Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein

The Dire Dangers of Narcissism

Though I’m professionally distant from today’s media luminaries, I have a particular personal interest in the current narcissistic spectacle du jour: I went to college and was friends with Harvey Weinstein nearly a half a century ago.

With an admixture of feelings, I watch the scandal unfold. I’m horrified and angry at what Weinstein is charged with perpetrating. I’m confused and saddened by my former friend’s behavior. Yet, I’m not surprised, given what I remember about Harvey when we were students. That’s not to say I could have predicted this. I don’t identify with interviewees solicited by journalists to tell what they knew of ignominious scoundrels before they committed their heinous acts. Harvey Weinstein—from first impression of him being grandiose, sycophantic, and magnanimously generous to the progression of his unstable and rampant ambitionwas intense, needy, insecure, ingratiating, and over-the-top in his endeavors.

I’m not invested in justifying or scourging Harvey. He’ll get whatever the consequences of his actions bring—spiritually and legally. I feel sorry for him, but ever more sorry for, and indignant about, the victims he is accused of abusing, exploiting, bullying, and oppressing. Such injustice must be vindicated—but that is not up to me. As a psychologist, my goal is to unravel and shed light upon the inner forces that develop into disastrous behavior. Since I consorted with Harvey and knew him well decades ago, I want to lay bare the seminal roots of an accused tyrant before he became one.

As a psychologist, I have something to contribute by explaining the wily dangers of narcissism, thus allowing potential victims to be informed and better protected. As an American citizen, I am alarmed and wary about the course and future of our country, our people and our principles. As a father, husband, and person with strengths and weaknesses who is desirous of healthy relationships, I, too, am vulnerable. Narcissism is an insidious monster, born of a needy and unstable ego that lurks for years, nursing its perceived wounds, until it explodes in aggressive and blind perpetrations. A healthy self-image must be nurtured. It can be achieved by hard work that includes the basis for self-respect and the practice of respect for others. Though the development of narcissism is neither predictable nor clearly delineated, certain factors may contribute to a self-aggrandizing ego and overbearing sense of entitlement:

  • a “silver-spoon” upbringing, where material things and excessively indulgent opportunities became integral elements in the family culture;
  • exposure to a series of traumas and humiliations;
  • use of embarrassment to modify childhood misbehavior;
  • employing self-flagellation to cope with insecurity; or simply
  • relying on an escapist fantasy and the transformative illusion of becoming a legend and hero in one’s mirror.

Though we may recoil from the exaggerated hubris of the narcissist, we should also be respectful and thankful for not traveling along such an isolating and destructive path. As my mother often said: “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” To live a life of worthiness and honor, one must embrace gratitude and humility.

What Happened to You, Harvey Weinstein?
Do you remember me, Harvey? I know you’ve got a lot on your mind these days; but I’ll bet that if you heard my name, you’d say, “Mark… how the hell are you doing?” We go back a long way, Harvey, to some wild days at the University of Buffalo.

Remember the crowd? Janis Siegel (affectionately called Pumpkin), who went on to acclaim as a singer with Manhattan Transfer. And the creative and iconic Jay Beckenstein, jazz saxophonist with Spyrogyra.

Remember those all-nighters, the 4:00 AM greasy burgers at Your Host Restaurant? The anguished, drugged-out rants and discussions about the universe, who we were, and where we were going?

We grew up and went out in the world to different places. You were amazing, Harvey: intense, sycophantic, driven, disturbed, and needy. I identified with you—Jewish kids from New York, arrived in a blue collar city, ready to take over and show how much we knew and how things should be done.

You floundered, and then soared. It wasn’t long before you traded academics for an entrepreneurial path, on your way to becoming a juggernaut. You founded Harvey & Corky Productions, bringing big-name musical talent to downtown Buffalo. You soon rubbed shoulders with the top names and icons of our generation. It must have been intoxicating, far beyond the drugs that most used to reach for peace and imagined self-importance.

Throughout the years, I watched your movies and cheered you on. There goes Harvey Weinstein—I knew him in college; we were friends. I envied your success. From my intimate knowledge of your personality, I suspected that you were not happy or fulfilled. How could you be, never filling the immense void within you with something other than riches and accolades? Not to diminish your sweeping achievements. But you were so needy and insecure. How could anything the world had to offer be enough?

I wrote to you fifteen years ago, hoping to reconnect. But I never got a response.

Apparently, you tried to fill your deep inner void with surreptitious trysts, using your money and influence to sway and dominate young women—impressionable and aspiring beauties you used for your lustful and egotistical purposes. You used your money, power, and influence to lord it over people, to take advantage of them, and to coerce their silence. The chickens have come home to roost; the truth will not be hidden; you are exposed and in trouble.

It’s not for me to judge you Harvey. I just want to tell you something about women and men and power and accountability.

