joining in the game of diagnosing President Trump.


We are getting a better understanding of the mechanism by which this kind of personality develops. (Notice, I am not pathologising it by calling it a disorder)

In a book which has transformed the field of psychoanalysis, Professor Peter Fonagy sets out how someone who did not receive adequate mirroring as an infant or child could, I believe, end up like Trump.

Fonagy builds upon what is now the ho-hum accepted theory of attachment, by explaining how we only become independent subjects if we are recognised as such as we develop; a sensitive caregiver relates to her baby as a subject long before an infant has any conception of other minds, let alone his own.

An infant develops a mind because the caregivers have the baby's "mind in mind", Fonagy says.

If a caregiver is not able to do this, the infant, trying to find him or herself in the mother's mind (or caregiver's mind), may find "the mother instead."

This psychic equivalence is terrifying and not finding him or herself in the other, the child is forced to rely on their own inner-self, which feels alien to them, literally, an alien self.

In this case, the child is likely to grow up with an insatiable hunger to be mirrored back by others: without them he fears he does not exist. (I am thinking of those shiny brass mirrors everywhere and the word Trump, Trump, Trump, repeated on everything he owns, as some kind of juju to ward off annihilation.)

Without his caregiver's help to frame and hold his feelings Trump does not know what his authentic feelings are. His internal reality remains nameless and sometimes dreaded, and the only way he can restore a coherence of self is by "constant and intense projection" onto others. His projection - as we are now seeing - is the problem.

The "alien" aspect within himself is torturing. The only way he can deal with this is by finding others to be a vehicle for this torturing part of his self-representation (essentially trying to do the psychic work he missed out on as a child.) In Trump's case he does this by turning the disabled, women, people of other nationalities and religions into vehicles for the alien aspect of his self-representation. That is, I'm not f***ed, you are.

I am aware many of you will read this and go "there goes Deborah again, psycho-babble, woo-woo." Well this week I don't care. This is too important. And I feel entitled to write about it, without judgment, because I know what being this kind of fragmented person feels like. It is me too.

But unlike Trump I see a therapist twice a week. Trust me, neither glomming into other people nor dominating them as a method to escape the torturing alien self works. Donald needs a therapist too.