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What's the psychological issue name of fear of people?

What's the psychological issue name of fear of people?


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With the issue of being afraid of doing anything before people, one has to work hard on self control to prevent the body shaking on every tiny action, like hold a pen, drink water, etc, and when there's many people looking at him/her, it becomes almost impossible to hold shaking, to speak normally, or to think. This person is subconsciously in fear of people unhappy(?) with his actions, even though he knows there's nothing wrong with his behavior.

Is this a typical case in Psychology? Is there a name for it?

Scenario for some background information

his mother died when he was very young, his father don't like him, never talked to him except call everyone dinner, never smiled to him, never spent time with him, never gave any recognition even he got full marks, curse and beat him on whatever excuse when not in good mood.

He lived in a room with a big window in the wall next to the living room(a request for curtain was rejected), he had no idea why father dissatisfied with him (he's always one of the best in his class during student period and never asked for anything from his father, if exclude care), but been used to keep an ear out on his father all the time when at home, for whenever his father step into the living room where he would be seen through the window, he could sit as straight as he can before his desk and try not to move a bit, he didn't want to give him any excuse to curse, to beat.


The general symptoms (NOT the background scenario) may point to a psychological disorter called social phobia :

Social anxiety disorder (SAD), also known as social phobia, is an anxiety disorder characterized by a significant amount of fear in one or more social situations, causing considerable distress and impaired ability to function in at least some parts of daily life.

Physical symptoms often include excessive blushing, excess sweating, trembling, palpitations, and nausea. Stammering may be present, along with rapid speech.

The first line treatment for social anxiety disorder is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)… The cognitive and behavioral components seek to change thought patterns and physical reactions to anxiety-inducing situations… Prescribed medications include several classes of antidepressants: selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)

It is the most common anxiety disorder with up to 10% of people being affected at some point in their life


Experts explain the 4 main psychological factors that drive Trump's rabid fan base

A looming question in today’s political climate is: Why do Donald Trump’s devotees continue to support him despite the carnage of his well-documented failures? Although we are in the middle of a deadly pandemic that is surging and not contained, Trump seems to maintain a base support of 35% to 40%. What are the psychological factors that influence or underpin his supporters’ attraction to him? And might this provide some perspective on how to change these supporters’ minds?

Multiple psychological factors seem to influence and explain his supporters. We have divided these factors into four major categories: Rebelliousness and Chaos Shared Irrationality Fear and Safety and Order.

Rebelliousness and Chaos

Some Trump supporters have a strong desire for rebelliousness and chaos, and view Trump as the perfect vehicle for achieving their personal goals. These supporters tend to become “anti-establishment and anti-government,” even when it is against their best interest. Many are unhappy with their station in life and believe chaos in the political system will bring them important gains. They seek immediate and sweeping changes and believe a rebellious attitude and rebellious behavior are what is necessary. They would rather have chaos, even dangerously or regressively so, than the status quo.

These supporters believe in Trump’s professed anger and rebelliousness, while often ignoring the content of the issues at hand. Trump’s talk of “draining the swamp” and of eschewing “political correctness” is attractive to them. They react emotionally and irrationally in embracing Trump’s decisions to create chaos, such as by sending federal troops into American cities to provoke hostile conflict with protestors. They enjoy and thrive upon Trump disavowing norms, rules, and laws. Rebelliousness and chaos can be a major psychological influence, but it can have serious negative consequences such as undermining the chance for real change.

Shared Irrationality

The Dunning-Kruger effect. Some people are under-informed and misinformed and are completely unaware of their lack of information. They tend to overestimate their level of knowledge and hold onto that position. They develop “illusory superiority” from their inability to recognize their true lack of knowledge. In other words, some people think they know more than they do and hold firmly to their opinions. These people are resistant to change their political thinking because they believe they are the knowledgeable ones. Trump and some of his supporters have this psychological phenomenon in common they are unable to remedy their own limitations of knowledge and their inaccurate thinking.

Magical thinking. This is the belief that one’s thoughts, feelings, ideas, or words can bring about effects in the world. Or, similarly, that one’s thoughts, feelings, ideas, or words can cause something to happen. Magical thinking presumes a causal link between one’s internal, personal experience and the external physical world. This often emerges from an inability to distinguish fully between emotions and logical thoughts. Relying totally on emotion or “gut reactions” results in magical thinking. Trump engages in magical thinking almost constantly. This is especially dangerous regarding the pandemic: “It will disappear very quickly,” “We have it under control,” “We may have some embers or some ashes…” Many supporters engage in magical thinking and are encouraged and validated by Trump, leading them to align strongly with him.

Obsession with celebrity. Some people are obsessed with celebrities and reality television. Trump entertains them and amuses them. Some supporters are always waiting to see what outrageous thing he says or does next. These supporters are happy as long as they are being entertained by him. They act as if life is a “game” or a “show” that is somehow disconnected from the difficult realities of everyday life, but it is not.

Shared omnipotence. This is a fantasy based in childhood experiences during our earliest years–due to our complete dependency upon parenting persons–that if one can find the “right” leader, then everyone can live harmoniously together forever. While this dynamic is often seen in romantic relationships, especially during the early infatuation period, this exact same dynamic can be seen in political relationships as well. In this case, some people believe that Trump is the “right” leader who can take them to a place of harmony and never-ending happiness and success. This is an infantile fantasy that is unrealistic and unachievable because it is not rooted in the real world of adult life. Even so, a childhood fantasy can be intense and not easily given up.

Brain reactivity to threats. Research shows that some people have an exaggerated fear response to threats. When presented with specific perceived threats–immigrants, democrats, protestors, socialism–conservatives’ brains light up in activity and experience a need to seek safety. Trump actively encourages his supporters to experience exaggerated fear responses, such that their brains remain energized.

Fear mongering. Terror management theory explains why fear mongering works. When people are reminded of their mortality, which happens with fear mongering, they reflexively defend those who share their world view and their natural and ethnic identity. Tribal identification is an outgrowth of fear mongering. Racism and bigotry are related to fear. Trump appeals to racist and bigoted supporters when he calls Muslims “dangerous” and Mexican immigrants “rapists and murderers.” This fear mongering by Trump is aimed at supporters who are vulnerable to racist and bigoted thinking because it fits with their world view. Another major fear among Trump supporters is falling behind financially and losing the economic capacity to control their lives and protect themselves. A third major fear among Trump supporters is of socialism and believing that capitalism is being threatened and even destroyed. Trump is very adept at focusing on these specific fears among his supporters, using key words and names to trigger and stoke their emotional concerns. Trump supporters believe that he is capable of protecting them from their fears. And when they feel protected, they overlook his offensive and outlandish behavior.