Females are not immune from deceit, hypocrisy, and the fleshly litany of sins. But females are to be protected and respected. They are “weaker” in some sense, but immensely more powerful than men in many respects. Our society inherently imposes on women mixed messages, psychological traumas, economic discrimination, and often the raw end of many deals. Our culture exalts and worships physical appeal, but quickly disregards and discards worthwhile human beings when their outward beauty fades. Ironically, we exalt and worship physical beauty, and yet we exploit it. The fleeting blooms of pulchritude and stardom leave women vulnerable and with undeserved dismissal or ostracism. Too many men strut their machismo, stricken with envy (and with the fantasy) that a woman can have sex any time she wants (whereas many men have to feel they must lure or seduce). Unfortunately, some men act out of this context to take advantage and force or exploit women. When the playing field becomes overly imbalanced, many women either withdraw into resentful passive aggressiveness—avoiding or manipulating intimacy—or act out with hostile projection—rejecting men or typecasting them as insensitive and only interested in exploitative sex. Though there’s plenty of blame to spread around, men bear the burden—historically, we have been at fault by dominating women and isolating them from full and equal participation in society.

With your overarching success, Harvey, you now have trouble (tsouris, in Yiddish) on a grand scale. My heart aches for you, and I pray for you.

I have some advice for you, Harvey, my dear old friend: it’s time for you to make amends, to acknowledge your wrongdoing, to seek forgiveness, and to make restitution—no holds barred. I know you must now resort to posturing for strategic legal reasons, but you are going to sacrifice a lot of money to pay for your mistakes. You can no longer “buy” people (and certainly not their silence). You will feel alone, and will be alone. You will have to give up the pretenses you have long abused to fill the abyss and mollify the gargantuan ego that hides the empty Harvey Weinstein.

Yet, there is someone valuable, tender, sensitive, worthwhile inside the blustering and offensive Harvey. This is an opportunity to find out who you really are, to change the offensiveness, and to develop into an honorable person.

God has used you, Harvey, and he is not done yet. Through these scandals, he is using you writ large to teach others; and he is bringing you to your knees in the hope that you will stay there and begin to acknowledge and worship him.

Truer riches await you, my friend, if you will only repent and ask for divine forgiveness and guidance. You must also seek forgiveness from the people you hurt, so many of them. It’s time to be open, sincere, and humble. You must unequivocally repent.

Years ago, you founded a big company—Miramax—named after your parents, Max and Miriam Weinstein. What would they think of their son now? I never knew Max or Miriam, but I am sure they always loved you. Why, Harvey, has it been so difficult for you to feel love?

The Harvey Weinstein I knew nearly half a century ago could never relax. He always had to prove something, to get more and show more. You were an intense and difficult person. But you were likable, Harvey, and you didn’t have to try so hard.

Narcissism Exposed

The term narcissism is taken from Greek mythology. Narcissus was the son of the river god Cephissus and nymph Liriope. He was proud, in that he disdained those who loved him. He was drawn to a pool, where he saw his own reflection in the water and fell in love with it (himself), not realizing it was merely an image.

Today, narcissism is a psychiatric diagnosis and considered a mental disorder. It is also often used disparagingly in common parlance and description. Narcissism involves extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration, and has come to characterize a personality type. Narcissists think extremely highly of themselves and are often driven to seek validation of their worthiness and inflated self-opinion by soliciting and even demanding the approval of others. They delude themselves that their boorish machinations and manipulations of others testify to their own self-worth. Though they may be capable of compassion and empathy, narcissists are so preoccupied with their own selfish interests and with validating themselves that they typically ignore or do not consider or recognize others’ needs, even the people closest to them.

Narcissists’ classic “me-first” posture often leads them to resort to aggressive acts that allow them to dominate or “win,” regardless of the costs. They love and need to be the center of attention, often usurping the limelight, dominating conversations, and controlling situations and people to serve their own ends.

It is when they are challenged or confronted with reality that the true pathological character of narcissists flagrantly emerges. Narcissists’ fragile self-image and ego structure do not allow them to acknowledge the egregious nature of their self-importance. Thus, is it is rare for them to apologize or admit wrongdoing. Remorse and repentance for their offensive actions almost never occurs (think Trump).

Thus, narcissists often have a problem with reality-testing; that is, they can only perceive events and circumstances from the same perspective as others when such “reality” supports and buttresses themselves in a positive and flattering light. Unfortunately, this infrequently happens. Instead narcissists twist and distort reality to suit their own views, inevitably causing confusion, alienation, and damage to relationships and the integrity and well-being of others. They constantly use people in devious ways, and invariably deny their motives and the unpleasant effects upon others. Narcissists have confounding and appalling obsession to blame others for what they themselves have done. A psychological term for this is projection. This is denial at its craftiest, and it is infuriating (again, think Trump).

When dealing with and referring to people who thought too highly of themselves, a dear friend of mine use to quip. “I’d like to buy you for what you’re really worth, and sell you for what you think you’re worth.

We can shake our heads in disbelief or disgust at narcissism, and we can mock this condition with humor. However, don’t underestimate the dire danger of narcissism as the disorder affects all those who come into contact with the narcissist. Narcissists cannot have good relationships because they view others as opportunities to validate and gratify themselves. In psychoanalytic terms, they have poorly developed object relations. In plain language, this means that they cannot separate and distinguish between themselves and the legitimate perceptions, opinions, values, desires, and needs of others. What others experience (including hurt or neglect perpetrated by the narcissist) is blocked by the arrogant, center-stage prominence of the narcissist’s own needs.

