Trump, Clinton and Trauma

The consensus as to Donald Trump’s psychiatric issues is nearly unanimous. “Textbook narcissistic personality disorder,” according to clinical psychologists quoted In Vanity Fair, among many who have reached the same conclusion. Noting his motor mouth, chronic inability to pay attention and shockingly deficient impulse control, others diagnosed Trump as a severe case of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Tony Schwartz, Trump’s ghostwriter for his 1987 bestseller The Art of the Deal, reported that his client had no attention span and fidgeted “like a kindergartner who cannot sit still.”

Yet, while the various diagnoses with which he has been labeled may accurately describe his actions, attitudes, verbal patterns and mental states, they cannot explain them. As a stressed electorate tries to make sense of a campaign unlike any other, many people are asking themselves, what is the root of Trump’s bizarre displays?

What we perceive as the adult personality often reflects compensations a helpless child unwittingly adopted in order to survive. Such adaptations can become wired into the brain, persisting into adulthood. Underneath all psychiatric categories Trump manifests childhood trauma. His opponent Hillary Clinton evinces her own history of early suffering, even if milder and far more muted in its impact.

The ghostwriter Schwartz reports that Trump had no recollection of his youth.

There is always a reason for such amnesia. People have poor recall of their childhoods when they found reality so painful that their minds had to repress awareness and push memories into the unconscious. “I don’t like to analyze myself because I might not like what I see,” Trump admitted to a biographer.

According to biographers, Trump’s father was workaholic, ruthless, emotionally cold and authoritarian, a man who believed that life is a competition where the “killers” win. Donald’s elder brother drove himself into alcoholism, a common escape from pain, and to an early death. The younger, favoured child is now self-destructing on the world stage.

Lying is such an endemic aspect of his personality that he does so almost helplessly and reflexively. “Lying is second nature to him,” Tony Schwartz told The New Yorker “More than anyone else I have ever met, Trump has the ability to convince himself that whatever he is saying at any given moment is true, or sort of true, or at least ought to be true.”

How are such patterns compensations?  Not paying attention, tuning out, is a way of coping with stress or emotional hurt. Narcissistic obsession with the self compensates for a lack of nurturing care. Grandiosity covers a deeply negative sense of self-worth. Bullying hides an unconscious conviction of weakness. Lying becomes a mode of survival in a harsh environment. Misogyny is a son’s outwardly projected revenge on a mother who was unable to protect him.

Trump’s opponent also appears to have learned reality-denial at an early age. Her father, too, according to biographic reports, was harsh, verbally abusive, and dismissive of his daughter’s achievements. The opaque persona many now see as inauthentic would have developed as young Hillary Rodham’s protective shell. In an anecdote related by the former Secretary of State herself as an example of salutary character building, four-year-old Hillary runs into her home to escape neighbourhood bullies. “There is no room for cowards in this house,” says her mother, sending the child out into the street to face her tormentors.  The real message was: “Do not feel or show your pain. You are on your own.” Over six decades later the candidate hides her pneumonia even from her doctor and from those closest to her. Repeatedly she has overlooked her husband’s outlandish infidelities, defending him against disgrace— no doubt suppressing her own emotional turmoil in the process.

It is not surprising that when the Oxford University psychologist Kevin Dutton analyzed the candidates for Scientific American Mind, he scored both Trump and Clinton in the upper quintile of self-centered impulsivity and coldheartedness. Trump rated high on traits of psychopathy, between Idi Amin and Adolf Hitler.

We Canadians are no strangers to political leaders whose childhood suffering formed their personalities and infused their policies. The journalist and Stephen Harper biographer John Ibbitson characterized our former prime minister as “autocratic, secretive, and cruel.” A journalist described him as “chilly and inscrutable,” while his former chief of staff recalled him as “vindictive, prone to sudden eruptions of white-hot rage over meaningless trivia.” These traits, too, are uniformly markers of trauma. Unsurprisingly, Harper also resisted discussing his childhood.

No infant is born a bully, cruel or cold-hearted. Well-nurtured children mature naturally past infantile self-regard, develop impulse control and find empathy. They learn to feel and regulate their emotions. In the case of those who do not, there is pain they are unable or unwilling to confront. Their development was distorted.

A political leader in denial of his trauma may be so little able to bear his core pain, fear and weakness that he will identify with the powerful, disdain and attack the vulnerable. Or, behind a false persona, she vows to support the downtrodden while kowtowing to the rich and dominant.

What does it say about our society that such deeply troubled individuals frequently rise to the top ruling circles, attaining wealth and power and even the admiration of millions?

We need not be perplexed that a Donald Trump can vie for the presidency of the most powerful nation on Earth. We live in a culture where many people are hurt and, like the leaders they idolize, insulated against reality. Trauma is so commonplace that its manifestations have become the norm.