Conspiracy theories. Certain people are attracted to conspiracy theories because of their vulnerable personalities and even by mental illness. Life is complex and perplexing and at times dangerous. It is not simple or safe. Research shows that feelings of anxiety make people think more conspiratorially. A conspiracy theory can provide comfort by identifying a convenient scapegoat and thereby making the world seem much more straightforward and controllable. Fantasies that remove fear and doubt can be especially attractive, even if they are unrealistic and irrational. People who believe in conspiracy theories are more likely to overestimate the likelihood of co-occurring events, to attribute intentionality where it is unlikely to exist, and to have lower levels of critical thinking. Trump has voiced many conspiracy theories: Spygate, Obamagate, Deep state, Trump Tower wiretapping, and others.

Security and Order

Social dominance orientation. People who score high on social dominance orientation prefer an established societal hierarchy. They are attracted to Trump because he promotes and normalizes the belief that high-status people and groups should be dominant over low-status people and groups. Trump’s clear distinction between groups on top of society (Whites) and those “losers” on the bottom (immigrants, Blacks, and Latinos) is a classic social dominance view. Individuals who are high on social dominance orientation are typically domineering, tough-minded, disagreeable, and relatively uncaring seekers of power. As such, these individuals have an attraction to authoritarianism.

Authoritarianism. Several traits characterize authoritarianism: deference to authority, aggression toward outgroups, a hierarchical view of the world, and the belief that the world is dangerous and threatening. Some people believe in having an authoritarian leader because they feel protected and safe by a strong, powerful presence. Trump’s authoritarian leanings are highly attractive to these supporters. Interestingly, research studies have shown the joint power of authoritarianism and social dominance orientation to predict far-right-wing voting in the United States and Europe.

How To Change Supporters’ Minds

Based on our understanding of these psychological influences, each Trump supporter must be considered individually. Not all supporters are connected to Trump in the same way or for the same psychological reasons. For each Trump supporter, an individual assessment is required as to whether it might be best to address rebelliousness and chaos shared irrationality fear and/or security and order. Rational arguments aimed at each of these categories, separately or in some combination, might be most effective.

Trump supporters are tied to him based on multiple and complex psychological principles and phenomena. To continue to respond to them as if they are psychotic or evil is a grave mistake and will not lead to change. Identifying the category or categories of psychological influence for each person can be a much more productive strategy.

There are three months to go before our presidential election. Let us use this time to focus our energies on changing minds based on an understanding of psychology. Name-calling and dismissive statements will not work. Lumping all supporters together will not work. Psychology holds the answer.

Alan D. Blotcky, PhD, is a clinical psychologist in Birmingham, Alabama.

David M. Reiss, MD, is a psychiatrist in Rancho Santa Fe, California.


What's the psychological issue name of fear of people? - Psychology

In psychology, personality refers to the pattern of thoughts, feelings and behaviors, consistently exhibited by an individual over a long period of time, that strongly influences the way that individual perceives the world and himself/herself. Personality is a complex combination of traits and characteristics that determines our expectations, self-perceptions, values and attitudes, and predicts our reactions to people, problems and stress. Personality is not just who we are, it is also how we are.

We all have personality traits and characteristics, although psychologists differ in the number of personality characteristics that appear to be distinct and unique. The degree to which we exhibit a specific personality trait varies from person to person. Some personality traits have biological roots, but all are influenced by our environment, especially our family relationships. Consequently, the millions of possible combinations of personality traits, in varying degrees, accounts for the unique individuality we all possess, but the relatively small number of different personality traits also explains why there are so many similarities between groups of people.

Possession of a personality trait found in a personality disorder does not mean that you have a personality disorder. We possess many traits in common with others, but we are all different. A personality disorder refers to a pattern of thoughts, feelings and behavior, consistently exhibited by an individual over a long period of time, that is maladaptive because it creates psychological distress and life coping problems , rather than assisting with life adjustment and problem solving.

The DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition) defines a personality disorder as "an enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectations of the individual's culture, is pervasive and inflexible, has an onset in adolescence or early adulthood, is stable over time, and leads to distress and impairment." Personally, I think my definition is easier to understand, although they both say essentially the same thing.

The DSM-IV currently lists 10 distinct personality disorders, plus an additional category of personality disorder not otherwise specified (just in case anyone was left out). I will not describe all 10 personality disorders, but I will present some information on several personality disorders.

The following is a list of personality disorders. Information is available on the highlighted personality disorders. As we expand, we will provide information on the other personality disorders:

  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder
  • Paranoid Personality Disorder
  • Schizoid Personality Disorder
  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder
  • Histrionic Personality Disorder
  • Avoidant Personality Disorder
  • Dependent Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder - This personality disorder is identified by tremendous instability, especially in relationships and in mood. There is an intense fear of abandonment, and the individual makes constant efforts to avoid abandonment. However, the intense mood swings, especially the expression of anger, actually encourage abandonment because it is difficult for others to tolerate a relationship with an individual with a borderline personality disorder. One minute you are the most wonderful person on earth, the next minute you are compared to Attilla the Hun. These individuals often make many suicide gestures, and frequently engage in self-multilation. They are extremely impulsive, and engage in many self-defeating behaviors.

Approximately 2 percent of the population may have borderline personality disorder The essential feature is a history of long term unstable relationships and intense mood swings, especially anger. The relationship problems make it difficult to treat individuals with this problem, and treatment is usually long term, perhaps lifelong.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder - An individual with this disorder is in love with himself/herself, and has little positive regard for others other than in a superficial manner. They tend to be grandiose in how they present themselves, and tend to demand admiration from others.They believe they are special and deserve special treatment, regardless of the problems this creates for others. They readily take advantage of others, and tend to be quite arrogant. In actuality, they are very sensitive, and tend to not be able to tolerate any criticism or negative feedback. They usually seek treatment because they are frustrated in getting what they want. However, they often do not seek treatment, because they perceive everyone else as causing the problems, not themselves.

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder - This individual is a perfectionist, and obsesses about details to the point of following rules for the sake of the rules. They are extremely inflexible. Their quest for perfection usually slows progress toward goals because they tend to re-do things forever, without ever completing anything. They are overconscientious at work, but tend to not have many relationships. They are extremely rigid in terms of morals and values, to a degree not expected by their religious background. Their perfectionism prevents them from delegating tasks to others, so they tend to get bogged down in details, and become overwhelmed. At times, they are afraid to throw anything away, for fear they may need it someday, and they are sometimes true penny pinchers. They often have difficulty making decisions, because of fear of making a mistake.

This disorder should not be confused with conscientious behavior, attention to detail, and a desire to do a good job. It should also not be confused with normal conservative morals and values, and a desire to save money for the future. These are all positive characteristics that actually assist an individual in coping with the world. Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder is a condition in which these traits are severely exaggerated to the point of becoming negative. (An example of too much of a good thing!).


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Cult leaders: What makes people like David Koresh so successful at getting people to follow them?

On 19 April 1993, David Koresh, leader of the destructive Branch Davidians cult, died after a 51-day FBI siege of the ranch he and his followers were occupying, near the town of Waco, Texas. Seventy-nine people, including children, also lost their life when the place was burnt down. The FBI had been suspecting the cult – a breakaway group from the Seventh-Day Adventist church – of hiding weapons on the compound, and sexually abusing many of its youngest members.

