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For a Malignant Narcissist Defeat is Unacceptable

Insights into why Donald Trump is the only President in history who has refused to concede and what may happen next.

By Natalie Frank, Ph.DPublished 3 years ago 16 min read
Credit: Tasnim News Agency (CC BY 4.0)

*Although I use the term narcissist to describe Donald Trump, I nor anyone else as far as I am aware, has formally assessed and diagnosed him with a personality disorder. The term narcissist is being used as a descriptor not a diagnosis. I am discussing the events that have taken place both before and since the election, based on his statements and his actions.

While it took four days to determine the results, when the Saturday after the U.S. presidential election rolled around, former vice-president Joe Biden finally surpassed the prerequisite 270 electoral votes needed to win. At the same time a prediction made over the previous several months came true.

Donald Trump refused to admit defeat and concede. Instead, he claimed victory, then mounted one legal battle after another, accusing the democrats of stealing the election from him by including illegal votes in the tally.

Even though none of his claims of fraud have been substantiated and the chances of him overturning the election results are miniscule, Trump refuses to say die. He continues to publicly display his plans for a second term while instructing government officials not to cooperate with Biden’s transition team. He even has ordered federal agencies to keep working on his budget proposal for the next fiscal year, though it won’t be released until February and will cover spending through 2022. It’s as if he believes that pretending nothing happened is enough to negate the outcome of the election.

Despite the prediction, people around the world are wondering how such a thing could happen. As more republicans have come out in support of him, this wonder turned to incredulousness. What did it take for someone to ignore the result of a national election and act as if it simply hadn’t happened and nothing had changed?

With his defeat, Trump finds himself fighting against being assigned a label he has often used for anyone who opposes him – loser. It’s as if he is fighting for his life and in some ways he is. Narcissists view any failure as an impossibility and should it ever look as if they might be defeated, they stop at practically nothing to prevent it from happening even after it is clear there’s nothing left to try.

Trump’s Use of Gaslighting to Manipulate his Followers and Hold onto Power

In July 2018, while giving a speech Trump clearly demonstrated how he has a need to control his followers. He does this through psychological manipulation techniques which he has proven to be a master of.

During this speech he stated: “Just remember—what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening.” The message was clear – if you don’t hear it from me, pay no attention. Videos have been doctored, the news is fake and the media are all imposters.

This intentional effort to make people question their direct experience is known as “gaslighting.” The tactic causes others to doubt their memories, perceptions and judgements by creating cognitive dissonance and low self-esteem. The aim is to make them more dependent on the person gaslighting them for validations and support. When people are gaslighted they become unable to distinguish truth from lies, right from wrong or reality from make believe such that they must rely on the gaslighter to tell them what to think and believe.

There is no end to examples of Trump gaslighting his followers. Here are just a few:

• As the U.S. death toll passed 200,000 and deaths worldwide reached 1,050,000, Trump told supporters that COVID-19 affects “virtually nobody.”

• He accused Biden of being controlled by people "in the dark shadows, people we haven't heard of that are controlling the streets.”

• Trump claimed a taped interview with NBC’s Lester Holt was edited to make him look bad, calling it fake news. He tweeted this: "When Lester Holt got caught fudging my tape on Russia, they were hurt badly!." This even though there was a full transcript of the interview with a complete video of it uninterrupted.

Gaslighting is a technique often used by narcissists but it isn’t something that happens in a day. Over time, consistent lying, misdirection, deception, distraction, projection, deflection and contradiction or revising history, allows the gaslighter to neutralize and invalidate their victims’ beliefs. They confuse their targets and break down their self-concept in order to turn them into loyal followers who won’t question anything the gaslighter says or does.

Should the people being targeted ever start to become wise to these tactics, the claim becomes, “It’s everyone else feeding you false information. I’m not the one gaslighting you, it’s the doctors, the media, the scientists, the military leaders, the healthcare policy experts, who are gaslighting you.”

This is not intended to imply that all of Trumps followers are weak or flawed in some fundamental way. They are individuals who initially followed him for their own reasons. Gaslighting is not easy to recognize. It starts off small and only develops fully after a lengthy and repetitive pattern of manipulation takes place. When the person doing the gaslighting can reach his followers by calling a press conference whenever he chooses or using social media to spread his message his supporters will be constantly affected by his claims.

Trump’s tendency to conduct much of his presidency through Twitter had wracked up quite the number of tweets sent. On average, since he’s been in office, Trump has tweeted 350- 400 a month. From election day, November 3rd until November 7th he tweeted 2461 times. When you already support someone, that kind of propaganda saturation will often lead to adopting the gaslighter’s belief system.

With all of these messages, press conferences, and additional communication from others in the administration, it is no wonder many of Trump’s followers are parroting his insistence that he won the election and if it doesn’t appear so it’s due to democrat led voter fraud or doing whatever it takes to attempt to keep him in power. It is also this support and that of the GOP that has made it possible for him to justify not conceding.

What Happens When a Narcissist Fails?

