Mental Health Experts Say It’s Time for an ‘Involuntary Psychiatric Hold’
Before the nation could recover from Donald Trump’s violent insurrection at the Capitol, a QAnon propaganda video calling for a “great reawakening” in the U.S. ahead of the coming Jan. 20 inauguration was posted—seemingly inciting more violence before it was taken down. A string of social media platforms have banned Donald Trump and his hateful followers.
But will this be sufficient to stop him from being a danger?
No. The assault on an entire branch of government, both physically and metaphorically, now no longer allows us to dismiss Trump’s pathology as mere idiosyncrasies, just “Trump being Trump,” or his being little more than a “jerk”. He is exhibiting serious symptoms that pose a profound danger to society. Seeing him as “merely” a brutish and bad politician may seem to work for a while, but does not explain the intense emotional responses Donald Trump arouses from his followers.
The assault on an entire branch of government now no longer allows us to dismiss Trump’s pathology as mere idiosyncrasies.
By what mechanism do they abandon all reason in such strong attachment to him, that they would unquestioningly adopt his false beliefs, commit crimes, physically attack police officers, threaten the lives of members of Congress, and ransack the People’s House in response to him? That for a man who, after telling his followers, “I’ll be there with you,” got into a bullet-proof limousine and returned to the White House, where he held a watch party of the violent insurrection on television.
Mental pathology defies the imagination and does not make rational sense to most persons who are untrained in it and do not deal with it on a daily basis. When people wonder how Donald Trump controls the emotions of his followers, “unconscious” mechanisms are dominant. What is not commonly known is that, according to brain scientists, over 95% of mental activity is unconscious. When the conscious, highest-functioning part of the mind is impaired, “the primitive brain” takes over greater control, operating on a relentless, often violent, survival mode.
The regressed, injured child in Donald Trump speaks unconsciously to the regressed, injured children in his followers. They likely have legitimate, ”archaic” grievances, which are grievances going back to the earliest stages of their infancy and early childhood, and now, in the present moment, those grievances are symbolized in the political situation. They feel wronged, as if something had been “stolen” from them, and their voice, their honor, and the respect they feel they deserve are at stake.
Donald Trump frequently speaks in generalities, and his listeners fill in the blanks about what he means, how he feels, and what they are supposed to do for him. As president, he does not have to give direct orders for his followers to understand what they are supposed to do, including attack, kidnap, and possibly even kill. He can be a terrorist by means of proxy through his words. Charging his followers to “liberate” the economy, Trump sent them to extort governors in the same manner that Henry II once dispatched a group of knights after his target by merely suggesting: “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?” Direct orders are unnecessary.
When Donald Trump strengthens his position of parental omnipotence, which he does when he suggests: “we’ve taken care of things. We’ve done things like nobody’s ever thought possible.” Anyone else “should not be in there, and our country will be destroyed.” In an infantile attachment for their own security, their sense of self is a mirror reflection of his. His needs are their needs, and his perspective theirs; and they live to please him, which is why they would also give their lives for him.
Pelosi as Mother Figure
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), on the other hand, could be experienced as the “bad mother,” the disinterested, unempathic mother who does not respond to their emotional needs and does not care about them, no matter her actual policies or sentiments. Vice President Mike Pence could symbolize the preoccupied, villainous figure who has failed to support the legitimacy of their surrogate self, which is Donald Trump and is now the target of their retribution.
German Chancellor Adolf Hitler did the same thing, according to Polish-Swiss psychologist Alice Miller. He was horribly abused as a child, beaten daily by his father and unprotected by his mother. The German people were largely raised the same way, which gave him a ready audience that grabbed onto his permission for their rage and pain, as well as a self-righteous attitude.
Seeking Daddy Approval
Donald Trump’s insurrectionists similarly seek daddy’s approval and protection. The out-and-out fascist symbolism, physical brutality, and Nazi-type T-shirts saying, “Camp Auschwitz” and “6MWE” (which stands for “six million weren’t enough”)—as well as a gallows and other hangman’s ropes—show that they resonate with this type of psychological “activation”.
We are not used to talking about unconscious processes in everyday life, but to analysts of the mind, they are a highly useful concept. They help explain disorders of arrested development, as well as the collective “regression” that arises in times of socio-economic and political distress, when these characteristics may temporarily become very prominent in a population.
How will Donald Trump’s followers respond in his absence from social media? As the separation brings them closer to the reality of his imperfections, and the deprivation causes them distress, there will likely respond angrily and defensively. He, too, will be fighting for his lifeline and, without proper containment, may find a way to reach his followers and to give them another message for violent upheaval. Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, could become another day of great danger.
Our urgent recommendation is that demands for resignation, impeachment, and 25th Amendment hearings all happen simultaneously and forcefully while ensuring guardrails. If proper guardrails cannot be arranged, an involuntary psychiatric hold for immediate evaluation is highly recommended. He is likely to suffer acute deterioration of his mental state and impulse control over the next hours and days, and hospitalization will prevent him from directing another episode of group violence or abusing his other vast presidential powers. The safety of our nation and the world may be at stake.