The classic symptoms of medium-grade mania

Even chronically insipid David Brooks sees it.

Trump has shown that he is not a normal candidate. He is a political rampage charging ever more wildly out of control. And no, he cannot be changed.

He cannot be contained because he is psychologically off the chain. With each passing week he displays the classic symptoms of medium-grade mania in more disturbing forms: inflated self-esteem, sleeplessness, impulsivity, aggression and a compulsion to offer advice on subjects he knows nothing about.

I hadn’t thought of mania…except maybe subconsciously I had, since I had thought of grandiosity, which tends to remind me of mania. Anyway yes – the guy is high on himself.

His speech patterns are like something straight out of a psychiatric textbook. Manics display something called “flight of ideas.” It’s a formal thought disorder in which ideas tumble forth through a disordered chain of associations. One word sparks another, which sparks another, and they’re off to the races. As one trained psychiatrist said to me, compare Donald Trump’s speaking patterns to a Robin Williams monologue, but with insults instead of jokes.

There’s the Beckett-Joyce style. Oh look, a squirrel!

He also cannot be contained because he lacks the inner equipment that makes decent behavior possible. So many of our daily social interactions depend on a basic capacity for empathy. But Trump displays an absence of this quality.

That, I suppose, is why I keep pointing out, in fear and wonder, that there’s nothing good about him. It’s that complete and utter lack of basic empathy.

He looks at the grieving mother of a war hero and is unable to recognize her pain. He hears a crying baby and is unable to recognize the infant’s emotion or the mother’s discomfort. He is told of women being sexually harassed at Fox News and is unable to recognize their trauma.

Trump is underdeveloped and unregulated.

He is a slave to his own pride, compelled by a childlike impulse to lash out at anything that threatens his fragile identity. He appears to have no ability to experience reverence, which is the foundation for any capacity to admire or serve anything bigger than self, to want to learn about anything beyond self, to want to know and deeply honor the people around you.

That’s more insight than I expect from David Brooks.

It’s also why this whole thing is so hideously depressing. It depresses me that so many people are not only not repelled by Trump, they actually like and admire him. As I’ve said before, that’s not even the politics, it’s the nature of the guy himself – the lack of empathy and capacity to admire or serve anything bigger than self.

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