Hillary Clinton just gave a foreign policy speech on Thursday highlighting her belief that Donald Trump would be dangerous if he became president. Is this really true? Or is she just exaggerating for campaign purposes?
I am not a political person, but I believe I can answer this question based on more than 15 years of studying and teaching about people with high-conflict personalities (HCPs). Such a personality has:
1) lots of all-or-nothing thinking;
2) intense or unmanaged emotions;
) extreme behavior or threats of extreme behaviors; and
4) a preoccupation with blaming others.
Does this fit Trump? He seems to have all the warning signs.
Let’s start with his “intense and unmanaged emotions.” As Clinton said, he does appear to have a “very thin skin.” This is very common with people with narcissistic personalities.
Approximately 6% of the United States population has a narcissistic personality disorder, which means they can dish out endless criticism, insults and demeaning comments. But many cannot take it themselves and become HCPs.
They often go into a rage against anyone who would challenge them. Anyone who has been married to a narcissistic HCP, has such a person as a boss or has them as a neighbor knows what this is like. Endless—I mean endless—negative communications, which may go on for months or even years sometimes. Trump exhibits such responses and is starting to exhibit more as his boasts and promises are increasingly challenged. If such a person had easy access to nuclear weapons when they felt ticked off, just imagine the danger. After all, one key aspect of unmanaged emotions is impulsive behavior.
How about “all-or-nothing thinking?” He speaks of excluding ALL Muslims from entering the United States. He would build a wall against ALL of Mexico—the full length of the United States. He has a reputation for speaking in terms of people and things as being “Wonderful! Beautiful! Incredible! Huge!” or “Disaster! Loser! Terrible! Incompetent! The worst!” While many reporters describe this as hyperbole, in my field this is a serious warning sign. If he speaks this way, he has a very great chance of acting this way. Almost every day I caution people against letting such HCPs into their lives.
How about “extreme behavior or threats?” Someone with a high-conflict personality—especially a narcissistic HCP—cannot work very well with others. Everything has to be their way. If you don’t let them “win” all the time, then they won’t play with you. A great example was the January Fox News debate that Trump boycotted because he didn’t like the questions that the Fox News reporter asked him regarding how he spoke about women. It’s interesting that just now the news has come out that his alternative event was primarily for show: holding a charity fund-raiser for veterans. While he said it was for their benefit and that he would give a million dollars to veterans, he didn’t do it until he was confronted by reporters five months later. Apparently, after that he wrote his check—on May 24, 2016. Such showcase behavior is typical for narcissistic HCPs. They have “trophy wives,” “trophy children,” and apparently “trophy charities.”
I’m not even going to talk about his “preoccupation with blaming others,” his most obvious characteristic. If you don’t already know the warning signs of an HCP, you will by November 2016. Trump is providing a great learning opportunity. Unfortunately, he has already been given the power of the media by allowing him to be on television whenever he wants to demonstrate his blaming behavior. It’s part of every single public statement. (I think it should be bleeped!)
I travel around the world giving seminars on HCPs and how to manage them in divorce, in the workplace and in legal disputes. Everywhere I go, people are quite disturbed and worried by Trump. His high-conflict comments are already destabilizing our relations with other countries—our friends as well as our foes.
In addition, Trump is influencing our nation’s young people, with his disrespectful comments, his disdain for women (and therefore girls), and his frequent use of bullying language against people who look different (the disabled, people of color, Muslims, etc.). As a public figure who is constantly on television, he is training children to be bullies and to be victims of bullies. Five more months of his high-conflict presence in the media every day will seriously damage the future of our nation, even if he does not become president.
Would Donald Trump be really dangerous? Certainly, if he was in charge of the world’s only superpower. But in reality, he already is!
Bill Eddy is the President of the High Conflict Institute and the author of several books, including his newest, Trump Bubbles: The Dramatic Rise and Fall of High-Conflict Politicians. Also, Splitting America: How Today’s Politicians, Super PACs
and the News Media Mirror High Conflict Divorce (2012) with Donald Saposnek.