Dealing With Narcissists

Because narcissists live in a bubble of self-absorption and denial, it’s very hard to break through their manipulations and defenses. Normal people (allowing for differences among individuals) have varying abilities to admit mistakes, acknowledge wrongdoing, apologize with sincerity, recognize their flaws and trespasses along with the negative impact upon others, and modify their behaviors to minimize the negative effects of selfishness. Not so with narcissists, as this is the core of their personality disorder.

It may be helpful to review the following guidelines in dealing with people you suspect of narcissism:

Expect self-centeredness and reality distortion

Because narcissists’ self-absorbed attitudes and responses are often provocative, it’s tempting to react with consternation, indignation, umbrage, and the like. However, if you keep your dismay and outrage to yourself, you’ll be in a better position to question the behaviors with a strategy of setting limits. Instead of expressing your emotional reactions to narcissistic self-centeredness, practice the strategies listed below.

Refrain from demonstrative emotional reactions

Tie responses to facts, evidence, and questions

When faced with narcissists’ bold claims, quietly question the bases for such statements. Or, just ignore them. For example, someone may proudly announce, “These people don’t know how to drive. I happen to be one of the best drivers on the road.” You could say, “ I guess so. But there is the issue of your three moving violations and numerous parking tickets.” Or, you could just let it go, and smirk to yourself.

Sometimes, simply questioning the basis for outrageous statements is enough to slow down the narcissist’s bluster. Remember Trump’s tirades about how he “knows more about Isis than any general in the military,” and his defiant complaint that he is “the victim of the greatest witch hunt in history”? There is no shutting down such an ego. However, one might ask, “Where did you acquire your military knowledge, and why were you not consulted and solicited before you became president?”

Please give us some details about the other witch hunts against which you compare your own alleged persecution.”

And don’t expect an intelligent and coherent response to your questions!

Preface accountability and confrontations with acknowledgment and legitimate praise

Narcissists perceive questions, challenges, and alternate opinions—even facts—as threats to and defamation of their integrity. Therefore, it’s helpful to preface and intersperse your messages of accountability with reasonable and relevant praise toward the person whom you’re trying to get to really listen to you. Even appealing to their putative sense of discernment and justice may get you farther along on your attempts to bring reality into the conversation.

When I deal with pie-in-the sky people who live inside dreams inflated by their own sense of self-worth and entitlement, I find it prudent to ask, “I understand that, given your abilities and track record (?!), you expect this to work out as you’ve favorably planned…, but because you are smart, have you formulated an alternative scenario and plan?”

Set boundaries and repeat if-then consequences as they pertain to the narcissist’s behaviors

Inevitably, narcissists repeatedly step on the toes of others. Their transgressions may be verbal and/or they may take vindictive actions (hello again, Mr. Trump). Their self-aggrandizement can make it hard to keep a straight face; or, their attitude of entitlement may carry implicit threats for noncompliance or resistance. (Harvey Weinstein got away with his egregious behavior in large part due to his political and economic influence, much of which he wielded against much less powerful women. When he ultimately confronted a woman who was formidable and courageous, she pulled the plug, and the dirty slimy water that had accumulated in the bathtub over the decades slurped down the drain. Harvey was left sitting naked and shivering in his own filth.)

Granted, it’s not for individuals to take on the President of the United States. But the collective violations and outrage are propelling Trump to his comeuppance. Kudos to the brave people who have spoken the truth and challenged Trump, even at risk to their own reputations and careers! That takes integrity, confidence, and courage!

And Harvey? My old friend, your bullying and predation have ironically transformed the zeitgeist. Your secret life of lust, aggression, and intimidation now exposed has caused trauma and harm—shame on you! However, the notoriety has caused a groundswell of indignation, objection, and cries for justice. You have become the agent of change, long overdue.

The message is clear: If you abuse or intimidate women, it will come to light and you will pay.

Solicit commitments, promises, and contracts in writing

Remember that, as part of their sense of entitlement, narcissists do not hesitate to change the rules—including their agreements, commitments, promises, and respect for others’ needs—when it suits their purposes. Therefore, it’s wise to make a habit of solidifying commitments and promises in writing, with dates and signatures if possible. Though the self-entitled may scoff and sneer at such requests, pretend you are prone to mistaking the details, since your memory might not be as good as theirs (!) and remind them of the pithy saying, Black and white on paper is a lot clearer than the gray matter of the brain.

In other words, play dumb, like a fox. The narcissist may pity you and indulge you.

At the very least, keep your own meticulous records with details of words, actions, and dates. E-mails and texts establish a continual, accessible, and practical audit trail, useful for holding the narcissist accountable, especially when deception and conflict arise.

Be prepared for breaches of trust, intimacy, and fidelity

Precautions and attentiveness notwithstanding, you cannot change the basic flawed character of the narcissist. That’s not to say that people don’t change. Life experience, traumas, pain, and consequences are all great teachers. They even teach to the seemingly robust and impregnable bravado of narcissists (and, at best, it takes awhile). In his own way and with his own timing, God chips away at the lives and consciences of the foolish and hurtful. At his own discretion, he causes miracles to happen.