This episode, known as the "Waco siege", remains one of the most dramatic manifestations of what can happen when a dangerous personality takes the leadership of a group, and converts its members to an extreme ideology (see box at the end for a full definition of a "cult").

Twenty-three years on, David Koresh's name is still associated with one of the most destructive and criminal cult leaders in history. But a question remains: what was so special about Koresh that hundreds of people decided to follow him?

Who are cult leaders?

Portrait of David Koresh Credit McLennan County Sheriff's Office

The psychology of individuals like Koresh and the mechanisms by which they draw followers in has fascinated sociologists and psychologists alike for many years.

No cult leader has ever submitted to in-depth psychotherapy, so establishing a clinically-accurate psychological profile of these men and women is a difficult task. Yet, listening to the testimonies of cult victims and studying the writings of cult leaders can provide an interesting – and sometimes chilling – insight into their minds.

"The rejection of scrutiny is the first characteristic of a cult and of its leader. They do not like to be examined, and are convinced nothing is wrong with them. In their mind, it is the rest of the world who has a problem. In that context, the only thing you can do is analyse their behaviours by interviewing their victims", former FBI agent and human behaviour expert Joe Navarro told IBTimes UK.

'Pathologically narcissistic'

Based on their work with victims, most experts coincide in saying cult leaders share a number of psychological traits that are typical of a narcissistic personality disorder, as defined the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual, the leading psychology textbook reference in the US.

David Berg considered himself as a prophet, above his followers. davidberg.org

"Obviously this does not mean that all narcissistic personalities will turn out to be cult leaders, nor that all leaders classify as narcissists, but there are clear indications that they do have characteristics in common," says Robert Pardon, director of the New England Institute of Religious Research.

In particular, cult leaders believe they are unique beings. David Berg, the leader of the Family International (previously Children Of God), a cult still in existence, was known under the name Moses David. He was considered as a spiritual leader by his followers, a sort of prophet showing them the way.

As a result of this "uniqueness", leaders think they are entitled to more privileges. Some of the Waco siege survivors alleged Koresh was the only man allowed to have sex with the girls in the group , including some as young as 11.

These individuals lack empathy, but they have a strong need for admiration. "This pathological tendency to narcissism does not imply 'self-love'. Rather it means that these people overvalue themselves at the same times as they devalue others", Navarro says.

Their certitude of being above everyone else exists only insofar as they are surrounded and adulated. "Cult leaders have no sense of who they are. They build their identity based on the admiration and the fear that people reflect back to them", Pardon explains.

The 'charming predator'

Cult leaders may also display antisocial personality disorder traits, which include a form of psychopathy. Perhaps the most unsettling characteristic of cult leaders – which comes back over and over in victims' account – is that they are both charismatic and authoritarian. The cult leader is a sort of "charming predator", with an ability to draw people in.

"The cult leader has a certain degree of interpersonal intelligence which pulls people into his orbit. While he is not able to reflect on his own psychological state, he understands the state of his victims, listens to them and uses it to control them", says Dr Alexandra Stein, who specialises in social psychology of ideological extremism, and is herself a former cult member.

Once the victims are isolated from everyone they knew, the effort to charm them fades, replaced by a form of coercive control, where the leader shows signs of his authoritarian nature. V iolence is rarely needed to control the followers, this combination of natural charisma and authoritarianism are enough. In that sense, Stein says totalitarian regimes were not unlike cults, and leaders like Hitler shared many characteristics with cult leaders.

A mirror of the leader's personality

Whether it is large organisation or a small group of individuals, the cult is often a reflect of the leader's personality. Cult leaders cultivate secrecy, a desire to isolate followers and have a constant tendency to lie. These practices are found at all levels of the organisation.

A sign welcomes visitors to what is left of the Branch Davidian compound outside Waco, Texas, March 14, 2000. The sign still stands as it was left after the final raid by federal agents on April 19, 1993. The cult cultivates secrecy and isolates its members. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Stein herself never met the leader of the cult she was trapped in, but his presence and his destructive influence was felt nevertheless. His authoritarianism, his control and his sense of grandiosity ended being replicated by other individuals in the cult's hierarchy.

"It is very hard to get a straight story from a cult leader because they lie a lot. On top of that they see people as dispensable, as either against them or with them. They see the world in terms of absolutes, and believe their ideology is the only answer to everything", she concludes. "Recognising this and understanding that these personality traits are the reason why a cult is the way it is is the first step to prevent people from joining it."

What is a cult?

What do we mean when we say "cult"?

They are a lot of opinions on the matter. "Some people take the question really personally. Christianity was originally thought of as a cult", Joe Navarro points out. He however says that secrecy and the fact they reject scrutiny are a good place to start defining what a cult is.

Alexandra Stein has come up with a comprehensive definition, which includes a number of elements people should watch out for to make sure they are not being drawn in a cult. The personality of the leader is the place to start, as it can tell a lot about whether the group is dangerous or not. She says looking at whether the structure is very closed, isolating and hierarchical is the next step.

The form of the ideology should also be considered to define a cult. If it is presented as the only answer to explain the universe, past and present, then it's worth considering the group as a cult.

A process of "brain washing" or "coercive persuasion" is also typical of a cult. During this process, the leader sets up an environment wherethe only perceived safe place is the group, but paradoxically it is also the source of threat . "If a group or an individual tries to isolate you from all your previous relationships, you can start worrying", Stein says.

Finally, she explains that what characterizes a cult is that as a result of this structure, ideology and process followers become highly dependent on the group and exploitable, they always acting in the interest of the cult, never in their own.

In this article, the word cult was used for groups - religious or not - which display these different characteristics.


A Take-Home Message

There are several mental health theories, but they all come from one of five schools of thought. They are behaviorism, biological, psychodynamic, cognitive, and humanistic.

In recent years, there has been a move toward studying how people flourish. This is positive psychology. Unlike previous years, this field of research explores what humans already do well. Doing this type of research helps others to increase their opportunities to thrive.

If you seek the help of a therapist or counselor, it is important to know the basis for their approach. You do not want to see a behavioral psychologist to flesh out how you can find meaning in your life. They are better suited for helping you change, develop, or extinguish a habit.

The continued study of mental health, including the more positive aspects, is critical to each person’s well-being.

What are you doing today to flourish in your life?

If you enjoyed reading about mental health theories, why not head on over to mental health books for even more reading material.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our 3 Positive Psychology Exercises for free .

If you wish for more, our Positive Psychology Toolkit© contains over 300 science-based positive psychology exercises, interventions, questionnaires and assessments for practitioners to use in their therapy, coaching or workplace.


The Psychology of Dictators: Power, Fear, and Anxiety

Mao Zedong addresses a group of workers. He survived assassination attempts which may have given rise to anxiety and paranoia.

Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong (or Tse-tung), Josef Stalin, Pol Pot &ndash names such as these haunt our cultural imaginations. These men were, by all available accounts, totalitarian dictators, who sought to maintain complete control over their respective governments and populations through radical methods, including the systematic murder and imprisonment of all who stood against them 1-4 . In some cases, the terror they wielded helped them maintain power for years and emblazoned their names into our history books forever. Each of the names listed above is responsible for more than a million deaths, and even those citizens who were fortunate to have survived their reign lived in persistent fear of death, forced labor, or torture.

Dictatorial leaders such as these represent the extreme potential of the human capacity for evil, and yet, despite their apparent omnipotence within their individual spheres of power, these individuals also tended to suffer from excessive anxiety &ndash mostly regarding paranoid fears of citizen uprising and/or assassination. For example:

    • Saddam Hussein displayed a level of paranoia so great that he had multiple meals prepared for him across the Iraqi land each day to ensure that no one knew where he was eating. He even went as far as to employ surgically altered body doubles 5 .
    • Kim Jong-il, the former leader of North Korea and the father of current leader Kim Jong-un, exhibited such an excessive fear of assassination while flying that he exclusively traveled via an armor-plated train 6 , including when he traveled as far as Moscow 7 .
    • Than Shwe, a Burmese dictator, was so concerned about the tenuous nature of his rule that he once moved the capital of Burma to a remote location in the jungle without running water or electricity an extreme tactic that was spurred on by the advice of his personal astrologer 8 .

    Power and Fear

    In each of these dictatorial examples, men who sought to rule with an iron fist appeared to also behave in a manner driven by a hidden, extreme, and sometimes irrational fear of what fate might befall them.

    This behavior does not seem to align with what we know of dictators. Not only do such individuals wield far-reaching, real-world power, a large number of these individuals also maintained a cultural and political environment that fed grand delusions regarding their self-importance. For instance, Saddam Hussein thought of himself as the savior of the Iraqi people 5 . Muammar Gaddafi once had himself crowned the "King of Kings" of Africa 9 , and the North Korean Kim line of succession proclaimed themselves to be almost god-like 10 . Why would individuals who are so confident in their power have such severe anxiety?

    One explanation is that many of these individuals were actually under constant threat of assassination. For instance, a former bodyguard to Fidel Castro said that he was aware of 638 separate attempts made on the leader's life, some of which were orchestrated by the CIA 8 . Mao Zedong survived an assassination attempt, plotted by high ranking officers within his own military 11 , and Saddam Hussein's own sons-in-law once attempted to kill his eldest son 5 . With such real and present threats, even from trusted allies, some sense of paranoia might be warranted.

    Given the extremity of many dictators' fears, though, further explanation is warranted. An additional explanation of their behavioral patterns might be rooted in their individual personalities. Colloquially speaking, people often use "personality" as a synonym of how interesting a person appears to be in the eyes of onlookers, both within and from outside their respective sphere of influence. For instance, we might say that a loud comedian has "a lot of personality," whereas we might describe someone we view as boring and quiet as "lacking personality 12 ." In the psychological literature, though, personality is defined as the "enduring patterns of thinking and behavior that define the person and distinguish him or her from other people 13 ." In other words, your personality is what makes you distinct from those around you. In studying personality, psychologists can examine common traits across people and note how these traits may interact to predict behavior. In so doing, researchers can develop a better understanding of why people behave the way they do over the course of many years.

    Narcissism Is A Consistent Trait

    With regard to dictators, one particular trait that consistently stands out as relevant is narcissism. Narcissistic individuals have a "greatly exaggerated sense of their own importance" and are "preoccupied with their own achievements and abilities 13 ." They see themselves as "very special" people, deserving of admiration and, consequently, have difficulty empathizing with the feelings and needs of others.

    When narcissism becomes extreme to the point that it:

      • interferes with daily life
      • appears to be unusual as compared to others within a society, or
      • permeates multiple areas of an individual's life &hellip

      &hellip that individual may be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, which is defined by a:

        • "pervasive pattern of grandiosity"
        • "need for admiration" and
        • "lack of empathy 14 ."

        These individuals are "preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success" and "power." They believe they are unique and can only be associated with others of equally high status. Furthermore, they require excessive admiration to remain happy, possess an extreme sense of entitlement, exploit others, and are often envious of others.

        Vindictiveness Is Common

        Descriptions of narcissistic personality disorder seem reminiscent of what we know of dictators. Not only do dictators commonly show a "pervasive pattern of grandiosity," they also tend to behave with a vindictiveness often observed in narcissistic personality disorder. For instance, in now famous psychological experiments, researchers found that highly narcissistic individuals were more likely to try to punish those individuals who negatively evaluated their work, even when the narcissistic person believed they were administering painful electric shocks 15-16 . More recent work shows that, after a negative evaluation, narcissistic people will demonstrate greater aggression even to individuals unrelated to the feedback 17 . Such experiments can help us understand the aggressive behavior of dictators, who are known to lash out against negative evaluations 18 .

        Surprisingly, narcissism could also help explain the anxious behavior displayed by dictators. Researchers have identified two forms of narcissism: grandiose narcissism and vulnerable narcissism 19 . Though grandiose narcissism is associated with all that you might expect from a narcissist (e.g., grandiosity and aggression), vulnerable narcissism is associated with an "insecure grandiosity," which seems to produce intense defensiveness and feelings of inadequacy 20 . Such individuals are often described as being "worrying, emotional, defensive, anxious, bitter, tense, and complaining 19 ".

        These components can be so extreme that narcissistic personality disorder can be misdiagnosed as borderline personality disorder, which is associated with high levels of anxiety 14 . The intensity of the emotional experiences produced by narcissism in combination with actual dangers could produce remarkable levels of anxiety, worry, and uncertainty &ndash to the point that one might actually consider moving their entire capital to the middle of a jungle based on the advice of an astrologer 8 .

        Predicting Future Dictators

        Given that the majority of dictators seem to be incredibly narcissistic, could we possibly use that fact to predict individuals who are likely to become dictators? That is, if we know the prominent people in an unstable country, could we predict which of those people are likely to try force their way into power and try to stop them? This question is difficult to answer. First, not all dictators come to power in a similar manner or under similar circumstances. For example, Hitler came to power after an intense propaganda campaign and copious amounts of intimidation and violence on the part of the Nazi Party 21 . Mao Zedong became dictator after serving as a successful military leader throughout a long civil war 22 . Saddam Hussein climbed his way through the Iraqi political system for years until he was able to strong arm his way into power 23 . Finally, Kim Jong-un, who by available accounts, was raised in an extremely privileged, "Western" childhood 24 also went on to exhibit the traits of a dictator.

        Moreover, researchers remain uncertain as to why narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic behaviors emerge. We know that the majority of individuals diagnosed with the disorder are male 14 , and researchers speculate that certain genetic factors and parenting styles may increase the chance that someone develops the disorder. However, further research is necessary to understand whether these factors cause narcissistic personality disorder.