Malignant narcissists suffer from failure, or even the thought of the possibility of failure, much more than the rest of us. In their minds defeat is not ever acceptable and cannot be allowed to happen. They handle potential and ultimate failure differently than others, largely given to their black and white thinking whereby failure is an impossibility. When they must accept that this is not the case, things get very rocky for them and for the others in their lives, which in this case means the entire nation.

Given that malignant narcissists can’t see anything from anyone else’s’ perspective and that they have no empathy or ability to engage in introspection in order to change, when they desperately fight to win, they often inflict a great deal of harm, since the rights and wellbeing of other people aren’t a consideration.

When it seems possible that they are going to be defeated, they will often respond with predictable and problematic tactics, which is what we are currently seeing in the post-election chaos. Some of the most likely strategies a malignant narcissist will use as they become desperate to prevent a loss or to reverse the course of events include the following.

1) They will try to misdirect people’s attention, claim that there is nothing to the circumstances or simply ignore an outcome that results in their failure. This is exactly what Trump is doing now, pretending like nothing for him has changed, and that he didn’t lose the election.

2) They will try to invalidate evidence or claim that it is fake or the product of vaguely described conspiracies. Whatever the reason or process by which it occurred, they will say that it is absolutely untrue and due to others who are out to get them.

3) They will become more paranoid and begin taking extra precautions that allows them to be in control of information while making accusations that can sound bizarre.

Trump is known for never really trusted people. He’s quick to see someone as an enemy, getting rid of anyone he’s identified as not being loyal enough to him. The number of his staff that he has fired or who have resigned due to his mistrust and what he believes is disloyalty (perceived whenever someone doesn’t agree with him) is enormous, leading him to fill many senior level positions multiple times.

There were multiple Chiefs of Staff, national security advisors, FBI directors, Veteran Affairs secretaries, directors of national intelligence, and directors of the CIA, to name just a few of the dozens of people who were fired or asked to step down due to differences of ideology or simply a difference of opinion. At times it appeared as if there was a revolving door at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. with newly hired people going then coming back out only weeks later after being fired or resigning.

4) If evidence comes to light that supports a narcissists failure, it will not be addressed in a legitimate manner, but instead attacked in the most aggressive and vindictive manner possible. Whoever offered the information will likewise be attacked, discredited, bullied and humiliated, often along with their families even when they are doing the right thing and following the law. The narcissist will rope in supporters to likewise attack the individual or institution, and to offer conflicting “evidence,” or make claims without substantiation.

This is what is currently happening with Trump’s refusal to concede. He is haphazardly using a legal strategy to make claims without presenting anything close to evidence that proves any fraudulent voting procedures or illegal votes. At a minimum this stretches out the timeline before he must concede (if he ever does so at all) and allows him a longer window for a hail Mary. Unfortunately, it is also harming the country and Biden’s ability to lead once he is sworn in.

5) Unimpeachable proof of imminent failure, such as Biden being believed to have surpassed 270 votes making him the winner of the election, will be attributed to lies, cheating by the opposition, conspiracies, enemies, losers aimed at bringing him down, fake reports, illegal data (or in this case votes), frightening men standing in the shadows and anything else that suggests the result is due to the intentional attack of others who intend to ruin the person. It is never clear how much of this is thought through and carefully planned and how much of it is possibly delusional.

6) As their vicious attacks continue, they will speak about themselves in the most positive manner possible, crowing about their successes and their achievements. Claims will be made suggesting that they should be revered and allowed to succeed at all costs since they deserve it. This is the entitled nature of the narcissist arriving front and center.

7) They will identify a host of other people to blame for the situation, in this case the Democrats. No one is safe from becoming the scapegoat, as they don’t perceive that anyone other than they themself along with their reputation and image, are important. They often have the perception that others are there to not just serve them, but to serve as cannon fodder when necessary, expecting them to sacrifice themselves on behalf of the narcissist.

The narcissist will never take responsibility for any part of their downfall. This would imply that they were less than perfect. A narcissists self-concept is so fragile that even accepting that they made a small mistake is out of the question since it would start a collapse of their internal self with other aspects of their life achievements being called into question.

8) Their lies and gaslighting techniques increase exponentially the more likely it is that defeat is unavoidable. When they become desperate, grasping that their chance of winning is slipping away, their claims may become bizarre and fantastical as they begin to spin out of control.

9) Once they can no longer repress the unavoidable failure they will devolve into toxic rage, blaming everyone and anyone for their loss in order to protect their fragile self-ego from having to accept that any part of their defeat was their doing. This can be when things become truly dangerous.

The phase we may be entering into in the next few days with Trump and his contesting the election becomes far darker and scarier, than anything that we have seen thus far.

1) When it becomes clear that the narcissist is going to be brought down, they will seek to bring everyone else around them down to vindictively make them suffer. Other people’s pain is vital to the malignant narcissist. It is their way of elevating themselves above other’s by malevolently paying back society with even more suffering. Given their sense of entitlement, they feel that this is just putting things right.