People who are anxious, fearful and aggrieved may be unable to recognize the flaws In those seeking power. They mistake desperate ambition for determination, see grandiosity as authority, paranoia as security, seductiveness as charm, dogmatism as decisiveness, selfishness as economic wisdom, manipulation as political savvy, lack of principles as flexibility. Trauma-induced defences such as venal dishonesty and aggressive self-promotion often lead to success.

The flaws of our leaders perfectly mirror the emotional underdevelopment of the society that elevates them to power.

This originally appeared in The Globe and Mail.

84 thoughts on “Trump, Clinton and Trauma”

  1. Wow!

    First impression: hurt people will hurt people….
    “The flaws of our leaders perfectly mirror the emotional underdevelopment of the society that elevates them to power.” I thought this line was both profound and disturbing. Who knows, maybe it’s about time to put our country on “the couch?”

      1. Exactly. Trump has BPD, just like my mother did. They have been severely abused and neglected as children. They have no core, unable to lov, only manipulate. I contracted c-ptsd as a toddler from being my mother’s oldest daughter of 12 children she had all by c-section. I was her scapegoat, they must have at least one. Thank you. Dr. Mate. Peace.

    1. Dr. Mate, we’ve met before, and I Applaud your article it was well written and on point. I agree with what you wrote about both of them. USA has a world of hurt, and hurt people hurt people. In Canada we must watch out for dissonance as a prerequisite to maintaining our status and move forward in a positive ways. Keep writing.

      1. This time of year many of us deal with our “families” which make up our society, this time of year is spoken to be “hard” often by those who verbalize the courage to look at themselves and their own lives. Really all in all viewed from a psychological perspective Obama seems to have beat them all, all of the way down the line. You spoke of being a scapegoat. I used to say that and it is true but in my family what I am dealing with right now is not just that, but it is being exploited to cover up when their own pain or karma comes back to their wrong thinking or doing, I get blamed. This is the same thing as scapegoating but the word exploited really helped my own understanding of what really happened to me.

        1. A run on sentence or two that needs editing, please. I would do it but I don’t have the option of going back. Thank you!.
          Yes Awsome Article.

    2. I am with you on the mass hypnosis issue. I am wondering how our system can evolve so that the choices for President are both good ones and that offer intelligent, thoughtful, well-constructed ideas. HJC, even if you did not agree with her policies in full or part, at least did the work to develop her ideas, backed by experience in a range of positions that can prepare someone to know the complexities and contextual issues at home and abroad. Decorum and professionalism do matter. Language of collaboration and connection also matter and were, from my view, not only absent from DJT’s message but instead, countless people were mocked and ridiculed to distract from his own lack of knowledge or thought process. It is, indeed, a reflection of some of the instant drama and gratification that we have seemed to find of the time. Through time, though, these immediate reactions will not be able to support prolific development toward the greater good. I also believe that the definition of truth has not changed, but the way in which we perceive the truth, filter the truth, or parcel out parts of the truth is nothing short of confusing, distracting, and keeping us separate in our corners. We have to remember how to be in front of each other and connect, to resolve to heal rather than win.

    3. Everyone has trauma. Trauma shapes a person, it is part of the human condition. The difference between an addict and a non-addict is how they deal with their human condition. Addicts don’t want to deal with their feelings head on, they want to mask the pain. So you’re saying the two highest candidates out of the millions of people in America had trauma? Then obviously trauma builds leadership and character. Your theory builds victims, and blames others. I’m not buying into the victim and blame theory of addiction. They used to blame autism on attachment too. I’m hoping this will be debunked in the future too.

      1. addicts hurt themselves whereas people like trump hurt others because they’re too “perfect” to self inflict damage. trump’s addiction to money and fame has more ramifications, in my opinion, considering he was the POTUS.

  2. Steve Sweeney-Turner

    Here’s my personal psychosis – an uncontrollable impulse to correct minor textual errors!

    “People are anxious, fearful and aggrieved may be unable to recognize the flaws In those seeking power.”

    -should read –

    “People [who] are anxious, fearful and aggrieved may be unable to recognize the flaws [in] those seeking power.”

    Great post, though! 🙂

    1. Ditto-
      I notice in myself- in getting emotional breathing room- I contemplate problems and solutions exponentially better. Maybe as a nation-
      Our “picker” has been tampered with so many times- we no longer have a collective memory for recognizing a trustworthy leader. We have been acting like a moth to a flame. Lemmings stampeding off the cliff kid of thing. It’s a puzzle. A terrifying thing to observe

  3. I concur. I have looked at the ADHD, the complex trauma, the adult children of alcoholism issues and come to a similar conclusion. It is NO choice for us down here in the land plastered with red, white and blue. Help!

  4. This article brilliantly unpacks some of the most widely overlooked psychological reality of our times and lets us all see that the emperor clearly has no cloak.
    Trauma (in childhood and beyond) is so widespread in our times that it is time we look into approach it like an epidemic and use esucational and preventive measures in schools, work places and all major institutions so they provide front line support for those suffering it and ways to prevent it for those that has not suffer it yet.
    A world where we heal trauma and prevent it actively will be a far better world for us and most importantly for the next 7 generations.
    Thanks Dr Mate for this piece!!