        Combined, these factors make it incredibly difficult to predict which leaders will embody dictatorial tendencies. We simply do not fully understand the contributions of cultural, environmental, or political influences that facilitate the rise of a dictator. However, that does not mean that research into these issues is a fruitless endeavor. By better understanding the sociopolitical contexts that allow dictators to attain and maintain power and further investigating the role of personality, we may one day be able to proactively identify and attenuate dictatorial leadership prior to the emergence of their often horrific actions. In so doing, there would be the potential to save countless lives and stem the tide of years of oppression in many countries.


        Cult leaders: What makes people like David Koresh so successful at getting people to follow them?

        On 19 April 1993, David Koresh, leader of the destructive Branch Davidians cult, died after a 51-day FBI siege of the ranch he and his followers were occupying, near the town of Waco, Texas. Seventy-nine people, including children, also lost their life when the place was burnt down. The FBI had been suspecting the cult – a breakaway group from the Seventh-Day Adventist church – of hiding weapons on the compound, and sexually abusing many of its youngest members.

        This episode, known as the "Waco siege", remains one of the most dramatic manifestations of what can happen when a dangerous personality takes the leadership of a group, and converts its members to an extreme ideology (see box at the end for a full definition of a "cult").

        Twenty-three years on, David Koresh's name is still associated with one of the most destructive and criminal cult leaders in history. But a question remains: what was so special about Koresh that hundreds of people decided to follow him?

        Who are cult leaders?

        Portrait of David Koresh Credit McLennan County Sheriff's Office

        The psychology of individuals like Koresh and the mechanisms by which they draw followers in has fascinated sociologists and psychologists alike for many years.

        No cult leader has ever submitted to in-depth psychotherapy, so establishing a clinically-accurate psychological profile of these men and women is a difficult task. Yet, listening to the testimonies of cult victims and studying the writings of cult leaders can provide an interesting – and sometimes chilling – insight into their minds.

        "The rejection of scrutiny is the first characteristic of a cult and of its leader. They do not like to be examined, and are convinced nothing is wrong with them. In their mind, it is the rest of the world who has a problem. In that context, the only thing you can do is analyse their behaviours by interviewing their victims", former FBI agent and human behaviour expert Joe Navarro told IBTimes UK.

        'Pathologically narcissistic'

        Based on their work with victims, most experts coincide in saying cult leaders share a number of psychological traits that are typical of a narcissistic personality disorder, as defined the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual, the leading psychology textbook reference in the US.

        David Berg considered himself as a prophet, above his followers. davidberg.org

        "Obviously this does not mean that all narcissistic personalities will turn out to be cult leaders, nor that all leaders classify as narcissists, but there are clear indications that they do have characteristics in common," says Robert Pardon, director of the New England Institute of Religious Research.

        In particular, cult leaders believe they are unique beings. David Berg, the leader of the Family International (previously Children Of God), a cult still in existence, was known under the name Moses David. He was considered as a spiritual leader by his followers, a sort of prophet showing them the way.

        As a result of this "uniqueness", leaders think they are entitled to more privileges. Some of the Waco siege survivors alleged Koresh was the only man allowed to have sex with the girls in the group , including some as young as 11.

        These individuals lack empathy, but they have a strong need for admiration. "This pathological tendency to narcissism does not imply 'self-love'. Rather it means that these people overvalue themselves at the same times as they devalue others", Navarro says.

        Their certitude of being above everyone else exists only insofar as they are surrounded and adulated. "Cult leaders have no sense of who they are. They build their identity based on the admiration and the fear that people reflect back to them", Pardon explains.

        The 'charming predator'

        Cult leaders may also display antisocial personality disorder traits, which include a form of psychopathy. Perhaps the most unsettling characteristic of cult leaders – which comes back over and over in victims' account – is that they are both charismatic and authoritarian. The cult leader is a sort of "charming predator", with an ability to draw people in.

        "The cult leader has a certain degree of interpersonal intelligence which pulls people into his orbit. While he is not able to reflect on his own psychological state, he understands the state of his victims, listens to them and uses it to control them", says Dr Alexandra Stein, who specialises in social psychology of ideological extremism, and is herself a former cult member.

        Once the victims are isolated from everyone they knew, the effort to charm them fades, replaced by a form of coercive control, where the leader shows signs of his authoritarian nature. V iolence is rarely needed to control the followers, this combination of natural charisma and authoritarianism are enough. In that sense, Stein says totalitarian regimes were not unlike cults, and leaders like Hitler shared many characteristics with cult leaders.

        A mirror of the leader's personality

        Whether it is large organisation or a small group of individuals, the cult is often a reflect of the leader's personality. Cult leaders cultivate secrecy, a desire to isolate followers and have a constant tendency to lie. These practices are found at all levels of the organisation.

        A sign welcomes visitors to what is left of the Branch Davidian compound outside Waco, Texas, March 14, 2000. The sign still stands as it was left after the final raid by federal agents on April 19, 1993. The cult cultivates secrecy and isolates its members. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

        Stein herself never met the leader of the cult she was trapped in, but his presence and his destructive influence was felt nevertheless. His authoritarianism, his control and his sense of grandiosity ended being replicated by other individuals in the cult's hierarchy.

        "It is very hard to get a straight story from a cult leader because they lie a lot. On top of that they see people as dispensable, as either against them or with them. They see the world in terms of absolutes, and believe their ideology is the only answer to everything", she concludes. "Recognising this and understanding that these personality traits are the reason why a cult is the way it is is the first step to prevent people from joining it."

        What is a cult?

        What do we mean when we say "cult"?

        They are a lot of opinions on the matter. "Some people take the question really personally. Christianity was originally thought of as a cult", Joe Navarro points out. He however says that secrecy and the fact they reject scrutiny are a good place to start defining what a cult is.

        Alexandra Stein has come up with a comprehensive definition, which includes a number of elements people should watch out for to make sure they are not being drawn in a cult. The personality of the leader is the place to start, as it can tell a lot about whether the group is dangerous or not. She says looking at whether the structure is very closed, isolating and hierarchical is the next step.

        The form of the ideology should also be considered to define a cult. If it is presented as the only answer to explain the universe, past and present, then it's worth considering the group as a cult.

        A process of "brain washing" or "coercive persuasion" is also typical of a cult. During this process, the leader sets up an environment wherethe only perceived safe place is the group, but paradoxically it is also the source of threat . "If a group or an individual tries to isolate you from all your previous relationships, you can start worrying", Stein says.

        Finally, she explains that what characterizes a cult is that as a result of this structure, ideology and process followers become highly dependent on the group and exploitable, they always acting in the interest of the cult, never in their own.

        In this article, the word cult was used for groups - religious or not - which display these different characteristics.


