Did you know it before November 8th, 2016?
Yeah, me neither.
What I did know, and what I've known as far back as I can remember, is a thing or two about the consequences of crazy.
Mental health professionals of various stripes have lately been debating whether it is 1) ethical, and 2) possible to diagnose a public figure simply by observing his public words and behaviors.
I suppose this debate grew out of a hopeful reinterpretation of the 25th Amendment. Our President appears to be batshit. Can we use this obscure procedure to get him out of office? How would we begin? What diagnosis would be most compelling?
Forget all that speculation. Just put that debate right out of your head, while you still have a head, and listen up. That debate is not for you, it's for people with time and money and years of expertise on their hands, so leave them to it.
No, what you need to know, what we all need to know right now How Can Ordinary People Deal With a Disordered Personality? If a popular book on this topic existed (I'm sure there are many), we could all just buy one, but I'm going to save you some money.
Because I've had to do this for most of my life, and I have some tips and tricks.
How To Deal With a Disordered Personality
First of all, whenever possible, don't.
I'm not being snarky or flippant, I'm speaking from years of experience trying to sort things out with mad relatives, spouses, and friends. If you can just stay away from that, do it. Just because someone has a blood kinship with you doesn't give that person the right to verbally and emotionally abuse to you for the rest of your life.
You don't get to chose your family, but you can chose how much time you waste on them for no apparent good reason.
However, if you are in a close relationship with a person with Malignant Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, or any other disorder with 'personality' as a distinguishing diagnostic feature, and you want to maintain the relationship, the first thing you have to do is save yourself.
Saving yourself means learning how to disengage and focus on your own needs as often as necessary.
Once you learn the art of disengagement and self-care (and this isn't easy by any means), you may choose to engage with such a person for any number of reasons. Maybe your person is in a crisis. (Are they ever not?) Maybe you care about this person and he or she has asked for your help. Maybe you feel forced to deal with this person for business or other reasons and you just can't get out of it.
If you know you must sometimes engage with a disordered personality:
1) Maintain a relaxed level of detachment.
2) Set limits on time and intimacy.
3) Communicate what you need to communicate in a calm voice using brief, repetitive sentences.
4) Recognize you may not be heard and will have to do it all over again at some future date.
Above all, don't take this person's personality personally. What he says and does isn't about you. The ongoing drama is always ALL about the disordered personality's entrenched methods of coping and the use of these methods to control other peoples' attention.
Disordered personalities are comfortable with chaos and drama. If there isn't any occurring naturally, they are absolute artists at creating some.
Controlling Through Chaos
Personality disorders are rarely diagnosed as a single problem. They usually occur in conjunction with other psychiatric diagnoses such as bipolar disorder, depression, or any of the anxiety disorders. Typically people seek treatment for the depression or anxiety, and the personality disorder is tacked on by a clinician so the next clinician will have a shorthand description of entrenched behaviors and emotional responses.
In other words, Narcissists don't seek treatment for their narcissism, and Borderline Personalities rarely seek treatment for being Borderline unless they end up hospitalized or are in repeated trouble with the law or some other social intervention interrupts their routine.
The reason why not is straightforward: These people have learned to control situations by creating chaos and the last thing they want to give up is that sense of control. Calm and sanity, the very conditions that reassure most of us, terrify them.
It's easy enough to see this in the behavior of our current president. His antics are nonstop, confusing, and exhausting. He lies so easily and so often that he sometimes spouts contradictory falsehoods in the same sentence. He clearly revels in this dysfunction and if he doesn't get enough of it he arranges rallies so he can conjure up some more.
Put any name you want on his disordered personality, I want you to recognize his effect on YOU. HE'S a psychic vampire: a man who by his very presence sucks other people emotionally and mentally dry, spitting out the withered husks that used to be their souls when there is no 'juice' left and moving on to the next victim.
When you know a person is into baffling you with bullshit, you either dump that person entirely or learn to keep your distance and look for slip ups and behavioral clues about what is really going on. You know you can't listen to their nonsense. So you learn to read the situation.
