All narcissists lack emotional empathy and are, to some extent, anti-social. Many narcissists are somewhat psychopathic and, therefore, sadistically prone to violence. They get a high and derive an almost sexual gratification from wielding power and inflicting pain and humiliation on others. It sustains their grandiose fantasy of omnipotence (that they are Godlike, all-powerful). That's why many narcissists are litigious, threaten "their enemies" incessantly, seek to embarrass and humiliate them in public, stalk them, and harass them recurrently. Narcissists have a black and white view of the world: if you are not 100% with me, you are 110% the enemy (this is known as "splitting" in the psychological jargon). Trump strikes me as this type of narcissist.
—Dr. Sam Vaknin in an interview with American Thinker, 6 March 2016
She didn't specify Narcissistic Personality Disorder, but that's where my brain went. That's what of thought about Trump for years. I nodded and kept listening to the speech.
We all need mental health care, even those of us who suffer from no recognized mental illness. We need to break the stigma surrounding mental illness and seeking treatment. We need to make mental health care affordable for everyone, or society will continue to pay the price (e.g., in mass shootings). We also need to recognize when someone like Donald Trump is manipulating the public for his own self-aggrandizement, or when the Democratic Party and its operatives are gaslighting voters.
Empathy for Narcissus
Is it possible to feel empathy with someone who apparently feels no empathy? Certainly. Donald J. Trump did not just wake up one day and decide to have a mental illness. The "malignant self-love" that Dr. Vaknin describes is a compensatory way of overcoming a deep self-loathing, from growing up in a family that either models narcissism as a virtue or reinforces one's feelings of inadequacy. For that reason, I feel for him, even while I condemn his behavior over the decades.
I don't want to see Trump's brand of narcissism anywhere near the White House. But I also want to overturn the two-party oligarchy that allowed him to enter the presidential race in the first place. Neither major party exhibits much empathy for the downtrodden humans who might be in the way of corporate profits, whether within our borders or beyond.
I find it interesting that Vaknin acknowledges President Obama's supposed "prosocial" narcissism, which is just one trait of NPD, and stops short of long-distance diagnosing him. Vaknin is careful—as is interviewer Arlen Williams—to distinguish between Obama's variety and the completely self-serving antisocial narcissism of Trump.
Obama talks a lot about his desire to help the American people, but downplays any suggestion that his administration has fostered deadly imperialist policies overseas even beyond his predecessor's. And the Beltway media, entrenched in Washington's Bubble Reality, certainly won't bring up America's and our allies' brutality around the world. Hillary Clinton has done plenty to advance and facilitate that brutality (Honduras being just one example).
Medicine for the People
There is no magic pill to treat NPD. There is talk therapy. Talk therapy must be accompanied by a sincere desire to get well. The difficulty with narcissists is the sincerity part: They can talk almost anyone, including themselves, into believing that they mean it, even when they don't.
Just as I would advocate for America's millions of incarcerated and homeless mentally ill to have access to the care they need, I would advocate for Trump and his ilk to submit to the treatment they need. Our sick society has created this mental health crisis, and we need to start creating mental health professionals the way Cuba has created doctors for decades.
This nation awards about 100,000 undergraduate degrees in psychology every year, but not enough graduates go on to become practicing psychologists, psychiatrists, or even counselors. Under the current system, if they all pursued advanced degrees, there would be a glut of professional practitioners, and none of them would make decent money. If we had a real national health plan, as opposed to Obama's ACA boondoggle, all of us could get regular mental checkups in addition to our physical exams, and those psych majors would have plenty of work.