But the very nature of narcissism attacks trust, empathy, and consideration. Don’t be surprised when the narcissist (repeatedly) violates boundaries, flaunts rules, and sabotages trust, intimacy, and even your own faith. Remain loving, but be cautious and be prepared. Your sensitivity and good intentions are no match for the power of narcissism. Engaging in an argument or a major adversarial battle with a narcissist can be akin to stepping into the ring with a mixed martial arts fighter. No holds are bared. Be prepared for the unexpected. Be on guard. Protect yourself at all times. Expect hyperbole, manipulated facts, concocted falsehoods, inconsistencies, and outrageous lies. It’s all part of the package.

Narcissism’s Dire Consequences

Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein are but two notorious narcissistic icons—caricatures writ large in a field of opportunism. Their transgressions leave us aghast, wondering how such egregious behavior could have escalated and continued.

Surely, someone like Weinstein, if indicted and convicted of a crime or crimes in a court of law, must be thwarted and punished. Trump is a much more complex matter involving political and constitutional issues that are still in the process of unfolding. However, the important take-home message is that there are many like them—young, old, male, female, prominent, less significant—who foist their attitudes and perpetrations upon the unsuspecting and vulnerable, the psychologically and experientially less sophisticated, and those with fewer defenses and resources.

Narcissists may be overtly offensive, or they may be furtive and wily—sheep in wolves’ clothing. In a culture that has inveterately promoted self-centeredness and a “me-first” value system, narcissists may seem to embody the cultural virtues, to blend in and prevail over the competition. But you will recognize them by their intransigence and lack of compassion for the basic welfare and psychological well-being of others. As legends in their own mirrors (or pools, as with the Greek Narcissus), they deem themselves the only ones who matter.

As a society, we should focus attention on identifying, dissuading, and modifying the development of narcissistic character. Respect for women—pervasive societal, legal, accommodating respect—is surely a good place to start. We are beginning to painfully learn those lessons.

But the battle against misogyny is not enough. Parents must teach their children that the world does not “owe” them. The government should provide more than minimal education and health care—service, schooling, and training that focuses on character development and resources for the ravages of character failure, including disorders of emotional bonding, anxiety, depression, trauma, and the depredations of addiction.

We need to return to God, individually and collectively. Each of us determines our own personal relationship with or abandonment of our Creator. Religion should not be forced. But spiritual living should be foundational and institutionally encouraged. The development of the soul and its conscience and compassion is incompatible with the “me-first” ethos that culturally reinforces narcissism.

When tragedy strikes, we become voracious Monday morning quarterbacks. We scrutinize the history of assassins and predators, looking for clues that should have exposed them earlier. However, social autopsies on misfits will not relieve us of the larger problem, nor will those efforts alone avert the perverse development of unhealthy, megalomaniac egos.

We must become a society, through and through, that values humility and teaches people, rank and file, to put others first. Against such a social norm, the Trumps and Weinsteins will identify themselves early as faulty people who need discipline, correction, and guidance to develop true and healthy self-love.

Narcissism may never be eliminated, for we are a prideful and sinful species. With regard to selfish insensitivity, some are given to robust excess, even to the point of outright cruelty. Recoil as we might from Trump and Weinstein, we should learn that we need to expose them earlier in order to prevent the devastating potential of narcissism from exerting its will.

Farewell to the Harvey I Knew

We can’t live in the past. The Harvey Weinstein I knew nearly a half century ago has gone his own way, as have I.

In college, you looked up to me, Harvey. In your desperate neediness, you couldn’t see through my pretense, my needing to appear hip and avant-garde. If I’d had your talents, Harvey, perhaps I would have gone much farther astray than I did. Money and fame eluded me, but I guess I was luckier than you. And life did not let me get away with what, in my insouciant arrogance and ambition, I secretly wanted to.

If we could have coffee, I’d share with you some of the ordeals that happened in my life, what I’ve learned and about the people who taught me. Despite many setbacks and traumas, I’ve been fortunate. I have loved and been loved. Women have been great teachers to me, some intimate, some maternal, and many have been platonic, wonderful influences. I have learned to respect women and to not take advantage of them. Except for my wife, I regard them as sisters, mothers, and daughters. I treat them with biblically directed protection, respect, and deference. I joke (respectfully) about the differences between men and women. I note with professional acumen the stereotypes that frequently characterize the brains and demeanors of the two sexes. I’ve written a book about this, too, aimed at improving harmony and satisfaction in marriage relationships.

With maturity, I have more confidence and less need to prove myself or be the center of attention. I’m more able to appreciate the difficulties women have in a male-dominated world. I’m grounded enough to speak up and to model for males how to respect, value, protect, and share equally with females.

With God’s help and the stringent sanctions of many people who knocked me off my self-constructed pedestal and put me in a proper place, I’ve tamed most of my narcissistic tendencies.

The Harvey Weinstein I knew has grown and devolved. Farewell naïve and callow college buddy. I still recognize you, Harvey; beneath the atrocities, there is a boy, now a man, desperate for satisfying love. I hope this is God’s way of teaching you how to find it.

— Mark Steinberg, Ph.D.

