Archive for May, 2020

Vagal Tone

May 31, 2020

This post is based, in part, on content taken from Love 2.0 a book by Barbara L. Fredrickson. The key conduit connecting our brain to our body is our tenth cranial nerve, the vagus nerve. She writes, “It emerges from your brain stem deep within your skull ,and although it makes multiple stops at various internal organs, most significantly it connects the brain to the heart. Our heart rate shoots up when we feel insulted or threatened.” This registers the ancestral fight-or-flight response. And it’s the vagus nerve that eventually soothes the racing heart, by orchestrating (together with oxytocin) the equally ancestral calm-and-connect response.

Dr. Fredrickson continues, “Keeping in mind that love is connection, you should know that your vagus nerve is a biological asset that supports and coordinates your experiences of love. Completely outside your awareness, your vagus nerve stimulates tiny facial muscles that better enable you to make eye contact and synchronize your facial expressions with another person. It even adjusts the minuscule muscles of your middle ear so you can better track the other person’s voice against any background noise. In ten exquisitely subtle yet consequential ways, your vagus nerve increases the odds that the two of you will connect, upping your chances for positivity resonance.”

The strength of our vagus nerve, our biological aptitude for love, can be measured by measuring the heart rate in conjunction with the breathing rate. Sensors are placed on the lowest ribs measure our breathing rate as revealed by an expandable bellow that encircles the rib cage. This pattern is called vagal tone. Similar to muscle tone, the higher the vagal tone, the better. When your breathing in, a fast heart rate is an efficient heart rate. Each successive heartbeat during an inbreath circulates more freshly oxygenated blood throughout your brain and body. But when you’re breathing out, a fast heart rate is not that helpful because your supply of freshly oxygenated blood is waning. The vagus nerve steps in here by gently applying the brake on your heart when you exhale, slowing your heart rate down a small degree. In turn, your vagus nerve can gently let up on the brake while you inhale, letting your naturally high heart rate resume to grab all the oxygenated blood it can get, thus creating a subtle yet healthy pattern of cardiac arrhythmia: Your heart rate speeds up a bit when you inhale and slows down a bit when you exhale. This is the pattern that reflects your vagal tone, the strength or condition of your vagus nerve. It characterizes the nimbleness with which your primitive, non conscious brain holds the the reins of your galloping heart.

Unfortunately, the measurement of vagal tone is complicated and requires the use of a computer. Fortunately, there are proven measures we can use to increase our vagal tone without our having to measure it.

In the healthy memory post on Dr. Rediger’s book Cured he writes: “moments of ‘micro-connection” can deliver hits of the potent love cocktail, spool up the parasympathetic, and keep it fueled up and running. Our brains release a cocktail of hormones when we experience feelings of love and connection. How exactly this cocktail is mixed (which hormones specifically are dumped into your blood stream) depends on what kind of experience you’re having. Dr. Rediger writes, “Attraction, romantic love, platonic love, and social connection all have their own specific mixture, but most involve some combination of dopamine, testosterone, estrogen, vasopressin, and most importantly, oxytocin. Oxytocin, first isolated in new mothers nursing their babies, is often called “the love drug” because it’s both activated by, and helps to create connection, attraction, love, and bonding.” Beyond helping to make and deepen relationships, it has health benefits. Oxytocin is known to be a kind of anti-stress tonic, countering the effects of fight or flight and stress hormones. It is also both anti-inflammatory and parasympathetic in its effects.

The vagus nerve controls the release of the “love medicine” in our bodies. Vagus is Latin for wandering, and in line with its poetic name, the vagus wanders everywhere through your body. It exits the brain stem at the base of your skull dip in your neck. It runs quite close to the carotid artery.

Dr Fredrickson has found that “moments of ‘micro-connection” can deliver hits of the potent love cocktail, spool up the parasympathetic, and keep it fueled up and running. Our brains release a cocktail of hormones when we experience feelings of love and connection. The vagus nerve controls the release of the “love medicine” in our bodies. Vagus is Latin for wandering, and in line with its poetic name, the vagus wanders everywhere through your body. It exits the brain stem at the base of your skull dip in your neck. It runs quite close to the carotid artery. You can get as close as you can to your vagus nerve by pressing your finger to the pulse point on your neck. From the spot under your fingers, it shoots down to your heart and beyond, where it regulates heartbeat and dozens of other vital functions. Should you have any doubts about how deep and rapid the connection is between the mind and the body, the vagus is that literal link between the two—a thick, humming power line that runs from your brain to your gut.

Eighty% of the vagus nerve pulls information up into the brain. The other 20% sends information down into the body. This means that a great deal of sensory information is being collected for your brain and that decisions are then made in the brain and sent out all over the body. It’s a rapid, constantly flowing system (the network of glands that release hormones through all your body, and immune system to constantly adjust and respond to all the collected information.)


May 30, 2020

This post is based on content taken from Love 2.0 a book by Barbara L. Fredrickson. Oxytocin is commonly known as the “cuddle hormone” or the “love hormone.” Technically it is a neuropeptide acting not just within our bodies, but also within our brains.