    1. I most certainly agree.
      Pearents need not only to worry if their kid is being bullied
      We should worry most ID our kid is a bully him/herself

  5. Very interesting and explains a lot. Most often, those who aspire to great political power are those least qualified to lead in a positive direction. Very sad.

  6. The over-riding question for me is: how did such a large number of voters become convinced that the U.S. economy is failing, unemployment is rampant, that the country is in a steep decline – internally and globally, that Hillary Clinton is the devil incarnate and that Donald J. Trump is the Messiah?

    I suspect it’s a form of mass hypnosis promulgated over the years by right wing radio and TV personalities, some who are so extreme they make Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Ira Levin seem angelic. When voters rely on these people exclusively as their single source of information, they become brainwashed and unable to consider a different opinion, much less undeniable fact.

    Donald Trump is completely incapable of handling the responsibilities of the Presidency and he doesn’t have the attention span to handle the learning curve he will have to face if he were to be elected, which begs the question: Who will be Trump’s Dick Cheney?

    1. Scott: unfortunately there is a large segment of the population, you may be among them, who accept the NYT, Washington Post, MSMBC, etc. reporting as an accurate depiction of reality. Similarly, as you point out, there are those accepting the FOX News, Brietbart, etc. reporting as the “truth.” There are however, many, myself included, who have spent decades studying US foreign policy, traveled into war zones, and daily read reports of front line journalists not affiliated with power structures who have come to very different conclusions about “truth.” Hillary Clinton’s policy record is why many in this later category find her extremely dangerous, just as we find Trump extremely dangerous. Neither “reality” nor our political terrain are “black vs white,” though corporate media are good at painting is as such. Americans who think themselves “progressive,” can somehow unflinchingly support HRC while she also receives the endorsement of every war mongering neocon in Washington of any note, the CIA, the entire military industrial complex, etc. This is the real “mass hypnosis” in the equation. That Americans can convince themselves they have actual choices for the direction of the nation, when both parties and their candidates are owned by the most powerful military, intelligence and economic forces in our country. Until we understand this, we’ll continue to be pawns in a game we cannot win carried out every four years as a form of “mass hypnosis.”

      1. Refreshing… unfortunately accurate
        I hope with everything that has happened in the past four years people are getting out of this mass hypnosis.

    2. Travel to Ohio, Michigan, and Western Pennsylvania and tell me the USA isn’t in decline. All is well on the coasts, but if people bothered to venture where the cameras don’t go, they would see just how much pain many Americans are in.

      That’s why Trump won.

  7. “The flaws of our leaders perfectly mirror the emotional underdevelopment of the society that elevates them to power.”

    They indeed mirror this underdevelopment, but they, society, us dispossessed souls, do not elevate those exaggerated versions of this collective hurt when we are born into a deeply historically embedded doctrinal system that not only maintains that hurt but which seeks to hurt those very minds and bodies that believe they have elevated that so called leader or ruler, or any hierarchy, that promises to take away our pains. Sociopathy at any age prays on hurt, and Power is very familiar with this age old tool.

    Sorry, Gabor, I just wanted to expand on your last sentence. I’m with you, man!

    From a dyslexic guy (52) who probably has ADD like yourself.

  8. Mass hypnosis was the goal of media in order to sustain itself. It lives by taking our attention and re-directing our subconscious desires to acquiring whatever requires us to spend some money. This “The Economy” became the American idol we are enlisted to sustain under threat of being declared subversive enemies of the state. Love of country, will to live and help others, too, is basic. These things have been exploited for profit by the kind of mass hypnosis, discussed here, which was idolized as Successful business communication. So many of my peers went to Business School
    Who could have been teachers. So many after them majored in Communications and learned only how to participate in hypnotizing. We cannot blame one another. But we can resist-and look into our own childhood pain. And learn to listen instead of narrating these group myths. Recognize! I love Dr Matte and his work. I’m gladdened to find this sent to me this morning.

  9. Mika Antero Kumpulainen

    A good read, thank you for the clarifying remarks.

    Also Gabor, i heard you went to The Temple of the Way of Light and did something or with Ibogaine. If true I haven’t been able to find anything on it, maybe for reasons. I’m very interested on what i could learn from what would’ve come from that. I’ve been 2 of your lectures, one in Barrie and another hosted by i think Marylou in Toronto. Watched every talk you’ve done that i could find on various video sites.

