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Tuesday, December 25, 2018


Merry Christmas, one and all [as an atheist, I feel free to give the traditional Christian greeting.]  This morning at 6 a.m. to celebrate the holiday I took my old walk along Whippoorwill Lane.  The only traffic was a flow of cars going to Mt. Carmel Baptist Church for Christmas morning services.  As I walked, I brooded about something that has been nagging at me for a while now.  It is of absolutely no importance whatsoever, but I cannot pin it down.  I invite any psychiatrists reading this blog to offer their professional opinions.

We are all familiar with Trump’s endless crazy over the top bragging, which seems to stem from an insecurity so deeply embedded in his psyche that it is utterly beyond treatment.  I am so smart, I am so rich, I know more about ISIS than the generals, I am the world’s greatest deal maker, I alone can fix it, and so on and on.

But there is one bit of bragging that strikes my ear as utterly off key, as odd, as seriously demented.  Trump said on one occasion [and maybe others], “I have the best words.”  That is just weird.  He treats words as though they were objects, possessions, things, not at all as a medium of communication [or of thought, God forbid.]

Sometimes it is very small things that are signs of mental disorder, and this strikes me as one of them.  I would really like to have a better understanding of what this signifies clinically.

Can anyone help me out?


Howie said...

I'll take a swing at your challenge. To go the old and barricaded Freudian route, Trump sounds like a braggart toddler in the playground besting his chums and showing off to his nanny- to plod ahead further with the Kleinian route, he views all things around him as a reflection of his ego and he is tortured by cold and non worshipping reality- he is really trash talking reality- I am Trump, world and here are my brilliant words.
If a psychiatrist is called for it is a child psychiatrist

Howie said...

I see it also as a sign of poor reality testing

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Howard, that is a great start, but here is the precise thing that puzzles me. To say that his words are brilliant makes sense, in an infantile way. But to say "I have the best words" is not quite the same thing. It is in a way autistic, but that is not the right term either.

Howie said...

That he thinks his words are objects is a sign that he has trouble with boundaries which is connected to reality testing.
I think it is troubling

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that it works for him. It got him where he is. He's a propagandist. A lot of people believe (in) him. This is not to say that he's not crazy, but maybe there's some method in his madness. I can't stand him, but the most worrying thing I can't understand about him is why so many people believe him. I've read within the last few days that his approval rating among Republicans is around 89%. That fact is (perhaps) worse than he is.

Howie said...

To say that he has the best words comes from his commercial orientation. It is like him saying that he has the biggest tower,
In his house there was probably an atmosphere of competition that would be phrased in that odd way. His father groomed him but in a harsh way, I think it hearkens back to Fred Trump and how he'd go about pleasing his Dad

s. wallerstein said...

It's just his low-brow, macho, mafia, locker-room competitive way of saying "I'm good with words" or "I'm a good communicator".

If one of us were to claim to that he or she is "good with words", no one would find that
"pathological", maybe slightly boastful or self-referential.

I guess that you could claim that the low-brow, macho, mafia, locker-room competitive culture that Trump represents is pathological in itself.

Jordan said...

I think he only said this the once; why not just take it to be him misspeaking, or to be awkwardly expressing the thought that he speaks well? Obviously slips can sometimes be revealing, but sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, so to speak.

Howie said...

Jordan, nobody but Trump would make a slip like that- he is sui generis, 100 %, his whole Presidency is one huge faux pau and category error- the slip reveals if anything how what might be called his thoughts are thrown together- of course it means something, just one more piece of the puzzle

s. wallerstein said...

Trump is very competitive. He is always number one, in his opinion.

I've been around low brow macho mafia types, whose conversation revolves around bragging about how women they have, how many times they "did it" the night before and how big their sex organ is. They also brag about all the fights they win. Trump is like them, except he's president.

On the other hand, it's easy to note the insane competitiveness in a subculture you don't have anything to do with.

I had a girl friend for a while, not an intellectual at all, who always found my conversations with my intellectual friends to be "intellectually competitive". I'm sure that she would find the comments in this blog and Professor Wolff's posts to be "intellectually competitive" too.

Dean said...

Perhaps the term you seek is "expressive dysphasia" (or "expressive aphasia"), a difficulty using language to express meaning.

Dean said...

Full disclosure: IANAP. But I suppose that's obvious.

Anonymous said...

A humorous(?) diversion:

LeanMcHungry said...

Still plodding with the Kleinian route...'I have the best words'.The best is a boast,a triumph, and a manic defence against inner damage. Triumph, control and contempt, Klein's triumvirate, characterise much about the orange dufus. Where is a Kleinian analyst when you need one, this Australian saxophone player is not up to the task.

Matt said...

I really don't think we should discount what I'd take to be the default assumption, that Trump just isn't very smart, articulate, literate, or quick-witted (now even less than he ever was in the past, but he was really never great), and that he just said something sort of stupid that didn't really make sense. We all do it sometimes, but if you're not too smart, not too articulate or literate (and so have no very good idea of how reasonable things sound), not too quick-witted (and so have trouble thinking on your feet), but are saying lots and lots of things in public, it's almost inevitable that you'll say some things that make no sense and sound a bit crazy. Isn't that more likely than needing to appeal to a specific mental disorder? It seems to to me, at least.

Nick Pappas said...

All the comments on this thread have said true things, and I'm not inclined to find points of disagreement with any of them. I would just add something that might complement some of the other comments.

Language and speaking are about much more than words. We all realize that. Very often, for instance, someone will come away from a long conversation saying "I feel closer to that person now."

So what would make someone equate superior speaking ability with "having the best words"? One would have to be discounting the communicative and social function of speech, instead thinking of speech as nothing above and beyond one's own words. Identification with other minds, sympathy with others' concerns -- I won't even say "fraternity" -- are out of the question. One's speech is to be assessed on the basis of one's words themselves, taken alone.

To my mind, in other words, this boast reveals inattentiveness to the minds and thoughts of other people.

Anonymous said...

I've suggested before (not sure if the suggestion was commented on) that you read the psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist's "Master and His Emissary". It is evident that Tr*mp is a perfect example of (Western) society's inclination toward pathological left-brain dominance as described by McGilchrist. That inclination includes viewing things that are not objects as if they were such, along with a myriad of other characteristics typical of Tr*mp.