Evidence of oxytocin’s power to shape social lives first surfaced in Europe, where laws permitted the use of a synthetic form of oxytocin, available as a nasal spray for investigational purposes. In one study 128 men from Zurich played what is called the trust game with genuine monetary outcomes. These men were assigned at random to the role of “investor” or “trustee.” Each participant was given an equivalent pot of starting funds. Investors made the first move. They could give some, all, or none of the allocated funds to the trustee. During the transfer of funds, the experimenter tripled their investment while letting the trustee know how much the investors had originally transferred. Trustees made the next move. They could give some, all, or none of their new allotment of funds (the investors tripled investment plus their own original allocation) back to investors. The structure of the game puts investors, but not trustees, at risk. If an investor chose to entrust the other guy with his investment, he risked receiving nothing in return if the trustee chose to selfishly keep the entire monetary gain for himself. But if the trustee was fair, they could each double their money.

Prior to playing this game, using a double-blind research, participants received either oxytocin or an inert placebo by nasal spray. The effect of this single intranasal blast of oxytocin on the outcome of the trust game was dramatic. The number of investors who trusted their entire allotment to their trustee more than doubled. Related research using this same trust game showed the the mere act of being entrusted with another person’s money raises the trustee’s naturally levels of oxytocin, and that the greater the trustee’s oxytocin rise, the more of his recent windfall he sacrificed back to the investor. So the neuropeptide oxytocin steers the actions of both the investor and the trustee, shaping both trust and reciprocity. These findings suggest that through synchronous oxytocin surges, trust and cooperation can quickly become mutual.

Since this original study was published in Nature in 2005, variations on it have abounded. We now know, for instance, that Oxytocin doesn’t simply make people more trusting with money, it also makes them far more trusting—a whopping 44% more trusting—with confidential information about themselves. It is interesting that this simple act of sharing an important secret from you life with someone you just met increases your naturally circulating levels of oxytocin, which in turn raises you confidence that you can trust that person to guard your privacy. Fortunately, additional research shows that oxytocin does not induce trust indiscriminately, making people gullible and open to exploitation. The effects of oxytocin on trust turn out to be quite sensitive to interpersonal cues, like those subtle signs that tip you off if another may be the gambling type of irresponsible in other ways. So if oxytocin spray were aerated through you workplace ventilation system, you’d still maintain your shrewd attunement to subtle signs that suggest whether someone is worthy of your trust.

Oxytocin serves as a lead character in the mammalian calm-and-connect response, a distinct cascade of brain and body responses best contrasted to the better known fight-or-flight response. Rather than avoid all new people out of fear and suspicion, oxytocin helps you pick up on cues that signal another person’s goodwill and guides you to approach them with your own. The author notes, “Because all people need social connections, not just to reproduce, but to survive and thrive in this world, work, oxytocin has been dubbed ‘the great facilitator of life.’”

The author writes, “It too, can jump the gap between people such that someone else’s oxytocin flow can trigger your own. A biochemical synchrony can then emerge that supports mutual engagement, care, and responsiveness.”

She continues, “The clearest evidence that oxytocin rises and falls in synchrony between people comes from studies of infants and their parents. When an infant and a parent—either mom or dad—interact, sometimes they are truly captivated by each other, and other times not. When an infant and parent do click, their coordinated motions and emotions show lots of mutual positive engagement. Picture moms or dads showering their baby with kisses, tickling their baby’s tiny fingers and toes, smiling at their baby, and speaking to him or her in that high-pitched, singsong tone that scientists call motherise. These parents are super attentive. As they tickle and coo they’re also closely track their baby’s face for signs that their delight is mutual. In step with their parent’s affectionate antics, these attentive babies babble, coo, smile and giggle. Positivity resonates back and forth between them. Micro-moments of love blossom. “

The author concludes, “It turns out that positive behavioral synchrony—the degree to which an infant and parent (through eye contact and affectionate touch) laugh, smile, and coo together—goes hand in hand with oxytocin synchrony. Researchers have measured oxytocin levels in the saliva of dads, moms, and infants both before and after a videotaped, face-to-face parent-infant interaction. For infant-parent pairs who show mutual positive engagement, oxytocin levels also come into sync. Without such engagement, however, no oxytocin synchrony emerges.
Positivity resonance, then, can be viewed as the doorway through which the exquisitely attuned biochemical tendencies of one generation influence those of the next generation to form lasting, often lifelong bonds.”

Brain Coupling

May 29, 2020

This post is based on content taken from Love 2.0 a book by Barbara L. Fredrickson. There were pervious healthy memory posts taken from her first book, Positivity. Neuroscientist Uri Hasson of Princeton University conducted research on the topic of brain coupling. Hasson and his team have found ways to measure multiple brains connecting through conversation. This is expensive research that requires the use of brain scanners. They use them with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). They recorded the story of one research participant along with the fMRI. Then they recorded the brain activity of a listener using the fMRI.

The brain scans were respectively time-locked. Coupling refers to the degree to which the brains lit up in synchrony with each other matched in both space and time. Of course, more than one study was conducted. But the body of research indicates that when we are listening to someone, our brain is coupling or responding in synchrony to the speaker.