    Might as here why not :\

  10. Dr. Gabor has hit upon the truths in our modern society! I have too been damaged, but just recently at 55 have been able to see the issues with our world! America and the entire war is in perilous times! I have only heard of you this week from a post on social media! I am also ordering or obtaining a copy of every book you have been a part of! You have stated the: problems , WHAT The reasons , WHY

    The solution, HOW. I have began to see your insights myself and find myself being a kinder , more helpful, more feelings if self worth and joy gratitude and love of all creatures human or animal! More urgently the powers we allow to oversee the masses don’t want to fix the problems! They can’t do it on their own we all need cooperation and acceptance of each other’s faults and weakness as well as our own, personally! The immediate threat to our society is the destruction of humanity on Mother Earth for we came from her and without her we can no longer exist! If we don’t come together as a planet to save it WE will all perish! No one wins! We don’t have a reset button on the earth which sustains us! We can wake up and take action immediately now or not! We are now asking the human race to look at evidence of the dying planet! The balance can be stopped with us all working together! Our only hope at survival is in our hands we will either fight and make a difference or turn our head, deny, and do nothing! As trying to be part of the solution we concentrate trying to send the message try to educate, share knowledge, use or intelligence we possess and the technology that began this process to heal instead of harm! I totally am concerned and frightened over the violations of all human rights, no one has a right to harm another in deed or word! From the native Americans, protecting the water to the radical islamists who are perpetuating atrocities against mankind in the name of a RELIGION and power play! We as humans are all different, just as in nature there all forms and species we are alive but separate unique! An amazingly powerful force! Anything done with hate malice, control or negative energy will return the same back! There is a cycle to our existance on this earth in the body we were born with! Dr. Gabon has captured the essence of our root problem or dis-ease mentally, physically and literally in our planet! We need to come together to make a change ! May you all receive the love, healing and respect we all deserve! Pass along to make a difference !

  11. Francis Bertolini

    So that’s those two. Dissect Obama for us. I deem that he is more pathologic than either Hillary and Trump. And you say:?

    1. Elizabeth Whitbread

      You are looking at Obama through a permanent lens of disapproval. Obama is not pathologic. Read and research human behavior and politics and look at things without predetermined bias. I find it interesting that the Trump supporters are primarily undereducated.

      1. I have two masters degrees, plus a postmasters and I’m a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner for the Army. I don’t think I would be considered undereducated, especially since I’m well versed in how the brain works. My view of Obama turned out to be correct, and I’m hopeful everything he has done can be reversed. Trump has his faults, some which make him an expert at surviving. Unlike Obama, Trump has the skills to accomplish things and will turn out to be one of the best Presidents in history. In short, Obama has NPD but not the skills to accomplish anything. Trump also has NPD but knows how to get things done. Sit back and enjoy what will come out of Trump creating havoc among our country which has gone through eight years of downward spiral.

        1. Anyone who says that they are “well versed in how the brain works” has no idea how the brain works because the science is in its infancy. Just because you’ve had a lot of sub-par education does not make you well-educated. A postmaster! Are you with the pony express?

          1. “Trump has the skills to accomplish things and will turn out to be one of the best Presidents in history. In short, Obama has NPD but not the skills to accomplish anything. Trump also has NPD but knows how to get things done.”

            Get things done?
            “I will build a wall and Mexico will pay for it.”
            So “[Obama] hasn’t the skills to “accomplish anything.”
            Um, right.
            Got it.

            Trump has acted too trumpy and has been declared an adjudicated rapist.
            He is facing serious criminal charges, as many of us predicted would some day–and reluctantly–happen.

            Do you know anything about Neruo-Linguistic Programming?
            Are you aware that brain scans of abused children [verbal, physical and sexual] are markedly different than the scans of normal children?


    One point-traumatized people will also put the rosy glow of perfection over their childhoods, not just amnesia. Thank you so much for bringing this important issue to light. Trauma shapes our culture in so many covert ways.

  13. Although this article is keenly insightful and useful, I wish the discussion was not through labels from the punitive and way out-dated and harmful DSM. The labels can be descriptive and partly accurate, but they are stuck in blaming the victim, static, and hideously deterministic among many other criticisms. Sadly, these false labels of humanbeingness have almost become our language of self-understanding.
    Warm regards and salutations to Mr. Gabor, his work is topflight and leads the way to a better future for all of us.

  14. Adrian S. Hooper Jr.

    Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama all t seem to be addicted to power and have “Textbook narcissistic personality disorder.” it seems to be a requirement for our political leaders these days. Yet we keep enabling their addiction to power and believing their lies by continuously electing them over and over again. What does that say for the people who elect them. Are we just Sheep?

    1. Our prolonged and terribly arduous presidential campaigns practically guarantee that a candidate must be extremely desperate for attention and approval in order to undergo such a quest. If we had a three month campaign limit, For example, and public financing, would be get better candidates?

  15. WOW An absolutely spot on verdict of the state of global affairs! The psychologists who use their knowledge to cause hysteria through the media should be ashamed. I for one am torn between hope and fear for the coming decade. Dr Mate what can we do?
    Concerned mother of a 13 year old

    1. Learn to unearth one’s own flaws.
      Jesus of Nazareth once said
      “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

      What are the planks in your own eye?

      As a Christian, I have been forced to become aware of an accountable for my hypocrisy, my racism, my cruelty and my many other shortcomings.

      Believe me, it is very useful but not always comfortable.

