Hans-Jurgen Wirth, b. 1951, is a psychoanalyst with his own practice, a professor of psychoanalytic social psychology in Frankfurt and a publisher. His most important book is “Narcissism and Power” (2002).
Not a day passes on which Donald Trump does not say, post or tweet something to which the large part of the world asks: Is he serious?!? His speeches and appearances are so absurd that the men of action of the “House of Cards” couldn’t have done better. Trump is a textbook narcissist, says Prof. Dr. Hans-Jurgen Wirth. Prof. Wirth is a psychoanalyst who researched the theme narcissism and power for a long time. Wirth also gives hope in the PULS interview. Many narcissists fail in a grandiose way.
Narcissist characteristics include an exaggerated notion of one’s significance, inability to sympathize with other persons and develop empathy and compassion, and his tendency to exaggerate, lie and deceive. He basically acts like a con-man or a fake. He has great problems in reacting to criticism. He is immediately offended and strikes back. These are all features that are striking in narcissist personalities.
How do narcissist disturbances arise?
In general, narcissist personality disturbances originate in early childhood. The parents were often insensitive, psychically misused their child, took advantage, manipulated and exploited the child for their own interests. The self-esteem or ego of the child was deformed and this was later expressed in certain behavior.
In your book “Narcissism and Power: On the Psychoanalysis of Psychic Disturbances in Politics,” you write that narcissistically disturbed persons strive for power. Why is that?
Narcissist personalities strive for power because they can induce or force other persons to give them acknowledgment in this way. Narcissists want to be admired. When they have power, they can then buy this recognition and admiration from other persons. Therefore power and narcissism are very closely coupled.
Do you know politicians who are not narcissists?
A healthy narcissism in the sense of a healthy self-esteem and a pathological, obsessive narcissism that is excessive must be distinguished. Narcissism is a quality that every person has. That can be more or less good and subject to fluctuations. A healthy esteem and a desire to prevail are very helpful if one wants to gain important positions in the economy, society or politics. All leading personalities in politics and other areas have a marked self-esteem and even a narcissist ego. With Trump, this is a very distinct, obsessive and exaggerated form of self-importance.
Narcissists are often persons who are rather unsympathetic to many other people. How can Trump be so successful?
All narcissists are not unconditionally unsympathetic. Many persons admire narcissists. When they identify with narcissists, they can even imagine themselves in a different way. “I would like to be that ruthless. I would like to be someone who presents himself unabashedly in public and demands admiration.” This is something one can admire and find very attractive in a figure like Trump.