        Risk Factors

        Risk factors for a fear of intimacy often stem back to childhood and the inability to securely trust parental figures, which leads to attachment issues. Experiences that may cause this include:

        • Enmeshed families: While enmeshed families may, on the surface, appear to be loving and supportive, boundaries and roles might be blurred and lead to issues with attachment, independence, and intimacy.  
        • Emotional neglect: Parents who are physically but not emotionally available send the message to children that they (and by extension, others) can't be relied on.  
        • Loss of a parent: People who have lost a parent through death, divorce, or imprisonment may be left with feelings of abandonment and may have a harder time forming romantic attachments as adults. Research has found that a fear of abandonment is associated with mental health problems and later anxiety in romantic relationships.  
        • Parental illness: Illness in a parent can result in a feeling of not being able to rely on anyone but oneself, especially when it involves role reversal or the need to "play parent" and care for other siblings at a young age.
        • Parental mental illness: Research suggests that parental mental illness, such as narcissistic personality disorder, can affect attachment formation in children, which may result in insecure attachment and poor coping strategies in adulthood.   : Substance use issues can make it difficult for parents to provide consistent care, which can interfere with the formation of attachments.
        • Physical or sexual abuse: Abuse in childhood can make it difficult to form both emotional and sexual intimacy as an adult.
        • Neglect: People who experienced neglect as children may find it difficult to trust and rely on others, including intimate partners, as adults. : Children who are emotionally abused may grow into adults who fear being ridiculed or verbally abused if they share anything with others, which can lead to an inability to share things and be vulnerable in relationships with other people.

        A fear of intimacy is also more common in people who are taught not to trust strangers, in those who have a history of depression, and in those who have experienced rape.

        Traumatic interactions in relationships outside the nuclear family, such as with a teacher, another relative, or a peer who is a bully, may also contribute.

        In addition, the experiences of relationships during adolescence and adulthood can continue to influence one's openness to intimacy.


        What's the psychological issue name of fear of people? - Psychology

        In psychology, personality refers to the pattern of thoughts, feelings and behaviors, consistently exhibited by an individual over a long period of time, that strongly influences the way that individual perceives the world and himself/herself. Personality is a complex combination of traits and characteristics that determines our expectations, self-perceptions, values and attitudes, and predicts our reactions to people, problems and stress. Personality is not just who we are, it is also how we are.

        We all have personality traits and characteristics, although psychologists differ in the number of personality characteristics that appear to be distinct and unique. The degree to which we exhibit a specific personality trait varies from person to person. Some personality traits have biological roots, but all are influenced by our environment, especially our family relationships. Consequently, the millions of possible combinations of personality traits, in varying degrees, accounts for the unique individuality we all possess, but the relatively small number of different personality traits also explains why there are so many similarities between groups of people.

        Possession of a personality trait found in a personality disorder does not mean that you have a personality disorder. We possess many traits in common with others, but we are all different. A personality disorder refers to a pattern of thoughts, feelings and behavior, consistently exhibited by an individual over a long period of time, that is maladaptive because it creates psychological distress and life coping problems , rather than assisting with life adjustment and problem solving.

        The DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition) defines a personality disorder as "an enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectations of the individual's culture, is pervasive and inflexible, has an onset in adolescence or early adulthood, is stable over time, and leads to distress and impairment." Personally, I think my definition is easier to understand, although they both say essentially the same thing.

        The DSM-IV currently lists 10 distinct personality disorders, plus an additional category of personality disorder not otherwise specified (just in case anyone was left out). I will not describe all 10 personality disorders, but I will present some information on several personality disorders.

        The following is a list of personality disorders. Information is available on the highlighted personality disorders. As we expand, we will provide information on the other personality disorders:

        • Borderline Personality Disorder
        • Narcissistic Personality Disorder
        • Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder
        • Paranoid Personality Disorder
        • Schizoid Personality Disorder
        • Schizotypal Personality Disorder
        • Antisocial Personality Disorder
        • Histrionic Personality Disorder
        • Avoidant Personality Disorder
        • Dependent Personality Disorder

        Borderline Personality Disorder - This personality disorder is identified by tremendous instability, especially in relationships and in mood. There is an intense fear of abandonment, and the individual makes constant efforts to avoid abandonment. However, the intense mood swings, especially the expression of anger, actually encourage abandonment because it is difficult for others to tolerate a relationship with an individual with a borderline personality disorder. One minute you are the most wonderful person on earth, the next minute you are compared to Attilla the Hun. These individuals often make many suicide gestures, and frequently engage in self-multilation. They are extremely impulsive, and engage in many self-defeating behaviors.

        Approximately 2 percent of the population may have borderline personality disorder The essential feature is a history of long term unstable relationships and intense mood swings, especially anger. The relationship problems make it difficult to treat individuals with this problem, and treatment is usually long term, perhaps lifelong.

        Narcissistic Personality Disorder - An individual with this disorder is in love with himself/herself, and has little positive regard for others other than in a superficial manner. They tend to be grandiose in how they present themselves, and tend to demand admiration from others.They believe they are special and deserve special treatment, regardless of the problems this creates for others. They readily take advantage of others, and tend to be quite arrogant. In actuality, they are very sensitive, and tend to not be able to tolerate any criticism or negative feedback. They usually seek treatment because they are frustrated in getting what they want. However, they often do not seek treatment, because they perceive everyone else as causing the problems, not themselves.

        Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder - This individual is a perfectionist, and obsesses about details to the point of following rules for the sake of the rules. They are extremely inflexible. Their quest for perfection usually slows progress toward goals because they tend to re-do things forever, without ever completing anything. They are overconscientious at work, but tend to not have many relationships. They are extremely rigid in terms of morals and values, to a degree not expected by their religious background. Their perfectionism prevents them from delegating tasks to others, so they tend to get bogged down in details, and become overwhelmed. At times, they are afraid to throw anything away, for fear they may need it someday, and they are sometimes true penny pinchers. They often have difficulty making decisions, because of fear of making a mistake.

        This disorder should not be confused with conscientious behavior, attention to detail, and a desire to do a good job. It should also not be confused with normal conservative morals and values, and a desire to save money for the future. These are all positive characteristics that actually assist an individual in coping with the world. Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder is a condition in which these traits are severely exaggerated to the point of becoming negative. (An example of too much of a good thing!).


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        What's the psychological issue name of fear of people? - Psychology

        We have all experienced significant anxiety at one time or another, although perhaps not severe enough to warrant a diagnosis by a professional. Anxiety is a danger or an alert signal. The physiological arousal we experience as anxiety is directly related to fear of harm. When we are faced with a threat to our physical well-being that can result in either serious physical harm or death, we respond psychologically and physically. This response has been called the "fight or flight" response because it activates us to either defend ourselves, or to run away and escape injury. In a life threatening crisis, this fight or flight response can save our lives.

        In our civilized world, we don't encounter genuine threats to our physical safety everyday (unless you count driving in rush hour traffic). Instead, we are faced with problems that complicate our lives. These problems do pose a threat, but usually it is not a physical threat. We may be faced with losing a job, or having our marriage break-up, or maybe our children might fail in school. These may be threats to our well-being, but have more of a psychological impact, than a physical impact. These psychological threats trigger a mild version of the fight or flight response, that we call anxiety. (Except in a panic disorder, when the response is very immediate and severe). Anxiety alerts us to a problem, and motivates us to try to resolve the problem, because we want the anxiety to go away. If we never felt anxious about anything, we would have little motivation to respond to problems, until we were faced with a genuine crisis. Normal anxiety is not a sign of a psychological disturbance, because we all experience it, and it helps us manage out lives by alerting us to problems requiring a response. Anxiety disorders develop when we experience severe anxiety in response to minor or common problems, or when the anxiety never goes away, and actually interferes with our problem solving.