  16. When people talk about the problems and corruptions of the world, a lot of it is to do with the financial markets that are taking control of our lives through government, banks, courts and other corporations.
    I say, everything wrong in the world stems from that.

  17. dejavu: Dr. Eli Chesen, a psychiatrist on Richard Nixon.
    So, in the meantime, what can I do. I registered as a Muslim on my facebook page. And, I contributed to a mosque being built by our small Islamic community at the Trifaith campus in Omaha, NE ( The least I could do as a faithful member of the human race.

  18. Elsebeth Atamgeet Kaur

    The sad truth and good news that with courage and insight we can get somatic trauma therapy to release our childhood and other traumas that we inenvitably experience in life.

  19. I find this practice of offering distance psychoanalysis to be unprofessional. Somehow the candidate preferred by the writer always emerges in better mental health than the opposing party, who is dismissed with the banal epithet “narcissist.” All this demeans the care that ought to go in to assessments and makes the “medical expert” just another celebrity in his or her own right.

    Best left to the National Enquirer.

    1. To MK:
      It’s true that we can’t know all the intimate details (from the patient’s perspective), without a face to face evaluation. However, we have enough based on other EQUALLY important information- Trump, Hilary and Obama’s behaviors throughout their lifetime- coupled with interviews, investigative journalism, the debates and rallies. This is a wealth of information. I also think you might have missed Gabor’s point.
      The issue is not to blame one candidate and exonerate another, thereby taking sides. I believe Gabor is trying to raise consciousness regarding trauma and it’s pervasiveness and also how the macro (whether it’s Trump vs Hilary, Democrats, or Socialists vs Republicans, Russian vs USA, Israel vs Palestine, is influenced by the micro (your early childhood experiences and whether you had healthy role models to emulate and guide you in being resilient). I don’t see how looking deeper into a candidate’s personality through their onstage or offstage remarks and behaviors, makes psych assessments less valuable. I would think observing a patients’ behaviors, off and on stage, is just another valuable tool in the clinician or psychiatric assessment.
      That being said, if you understand how our environment (much more than out genes),determines our mental health then you also understand that in then end, everything IS political, and our mental health is greatly determined by our early attachments as well as well as the culture we live in, which can help you overcome poor attachment or reinforce it.
      The culture we live in undermines any attempts for people to live healthy lives.

  20. Always enjoy reading Dr. Mate’s articles and hearing his points of view. . He is a deeply thoughtful person who genuinely cares about others. Through his life-long devoted ground work and analytical mind he articulates our current emotional/cultural status. “The flaws of our leaders perfectly mirror the emotional underdevelopment of the society that elevates them to power.” “We live in a culture where many people are hurt and, like the leaders they idolize, insulated against reality.” These are the types of views and focus our mental health community need to understand to even begin to find the healing practices we need. Thank you Dr. Mate for this thoughtful piece.

  21. In America there is a psychological release button called, ‘acting’ and lots of people participate in this activity either by turning towards ‘acting’ as a career or turning towards acting to watch it and passively participate in it.This form of psychological release is even addictive for some and the line in the sand between the actor and the viewer of the actor has been rubbed away so many times it is hard to determine what is being acted for a living, what is being acted for entertainment and what is being acted for educational purposes and what is being acted for the most important job in the world.
    Americans have lost that line in the sand so much it has even gone so far as to vote for actors to become their Presidents..and we, the rest of the world look on in amazement!
    Nothing has changed for many years so we just keep looking on in amazement. We may try to psychologically analyze it all but America has come back with a comedy film called, ‘Analyze This’.
    The acting industry comes back with it’s addictive physiological release button with mind bending ideas found in science fiction, romance, drama, action, hero worship…you name it the American acting industry has it’s answer for everything and seduces its audience to become addicted to its ideas.
    Perhaps the film industry, the actors, directors and the like needs a huge deep look at itself? Perhaps American viewers need a huge deep look at themselves. Perhaps the line in the sand needs to be identified for the value it can bring.
    Perhaps the American acting industry should tone itself and atone itself in the process, giving a more quality story mode into its productions and a quality form of acting which is recognized as acting – being a skill, talent and achievement which has an identified line in the sand so as the viewer can begin to understand what is acting; what is reality; what is educational; what is entertainment; what is drama; what is comedy. Then it will realize some people have a gift for this stewardship.
    And a different type of people are suited to a role which carries an enormous responsibility worthy of filling the tasks of a President.
    A huge cleansing within the acting industry would bring about a huge enlightenment to the passive viewers of this industry.Clear concise and informed decisions would be able to be made by the voting population instead of viewing the election process as another form of entertainment or using it as an addictive physiological release button- as in the form of watching a movie with some first rate acting but mostly second rate acting and second rate story modes.
    Make a change America. Don’t rely on the acting industry as much as you do. Think about your life as a valuable unique being. Vote for the right person for your President – not a bunch of a actors and leave the actors to the acting industry and ask them to clean themselves fit for acting – and not anything else will do.
    Thank you.