Joe Rogan Experience #1070 – Jordan Peterson

which which way these people are
thinking and why they think yeah well
and bad as that is and rife with
conflict as that is the alternative is
to separate as you pointed out into two
camps that don’t talk yes and the thing
is the the consequence of not talking is
that you fight that that’s the end game
because the only way you can stop from
fighting with other people is by
negotiating with them and you know one
of the things that’s also interesting
and this is partly why Silicon Valley
leans to the left is that a fair bit of
your political preference is determined
by your biological temperament it’s a
strongly influenced so if you’re a
creative type who’s kind of disorderly
then you’re likely to be on the liberal
left end of the distribution and if
you’re a non creative type who’s orderly
and and especially if your orderly then
you tend to be on the right-wing end of
things and so and well why is that why
do those variations exist well they
exist because some of the time your best
strategy is to do what other people have
done and shut the hell up
and just do it run the algorithm write
the pathways already laid clear it works
stay in the damn rut and move forward
okay so that’s the conservative approach
and when things are going right it’s the
right approach the problem is is that
sometimes it’s not the right approach
because something is shifted and so
something new has to emerge and so then
there’s a bunch of people who are
adapted to the new and those are the
entrepreneurial and creative types and
of course they dominate Silicon Valley
because it’s a very entrepreneurial it’s
a very entrepreneurial what would you
call it geography and so they’re gonna
lean to the left but they have to
understand people have to understand
that the left and the right need each
other the Liberals and the Conservatives
need each other liberals start companies
conservatives run them and the problem
with the Conservatives is well they can
only run a company in one direction
because they’re conservative they don’t
think outside the box but so if the
company is working in the product line
is good and every
stable like hire some conservatives
because they’ll maximize efficiency and
then move down that track but if the
track is no longer going in a good
direction because something’s change the
environments change well then you gotta
bring in the creative people and so we
need each other and the only way that we
can survive the fact that we’re
different and the fact that we need each
other is by continually talking they
have talked constantly it’s like well
how much of what we’re doing should we
preserve versus how much of what we’re
doing should we transform and the answer
is we don’t know because the environment
keeps changing so what do we do about
of so there’s this theory it’s a lovely
theory that’s laid out right at the
beginning of the Bible that says that
if you tell the truth you transform the
potential of being into a habitable
actuality that’s how it works so we say
well how do you want it how do you make
the world better tell the truth because
the world you bring into being as a
consequence of telling the truth will be
a good world and I believe that’s true I
think it’s true metaphorically I think
it’s true theologically and I think it’s
true like at the practical and
scientific level as well I think it’s
true and all those levels simultaneously
so that’s been ridiculously exciting to
just sort through I think this notion
and one of the things you said that I
think really resonates is that there’s
not a voice out there that is advocating
for responsibility and that is talking
about how important this is and I think
this is an inherent principle that most
people are kind of aware of and it feels
good to them to hear
I get resonates so you feel it you you
when you when you’re saying this clean
your room you know put your house in
order like yeah yeah how come I’m not
hearing this right I’m not hearing this
well it’s so funny because one of the
things psychologists have done for the
last 20 years especially the social
psychologist has pushed this idea of
self-esteem you should feel good about
yourself and I think why would you tell
someone 20 that it’s like you should
feel good about who you are it’s like no
you shouldn’t why should you feel good
about who you are it’s like you should
feel good about who you could be that’s
way better cuz you got sixty years to
turn into who you could wait a minute
are you what your accomplishments are or
are you dis individual going through
this journey I mean I don’t think
there’s anything wrong with feeling good
about who you are as long as it’s
tempered by an understanding of
potential and what you have accomplished
versus what you can accomplish well I
think having confidence is a big part of
it it is it is and I’m not saying that
people shouldn’t have confidence but
like often you take young people say
there are sixteen to twenty two and
they’re not really feeling that good
about who they are right because their
life is chaotic and and disorder and
they don’t know where they’re going and
they don’t know which way is up a call
so there could be bad parenting going on
and I think that’s one of the reasons
why presen eights with people this idea
of be happy for you about who you are
right feel good about who you write but
but the thing is it has
to be stated with precision it’s like
yes it’s like Lucia you should treat
yourself as if you’re valuable
especially in the Ho’s Angela but you
should concentrate on who you should
become especially if you’re young and so
let’s say you’re miserable and
nihilistic and chaotic and depressed and
all of that now and you have your
reasons you know terrible parenting
abuse all of those things it’s like well
you should feel good about yourself it’s
like no no it’s it’s not it’s not the
right message is that it’s more like you
should understand how much potential
there is within you to set that straight
and then you should do everything you
can to manifest that in the world and it
will set it straight and that’s better
than self esteem it’s like you’re you’re
in a crooked horrible position okay fine
there’s a lot of suffering and pain
associated with that yeah you can’t just
feel good about that because it’s not
good but you can do something about it
you can genuinely do something about it
and I think all the evidence suggests
that that’s the case yes so I’m telling
telling young people look there’s no
matter how bad your situation is I’m not
gonna pretend it’s okay it’s not okay
it’s tragic
tainted with malevolence and some people
really get hurt by malevolent people
like you know terribly hurt sometimes
they never recover it’s really awful but
there’s more to you than you think and
