The “Beautiful Mind” By author and public speaker Tony Candela #Hoarding #MentalIllness #Opinion

The “Beautiful Mind” By author and public speaker Tony Candela #Hoarding #MentalIllness #Opinion

The “Beautiful Mind”

By Tony Candela

Just when you thought there was nothing left to say about the psychosocial make-up of the organism named Donald Trump, something new disturbs the Force. No, his latest legal woes haven’t taught us much, except perhaps that Trump is capable of showing a degree of fear about the amount of prison time he might get if found guilty on any of 70 counts connected to harboring and refusing to return classified documents. However, in a NY Times opinion-piece, Maggie Haberman stated that at the heart of Trump’s problem around retaining classified documents is attachment to his boxes. This caught my attention. Is Trump a hoarder? Is his acquisitiveness and retentiveness a chink in the Trumpian armor?

The Mayo Clinic describes hoarding as “an ongoing difficulty throwing away or parting with possessions because you believe that you need to save them. You may experience distress at the thought of getting rid of the items. You gradually keep or gather a huge number of items, regardless of their actual value.” Stuff can often be found in places where things do not belong, sometimes impairing one’s ability to function inn that space. The behavior can get so bad that it becomes the center of one’s life. Less severe hoarding looks more like what Trump’s quarters at Mar-a-Lago must look like (boxes in the bathroom, under pipes, and in a few other odd places).

Some things ring true. Based on the Mayo Clinic list of symptoms, Trump may believe these items are unique or that he’ll need them at some point in the future; he may feel emotionally connected to items that remind him of happier times or represent beloved people or pets (or power and security, my words); and he may feel safe and comforted when surrounded by these things.

Delving more deeply into the hoarding literature didn’t get me any closer to adding a new label to the Trumpian panoply. To be fair, it is hard to differentiate Trump’s behavior from “collecting”. Collectors carefully search out specific items, organize, and display them. Collections can be large, but they aren’t usually cluttered, although anyone who has been in Trump’s office at his headquarters in New York

City might beg to differ. His office there is famously covered in awards and sports memorabilia. Also, the plethora of items generally don’t cause the distress and problems in functioning that are part of hoarding disorder. Although there are those who believe he is truly smitten and should make an appearance on a TV show called “Hoarders, they admit that the flavor of his hoarding behavior seems more like souvenir-collecting than a truly clinical condition. So, there we have it; Trump is either a hyper-collector or, at best, a “sub-clinical hoarder”.

I checked a couple books written since 2016 that focused a great deal on the psychology of Donald Trump. I didn’t find discussions of hoarding behavior per se nor the types of personality conditions well-known to students of hoarding behavior. One book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump (2017) by Gail Sheehy and a variety of other writers and mental health professionals attempted to “warn” America about a host of personality and mental health issues that appeared problematic. These included everything from sociopathy to hedonism with tendencies toward self-delusion and dishonesty thrown in. In 2020, Mary Trump, Donald’s niece, wrote Too Much and Never Enough, essentially a memoir targeting her uncle and his cruel ways. While mental health professionals like Phillip Zimbardo and Rosemary Sword in their chapter in ‘The Dangerous Case’ book used descriptions like “Jealousy, Trophies, wanting the next better thing”, Mary Trump, a psychologist, described patterns in her uncle that emerged over time such as being a ‘slob [who] refused to pick up after himself’ and ‘bullying, pointing the finger, refusing to take responsibility and disregarding authority’. While none of this is news to Trump afficionados, it is disturbing that in the face of all this, his followers remain as loyal to him as ever.

In her article, Haberman related that Trump has “long stowed papers and odds and ends in cartons that he liked to keep close. His aides have called them the ‘beautiful mind’ material.” The reference is to a book about John Nash, a mathematician with schizophrenia played in the movie of the same name by Russel Crow. The staff used the reference to describe “a type of organized chaos that Mr. Trump insisted on, the collection and transportation of a blizzard of newspapers and official documents that he kept close and that seemed to give him a sense of security.”