So more than just sound waves and verbal information are being transferred. Our respective brains are coupled.

This is a short post, but the results are so profound that time should be devoted to pondering.

Love Shows Its Resilience

May 28, 2020

The title of this post is identical to the first part of a title of an article by Lisa Bonos in the Style section of the 26 May 2020 issue of the Washington Post. The remainder of the title is “study finds.” A recent Monmouth University poll found that most people in relationships are satisfied with them, despite the expected stresses that might come from, say, working from home together, losing a job, managing kids at home or preventing your family from getting the virus.

One of the authors of the study, psychology professor Gary Lewandowski, said, Relationships aren’t perfect—there are always some underlying issues, but on average, the relationships we’re in are pretty good.

The survey was conducted from April 30 to May 4, among a sample of 556 American adults in relationships. Here are the findings:

74% of Americans with a romantic partner say their relationship has not fundamentally changed since the coronavirus outbreak. 10% said it was a lot better, and 7% said it was a little better. Only 4% said it was worse, and 1% a lot worse.

Argument frequency and sex lives have changed for the better, but only slightly. Less that 2 in 10 of those in relationships said they had fewer arguments with their partner, while 1 in 10 said they got into more of them—and 7 in 10 said there has been no difference. Only 9% said that their sex life had improved. 5% said it has gotten worse, with 77% saying it is about the same.

About half said their relationships would get stronger by the time the outbreak is over, and just 1% said their relationship will be worse. 46% said their relationship will not have changed at all.

About three-quarters of married couples said their relationship has not changed for better or worse since the coronavirus outbreak began, while just under two-thirds of unmarried couples said the same.

59% said their relationship has had no impact on their daily stress level.

The authors of the study concluded, “Overall, these results suggest that the global pandemic may not be as bad for relationships as many have feared. Our relationships may become stronger and even more important than they already were.”

HM thinks this is especially good news as it really is not known how long this pandemic will last, and that additional waves of this pandemic are expected.

Note: Astute readers will note that percentages do not add up to 100%. Unfortunately, HM is constrained by what is in the article. Fortunately any discrepancies do not discredit the conclusions from this survey.

Will We All Live Happily Ever After?

May 27, 2020

Daniel Dreszner spends an entire chapter in The Toddler in Chief addressing this question when the answer to this question is quite simple.

If Trump is not re-elected, then much work will need to be done to repair all the damage Trump has caused. He has done enormous damage to the country, and he has also virtually destroyed the Republican Party. Effective democracies need an opposition party to monitor the majority party, to fine-tune policies, and to propose viable alternative policies.

It is also very likely, if not inevitable, that if Trump is not elected he will claim that the election was rigged and spread false news supporting this alternative. There might be a problem getting Trump out of the White House. This is his traditional response when he does not achieve his desired outcome. He also faces multiple criminal charges when he exits the White House. Worst of all, there might be armed resistance to his leaving the White House. Let us all hope that this can be achieved without violence.

If Trump’s exit is successfully achieved, then not only will the damage from the past four years need to be undone, but much legislation is required for this new environment we find our democracy in. If done properly, there can be substantial improvements.

And international relations will definitely improve, which can lead to a more peaceful and harmonious world.

But if Trump is re-elected or manages by stealth or force to remain in power, that will be the end of American democracy. This opinion is not unique to HM. Individuals much more knowledgeable than HM have expressed this opinion.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

When Caregivers Give Up

May 26, 2020

The title of this post is the identical to the title of a chapter in a timely book by Daniel W. Dreszner, The Toddler in Chief. It begins with a selection from the American Academy of Pediatrics, Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Without strong guidance, a very active child’s energy can easily turn toward aggressive or destructive behavior. To avoid this, you need to establish clear and logical rules and enforce them consistently.

The following is from an article by Asawin Suessaeng and Lachlan Markay in the Daily Beast, October 20, 2017: “Inside the White House, aides have grown calloused to the chaos. That the president managed to turn a simple question over a botched military operation into a week-long feud with a grieving military family, all while sullying his chief of staff’s public image, didn’t register as particularly eventful given the preceding nine months of drama.”

The following is from an article by Michael Scherer and Alex Altman in Time, May 17 2017: “‘It’s exhausting,’ says a midlevel aide. ‘Just when you think the pace is unsustainable, it accelerates. The moment it gets quiet is when the next crisis happens.’
Staffers are frustrated by leaks about staff turmoil coming from Trump’s extended circle of allies. But Trump has so far resisted attempts to impose order, insisting on long stretches of unstructured time to watch television and call allies.”

The following is from an article by Jonathan Swan and Mike Allen in Axios, February 23, 2018: “West Wing aides privately admit they have no earthly idea what Trump will do about anything—whether it be guns, immigration, their own careers, or the fate of Chief of Staff John Kelly…
Some aides feel the place is unraveling, that they can’t trust their colleagues, that they don’t know what’s going on, that there’s no path upward.