    1. This has been an observation of mine for quite awhile now, ever since I turned off my tv a couple decades ago. They did a study, I’ll find the source, people who were regular exposed to violence on tv and in the movies did not become more violent themselves, but they were more sympathetic to violence being carried out by others in the name of freedom or defense or some kind of cause. In the movies conflict equals drama. That spills over in our society and in our heads, everywhere. A day will come when we will look back on violence as entertainment as an enormous and sad blunder. America please stop watching shows and live in the real world. It’s actually better out here. TV is brain poison.

  22. Thank you for your wise and penetrating insight. I,too feel that DT’s (and HRC’s) trauma and our un-owned individual shadow content is “up in our face” on the world stage to bring us to our senses and our compassionate hearts. Perhaps the only way we get to these depths of transformation as a collective is by being brought to our knees. I wrote a short piece back in April, “I, Donald” in an attempt to digest my personal piece of this puzzle. Thank you, Dr. Mate.

  23. Pingback: Trump, Clinton and Trauma by Gabor Mate | I Dont Want To Talk About It

  24. We in the UK can identify this problem acutely – 90% of our MPs went to all male boarding schools at a young and vulnerable age, were taught to suppress all emotion and weakness, and many of the older ones also would have been physically punished for mistakes.

  25. Alice Millers book ‘For Your Own Good: The roots of violence in Child-Rearing’ explores this dynamic in some depth. If we want a natural society (healthy society) then we have to look at and understand the genuine needs and expectations of children, as mandated by our biology. Our endocrine systems can be measured to identify our state of stress, whether it is a temporary state, a chronic state, and we can measure the damage that latter state creates in pure health terms. The biological mandate is towards optimal health, a condition where we can handle the odd stress or trauma and recover. Chronic stress undermines the recovery stage, and is often deliberately induced, as in Guantanamo Bay, or Nixon’s ‘make the economy scream’, or indeed the concept of Original Sin…

    That, of course, tends to conflict with the long held attitude of biology being a brutal conflict of competing entities seeking dominance, which is, quite obviously, a projection rather than a Scientific analysis. It also conflicts with the central message of Organised Religion, which is of the battle between forces of good and evil, that exist outside human agency yet express themselves in human action.

    For me the issue is also related to the dynamic of schooling, which is to coerce children to adopt the Institutions mores or be punished.

    Personally, I do not vote. and will never vote until a) None Of The Above is legally instituted, and b) until input and oversight of the actions of Government is legally instituted as every citizens duty of care. Bullies use violence and psychology as tools. So do the Institutions of Power. Both do so out of weakness and amorality. Many of us allow it for the same reasons, and this is very, very sad.

  26. I find this type of analysis unhelpful and presumptuous. Maybe true in some cases, possibly not so in others. However, Donald Trump did not make himself by himself. What we need to understand is the psychology that creates a culture in which such a hurt or stupid individual is allowed acccess to so much power. And we also need a psychology to describe how the culture of resistance to such hideous ascendacy can be remedied. Trumps ascendancy has been a long time coming and has been aided by millions of people and a host os social and cultural arrangements. We need to understand how our psychology shapes and gives rise to such arrangements and what kind of psychology can provide an effective alternative. Look at DAPL!

    1. None are so blinded as those who will not see beyond what they have been trained to see. A point of view is just that; a point of view. It is not reality, nor is it the truth. No one OWNS the cookie cutter, hence all anyone can do is speak to what seems to be true. Alas what seems to be true is just a reflection of a biased point of view. While ye all fight for the “rightness” of your point of view, based on results, how is your own living turning out? Do you experience more aliveness, loving the life you are living, having the time of your life. Or will you simply run out of time, hanging a diagnosis on others, blaming others for your own unloved, unlived lives.

  27. Thank you. Even as a therapist I needed this nudge toward empathy. And I am ok others are not there yet. But if I am to help change the collective I have to start with me….AND I do this listening project too as it is the ONLY way I know how to sustain my own core ethic of empathy…by practicing it outside my office on the street. Come join us on our bus tour in April through middle America please?

  28. Politics is the science of power. Few well balanced healthy people would pursue power over a nurturing caring family and friends network. It is almost natural that politics (and extreme wealth achievement) would be compensation for eschewing a peaceful fulfilling life. Electing these people is a reflection of the same emptiness. And on it goes…

  29. Thank you Dr. Maté for this. Any conversation about these issues brings them into the Light and helps the healing. Let the conversation continue….

