Those watching President Trump during the first presidential debate saw a man seemingly out of control. An aggressive, insulting, interrupting president.
Those of a psychological bent saw more.
They saw a man capable of emotional abuse. The first debate saw a signature sign of the emotional abusive male when Trump turned to the former vice president and snapped: “Don’t ever use the word ‘smart’ with me. Don’t ever use that word.”
The intensity of anger stemming from an innocuous word is often seen in men who have “emotional trigger points,” that set them off.
If you were to visit a women’s shelter, those havens that protect women from out of control men who are often under restraining orders, you will likely hear stories of relatively innocent interactions that exploded into rage. An incendiary stimulus like the word that set off the president’s fury.
Trump’s town hall meeting in lieu of the traditional 2nd debate, was moderated by a strong woman, NBC moderator, Savannah Guthrie.
This triggered another dimension of the emotionally abusive male — men who feel threatened by assertive women. Men who cannot abide women who challenge them. Caught in a position where he bristled but could not leave the public stage or openly berate, Trump avoided questions.
And then did what abusive men commonly do following such an encounter. He insulted and attempted to humiliate Guthrie, calling her “totally crazy.”
The third debate was more of the same in terms of facing a strong moderator.
This time Trump acted preemptively, calling NBC correspondent, Kristen Welker, “Far worse!” than the “hatred and rudeness” experience on “60 minutes” where he had walked off the set with Leslie Stahl, another assertive woman. Close to the same time, he tweeted, “She’s always been terrible and unfair,” “She’s no good.”
USA Today recently aggregated and released accusations of 19 women who have accused the president of sexual assault or non-consensual physical contact.
Thirteen of them reported his actions as “often out the blue, sometimes holding them firmly in place.”
Noteworthy in reading these accusations is the abrupt physical action taken by Donald Trump, void of any overture or request for permission.
His reported actions show a sense of entitlement.
In the famous 2005 recording of a lewd conversation with Billy Bush, Trump described his groping. “They just let me,” and “when you’re a star, they let you do it.” It is, of course, not true, but can be believed in the mind of a man who abuses.
Abusive men often openly cheat on their spouses in a parade of power and denigration, a behavior blatantly displayed toward the end of the relationships of the thrice married Donald Trump. Abusive men extensively lie, a behavior so common in this president that it leaves critics in awe as to the audacity and range of his mendacity.
Trump’s outsized need for praise and self-aggrandizement easily leads to a suspicion of deep insecurities, a hall-mark characteristic to those experts who study emotionally abusive men.
His concern for his own identity and maleness appears never far out of mind.
Any suggestions of inadequacies are hotspots to be aggressively snuffed out. His recent proclamation of superiority in his self-diagnosed recovery from the coronavirus trumpets this pattern of overcompensating for any hint of weakness.
Two months ago, The Atlantic magazine columnist John Hendrickson wrote a piece entitled, “What Biden can’t bring himself to say,” dealing with the former vice president’s lifetime battle with a stutter.
Subsequently, Biden openly shared this vulnerability, even turning it into a display of empathy for others who struggle with this challenge.
Donald Trump, too, shares a lifetime challenge, a deep sense of inadequacy, a feeling that he overcompensates with in projecting the opposite. “Don’t ever use the word smart with me” is the tip of the iceberg in a feeling of inadequacy that he works to keep hidden.
But it can flare up and be revealed given the right setting. Just as it did at the first presidential debate.