But something else in Maggie Haberman’s article caught my attention. “One former White House official, who was granted anonymity to describe the situation, said that while the array of materials he possesses are disorganized, Mr. Trump would notice if somebody had riffled through them or they were not arranged in a particular way. It was, the person said, how ‘his mind worked.’”

This version of a “beautiful mind” should not be taken lightly. It represents not only a peep-hole into Trump’s mental capacities, but also a vivid display of how his cognitive processes work. For a guy who Doesn’t tolerate long-winded Explanations of political, scientific, medical, or social phenomena, preferring instead to get directly to the bottom line, Trump’s intelligence seems riveted to something quite powerful: pattern recognition.

Pattern recognition generally resides within the province of Cognitive Psychology, with overlaps into mental health, the latter coming into play when the patterns people recognize are outside the norm as in any of the complexes involving paranoia. This is where, as the saying goes, people add up two and two and often get five. They see patterns leading to delusions of grandeur, persecution and other thought-complexes that are unverified by the outside world. Generally, false pattern recognition is called “Apophenia., while misperception of patterns in random data is called “pareidolia. “

A key aspect of pattern recognition is feature-detection. Our ability to do this is one of the most primitive aspects of how brains function in combination with the sensory organs that feed them raw-data information. Even machines can “recognize familiar patterns quickly and accurately…recognize and classify unfamiliar objects, recognize shapes and objects from different angles, and identify patterns and objects even if they’re partially obscured.”

The process is, by nature, fast and crude, and yet sophisticated. For example, soldiers can instantaneously sense danger. Some people profess they can sense deep-sincerity by looking into people’s eyes, such as those of Vladimir Putin. This method of knowing is problematic.

In the case of Trump’s learning style, it has long-represented the easy way out. He is notorious for eschewing nuance and detail, preferring to make bottom-line judgments based on schemes embedded in his world-view. Once embedded, recognized patterns are hard to unseat, leading at best to recalcitrance and at worst, head-long dives into the abyss. In other words, he knows what he knows and that’s the end of the story. If it doesn’t fit the pattern, it is most likely rejected. If it fits the pattern but is flat-out wrong, well then, thank goodness for our system of checks- and-balances and perhaps more important, smart and ethical staff who on numerous occasions during the Trump Presidency stopped many potentially destructive actions. Just ask Secretary of Defense Mark Milley who reportedly protected Trump and the rest of the world from some of Trump’s wilder notions.

Even adult sharks (more so than juveniles) use multiple perceptual skills to properly identify prey and avoid mistaken identity. This may be a clue to a perceptual disability that Trump has simply punched and counter punched his way through all his life, something not often referenced in the Trump literature but something we should be afraid of should he be re-elected President.

Remember, it is not only Joe Biden who is getting older, so when we think about Trump’s tendencies, we need to include what might happen if he loses even more impulse-control, especially since the prospect of re-election won’t be holding him back. With Trump as President again, his staff will need to guard against his “cognitive style”. Voters should do their part by thinking twice about who they elect to Congress. It is supposed to be the buffer should the Executive branch range into the extremes. This is no time for complacency.

Anthony R. Candela, Author

Saying aloud what should not remain silent.

Books by Tony…

Stand Up Or Sit Out: Memories and Musings Of a Blind Wrestler, Runner, and All-around Regular Guy

A memoir about life lessons learned, especially through sports

Vision Dreams: A Parable

A sci-fi novella about how a dysfunctional society forces people to go to extremes, including four blind people who seek out artificial vision.

buy his books here.

More About Tony…

Tony Candela has worked as a Rehabilitation Counselor, supervisor, manager consultant and administrator for more than 40 years in the field of blindness and visual impairment. His work has included promoting literacy and employment of blind persons and a special interest in enhancing the career preparation of blind persons who wish to work in the computer science field. He is a “retired” athlete, loves movies, sports, reading, writing, and music, including dabbling in guitar.

Follow him on Facebook for more here.

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