Delusions of Grandeur
I’m not sure about anyone else, but I have to admit to being totally transfixed by the current state of affairs in America. At the time of writing, the US had peaked at 200,000 new COVID-19 cases in one day, Walmart removed guns from its stores in response to concerns of civil unrest, and a 78-year-old man became the next President of the United States.
On their own, each of these events is newsworthy enough, but it wasn’t until after some reflection that I noticed a common theme that joined all these events together: Trump.
Like him or loathe him, Donald Trump is a unique individual. His character and personality appear to be larger than life, as though he’s been created like a fictional character. In all fairness, it should be noted that all we really know about Donald Trump is what has been portrayed by the media, which can present bias. The media outlets have allowed us to witness some pretty odd behaviour though.
Looking through a psychological lens, a more detailed portrait of Trump can be seen. We can observe his temperament, motivation and goals, as well as the perception that he has of himself, allowing us to predict what he might think, feel and do in the future. He has been described by many experts who specialise in assessing personality as displaying traits of narcissism, disagreeableness, grandiosity and delusion.
It’s this notion of delusion that I’d like to examine more closely. An example of someone who is delusional might be a participant in a reality cooking show who clearly overrates their ability in the kitchen. The contestant may honestly believe their ‘spag bol’ (using condensed tomato soup and powdered stock) is fantastic, despite the judges’ view that it’s unfit for a dog. Another example could be, “I reckon I could run faster than Carl Lewis.”
In essence, a delusion is a fixed, persistent, false belief with no basis in reality. It is a belief that is demonstrably false and simply self-deceptive. Furthermore, a person who is delusional can completely manifest certainty and absolute conviction about their beliefs.
From what we have seen of Trump throughout this election, he clearly ticks all the boxes of a man with delusions of grandeur. How many times have we seen him resist evidence and incontrovertible arguments that show that he is simply wrong? In his eyes, the election was rigged. He even tweeted that he had won, when clearly he had not.
Sadly for poor Donald, his delusional state doesn’t tend to generate much sympathy from the public, unless perhaps he were to suffer from the most publicised type of delusion, that of paranoia. Paranoid delusions can cause considerable distress, and if serious enough may lead to a diagnosis of ‘delusional disorder’. Characteristics of delusional disorder would include thinking you’re being stalked or that someone’s going to poison you, or thinking you have a physical abnormality.
Is Donald Trump delusional? I’m sure he doesn’t think so. The fact that he shows high levels of extroversion and low levels of agreeableness may hold some clues. He loves social approval, he’s driven, restless, socially dominant and, most importantly, a relentless reward seeker. Unfortunately for Donald, research shows that low levels of agreeableness are typically viewed as untrustworthy, deceitful and dishonest. Furthermore, research indicates that many with the disorder may have had a difficult childhood characterised by instability, turbulence, callousness and coldness.
And what of dear Donald now? Instead of falling on his sword and conceding defeat, I’m sure he’ll find someone to blame – maybe his dad – and go to the grave believing he was robbed.