        Anxiety problems are very common. In fact, in the United States, more people visit their physician for anxiety than for coughs and colds. The prevalence of anxiety disorders varies by type, ranging from 1% of the population for some disorders, to as high as 58% of combat veterans experiencing post traumatic stress to some degree. The use of medications for anxiety management is very common, but not effective without psychotherapy. In fact, many anti-anxiety medications produce dependency, and the withdrawal symptoms are often similar to anxiety symptoms. These medications control the symptoms without eliminating the cause for the problem. Psychological treatment focuses on reducing the inappropriate anxiety response, so medication is not necessary.

        You may link to information about the following anxiety disorders:

        • Panic Disorder
        • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
        • Social Anxiety
        • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
        • Agoraphobia
        • Specific Phobias (such as fear of flying, fear of rats, etc.)
        • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder


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        The Effect of Domestic Violence on Children

        Research shows that a child’s development can be adversely affected by domestic abuse. One study conducted by Appel and Holden (1998) even emphasizes a large overlap between households where there is IPV and child abuse. The National Center for PTSD estimates this overlap to be about 40-60%. According to statistics from the NCADV, boys who are exposed to domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their intimate partners and children when they grow up.

        Similarly revealing statistics from the American Bar Association show that girls with a history of physical or sexual abuse were more likely than non-abused girls to engage in risky behavior such as smoking (26% versus 10%), drinking (22% versus 12%), and substance abuse (30% versus 13%). Abused girls were also more likely to binge eat and purge than non-abused girls (32% versus 12%). In another study involving 2,245 children and teenagers, it was highlighted that recent exposure to domestic abuse was a primary factor in predicting future violent behavior. Even children are not directly abused, they are affected by witnessing domestic violence.


        Psychological Research Explains Why People Protest

        Whether it’s the outcome of a sporting event, anger at a perceived injustice, or an active uprising against government, protests are not the mindless mobs often depicted in the media and in movies. Protests are as old as human collective action. And while they may sometimes be unlawful in that action, the causes and intention are very predictable – meaning they could often be prevented if people better understand and acknowledged the psychological roots of collective behavior and crowd theory.

        Experts in social psychology have done extensive work to understand the reasons that people protest, whether they be small and peaceful or large and disorderly. In fact, psychological research investigating and explaining the behaviors of crowds dates back to at least the mid-1800s. What makes a lot of this research so fascinating is the basic understanding that humans tend to prefer the safety and security of status quo. Thus, to join together in public action to fight against the norm - and create collective “disorder” - means that a number of factors have to be in place, uniting independent individuals.

        History has shown us in every corner of the world, time and again that protests are the result of feelings like fear, frustration, and helplessness. And oftentimes it only takes one person to be the tipping point for collective action. But what are key ingredients for building an explosive environment? Here are a few of the emotional, environmental and societal factors that create and exacerbate protests:

        Lack of Trust in Government or Authority: Being taken advantage of or lied to, causes panic and anger. And when these strong, negative emotions combine, there is no greater fuel for a fire. In 2019 it was estimated by Pew Research Center that 2/3 of Americans did not have faith in the government, and that number has continued to erode as 2020 has progressed. In times when people feel they cannot trust those in power over them or there is palpable inequality separating them, they begin to revolt.

        Shared Grievances: People in similar situations, whether they be financial, geographic, political, sexual, racial, or any other uniting factor, have a shared identity and purpose – even if only on one issue. But one uniting factor is all it takes. Because there are almost no emotions worse for humans than those of vulnerability and helplessness, those shared feeling can easily boil over, uniting people. And grievances, are a very strong motivation for mobilization.

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        Shared Intensity: When emotions run high, people make decisions they wouldn’t under “normal” circumstances. These can be good or bad decisions. Unfortunately, in many situations that involve groups of people, anger and frustration can build upon each other, until the collective rage spills over. In some instances, this can look like the reactions of fans during or after a sporting event. In other instances, this can look like the Salem witch trials. It fully depends on how people are able to feed off one another.

        Geographic Proximity: Where one lives, and how close they are to others that share their beliefs greatly sways exposure to and acceptance of ideas and practices. Those next door to you have a more profound impact on you than those you see on tv living in another country. Geography is also a matter of volume. For example, it is much more common to see protests in densely populated areas than rural ones. Spontaneous collective action is easier the more people there are. And, the more people there are, the more likely the exposure to inequality.

        Anonymity: Group behavior and dynamics are driven in many ways on the ability to be recognized. In some instances, people want their names and faces associated with what they believe in. But in many situations, due to fear of persecution, prosecution or retaliation, people will not act individually. However, when a group dynamic emerges, it is much easier to blend in, as well as share risk and disperse responsibility – thereby making it more likely that one is willing to take the risk.

        Efficiency: When doing something alone, it can feel like a waste of time, energy, or money. For example, one small twitter account or one person writing a post online can feel like you’re shouting into a void. But when others begin to shout in unison, the noise becomes louder. And, when messaging is aligned (think hashtag campaigns), whether that be in-person or on-line, louder volume, greater funds, and more people means more time and attention on the issue at hand. Thus, our one small act feels like it carries greater weight and has more significant consequences. Efficiency leads to activation – sometimes called a “contagion effect.”

        Survival Triggers: Adrenaline and stress hormones lead to the fight or flight response. And therefore our human involuntary responses kick in saying we are in survival mode. At this point we have an almost uncontrollable response that either tells us to stand our ground and fight, or turn and run from the danger. But, when we see others standing their ground, it’s much more likely that we will choose to do the same. But in any case, that undeniable human instinct plays a significant role in our immediate decision making.

        Some protests are peaceful. Others are not. And while there is no handbook that can predict how each one will end, the predictability of a protest is well understood by social psychologists. The recipe has a number of ingredients, all of which are current factors in the day-to-day lives of Americans. How each city handles the collective tension, expectations and feelings of its citizenry is yet to be seen. But one thing is for certain, given how many of the characteristics necessary for a protest are happening in real time, much needs to be done – and quickly - to de-escalate tensions, restore faith, and calm the American psyche.


        Experts explain the 4 main psychological factors that drive Trump's rabid fan base

        A looming question in today’s political climate is: Why do Donald Trump’s devotees continue to support him despite the carnage of his well-documented failures? Although we are in the middle of a deadly pandemic that is surging and not contained, Trump seems to maintain a base support of 35% to 40%. What are the psychological factors that influence or underpin his supporters’ attraction to him? And might this provide some perspective on how to change these supporters’ minds?

        Multiple psychological factors seem to influence and explain his supporters. We have divided these factors into four major categories: Rebelliousness and Chaos Shared Irrationality Fear and Safety and Order.