  30. Has anyone read Prof. Bruce Alexander’s “The Globalisation of Addiction”? I have because I am an addiction counsellor
    Alexander cites “Hypercapitalism” as the driving force behind addictions because addiction hides the pain felt at the “Dislocation” that Hypercapitalism causes & promotes as healthy and necessary. It’s a vicious and inevitable cycle of, not neglect – that implies a disinterest in – but active and deliberate punitive abuse in order to break and dominate and discredit sections of our population that don’t dance to the corporate tune, which is the hypercapitalists tune. Reference ‘Kuri-Kindi’ an Amazonian Head Chief and Shaman speaking at the UKESAD Conference in London earlier this year in May. He said before the West impinged on his people there was no such word as “addiction” in their language; but there is now and this is nothing new, we’ve seen it many times before around the world.
    Everything has a monetary value otherwise its not valued in the free market and the higher the monetary value the higher the worth. What this fails to incorporate is the spiritual world wherein possessions are prized not for what they symbolise but for what they represent of the higher values that are “felt” not “financially acquired” ie: bought. Materialistic acquisitiveness is what Trump is all about, first and foremost, first and last. His talk of family is only relevant for what that family can give him in material terms, in terms of standing and prestige within the society he is both courting and exploiting. His power is the power that Rollo May wrote about as being the lower forms. Power sharing is the highest form, collaborative not exploitative, nutrient and growth enhancing not self serving and manipulative or bullying and posturing but authentic and altruistic.
    “Life is about giving not getting” – Hubert Selby Jnr Requiem for a Writer
    ” We were right, we were giving, that’s how we kept what we gave away” – Neil Young “Comes a Time”
    The difference between Donald Trump and a true Statesman is like that between a divine spark & a flame that incinerates and devours.
    Donald Trump will devour and burn up anyone or anything that opposes or disagrees with him and his plans.
    Richard Branson had dinner with him & wrote about it in a Virgin blog as being an unpleasant experience. Trump proceeded to foul mouth five people who had refused to lend him money and announced that he would spend his days turning those people into nobodies; he was going to make it his lifes mission to destroy each and everyone of them.
    And this from the President of the United States?
    It is truly a mixed up world in which we live. We have lost our sense of purpose because we have lost sight of that form of power higher than the almighty dollar and Prof. Alexanders book makes this clear. His book is subtitled “A Study in Poverty of Spirit”.
    Hypercapitalism is killing us as a society and as a collection of individuals. The more we lose out to the commodification of “things” over the human spirit the more we lose sight of those things that really matter; each other, our children, our society, our collective and our community and the legacy that we leave to those coming after us. Addiction is on the rampage throughout the so called civilised West and that is because people are being disposed of in favour of power. “Power over”, not “power with”, is the exploitative, manipulative, punitive and bullying power that Trump wields whenever he has the chance. It has taken the form of sexism and racism and homophobia and it will continue to show itself in these forms because the lowest forms of power deal with exploitation, manipulation and domination over others deemed weaker than ones self and in the case of the Narcissistic Trump that is everyone and anyone who is not him!
    Passion for power is not a passion at all, it is an addiction and addiction saps away the lifeblood of the victim. True passion enriches, it is generous because it is not ego driven; addiction is self-centred and a thief.
    Which of the above fits Trump best?
    It is important to note that Alexander is not for a single second advocating a return to some form of socialism or communism, he explicitly renounces that as an intention. It is the madness of the modern world that he wants to highlight brought about by hypercapitalisms insistence on competition and individualism as the life blood of being.
    “This book is not about resurrecting pure socialism” he writes “…but domesticating modern capitalism in the end” p.3/4
    Is that Trump’s mission?
    Could it ever be?
    Or are we about to embark on a binge of epidemic proportions?

    1. Bradley, I enjoyed your commentary and have been saying the same things…capitalism run amok with dire spiritual and earthly consequences…but you said it more eloquently.

  31. Hear hear. I often say “hurt people, hurt people,” and, “our only sustainable path forward is to heal trauma.” I think I’m correct still, in that assessment. Thanks, Dr. Maté for your insights.

    Scary, but correctable: “The flaws of our leaders perfectly mirror the emotional underdevelopment of the society that elevates them to power.”

  32. The right to become father /mother / guardian ought to be determined by the willingness to “give, promote,develop, nurture and love” if these conditions fail, it would be better for the world that less human beings are born. Way too many “emotionally dis-abled parents” are flooding the world with “damaged human beings”. These are sadly irreparable and the ripple effect goes on and on.

    1. Martha, I wholeheartedly agree and have thought the same to myself many times. Having been deeply traumatized in childhood by the very type of parents you describe, I remember an argument with my mother, in which she said she provided all the material things for me and I should be grateful. Even as an adolescent, I had the wherewithal to know that wasn’t enough, and told her that if she hadn’t been prepared to nurture, love, understand and lift me up instead of constantly tearing me down and shutting me out, she shouldn’t have had children and that I would rather not have been born. As an adult, I have struggled with intimate relationships and did not have children, having felt very ill-equipped with poor role models, and have spent a lifetime trying to heal myself. At least I broke the cycle but have suffered immensely.

  33. These two individuals are no different from All the rest of the past leaders.
    The world has a massive problem.
    There isn’t one leader worthy of the post.
    It’s time to remove them all.
    The global elite are sick!