Pay Attention to the Men Behind the Curtain
I don't mean to minimize the personal suffering of people coping with mental illnesses. People with personality disorders suffer, and I am not hardened to that suffering. I just know what I can fix and what I can't.
For instance if, like I did, you have a mom with a disordered personality you know that anything, no matter how small or petty, can turn into an occasion for drama and histrionics. Your attention is demanded on all these occasions--your total attention-- but it will never, ever be rewarded.
In fact, just as you are about to collapse from fatigue and confusion and throw up your hands, your attempts to 'help' end the mess and drama will be met with vitriol, blame, and spite. This makes sense once you understand that maintaining the chaos is the goal, not ending it. The entire crisis is just a ruse, a gimmick to suck you in and suck you dry.
After awhile, you learn to leave mom to it and let her describe your coldness to an endless parade of other marks who don't know her as well as you do.
My mother died nearly 30 years ago. From this distance I have a lot of compassion for her--her difficult upbringing, her fears and sorrows, her many humiliations. But up close and personal, while I was living with it, not so much.
Relatives are hard to deal with anyway, and we all have some madman or madwoman chained up in the attic (sometimes in our family it's me). But starting in January of 2017, a disordered personality became the leader of the free world.
That's not a new thing, but it's a new thing for the United States.
As a political strategy it was darkly brilliant.
Think of it: The richest people on earth freaked out when this dumpster-fire-clown-show was installed as King, but immediately afterward, while we are all having our souls sucked out reading his tweets and watching his antics and deciphering his populist word salads, these very same Uber-rich folks moved in and got busy robbing what few pennies we have left and plundering the planet, unmolested.
So we have to stop doing that. Stop watching the clown show, turn away from the dumpster fire, ignore the president's words and pay attention to the actions of those around him. Watch those around him very, very closely.
You'll be amazed at what you see. Already some of his closest associates from his 'business' days are privately brokering a deal with the Ukraine that would install a Putin puppet as leader, giving these men a favored position from which to broker a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
Rex Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon and current Secretary of State, was all set, before US sanctions set were applied, to join with Putin on an oil deal worth billions of dollars to the both of them. Coincidentally, one of the first executive orders signed by the new president gave corporations the right to clandestinely pay off dictators of underdeveloped nations in order to secure access to oil, minerals, etc., within their boundaries.
And there's more. Much more.
Resistance in the Age of Crazy
None of this means resistance is futile. But it does mean that resistance, following the guidelines stated above, must be focused and simply stated, with easy to remember demands and clear consequences for when those demands aren't met.
In other words, when the government goes crazy, we have to go sane.
And here's the important part:
We can't expect that, even with our best, most disciplined efforts that these people will suddenly become pliable and responsive.
No, fuck no! These people are very rich and very crazy. They will stay that way. It works for them. And as for our efforts, they will of course hate us for trying.
The same is true of the president's followers. Stop trying to engage them, it can't be done, you will lose every time. Some people love constant drama and emergency. It releases them from any need to reflect or think or take responsibility for their own suffering in any way.
It's also enormously entertaining--at first. And even when it gets to be too much, it's too much in a pharmaceutical, self-medicating way--like too much ice cream, too much bacon, too much heroin.
What we can expect from focused resistance is that some of our needs may be met if we make big enough pests of ourselves.
Failing that, we will have to shoot these crazy rich people and poop on their lawns. (Anyway that's what usually happens historically speaking.)
Happily we do have some indication the focused pest strategy can yield results.
When the first act of Congress was to get rid of the Congressional Ethics Department, the phones in DC jammed up so bad they decided, "Oh never mind." When people started showing up at Congresspersons' offices, they started scheduling town hall meetings. When so many people turned out to protest the Muslim ban, three state attorneys sued to block it and won.
It's a lot of work, a lot of thinking things through, a lot of phone calls, a lot of protests, but what is the alternative? Yeah, that. So take care of yourself when you get tired.
It's going to be a long four years.