        Rebelliousness and Chaos

        Some Trump supporters have a strong desire for rebelliousness and chaos, and view Trump as the perfect vehicle for achieving their personal goals. These supporters tend to become “anti-establishment and anti-government,” even when it is against their best interest. Many are unhappy with their station in life and believe chaos in the political system will bring them important gains. They seek immediate and sweeping changes and believe a rebellious attitude and rebellious behavior are what is necessary. They would rather have chaos, even dangerously or regressively so, than the status quo.

        These supporters believe in Trump’s professed anger and rebelliousness, while often ignoring the content of the issues at hand. Trump’s talk of “draining the swamp” and of eschewing “political correctness” is attractive to them. They react emotionally and irrationally in embracing Trump’s decisions to create chaos, such as by sending federal troops into American cities to provoke hostile conflict with protestors. They enjoy and thrive upon Trump disavowing norms, rules, and laws. Rebelliousness and chaos can be a major psychological influence, but it can have serious negative consequences such as undermining the chance for real change.

        Shared Irrationality

        The Dunning-Kruger effect. Some people are under-informed and misinformed and are completely unaware of their lack of information. They tend to overestimate their level of knowledge and hold onto that position. They develop “illusory superiority” from their inability to recognize their true lack of knowledge. In other words, some people think they know more than they do and hold firmly to their opinions. These people are resistant to change their political thinking because they believe they are the knowledgeable ones. Trump and some of his supporters have this psychological phenomenon in common they are unable to remedy their own limitations of knowledge and their inaccurate thinking.

        Magical thinking. This is the belief that one’s thoughts, feelings, ideas, or words can bring about effects in the world. Or, similarly, that one’s thoughts, feelings, ideas, or words can cause something to happen. Magical thinking presumes a causal link between one’s internal, personal experience and the external physical world. This often emerges from an inability to distinguish fully between emotions and logical thoughts. Relying totally on emotion or “gut reactions” results in magical thinking. Trump engages in magical thinking almost constantly. This is especially dangerous regarding the pandemic: “It will disappear very quickly,” “We have it under control,” “We may have some embers or some ashes…” Many supporters engage in magical thinking and are encouraged and validated by Trump, leading them to align strongly with him.

        Obsession with celebrity. Some people are obsessed with celebrities and reality television. Trump entertains them and amuses them. Some supporters are always waiting to see what outrageous thing he says or does next. These supporters are happy as long as they are being entertained by him. They act as if life is a “game” or a “show” that is somehow disconnected from the difficult realities of everyday life, but it is not.

        Shared omnipotence. This is a fantasy based in childhood experiences during our earliest years–due to our complete dependency upon parenting persons–that if one can find the “right” leader, then everyone can live harmoniously together forever. While this dynamic is often seen in romantic relationships, especially during the early infatuation period, this exact same dynamic can be seen in political relationships as well. In this case, some people believe that Trump is the “right” leader who can take them to a place of harmony and never-ending happiness and success. This is an infantile fantasy that is unrealistic and unachievable because it is not rooted in the real world of adult life. Even so, a childhood fantasy can be intense and not easily given up.

        Brain reactivity to threats. Research shows that some people have an exaggerated fear response to threats. When presented with specific perceived threats–immigrants, democrats, protestors, socialism–conservatives’ brains light up in activity and experience a need to seek safety. Trump actively encourages his supporters to experience exaggerated fear responses, such that their brains remain energized.

        Fear mongering. Terror management theory explains why fear mongering works. When people are reminded of their mortality, which happens with fear mongering, they reflexively defend those who share their world view and their natural and ethnic identity. Tribal identification is an outgrowth of fear mongering. Racism and bigotry are related to fear. Trump appeals to racist and bigoted supporters when he calls Muslims “dangerous” and Mexican immigrants “rapists and murderers.” This fear mongering by Trump is aimed at supporters who are vulnerable to racist and bigoted thinking because it fits with their world view. Another major fear among Trump supporters is falling behind financially and losing the economic capacity to control their lives and protect themselves. A third major fear among Trump supporters is of socialism and believing that capitalism is being threatened and even destroyed. Trump is very adept at focusing on these specific fears among his supporters, using key words and names to trigger and stoke their emotional concerns. Trump supporters believe that he is capable of protecting them from their fears. And when they feel protected, they overlook his offensive and outlandish behavior.

        Conspiracy theories. Certain people are attracted to conspiracy theories because of their vulnerable personalities and even by mental illness. Life is complex and perplexing and at times dangerous. It is not simple or safe. Research shows that feelings of anxiety make people think more conspiratorially. A conspiracy theory can provide comfort by identifying a convenient scapegoat and thereby making the world seem much more straightforward and controllable. Fantasies that remove fear and doubt can be especially attractive, even if they are unrealistic and irrational. People who believe in conspiracy theories are more likely to overestimate the likelihood of co-occurring events, to attribute intentionality where it is unlikely to exist, and to have lower levels of critical thinking. Trump has voiced many conspiracy theories: Spygate, Obamagate, Deep state, Trump Tower wiretapping, and others.

        Security and Order

        Social dominance orientation. People who score high on social dominance orientation prefer an established societal hierarchy. They are attracted to Trump because he promotes and normalizes the belief that high-status people and groups should be dominant over low-status people and groups. Trump’s clear distinction between groups on top of society (Whites) and those “losers” on the bottom (immigrants, Blacks, and Latinos) is a classic social dominance view. Individuals who are high on social dominance orientation are typically domineering, tough-minded, disagreeable, and relatively uncaring seekers of power. As such, these individuals have an attraction to authoritarianism.

        Authoritarianism. Several traits characterize authoritarianism: deference to authority, aggression toward outgroups, a hierarchical view of the world, and the belief that the world is dangerous and threatening. Some people believe in having an authoritarian leader because they feel protected and safe by a strong, powerful presence. Trump’s authoritarian leanings are highly attractive to these supporters. Interestingly, research studies have shown the joint power of authoritarianism and social dominance orientation to predict far-right-wing voting in the United States and Europe.

        How To Change Supporters’ Minds

        Based on our understanding of these psychological influences, each Trump supporter must be considered individually. Not all supporters are connected to Trump in the same way or for the same psychological reasons. For each Trump supporter, an individual assessment is required as to whether it might be best to address rebelliousness and chaos shared irrationality fear and/or security and order. Rational arguments aimed at each of these categories, separately or in some combination, might be most effective.

        Trump supporters are tied to him based on multiple and complex psychological principles and phenomena. To continue to respond to them as if they are psychotic or evil is a grave mistake and will not lead to change. Identifying the category or categories of psychological influence for each person can be a much more productive strategy.

        There are three months to go before our presidential election. Let us use this time to focus our energies on changing minds based on an understanding of psychology. Name-calling and dismissive statements will not work. Lumping all supporters together will not work. Psychology holds the answer.

        Alan D. Blotcky, PhD, is a clinical psychologist in Birmingham, Alabama.

        David M. Reiss, MD, is a psychiatrist in Rancho Santa Fe, California.



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