  34. Marta Thorsheim

    Dear Gabor, thank you for the article and to all of you, for comments.I look forward to welcome Dr.Gabor Maté to Norway in November!
    Maybe this lecture on “War, Violence and Destruction: Fighting with enemies or making peace with oneself?The Psychology of the Victim-Perpetrator Splitting” is of interest?:
    Warmest, Marta Thorsheim

  35. Yes, well said, as usual, Dr. Mate. Thanks for this article.

    I’d like to comment on this piece: “The flaws of our leaders perfectly mirror the emotional underdevelopment of the society that elevates them to power.”

    Society is simply a collection of individuals. Constructive change starts with change within the individual. As a people, we are generally unable to make collective decisions without someone dominating us and consensus on almost anything is often challenging. As individuals we will often sacrifice our truth to the demands of the group and an uneasy truce in what is basically war.

    Standing in my truth demands that I be willing to accept the consequences of rejection. It’s a pretty basic fear in most of us. I think that as we become more comfortable with our fundamental aloneness, our need for people like Trump, Clinton and Harper (and politicians in general) will lessen.

  36. Pingback: Trump, Clinton & Trauma: Reflections on Politics by Dr. Gabor Maté | Ytspänning

  37. Melissa A Mascorro

    Deep and true. This nation isn’t ready to have a discussion about the real root of this trauma. We aren’t emotionally mature enough yet. We have to create the new earth each of us by our own personal transformation, and then vow to protect those that don’t have the privilege to do that.

  38. Deborah Warren

    I am a Canadian woman and on Dec 26, 2018 I and an American friend watched the movie “Vice”. After the movie [about former Vice President Dick Cheney] we ran into another American and the topic of Trump came up. She insisted that the US had to be fixed … I could only state my opinion that Americans are angry and that they have every right to be. The Americans who voted for Trump did not want to ‘fix’ America they wanted to ‘break’ it. That may be the only way to change things… she turned and walked away in disgust. It has been my experience that when a child [the citizen?] finally confronts the errant parent [the government authority?], it does feel like a world-shattering experience.

  39. Pingback: Imposter syndrome: a brief history of sadness in a ‘cult of self-belief’ – JOHN B LEDGER

  40. Thank you for the brilliant work you are doing. Your words resonate on the deepest level. I am grateful for people like you in this world. As a trauma therapist, I have learned so much from you. Keep doing what you are doing, we need more people like you in this world.

  41. “The flaws of our leaders perfectly mirror the emotional underdevelopment of the society that elevates them to power.” Dr. Gabor Mate

  42. A platform on the problem our nation has been facing regarding “Adult Children” syndrome would be a Great Move.
    Generational dysfunction is the reason for most of our problems fr presidency to those in prison, and all the addictions in between.
    What I don’t appreciate was the disproportionate report & how this affects the two candidate’s up for election, Article added unnecessary negativity to the political atmosphere which I thought you were above. I respect your expertise up until and then again after this article, but wish you wrote it fairly balanced.

  43. I appreciate this article mostly because I was diagnosed with C-PTSD. My second therapist told me that Dr. Gabor Mate had groundbreaking research on the link between childhood trauma and addiction. I told her that I read the book, “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts.” I read this book before I was blessed to realize I had a disorder that ran the spectrum of Cluster B disorders. In my experience, Borderline can run off into antisocial and back to narcissism. It can begin on either end of the spectrum. Either that, or I’m a rare case. I’ve had a traumtic brain injury as a kid and went through multiple forms of abuse. I’m not a psychologist but I know that the information they discovered about his childhood, the effects of losing his brother early in life and have a ruthless father could definitely be the cause. I write to share my recovery, as I work with people with these disorders, as I had found help in therapy. Gabor Mate has an edge on addiction and childhood trauma. I read articles of how some people do not use hard drugs after they are affected by trauma, and the article tried to prove Dr. Mate wrong in his research. He is not wrong. The truth is that our addictions can run the gamet. And not everyone with trauma is addicted to narcotics, per say, but we do try to fill that hole with other things. Some of us do things to hurt others, just to push them away. That fills the need for self-protection. I could never hate Trump or Hillary or any politician or someone with this disease, because I know what it’s like to have it. My recovery taught me to fill my life up with positive things. That is how we heal addiction. Anyone in recovery comes to understand this in the process of hitting bottom and coming to understand a new way of life. I’ve observed a lot from being able to lead others to the right resources, books. I don’t often recommend “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts.” For people with C-PTSD, I recommend authors like Pete Walker who truly discovered the disease within himself and became a therapist. Addiction is a large proportion of the disorder, but it is only a symptom. So for people with C-PTSD, I’ve learned that it cannot be medicated. This was thoroughly explained by Pete Walker in his autobiography and his book on C-PTSD was ‘the way.’ I put myself out there as a mental health advocate, not a therapist and I don’t want any credit. I just want to support Dr. Gabor Mate in his research, his outreach and promote awareness for this particular disorder. Thank you for letting me post this. The more we know about C-PTSD, in ourselves or in those we love or have to work with, the better off society will be.

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