The following is from an article by Andrew Restuccia and Nancy Cook in Politico, April 20, 2018: In the past two months, President Donald Trump has repeatedly surprised many of his own closest advisers with the timing or substance or major public pronouncements: a potential troop withdrawal from Syria, steep new tariffs on key imports and the possibility of rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.
This week, it happened again,with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley—a Cabinet member—left dangling after Trump decided not to proceed with new Russia sanctions she’s already mentioned on national television.
These episodes have often left Trump’s staff scrambling to get more information, moderate the president’s position or change his mind altogether.
While people close to the president say Trump has always been mercurial, some of the president’s allies attribute the recent pace of public disconnects to the departure of loyal aides who were skilled at translating his impulses, at keeping all the relevant White House Agency stances on key issues—and, perhaps more importantly, at keeping all the relevant White House and agent staffers in the loop on big decisions.
‘There’s nobody there that can say to him, ‘Mr. President, you can’t do that,’’said one former White House official.’”

The following is from an article by David Ignatius titled, “Trump Can’t Win at Foreign Policy the Way He Wins at Golf, Washington Post, July 24, 2108. Now it is well-know that Trump wins at golf by cheating: “The Helsinki summit showed that Trump thinks he’s his own best foreign policy adviser. The formal interagency process that traditionally surrounds such big events all be disappeared for the U.S.-Russia encounter, with no full National Security Council meetings to prepare for Helsinki and none last week to discuss the results.
‘I don’t think there is an interagency process now,’ cautioned one prominent Republican foreign policy expert. ‘Trump glories in not listening to advisers. He trusts his instincts, as uninformed as they sometimes are.”

Potpourri; or a Toddler Sampler

May 25, 2020

The title of this post is the identical to the title of a chapter in a timely book by Daniel W. Dreszner, The Toddler in Chief. It begins with a selection from the American Academy of Pediatrics, Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Preschoolers are very eager to take control. They want to be more independent than their skills and safety allow, and they don’t appreciate their limits. They want to make decisions, but they don’t know how to compromise, and they don’t deal well with disappointment or restraint.

The following is from an article by Devlin Barrett,Josh Dawsey, and Rosalind S. Helderman in the Washington Post, February 28, 2018: “Behind the scenes, Trump derisively referred to Sessions as “Mr. Magoo,” a cartoon character who is elderly, myopic and bumbling, according to people with whom he has spoken.”

The following is from a piece by Gabriel Sherman in Vanity Fair, October 9, 2017: “Kelly has developed a Mar-a-Logo strategy to prevent Trump from soliciting advice from members and friends. (In February 2017 Trump turned his dinner table into an open-air Situation Room when North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile). Sources briefed on Kelly’s plans said he will attempt to keep Trump “out of he dining room.”

The following piece is by Steve Benen on MSNBC, June 14, 2019: “It appears the president, according to his own version of events, has helped choose design elements of the new Air Force One.
The natural question, of course,is, ‘How does he find the time?’ The answer, by all appearances, is that Trump isn’t as busy as he probably should be, so he tackles tasks like these in between consuming hours of television.
And perhaps that’s for the best. White House aides have told a variety of reporters that the key to keeping Trump out of trouble is keeping him busy and distracted. The more he is focused on paint colors, the less time he’ll have for more dangerous pursuits.”

The following pieces are from an article by Juliet Elperin, Josh Dawson, and Dan Lamothe in the Washington Post, July 1, 2019: “Trump, who had already ordered up a flyover by military aircraft including Air Force One and the Navy’s Blue Angels has pressed to expand his “Salute to America” event further with an F-35 stealth fighter and the involvement of Marine Helicopter Squadron One, which flied the presidential helicopter, according to government officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak frankly. He also pushed to bring military tanks to the site of his planned speech at the Lincoln Memorial, prompting National Park Service officials to warn that such a deployment could damage the site, these individuals said…
Trump has demonstrated an unusual level of interest in this year’s Independence Day observance, according to three senior administration officials. He has received regular briefings about it from Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and has weighed in on how the pyrotechnics should be launched, how the military should be honored and more, according to people briefed on the discussions.”

The following is from an article by Peter Nicholas in the Atlantic, July 3, 2019: “Trump has pined for a national military parade since at least July 2017, when he watched French soldiers marching in Paris on Bastille Day. Speaking privately with French President Emmanuel Macron a couple of months later in New York at a United Nations General Assembly meeting, Trump mentioned the display, turned to his delegation, and said, ‘I want horses”! I want horses! a former French official tole me, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the conversation”

Too Much Screen Time

May 24, 2020

The title of this post is the identical to the title of a chapter in a timely book by Daniel W. Dreszner, The Toddler in Chief. It begins with a selection from the American Academy of Pediatrics, Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Most media use is passive. Sitting and watching TV all the time, for example, does not help your child acquire the most important skills and experiences she needs at this age, such as communication, creativity, fantasy, judgment, and experimentation.

The following piece is from an article by Katie Rogers and Maggie Habermas in the New York Times, July 24, 2018: “On the first couple’s recent trip overseas, Melania Trump’s television aboard Air Force One was tuned to CNN. President Trump was not pleased.
He argued at his staff for violating a rule that the White House entourage should begin each trip tuned to Fox—his preferred network over what he considers the ‘fake news’ CNN—and caused ‘a bit of a stir’ aboard Air Force One.

