Hi, my name is...Well, actually, that’s just it. I have a lot of names. My legal name is Isabella Reedy, but if any of you call me that, then you clearly haven’t been around me in a while. My name here at school is Dreeg. He/him or They/them pronouns, please! My planned name, once I graduate, is Dwyer. There are a few others out there. My family calls me V, or Vapor. I used to go by a lot of different names, 8 in total. Because names are important. Identities are important. And that’s what I’m here to talk about.
It was the week before Thanksgiving in 2015. We were gathered in the SiriusXM studio in New York City for Judith Regan’s annual Thanksgiving Show. She had invited a group she referred to as some of her “favorite guests” from the year to share thoughts and traditions on gratitude and Thanksgiving. The 20 or so guests took their turn at the table with 5 microphones sharing gratitude, family traditions, favorite wine pairings with turkey, and memories from childhood. When my turn came, the host asked me about the challenges of dealing with family during the holidays. I talked about how to maintain your compassion for struggling family members instead of taking irritating and hurtful questions personally. While this practice can be effective in helping avoid hurt, anger, and conflict, it is not the only way to deal with divisive family members.
Since the summer of 2016, my radio and T.V. time has moved from sports to politics. The spectacle we witnessed during the campaign and since the inauguration is like no game I have ever seen: somewhere between a train-wreck and a circus. Yet, with this circus, virtually everyone I know has been recruited to participate in the three-ring show. Now, before I begin the main thesis of this blog, I want to make a few things clear. I disagree with almost everything Donald Trump says and does. I do not need a commentator or an op-ed piece to dissect his latest rally or his press secretary’s press conference. I know by listening to him speak that he is compromised and most likely deserving of a mental health diagnosis that people typically use to deride those they loathe. More precisely, in the context of the position he occupies in our government, I am not okay with who he is. I am embarrassed by what America has become in the world. I identify with almost every aspect of the democratic progressive agenda and have become a much more active participant in local and national politics and organizations as a result of what I have seen since the most recent presidential campaign.
In this blog, Dr. Reedy challenges the thinking behind the adage that your should be the parent and not the friend to your child. This blog is hosted on evoketherapy.com.
It has been awhile since I have felt inspired to write a blog. Usually, a theme emerges from my work and swells until I feel that I need to get something in print. It could come from something I have learned in my own therapy, a breakthrough of sorts. Or it could come from a theme that seems to be repeating itself in my work with my clients or with the therapists I supervise—those groups are the most powerful teachers in my life.
The Psychology of Donald Trump
When I was a teenager, my therapist explained, “A superiority complex always covers up an inferiority complex.” Arrogance or narcissism is not born from an experience of being overvalued or coddled, but rather from being not seen or heard. The defenses we associate with narcissistic personality disorder are formed to protect the individual from a sense of being small, powerless, and invisible. Often the narcissist develops gifts or talents to cover up these feelings of insignificance or emptiness. These proclivities may be reinforced and rewarded, thus solidifying patterns in behavior leading to the development of the diagnosis of a disorder. Accomplishments assure the sufferer that their place is secure—that they matter. The problem is that the “I matter” feeling for narcissists is fleeting and tenuous. The narcissist is seeking for connection, meaning and worth, but these feelings cannot be realized if the individual is valued based on their giftedness.
My marriage to my first wife ended in 1996. We had married young, children ourselves really, and after two miscarriages, had two beautiful children, Jacob and Emma. While growing up, I had not consciously anticipated fatherhood, but my wife was eager and I subsequently fell in love with our children. It was not love at first sight, maybe because I never thought of being a father growing up. But as my children grew, my love for them grew too.
Many people are writing and talking about narcissism these days. What worries me the most is that the rhetoric coming from some psychologists and parent educators is inconsistent with what we know about child development and attachment. The inaccurate conceptualization goes something like this: narcissism comes from parents overvaluing children or putting them on a pedestal. Many point to such practices as handing out participation trophies as examples of how we coddle today’s youth. They blame cultural phenomenon like helicopter parenting, snow-plow parenting, doting parenting, or the inability of parents to hold their children accountable as the reasons that children grow up to be narcissistic. While outwardly these parental behaviors may look like like the child is being overvalued, there is something underneath these interactions that explains the development of a narcissistic personality. To be clear,
Socrates taught by asking questions. Therapists have the great privilege of being asked questions every day. A general assumption in society is that therapists possess some wisdom and that wisdom can be imparted to clients for an hourly fee. That assumption is not so much a problem when it is held by the client, but the idea is toxic when held by the therapist. Therapy is something you create together with your client. It is not merely the dissemination of information, facts, or techniques. It is a way of being with a person that makes most of the impact. And if the Socratic method of teaching is to inform us, it is the person asking the questions that is the teacher—the one answering is the student. Perhaps this is why so many therapists report learning so much from their clients.