if you stand up and face it with with
the positive with a with a noble vision
with discipline and intent you can go
far farther to overcoming it than you
can imagine
and that’s the principle upon which you
should predicate your behavior and I
think that one of the things that’s
really nice about being the clinical
psychologist is that this isn’t just
guesswork like one of the things we know
two things in clinical psychology one is
truthful conversations redeemed people
because if you come to a clinical
psychologist who’s worth is salt you’ll
have a truthful conversation the
conversation is well here’s what’s wrong
with my life and here’s what caused it
you know maybe it takes a year to have
that conversation and both of the
participants are doing everything they
can to lay it out properly here’s how it
might be fixed here’s what a beneficial
future might look like and so it’s a
completely honest conversation if it’s
working well and all that’s happening in
the conversation is that the two people
are trying to make things better that’s
the goal let’s see if we can have a
conversation that will make things
better okay so we know that works it
does make things better and then another
thing we know is that well let’s say
there’s a bunch of things that you’re
afraid of that are in your way so you
have some vision about who you want to
be maybe you have to you know you want
to be successful in your career so you
have to learn to talk in front of a
group it’s like okay well you’re afraid
of that no wonder you don’t want to be
humiliated so okay so what do we do
because sometimes you know you’re just
hopeful I would like a good thing to
happen it’s like yeah but you know I’d
like to drink half a bottle of whiskey
tonight – it’s like so which is it gonna
be well just being hopeful about the
future might not be enough but then you
think oh I see like there’s that little
hell thing that I outlined it’s waiting
for me and maybe I’m afraid of taking
the nips next step forward because it’s
demanding and challenging it’s like yeah
I’m afraid of that but I’m way more
afraid of where I might end up if I
don’t get my act together and people
should be that’s why their conceptions
of hell in so many religions it’s like
hell is a real place whether it’s
eternal that’s a whole different
question whether it’s waiting for you in
the afterlife that’s a whole different
question but if you’ve never met anyone
in Hell you haven’t lived very long you
haven’t had your eyes open yeah it’s
undeniable that feeling of total
complete misery and deniable yeah
especially when it’s compounded by the
fact that you know you did it to
that’s the real fun that’s the real fun
part it’s like I’m having a bitch of a
time and I richly deserve it
that’s that I have a chapter in there on
raising kids it says don’t like your
kids don’t let your kids do anything it
makes you just like them it’s like well
that’s first predicated on the
observation that you’re quite a monster
and it would be better for your kids if
they didn’t get on your bad side and
like again because I’m a clinical
psychologist a monster why why do you
use that term because I’ve watched
families like I’ve seen families where
it’s as if every single person in the
family has their hands around the neck
of the family member that’s close to
them and they’re squeezing but only
tight enough to strangle them in 20
years but you’re not always using it as
a pejorative you you you’ve also used it
you should become a monster you should
be a monster yeah but that’s that’s you
shouldn’t be it it shouldn’t be
accidental that’s the thing what
so what do you mean by monster then in a
positive sense like you feel a monster
oh that’s easy among a positive monster
is somebody who says no and means it
because when you say no what you mean is
there isn’t anything you can do to me
that will make me agree to do this why
is that a monster because you have to be
because no one will take you seriously
otherwise no one will take you seriously
like no means if you keep pushing this
something that you do not like will
happen to you that’s what no means you
don’t have any strength of character
unless you can put up a fight you know
and to be able to say no to something is
to be able to put up a fight so and you
can’t do that if you’re if you can be
pushed around you’ll just get argued
into submission or you’ll feel guilty
because you’re causing conflict or
something like that but isn’t there
confusion using those terms as a
positivism and a negative maybe there’s
another word instead of monster well
there is there is the potential there is
the potential for confusion you say well
is that something that can be I think
monster is a horrible thing I don’t
think of it as being like a wall like
someone who is just rock-solid in their
belief system and rock-solid and their
understanding when you fight someone
who’s formidable say what do you think
of the person that you’re fighting like
how would you characterize them they may
have a monstrous side because they can
think they can they can bring physical
substantial physical force to bear on
the situation and and be willing to do
it so they’re not naive and and harmless
by any stretch of the imagination right
they have a well-developed capacity for
mayhem they think well is that monstrous
it’s like well I would say yes I would
say fierce fierce fine let’s go with
that yeah because someone who’s fierce
and formidable it’s not necessarily a
monster you know just I think of a
monster as being just an awful person
who’s done awful things and just you
know okay well so fair enough well so
back to the back to this situation with
your kids while you definitely don’t
want to have your kids act in a way that
awakens your inner monster right let’s
put it that way and so you need to you
need to organize your family with a
certain amount of discipline and a
certain amount of structure so that you
get to do what you want which is back to
to the point that you made earlier so
that you’re happy to have your kids
around so that you won’t take revenge on
them and so you want to lay your life
out so that well so that it’s providing
you what you need to not be bitter and
to work for your best interests and for
the interests of everyone else that
would be lovely and I think it’s
attainable you know because the book is
very dark and and I’m a very dark guy in
some ways because I’ve looked at the
terrible things that people do to one
another that’s the fascinating way of
looking at you think you yourself as
dark as I don’t think of you as dark oh
that’s good
the more relevant thing is that I’ve
been studying these old stories these
archetypal stories for a very long
period of time and they have power they
really have power and they manifest
themselves everywhere they manifest