The following piece is from an article by Mark Landler and Julie Hirschfeld Davis in the New York Times, March 23, 2018: “Aides said there was no grand strategy to the president’s actions, and that he got up each morning this week not knowing what he would do. Much as he did as a New York businessman at Trump Tower, Mr. Trump watched television, reacted to what he saw on television and then reacted to the reaction.”

The following is from an article by Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman in the New York Times, December 22, 2018: “By all accounts, Mr. Trump’s consumption of cable television has actually increased in recent months as his first scheduled meeting of the day slid back from the 9 or 9:20 a.m. by Reince Priebus, his first chief of staff, to roughly 11 many mornings. During ‘executive time,’ Mr. Trump watches television in his residence for hours, reacting to what he sees on Fox News. While in the West Wing, he leaves it on during most meetings in the dining room off the Oval Office, one ear attuned to what is being said.”

The following is from an article by Peter Nicholas in Atlantic, April 14, 2019: “For decades, presidents and vice presidents have held regular one-on-one lunches with no aides present. The ritual helps build trust and, because only two people are at the table, prevents leaks, veterans of past White Houses said.
Trump ditched that tradition. Instead he has invited to the lunches both his and Pence’s top aides. At the meals in the small dining room off the Oval Office, Trump keeps a big-screen TV tuned to cable news. Aides who have walked in have seen Trump yelling the TV as he sits with Pence and their deputies over plates of chicken and cheese-burgers. When he sees something on the screen that he dislikes, Trump on occasion will interrupt the lunch and summon aides to discuss a response, people familiar with the lunches said.

The following is from an article by Mike Allen and Jonathan Swan in Axios, March 28, 2018: President Trump often gets agitated—and stirred to action—by random things he hears on TV or from shoot-the-bull conversations with friends.
Why it matters: It drives staff nuts because they are responding to nothings that are either inaccurate, highly distorted or flat-out don’t exist.”

The following is from an article by Maggie Haberman, Glenn Thrush, and Peter Baker in the New York Times, December 9, 2017: “ To an extent that would stun outsiders, Mr. Trump, the most talked-about human on the planet, is still delighted when he sees his name in the headlines. And he is on a perpetual quest to see it there. One former top adviser said Mr. Trump grew uncomfortable after two or three days of peace and could not handle watching the news without seeing himself on it.
During the morning aides monitor ‘Fox and Friends’ live or through a transcription service in much the same way commodities traders might keep tabs on market futures to predict the direction of their day.
If someone on the show says something memorable and Mr. Trump does not immediately tweet about it, the president’s staff knows he may be saving Fox News for later viewing on his recorder and instead watching MSNBC or CNN live—meaning he is likely to be in a foul mood to start the day.

Knowledge Deficits

May 23, 2020

The title of this post is the identical to the title of a chapter in a timely book by Daniel W. Dreszner, The Toddler in Chief. It begins with a selection from the American Academy of Pediatrics, Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: If we were to single out the major intellectual limitations at this age, it would be your child’s feeling that everything that happens in his world is the result of something he has done…Reasoning with your two-year-old is often difficult. After all, he views everything in extremely simple terms.

The following is from a piece by Jake Tapper on CNN, April 2019: “…two sources told CNN, the President told border agents to not let migrants in. Tell them we don’t have the capacity, he said. If judges give you trouble, say, ‘Sorry, judge, I can’t do it. We don’t have the room.’
After the President left the room, agents sought further advice from their leaders, who told them they were not giving that direction and if they did what the President said they would take on personal liability. You have to follow the law, they were told.”

The following is from an article by Daniel Lippman in Politico: “Several times in the first year of his administration, resident Donald Trump wanted to call Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the middle of the afternoon. But there was a problem. MIdafternoon in Washington is the middle of the night in Tokyo—when Abe would be fast asleep.
Trump’s aides had to explain the issue, which one diplomatic source said came up on ‘a constant basis,’ but it wasn’t easy…
‘He wasn’t great with recognizing that the leader of a country might be 80 or 85 years od and isn’t going to be aware or in the right place at 10:30 or 11:00 p.m. their time,’ said a former Trump NSC official. ‘When he wants to call someone, he wants to call someone. He’s more impulsive that way. He doesn’t think about what time it is or who it is,’ added a person close to Trump…
Trump’s desire to call world leaders at awkward hours is just one of many previously diplomatic faux pas Trump has made since assuming the presidency, which go beyond the telephone etiquette to include misconceptions, mispronunciations and awkward meetings. Sometime the foibles have been contained within the White House. In one case, Trump while studying a brief’s map of South Asia ahead of a 2017 meeting with India’s prime minister, mispronounced Nepal as ‘nipple’ and laughingly referred too Bhutan as ‘button,’ according to two sources with knowledge of the meeting.