2) The closer the end becomes, the more important the suffering of others is to the malignant narcissist. Even on good days they need people they can tear down so they feel superior in comparison. Because they are unable to establish the persona they want through their own accomplishments and ability to relate to others, the image they go to such pains to create is all they have. They take comfort in others suffering since in comparison the narcissist feels as if he is handling things perfectly.

They love that they are able to keep their entire social circle on edge as the members fearfully wonder what other malevolence the narcissist will employ and how it will affect them and their families. Worrying over when the other shoe will drop adds to the daily stress these individuals already are struggling with and makes it worse by adding a component of dread regarding what may happen next.

3) As the end approaches and it becomes increasingly clear that Trump has practically no options left, he is beginning to lash out in ways that are both petty and dangerous. Though he is aware that it is practically impossible for him to overturn the election results, he still refuses to concede. Though he is in the wrong, he is using is self-proclaimed win to withhold money, COVID 19 updates and security briefs from Biden’s team. He in also engaging in other actions that are putting the country in jeopardy. For example, Trump fired Secretary of Defense Mark Esper for failing to agree with him about the appropriateness of deploying the military to strong arm protesters into not going against him.

A Little Help From His Friends

Trump could not have pulled all of this off however without help. This is the main reason he can hold onto the assertion that he was elected to serve a second term. There are many others in the GOP who let him do whatever he wants without repercussions. If they all stood up against him, this contest would have ended on Saturday. But they are either too cowed by him or fear what he may do if they say no.

Like many other narcissists, Trump employs a large number of flying monkeys who are willing to act on his behalf by publicly supporting his efforts, no matter how ridiculous, maligning his enemies, and remaining loyal to a fault even when the country is starting to come apart at the seams.

Other Republicans aren’t actively involved in the President’s drama but are supporting him in a complicit manner by remaining silent and never rebuking him when he abuses the responsibilities of his office. This further encourages him to act however he wants or say whatever he wants without worrying about getting in trouble for it. His henchmen take to the podium, misdirecting and establishing a fabricated course of the events, even sometimes going on the attack to divert attention from the issue at hand. They’ve been taught well.

After the Dust Settles

When he leaves the White House, that will not likely be the last we see of him or of his efforts to punish those he sees as responsible, attempts to continue controlling and running the GOP or trying to regain the presidency in 2024 by trying to ruin Biden’s presidency any way he can.

An article in the Federalist has made a series of suggestions to help Trump burn the place to the ground on his way out.

• Release all "Spygate" documents immediately

• Pardon Russiagate victims like Mike Flynn

• Fire FBI Director Christopher Wray

• Have every political appointee start taking the names of disloyal and "corrupt" federal employees,

• Publish all internal deliberation about COVID-19 response among federal agencies and taskforces

• Fire Dr. Anthony Fauci

• Release all government documents regarding potential Biden appointees and staff,

• Publish all information about a COVID-19 vaccine

• Release all alleged information about "Planned Parenthood trafficking in human body parts,"

• Accelerate the wall, prepare for caravans and send armed militias to patrol

• Prepare All Election Lawsuit Documents for Release ASAP

• Bring all overseas troops home by Christmas, which would be nice.

The recommendation is for a “skunkworks” team that would come up with as many political land mines as possible for the Biden administration to find later on if the Republicans are forced from the White House. It is scary that a group of people took this much time to consider how Trump can lay waste to the political landscape

Conclusions and Takeaway

Donald Trump not only can’t concede, he can’t even allow himself to think that this course of action might be a possibility. Being rejected by the American people would be intolerable to him. It would force him to accept that he is not the best at everything he does, that the country has ousted him from what he views as his rightful place, running and controlling the country ultimately for his own power and to fulfill his own desires.

He would have to allow for the possibility that he has been beaten by those he considers inferior to him. All of this would expose his vulnerable, hidden self, which he has grown to believe he could never survive. So, it seems unlikely he will ever formally concede, instead perhaps making a statement about how he won the election which everyone knows but will step down for the wellbeing of the country. In line with what you see in malignant narcissists, he will likely try to take the rest of the country down with him.

If a malignant narcissist has no choice but to accept defeat, he will still find a way to avoid doing so even if just by a technicality in other people’s eyes. He may say that he made the decision to end things, or continue to blame anyone else but himself. One thing is for certain, he will do everything in his power to stay in the public eye, in a high-profile position, that involves controlling a large number of people willing to follow him. It is also not out of the question that he will continue to punish those he feels prevented him from winning.

The best thing we can do is speak out and not allow Trump or anyone else with similar tendencies to gain control of our lives when we know they will just turn them into their own sandbox. It’s up to us to do our own due diligence and never take everything someone says at face value.

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About the Creator

Natalie Frank, Ph.D

Psychologist by training, writer by choice. Managing Editor (Serials, Novellas) LVP Press. Behavioral health & other topics; fiction & poetry. Other articles: Medium, Hubpages. My first volume of poetry, Disguised I Breath, In Love I Hold.

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