Donald Trump: textbook narcissist

Sander Thomaes, a developmental psychologist at Utrecht University, is happy with Donald Trump. "I often use him during my classes. My research is primarily focused on narcissism. There is no better example than Trump: he is a prototypical narcissist." This narcissism expert can make a wager on what will happen if Trump wins the election like no-one else can. Or even more interesting: what will happen to Trump if he loses?

Thomaes serves up some characteristics of a classical narcissist. A grandiose self image. A very inflated ego. A continuous need for attention. A big urge to be admired. And if that admiration is lacking or the narcissist is criticized, which is even worse, he lashes out recklessly.


In his own research, Thomaes is primarily focused on narcissistic children. But still, he is very familiar with narcissism among adults. That research is primarily on narcissistic managers and directors of big companies. All that research reveals a certain pattern. "You'll often see that narcissists happily present themselves as born leaders. And the crazy thing is, especially if they are not too well-known yet within their companies: others will follow them in that presentation. Thus, colleagues will also see the narcissist as a good leader. It's the paradox of narcissistic leadership. It's a paradox because after some time, the narcissist will virtually always be rejected by others. Because what turns out to be irreversible? The narcissist doesn't have any leadership qualities. He thinks about himself excessively often, not about the public interest, not about the collective. And they always overestimate themselves. That's what Trump is doing too: overestimating himself."

His popularity will dwindle


But still, Trump has made it very far already. One more step, and he is the President of America. Thomaes has no crystal ball; of course he cannot predict what will happen once Trump has moved into the White House. "But we know that the popularity of a recently-appointed leading narcissist generally takes a deep dive. In Trump's case, it can already be seen within his own party: their support for him is slowly dwindling. If elected president, his popularity will dwindle among all Americans. Simply because they will discover his dark sides. These are already clear to many people, but apparently not yet enough to everybody.


Thomaes is more interested in the question of what will happen if Trump loses the election. "We know that narcissists who fail will lash out. Children will do so literally. Narcissists blame others for their failures. In their eyes, they have often been snubbed. Or the other has cheated. It's not uncommon for them to say the most heinous things about their opponents after they've lost or received criticism.


All of that is behaviour that can be observed. What Thomaes would very much like to see: what will happen within Trump if he loses the election? How will he feel?
"I think that, once he is alone up in his Trump Tower, he will doubt himself immensely. Don't forget: a narcissist especially wants to think about themselves in a positive way. That does not mean they always succeed at that. If a narcissist fails, you'll often see a dent in their self appreciation." Would Trump consider himself a failure? "That's not unthinkable. His reality, befitting a classical narcissist, consists of winners and losers. If he loses while the whole world is watching, that'll have a big impact on him. But I don't think we'll get to see that."

On DUB's 'amerikablog' (in both Dutch and English), several students and employees will speak their minds on the upcoming American election.