The following is from an article by Helene Cooper in the New York Times, December 23, 2018: “Less than two hours after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis went to the White House on Thursday to hand a resignation letter to President Trump, the president stood in the Oval Office and dictated a glowing tweet announcing the Mr. Mattis was retiring ‘with distinction’ at the end of February.
But Mr. Trump had not read the letter. As became apparent to the president only after days of news coverage, a senior administration official said, Mr. Mattis had issued a stinging rebuke of Mr. Trump over his neglect of allies and tolerance of authoritarians. The president grew increasingly angry as he watched a parade of defense analysts go on television to extol Mr. Mattis’s bravery, another aide said, until he decided on Sunday that he had had enough.”

The following is from an article by Josh Dawsey and Damian Paletta in the Washington Post, December 2, 2018.: “When former National Economic Council director Gary Cohn’s staffers prepared a presentation for Trump about deficits, Cohn told them no. It wouldn’t be necessary, he said, because the president did not care about deficits, according to current and former officials.
Trump also repeatedly told Cohn to print more money, according to three White House officials familiar with his comments.
‘He’d just say, run the presses, run the presses,’ one former senior administration official said, describing he president’s Oval Office orders. ‘Sometimes it seemed like he was joking, and sometimes it didn’t…
Chief of Staff John F. Kelly has told others about watching television with Trump and asking the president how much the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff earns. Trump guessed $5 milion, according to people who were told the story by Kelly, startling the chief of staff. Kelly responded that he made less than $200,000. The president suggested he get a large raise and noted the number of stars on his uniform.”

Poor Impulse Control

May 22, 2020

The title of this post is the identical to the title of a chapter in a timely book by Daniel W. Dreszner, The Toddler in Chief. It begins with a selection from the American Academy of Pediatrics, Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: From the child’s perspective, these are the terrific twos because they are so excited about all the new things they are able to do developmentally. It’s as if they are saying, ‘Look what I can do!’ As a result, all toddlers get frustrated at anyone or anything limiting their ability to do what they wish to do, even if they are not capable of it. This lack of independence leads to immediate and intense frustration and loss of control.

The following is from an article by Ashley Parker, Seung Min Kim, and Philip Rucker in the Washington Post, April 12, 2018: Senior U.S. officials describe a president who is operating largely in impulse, with little patience for the advice of his top aides. “A decision or statement is made by the president, and then the principals—Mattis or Pompeo or Kelly, come in and tell him we can’t do it,” said one senior administration official. “When it fails, we reverse-engender a policy process to match whatever the president said.”

The following is from an article by Josh Dawsey in Politico, October 9,2017: Trump would impulsively want to fire someone like Attorney General Jeff Sessions; create a new, wide-ranging policy with far-flung implications, like increasing tariffs on Chinese steel imports; or end a decades-old deal like the North American Free Trade Agreement. Enraged with a TV segment or frustrated after a meandering meeting, the president would order it done immediately.
Delaying the decision would give Priebus and others a chance to change his mind or bring in an adviser to speak with Trump—and in some cases, to ensure Trump would drop the idea altogether and move on…
Trump would sometimes lash out at Priebus for not doing what he wanted immediately though, several officials said.”

The following is from an article by Sonam Sheth in Business Insider, September 6, 2019: “No one knows what to expect from him anymore, one former White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations about the predisent, told Insider.
They added: His mood changes from one minute to the next based on some headline or tweet, and the next thing you know his entire schedule gets tossed out the window because he’s losing his s—-.”

The following is from an article by Josh Dawsey in Politico, May 1, 2017: “Trump’s advisers have at times tried to curb his media appearances, worried he will step on his message. ‘They were not helpful to us,’ one senior administration official said. ‘There was no point to do all of them.’
White House officials siad privately were was no broader strategy behind the interviews. GOP strategists and Capitol Hill aides were puzzled by it all. ‘I have no idea what they view as a successful media hit,’ said one senior GOP consultant with close ties to the administration. ‘He just seemed to go crazy today,’ a senior GOP aide said.”

The following article is by Josh Dawsey, Eliana Jonson, and Josh Meyer in Politico, May 15, 2017: Several advisers and others close to Trump said they wouldn’t be surprised if Trump gave information he shouldn’t have [to Russia dignitaries in the Oval Office].
One adviser who often speaks to the president said the conversation was likely freewheeling in the Oval Office, and he probably wanted to impress the officials.
“He doesn’t really know any boundaries. He doesn’t think the implications of what he’s saying.”

Short Attention Span

May 21, 2020

The title of this post is the identical to the title of a chapter in a timely book by Daniel W. Dreszner, The Toddler in Chief. It begins with this excerpt from the American Academy of Pediatrics, Caring for You Baby and Young Child: Around ages two and three, children naturally are very active and impulsive and have a short attention span. All children occasionally seem overactive or easily distractible—for example, when they’re tired, excited about a shiny something ‘special,’ or anxious about being in a strange place or among strangers.”

The following is from an article by Susan Glasser in Politico, May 19, 2017: When European diplomats meet these days, they often swap stories about Trump—and how to manage their volatile new ally. “The president of the United States has a 12-second attention span,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a former senior official in April after meeting Trump in the Oval Office. Not only that, this person told me, the president seemed unprepared and ill-informed, running the conversation to North Korea and apparently unaware that NATO was not a part of the ongoing North saga.

