The recent op-ed by Michael D’Antonio is based upon a complex set of unverifiable assumptions about the psychological mechanisms underlying the hostile behavior of our presidents (“Trump, the projector,” Opinion, Feb. 19). For example, he writes, “Trump indulges in projection because he thinks he should be better than he is, and interprets his fear, sense of inadequacy, and other normal feelings as unacceptable.” There are lots of examples of the president verbally attacking his adversaries, but where is the evidence that this is occurring because he thinks he should be better than he is? As a clinician with more than 40 years of experience, I don’t believe that I could responsibly make that assertion about anyone without direct interaction with the individual and careful investigation of his or her inner life.
By all means, let’s call out all our political leaders when their behaviors or their policies are destructive. But let’s stay focused on the observables, rather than diluting the message with armchair psychoanalysis. Speculation on why a leader behaves inappropriately is an unnecessary and potentially harmful distraction in these urgent times.
The writer, a licensed clinical psychologist, is an instructor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.