Despite his material success, Donald Trump appears to suffer from a lack of personal, spiritual and leadership development. A majority of Americans are troubled by the way he distorts the truth, normalizes bad behavior, promotes negative attitudes and flirts with nations that intend to do great harm in the world. That majority includes people who did not vote for him or only voted for him to keep Hillary Clinton from the presidency.

I’m sorry that our country saw fit to elect such a dangerous person to our nation’s highest office, but I see a possible upside to his presidency. If you’re someone who believes that the way you get things done matters, our president-elect makes a great negative role model—a textbook case for learning how not to live or lead. In that sense, he’s truly inspirational.

In his farewell speech, our current president asked Americans to work out our differences without vilifying people whose opinions are different than our own. He called us to listen to each other, to guard against the weakening of values that make us who we are and to strengthen our democracy through participation.

One form of participation is to pinpoint, analyze, challenge and reverse anything that damages our democracy. That’s why I’m inviting readers to submit questions to our advice and opinion column, Coco’s Corner, about Donald Trump’s leadership traits, communication style and his effect upon the world for the next four years.

Through questions and answers, Coco will explore teachable moments in Donald Trump’s conduct and promote healthy ideas for leading, living and thinking. Please keep sending all your etiquette and social questions. We want those, too!

Today, Coco responds to her first Donald Trump question.


Dear Coco,

My psychologist friends say Donald Trump is a narcissist. What causes people to characterize him that way, and what’s wrong with our president being a narcissist?

Bob in Bradenton

Dear Bob,

I am not aware of any scientific proof that Donald Trump is a narcissist, but there is observable evidence to suggest he may have at least one personality disorder—either narcissism, borderline personality disorder or a combination of both.

Narcissism Dissected

At the risk of going “clinical” on you, let’s review the symptoms of narcissism. Research shows that narcissists have a tendency to take offense to real or imagined criticism or slights. They need to be the center of attention, and they may lack compassion for other people, especially those in pain.

Narcissists have an inordinate need to be right and will go to extraordinary lengths to prove their correctness. They often claim to be smarter, more attractive and more talented than other people. Making brutal insults and criticizing or condescending to other people may help a narcissist maintain a sense of superiority.

When a narcissist is confronted about his/her bad behavior or proven wrong, he or she may become very hostile. After an angry outburst, a narcissist often denies words or actions. This is explainable because he disassociates during such an emotional episode and forgets what he has said and done.

It’s not uncommon for narcissists to insist on being treated a certain way or complain when others do not give them enough respect, recognition or appreciation, but they show very little respect for others. They focus on gaining wealth, recognition and celebrity.

People with borderline personality disorders share many of the traits attributed to narcissists. They are prone to denigrate or discredit people who oppose them, and they often see things in stark black-and-white or good-and-bad terms. You’re either for them or you’re against them. If you’re against them, they may retaliate or punish you.

Borderline personalities are moody, impulsive and unpredictable, and they tend to blame others when things go wrong, even when it makes no logical sense. They twist what people say and use these distortions to manipulate people. They are constantly engaged in some kind of fight and will provoke arguments so they can play the victim. This makes them very unstable people.

Only a thorough evaluation by a mental health professional can diagnose a personality disorder, but when these behaviors are consistent, a personality disorder is very likely the cause.

One thing is certain about people who suffer from these mental health problems: wherever they go, they cause a great deal of distress, fear and disruption. Keep in mind, anyone can show traits of a personality disorder given the right circumstances. Such behavior doesn’t mean you’re a horrible person.

Too much information? Sorry! I hope the context I’ve shared allows you to compare your friends’ assessment with Trump’s behavior. Let’s take three examples from the past week.

Teachable Trump

1) This Week’s Press Conference. A press conference does not obligate the person in front of the microphone to take or answer every question, but any well-balanced speaker can imagine manifold ways to deflect a question without getting into a shouting match with the person who asked it. What Trump did in his Wednesday press conference is classic narcissistic-borderline personality disorder behavior: personalize criticism and retaliate against anyone who presents unflattering information about you. If Trump wanted to put the CNN reporter in the doghouse for his network’s reporting, all he had to say was this: “Perhaps another time, Mr. Acosta.” That’s what typically moves a press conference along. Instead, Trump escalated the confrontation—a frightening window on how he may deal with confrontations our nation could face.

Teachable Trump: Whenever we face conflict, we get a choice about how to behave. We can fall on a sword and die in battle, or we can calmly state our position and then prepare to listen. Often the latter is what makes people willing to hear us out. A calm demeanor keeps our credibility in tact. We can disagree without being disagreeable.

2) A Spat with a Star. Meryl Streep is a lot of things, but she is not, as Trump stated, overrated. In fact, she currently holds a record as the actress with the most Academy Award nominations—more than Katherine Hepburn or Jack Nicholson. She is also a record breaker in Golden Globe award nominations. According to some accounts, she has won eight Golden Globe awards and three Academy Awards. Just sayin’.

The problem with Meryl Streep is not that she’s overrated; it’s that she had the audacity to shame Trump for mocking a disabled reporter. Always vigilant about what others say about him, Trump immediately discredited Streep. Despite on camera evidence, Trump denied that he had ever done any such thing. Rushing to his defense, his staff made a confusing claim, stating that Trump has repeatedly used similar gestures to mock election opponents—people without any known disabilities. I guess the fact that mockery is a quotidian way of life for Trump somehow made the behavior less offensive; it’s just part of his personal style. Review the symptoms described above and I think you’ll see yet another example of narcissistic-borderline personality behavior.

The leader of the free world should not be so sensitive that he feels the need to respond to even the most acclaimed Hollywood star. Such behavior is a sign of great weakness and pettiness. It demonstrates that he is easily baited and thus, can be easily manipulated by despots like Vladmir Putin.

Teachable Trump: We all do things from time to time that are regrettable. If you’re in the public eye, your gaffes are much more visible. When we make mistakes that hurt others, there is nothing more constructive than a sincere apology that follows an honest analysis of what brought us to make the mistake. Even when others don’t forgive us, we become better people when we realize our mistakes don’t have to define us, when we see criticism as a possible opportunity for growth. All we need to do is apologize, then resolve to change.

3) Foreign Policy for Dummies. Trump says anyone who opposes the idea of being friendly with Russia is stupid. If true, then there are many respected scholars, experienced military leaders and knowledgeable experts whose IQ has suddenly plummeted.

Why does Trump question the intellect of people who know light years more about Russia than he? Why does he blame the intelligence community for leaking damaging information? Because that’s what narcissists do: blame and finger-point when things go wrong for them. Nothing is ever their fault.

There is a great deal of difference between constructive criticism and deriding others to rob them of credibility. A future president of the United States who resorts to playground name-calling rather than articulating reasonable arguments? Simply mindblowing.

Teachable Trump: When we start to believe that we have all the answers—and that everyone who has gone before us doesn’t—this is the beginning of folly. A disciplined mind looks at problems from 30,000 feet; it assumes nothing. Whether you’re trying to make international policy or resolve a personal grief, turning a problem over and looking at it objectively from all sides, leads to better solutions. Collective wisdom and critical thinking can cure diseases, salvage businesses and invent technology. Together, these traits can also save a nation.

He’s about to be our next president. What do you think? After reading background on personality disorders, how do you see Donald Trump?

Do you have a vexing question about modern manners, social problems or Donald Trump? If so, send them to Coco using the following email address: coco [at] dressedherdaysvintage [dot] com. Her opinions only appear when readers submit relevant questions. Without you, her columns will be few and far between.