The following is from an article by Greg Jaffe and Philip Rucker in the August 4 issue of the Washington Post: Trump had little time for in-depth briefings on Afghanistan’s history, its complicated political or its seemingly endless civil war. Even a single page of bullet points on the country seemed to tax the president’s attention on the subject, said senior White House officials. “I call the president the two-minute man,” said one Trump confident. “The president has patience for a half-page.”

The following is from Bob Woodward’s recounting in his book Fear of Gary Cohn complaining to White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter: Things are just crazy here. They’re so chaotic. He’s never going to change. It’s pointless to prepare a meaningful, substantive briefing for the president that’s organized, where you have a bunch of slides. Because you know he’s never going to listen. We’re never going to get through it. He’s going to get through the first 10 minutes and then he’s going to want to start talking about some other topic. And so we’re going to be there for an hour, but we’re never going to get through this briefing.

The following is from an article by Oliva Nuzzi in New York, March 28, 2018: How do you devise messaging for Trump, who will blow up the strategy without warning with a single early-morning tweet?” One hour you’ll be talking about immigration reform. The next you’ll be talking about the NFL. The next you’ll be talking about gun policy. The next you’ll be talking about tax cuts. And then, you know, circle back around to who lied on Morning Joe that day,” a second former White House official told New York, comparing the experience in the press shop to being, “on speed.”

The following is from an article by Philip Rucker in the Washington Post, January 21, 2019: At times Trump evinced less rage than a lack of interest. Sims recounts one time when Ryan was in the Oval Office explaining the ins and outs of the Republican health-care bill to the president. As Ryan droned on for 15 minutes, Trump sipped on a glass of Diet Coke, peered out at the Rose Garden, stared aimlessly at the walls and finally, walked out.
Ryan kept talking as the president wandered down the hall to his private dining room, where he flicked on his giant flat-screen TV. Apparently, he had had enough of Ryan’s talk. It fell to Vice President Pence to retrieve Trump and convince him to return to the Oval Office so they could continue their strategy session.”

The following is from Carol E. Lee and Courtney Kube, NBC News, March 28, 2019: In his new role, Coats was responsible for walking a president he hardly knew through his daily intelligence briefing. He quickly found his boss had a short attention span for the information he was providing, current and former administration officials said. Coats struggled with how to respond when Trump veered off on unrelated tangents or bluntly disagree with the intelligence he was presented—as he often did, the current and former senior administrations officials said.
Coats found it particularly hard to hide his exasperation with Trumps insistence in the weeks after taking office that Obama had wiretapped him during the 2016 campaign, according to the officials. Over and over again Trump raised the issue and over and over Coats told him he wasn’t wiretapped, officials said, but the president didn’t want to hear it.
“It was a recurring thing and began early on,” a senior administration official who observed the exchanges said. “You could tell that Coats thought the president was crazy.”

Temper Tantrums

May 20, 2020

The title of this post is the identical to the title of a chapter in a timely book by Daniel W. Dreszner, The Toddler in Chief. The chapter begins with a quote from the American Academy of Pediatrics, Caring for Your Baby and Young Child.
When he oversteps a limit and is pulled back, he often reacts with anger and frustration, possibly with a temper tantrum or sudden rage….At this age, he just doesn’t have much control over his emotional impulses, so his anger and frustration tend to erupt suddenly….It’s his only way of dealing with the difficult realities of life. He may even act out in ways that unintentionally harm himself or others. It’s all part of being two.

The following is from an article by Josh Dawley in Politico, May 10, 2017: “He had grown enraged by the Russian investigation, two advisers said, frustrated by his inability to control the mushrooming narrative around Russia. He repeatedly asked aides why the Russia investigation wouldn’t disappear and demanded they speak out for him. He would sometimes scream at television clips about the probe, one advisor said.”

The following is from an article by Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker in the Washington Post, June 23, 2017: “Trump’s grievances and moods often bleed into one another. Frustration with the investigation stews inside him until it bubbles up in the form of rants to aides about fair cable television commentary or as slights aimed at Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy, Rod J. Rosenstein.”

The following is from an article by Sam Stein, Lachlan Markay, and Asawin Suebsaeng in the Daily Beast, July 19, 2017: Multiple Trump administrations officials detailed to The Daily Beast how senior staffers have a long-standing practice of assuring Trump of the quantity of his major accomplishments (of which he has barely any legislative and some administrative) and placating him by flagging positive media coverage, typically from right-wing outlets. This is, in part, a means to avoid further upsetting a president who is already prone to irrationally taking out his anger and professional frustrations on senior staff and who also has a penchant for yelling at the TV.

The following is from an article by Robert Costa, Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker in the Washington Post, October 9, 2017: One Trump confident likened the president to a whistling teapot, saying that when he does not blow off steam, he can turn into pressure cooker territory.

The following is from an article by Julie Hirschfield Davis in the New York Times, July 16, 2018: Some of Trump’s own advisers privately said they were shocked by the president’s performance, including his use of the phrase “witch hunt” to describe he special counsel investigations while standing beside Mr. Putin.
Aboard Air Force One back to Washington, Mr. Trump’s mood grew foul as the breadth of the critical reactions became clear according to some people briefed on the flight. Aides steered clear of the front of the plane to avoid being tapped for a venting session with Mr. Trump.