themselves in movies and in books and I
mean Harry Potter’s a mythological story
and it made Roland richer than the Queen
of England you know these stories have
power and I was fortunate enough to
study a large number of people large
number of scholars who knew what that
power was Carl Jung in particular and I
could make it more accessible to people
and so that’s a big part of it but what
overall significance of that is well I
just it just leaves me speechless I mean
there’s Kathy Newman things a good
example and I mean so many things have
happened I’ve got involved I’ve been in
a scandal of some sort a serious scandal
of some sort probably every three weeks
for a year and a half you know and there
are things that are just well the did
James tomorrow thing is a good example
of that like that’s a big deal you know
that that explosion that that that
emerged around him in the court case
that’s coming out of it it’s a big deal
and this thing with Lindsay Shepard that
was the worst scandal that
hit a Canadian University and then there
was all the protests and and then there
was what happened with with channel 4
the UK and it’s like I don’t know what
to make of it
I don’t what what I’m trying to do is
have a good conversation when I come and
talk to somebody like you where we can
have a good conversation try not to say
anything stupid that’s really what I’m
trying to do is to not say anything
stupid that’s hard or too stupid yeah
yeah well didn’t it’s being high stakes
poker yeah you know for it’s not quite
so bad now because especially after what
happened with channel 4 and some
journalists like people have been trying
to take me out for quite a long time and
it’s not it isn’t working so far
actually you actually believe what
you’re saying and it actually makes
sense well you know that’s that’s it’s
not a bad start but it’s rare in this
world this is a especially in these
ideologically charged times yeah this
toxic tribalism that we keep bringing up
it’s well and I also decided like a long
time ago and and I I think this runs
through 12 rules for life is well I
believe that people’s decisions tilt the
world towards heaven or hell I think
there’s no more accurate way of
describing the consequences of each of
your decisions than that you face
potential that’s what you face that’s
what you face in the world is potential
it’s not Material reality it’s potential
and every decision you make you’re
deciding whether you want to make the
world better or worse and if you like
the ultimate better is heaven and the
ultimate worse is hell we know how to
make the world into hell we’ve done that
multiple times much of the 20th century
was that it’s like I looked it all out
and I thought okay I would rather that
the world didn’t degenerate into hell
and I understand why people wanted to
degenerate into hell they’re angry
they’re angry because they suffer they
suffer unfairly and they suffer because
people hurt them and so they think this
is a bad game I’m not going to help make
it better I’m angry I’m gonna make it
worse even that’s what the call of mine
kids did you know that’s what all the
mass shooters do they say to hell with
this I hate it
they’re so far behind the game they just
want to flip the table yeah yeah worse
than that they they want it
obliterate the game yes and they want to
do it with as much malice as possible
just to obtain revenge and I understand
that but I decided a long time ago that
I would rather not play that game I
think it I think that it’s possible that
we could make the world better I really
believe they leave that too so I think
well the so I’m I’m trying to tell
people look there’s more to you than you
think there’s more potential there’s
more than enough potential to go around
there’s definite suffering and
malevolence in the world we could fix it
you haven’t got anything better to do
that’s a very big point that there’s
more potential to go around talking
about more than people understand we’re
not gonna run now to put that no we’re
not and with this idea of the famine
thinking is one of the reasons why
people get upset at other people’s
success they think somehow another this
other person’s success takes something
away from them yep yeah well there’s and
it’s see the other thing too is that
I’ve realized that people actually act
like what they confront in the world is
potential it’s so funny because whatever
potential is it’s it’s not materially
measurable but if you tell someone
you’re not living up to your potential
they go it’s like well what is that
potential that you’re not living up to
and then when you say well there’s
potential in front of you you know that
you can walk out on the street and you
go right or left or straight ahead like
you’re facing this thing that isn’t
fully formed and you get to decide how
it’s going to form and you can make it
better and so my question is like the
world’s a rough place there’s no doubt
about it it’s a harsh place but my
question is what would happen if we
start making it worse how good could it
be if we stop making it worse and I
don’t know if there’s an upper limit to
that like it might be maybe we could
make it really really really good why
not and we don’t have any better to do
than that
it’s like aim at heaven start at home
aim at heaven tell the truth let’s see
what the hell happens you know like it
is the case clearly on the facts of the
matter in 20 years there wouldn’t have
to be a single person in the world that
was hungry in 20 years we could get rid
of the 5 biggest diseases that currently
plague the planet we could straighten
things up and god only knows what things
could be like that or we could let the
whole thing DJ
right into hell so in each of us is
making that decision with each decision
that’s the other thing that I’ve
understood so take your choice you want
hell are you want heaven if you pick
hell just remember you knew what you
were doing when you picked it but nobody
picks hell yeah just sort of let it
slide yeah but they do it because they
blind themselves you know you know when
you do it you say oh yeah well you know
I let that slide then you and then you
don’t think about it it’s like you could
think about it you could think about it
you could know but you don’t let
yourself know is any of this all the
pressure and the scandal every three
weeks is this this is it way on you is
it is it difficult how are you feeling
like when we’re not feeling strange
yeah it’s like it’s like simultaneously
the worst possible thing and the best
possible thing that could happen well
financially it’s been a boom right yes
it’s which I mean the thing that I’ve I
shouldn’t say this but I’m going to
because it’s just so goddamn funny I
can’t help but say that I figured out
how to monetize social justice warriors

