DONALD TRUMP AND THE BATTERED WIFE SYNDROME, by Art Smukler MD, author & psychiatrist

Everyone has an opinion about why Donald Trump is still the Republicans’ #1 candidate.

His politically incorrect stance on immigration, foreign policy, trade, Muslims, and even on beating up people who disrupt his speeches, is a combination of appalling, intriguing, and flat out entertaining.

Many of his supporters don’t seem a bit bothered by his bullying style. He has stated that if fellow Republicans say anything that is not accurate or a lie it will be his pleasure to sue them. Geez. Maybe if I say the wrong thing he’ll sue me and the notoriety will make me famous enough to sell my books. On the other hand, I don’t know any psychiatrists with an eight billion dollar war chest. Maybe it’s better he doesn’t sue me…

But, back to, Why is this man who has been identified as grandiose, narcissistic, brilliant, a fool, and dozens of other colorful adjectives, still the front-runner and gaining every week in the polls?

There’s a concept in psychiatric thinking that seems to answer the question. It’s called Identification with the Aggressor. Another way to look at it is that the weak find solace and strength in the powerful.

Think about the battered wife who goes out of her way to hide her bruised body and protect the man who regularly harms her. Her perverse logic is that he’s really a good man who can’t help himself. The truth, if she ever has the strength to face her real feelings, is that she believes she desperately needs him. He is the strength that she doesn’t have and without him she believes she will surely fail. She identifies with the bully’s strength and can function better because his strength is now her strength.

So are The Donald’s supporters all like battered wives?


For years we have helplessly endured a pathetic, weak congress who have led our country into a dysfunctional mess. Then along comes a billionaire who couldn’t care less what he says or who he offends. It’s exciting and heady being able to tell the establishment to go to hell. It’s fun watching and listening to someone tell all these professional politicians that they are incompetent fools.

On the other hand, letting a bully loose in the world schoolyard is very dangerous. Just like the battered wife loses her identity as a human being, we risk losing who we are as a democracy and a country that thrives and encourages diversity.

So what’s the answer? Let our current politicos abuse us or let The Donald abuse us?

We don’t have to let anyone abuse us! We are not battered wives or husbands or need to be a battered electorate. Vote for the people you believe in. Forget what party they belong to! Focus on what they can do to solve our current dilemmas. We don’t have to identify with a man we don’t believe in just because he’s not afraid to say whatever thought passes through his mind.

Art Smukler is an award-winning psychiatrist and author of Chasing Backwards, a psychological murder mystery, Skin Dance, a mystery, and The Man with a Microphone in his Ear. All are available as paperbacks and eBooks.

11 thoughts on “DONALD TRUMP AND THE BATTERED WIFE SYNDROME, by Art Smukler MD, author & psychiatrist

  1. I agree that everyone should vote for the person in whom they believe; however, I disagree on other points. First, as a candidate for President of the United States, Trump is neither exciting nor fun to watch (except, I would imagine, to those who are in agreement with his comments or believe they are unaffected by them). Next, a more apt metaphor is that of the abuser garnering a large following of like-minded abusers. Those who Trump “abuses” are not following and making excuses for him like the battered wife that you describe.


  2. Dear Art, This is a beautiful piece and a very insightful analysis of the phenomenon. I only wish people even outside the psychiatric community had a chance to read this. They would surely find it eye-opening ‘if they ever have the strength to face their real feelings’. Onkar Srivastava


  3. It seems more likely a certain group of people is embracing Trump because “he tells it like it is” when stacked up against that pitiful Congress that became our representatives because well-financed fringe groups put them in office. Waaaaay back in the time of Ronnie R. And Tip O’N, “our reps” could reach out to the other side of aisle and do things that benefitted THE COUNTRY-US. Now, you say (or horrors, VOTE for) one less than totally strapped in idealogically perfect thing and you can COUNT ON a costly primary next time around.