The Rise of the Amnesty Thugs

Franco was an unauthorized immigrant who had been working in this country for over a decade. His wife, Anne, is from a Pennsylvania Dutch family that has been in this country for generations. They were married in 2013 and have three American children, Max, Javier and Valentina.

In the spring of 2017, Franco got in a minor traffic accident near his Pennsylvania home. A few weeks later as he was leaving for work, agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement swarmed him, took him away and deported him to Guatemala.

.. This is an example of ICE going after a perfectly productive member of society. I got the anecdote from a series of reports that Deborah Sontag and Dale Russakoff did for ProPublica and The Philadelphia Inquirer. They found that 64 percent of the immigrants arrested by ICE in the agency’s Philadelphia region had no prior criminal conviction.

.. There are 11 million unauthorized immigrants in this country. Every past administration has used some discretion in targeting whom to deport. They targeted those who were destroying society, not building it. They tried to take account of particular contexts, and they tried to show some sense of basic humanity.

.. today, discretion and humanity are being stamped out. The Trump administration has embraced a “zero tolerance” policy. In practice that means that all complexity has to be reduced to uniformity. Compassion is replaced by a blind obedience to regulations. Context is irrelevant. Arrests are indiscriminate. All that matters is that the arrest numbers go up, so human beings in the system are reduced to numbers.

.. The Trump administration immigration officials have become exactly the kind of monsters that conservatism has always warned against.

For centuries, conservatives have repeated a specific critique against state power. Statism, conservatives have argued, has a tendency to become brutalist and inhumane because a bureaucracy can’t see or account for the complexity of reality.

.. Statist social engineering projects cause horrific suffering because in the mind of statists, the abstract rule is more important than the human being in front of them. The person must be crushed for the sake of the abstraction.

.. People like Stephen Miller are not steeped in conservative thinking and do not operate with a conservative disposition. They were formed by their rebellion against the stifling conformity they found at liberal universities. Their primary orientation is not to conservative governance but to owning the libs. In power they take the worst excesses of statism and flip them for anti-liberal ends
.. Here’s how you can detect the anti-liberal trolls in the immigration debate: Watch how they use the word “amnesty.”
.. Any serious reform has to grapple with tangled realities, and any real conservative has an appreciation for that complexity. But if you try to account for that complexity before an anti-immigration troll, he or she will shout one word: Amnesty!
.. This is what George Orwell noticed about the authoritarian brutalists: They don’t use words to illuminate the complexity of reality; they use words to eradicate the complexity of reality.
.. Look at how the Republican candidates for the G.O.P. Senate nomination in Arizona answered questions about a provision to keep families together at the border. They responded with inhumane abstractions: “I try not to get swayed by what the emotions are or the pressure
.. “Compromising on the rule of law to grant amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants is the wrong path to take,”
.. “Amnesty” has become a club the trolls use in their attempt to stamp a rigid steel boot on the neck of the immigration debate. It’s the sign of a party slowly losing its humanity.

How to Break an Illusion

The obvious next move for the Master Persuader involves asking Pence to “evolve” to Trump’s positions on all LGBTQ matters. Everyone expects a VP to pretend to be a full supporter of the President’s policies. That gives cover for Pence to update his LGBTQ views because…

– Religious conservatives will dismiss it as mere politics, believing Pence privately holds views that match their own.

– Anti-Trumpers will see a major violation of the monster frame.

.. He has lots of levers. Expect him to push one lever after another until the monster framing cracks. By summer the story will be that he’s the most flexible and centrist president in our history.

.. It is worth noting that Trump and Clinton had very different unframing challenges. If Clinton had won, her job would have been to convince the public she isn’t crooked. But you can’t do that simply by doing some honest things in public. We expect that even crooked people do honest things when watched. Clinton literally had no path to remove her “crooked” label.

.. In summary, you can’t prove you are honest by NOT stealing something in public. But you can prove you are not a monster by saving a kitten from a tree in public.

The Crook Versus the Monster

Thanks to timely assists from Wikileaks, Trump has successfully framed Hillary clinton as a crooked politician. Meanwhile, Clinton has successfully framed Trump as a dangerous monster. If the mainstream polls are accurate, voters prefer the crook to the monster. That makes sense because a crook might steal your wallet but the monster could kill you. As of today, Clinton has the superior persuasion strategy. Crook beats monster.

.. The biggest illusion this election is that we think the people on the other side can’t see the warts on their own candidate. But I think they do. Clinton supporters know she is crooked, but I think they assume it is a normal degree of crookedness for an American politician. Americans assume that even the “good” politicians are trading favors and breaking every rule that is inconvenient to them.

.. Likewise, Trump supporters know what they are getting. They know he’s offensive. They know he’s under-informed on policies. They know he pays as little in taxes as possible. They know he uses bankruptcy laws when needed. They know he ignores facts that are inconvenient to his message. They just don’t care. They want to push the monster into Washington D.C., close the door, and let him break everything that needs to be broken. Demolition is usually the first step of building something new. And Trump also knows how to build things when he isn’t in monster mode.

.. If Trump gets elected, and he does anything that looks even slightly Hitler-ish in office, I will join the resistance movement and help kill him. That’s an easy promise to make, and I hope my fellow citizens would use their Second Amendment rights to rise up and help me kill any Hitler-type person who rose to the top job in this country, no matter who it is.