    Trump has $$$$$– BFD! In his blowhard way, he’s every bit as dangerous as a Rick Perry, who is willing to have evolution taught in Texas as a *possibility* vs. fact. Where does such a person fit in a modern world? Do anyone think he would actually LISTEN to advisors even if hand-picked? HELL NO! Bombastic people, even ones who espouse the Art of the Deal, don’t bother with the considered or professional opinions other than theirs. Will he carry weight into any convention? Sure! Would Rubio be an above average VP choice for ANY Repub? You betcha! Carly because 1/2 the voters are women? He doesnt respect her to start, why would he put her in the same zip code, let alone next chair, for 4 years?

    This country’s voters won’t GAIN any strength, and those on the lower rungs of society can count on treatment in the same vein as Mexico-illegal aliens, which is scorn. A battered wife, whether she takes advantage or not, has options. Even if Repubs choose not to avail themselves of that, the electorate should. Love or hate Hillary, she has EXPERIENCE at a legit level; Bernie may be a little off at times, but he’s not going to be a slash/burn social programs type. Did anyone read about Trump U. or hear that ‘make Mexico pay for wall’ BS and *not* think this guy is believing his own stuff? Strong? yeah, so is cigar smoke in a small room!


    1. Thank you. Among many of your statements, I especially like “cigar smoke in a small room”. In Trump’s case it’s hard to breathe with him sucking all the air out of the room.


  4. Hate to say this Art, but I have changed my tune about The Donald. He’s the only one with the guts to say what so many other people are thinking. President Obama has utterly failed to understand that people do not accept his cavalier dismissal of ISIS or ISIL. As in: “ISIS is not an existential threat to us here in the United States.”
    Really? What was the Marathon Bombing about? Was the Ft. Hood shooting merely “workplace violence”? And now San Bernadino. I found it pathetic that Obama actually referred to this radical Islamic terrorist attack as mere “gun violence.”
    These Islamic terrorists are already here, and have been for years. Obama administration officials, military leaders and Homeland Security officials all admit that there is no way to identify these terrorists when they try enter the country on various kinds of visas. eg. Fiancee Visas.
    Let’s face it, ISIL terrorists are all Muslims. No, all Muslims are not terrorists. The problem: we have no way to identify those who are and those who are not.

    Whatever you think of his blunt style, Trump tells it like it is. American voters are tired of having a weak leader. I’d vote for Bernie Sanders if I could, but he’s not going to get the Dem nomination. If there is another serious terrorist attack before the general election, say hello to President Donald Trump.


      1. I hear ya. I have no plans to vote for him. Just saying that he appeals to a LOT of voters.
        Yes, he insults Carly Fiorina, insults Hispanics, pisses off Muslims.
        But consider this. Donald picks … Rubio for VP, wins back the Hispanics.
        OR if he’s smart, picks Carly for VP. More than half voters are women, plus Carly can attack Hillary so Donald doesn’t have to, thus avoiding alienating all the women voters.


  5. I agree that Washington has been ineffective but the blame has to put on the party politics putting their special interests before and above us. As in Ross Perot, it is the news media that will bring Trump down. America will be led down the same old path once more shaking their heads saying, “We had a chance to put party politics in the backseat and we blew it.” I believe Trump will build a very strong cabinet of advisers as he does in business; a strong economy will naturally follow. He simply cannot be bribed or pushed around by the party or their special interests. Last chance.


    1. Not sure the news media can bring Trump down. Hell, Trump has no need to spend money on media adverts! Every TV and radio station falls all over itself to get him on because he brings viewers because he is entertaining!
      That said, I’m not beating the drum saying Trump for Prez. i just find it unfortunate that no one else has the !@#$ whatever to say what he is saying. Let no more Muslims into the US until we figure out how to vet them, because it is clear that we cannot. (see female San B shooter) And the Islamic terrorists are already here and have been for years. (see male San B shooter).


  6. I would love to follow your advice and vote for whomever I believe in. However, I don’t like or believe in ANY of them. The country is in dire straits if these are the “best” we could find.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s