The following is from a piece by Michelle Kosinski and Maegan Vazquez on CNN, June 4, 2018: A call about trade and migration between US President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron soured last week after Macron candidly criticized Trump’s policies, two sources familiar with the call told CNN.
“Just bad. It was terrible,” one source told CNN. “Macron thought he would be able to speak his mind, based on the relationship. But Trump can’t handle being criticized like that.”

The following is from an article by John Walcott in Time, February 5, 2019: What is most troubling, say these officials and others in government and on Capitol Hill who have been briefed on [intelligence briefing] episodes, are Trump’s angry reactions when he is given information that contradicts positions he has taken or beliefs he holds. Two intelligence officers even reported that they have been warned to avoid giving the President intelligence assessments that contradict stances he has taken in public.

This last quote is terrifying when you think the damage Trump can wreak even absent his control of the nuclear trigger.

Quotes from Prominent Trump Supporters

May 19, 2020

These quotes come from a timely book by Daniel W. Dreszner, The Toddler in Chief.

Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich: “There are parts of Trump that are almost impossible to manage.
Trump White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon: “I’m sick of being a wet nurse for a 71 year old.”
US Senator Bob Corker: “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center.”
GOP campaign consultants Karl Rove: “Increasingly it appears Mr. Trump lacks the focus or self-discipline to do the basic work required of a President. HIs chronic impulsiveness is apparently unstoppable and clearly self-defeating.”
Newsman CEO and longtime Trump friend Christopher Ruddy: “This is Donald Trump’s personality. He just has to respond. He’s been so emotional…It takes a toll on him, and the way he deals with it is to lash out.”
Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson: “I’ve come to believe that Trump’s role is not as a conventional President who promises to get certain things achieved to the Congress and then does. I don’t think he’s capable of sustained focus, I don’t think he understands the system.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: “What was challenging for me coming from the disciplined highly process-oriented ExxonMobil corporation [was] to go to work for a man who is pretty undisciplined, doesn’t like to read, doesn’t read briefing reports, doesn’t like to get into the details of a lot of things, but rather just kind of says,”This is what I believe.”
US Representative Ryan Costello: “The notion that a shutdown creates more pressure on Dems is toddler logic.”
U.S. Senator Lindsay Graham: “The president’s been—he can be a handful—that’s just the way it is.”
U.S. Representative Adam Kinzinger: This is so beneath the office you hold, It’s childish, and yet it’s getting really old.”
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan: “I’m telling you he didn’t know anything about government….I wanted to scold him all the time.”
Governor Chris Christie: “He acts and speaks on impulse. He doesn’t always grasp the inner workings of government.

Dresser writes, “But between April 2017 and December 2019, I have recorded well over one thousand instances in which an ally or subordinate or Donald Trump has described the President as if he were a toddler. The rate is greater than one toddler depiction per day. That seems like a lot.”

What HM cannot understand is how these people, knowing what they know, allow Trump to continue as president given the harm he is wreaking on the country and the world.

The Toddler in Chief

May 18, 2020

The title of this post is identical to the title of a timely book by Daniel W. Dreszner. The subtitle of this book is What Donald Trump Teaches Us About the Modern Presidency. The introduction to this book begins with a quote from American Academy of Pediatrics, Caring for Your Baby and Young Child:
At the age of two, children view the world almost exclusively through their own needs and desires. Because they can’t yet understand how others might feel in the same situation, they assume that everyone thinks and feels exactly as they do. And on those occasions when they realize they’re out of line, they may not be able to control themselves.

There will be a series of posts on this book. It follows the posts on narcissism nicely, for narcissists are essentially exhibiting the behavior of a two year old child. It should be noted that the “twos” are known as the terrible twos, since at this age the child is virtually exclusively self-centered, and lashes out when frustrated. The author writes, “On television, commentators ranging from Don Lemon to P.J. O’Rourke have characterized the President as a two-year-old brat. Protestors and editorial cartoonists depict Trump as a giant man-baby. Within the first few months of his presidency, even conservative columnists such as David Brooks and Ross Dothan were explicitly comparing Trump to a child. In the fall of 2017, the Atlantic’s David Graham wrote, ‘How does the presidency work when the President’s aides treat him like a child? The immediate answer is, not very well.’”

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank wrote, “‘Though we often hear the mantra ‘this is not normal,’ what the President is doing actually is normal. For a 2-year-old.” The author writes, “If you want to understand this White House, turn off Wolf Blitzer and pick up Benjamin Spock.”

The author writes, “President Trump, his family and biographers have all made it clear that the 45th President is not the most mature of individuals. Trump himself told his biographer, ‘When I look at myself in the first grade and I look at myself now, I’m basically the same. The temperament is not that different.’ Trump’s sister Maryanne told the Washington Post during the 2016 campaign that a her brother was ‘still a simple boy from Queens.’ Admittedly, a fourth-grader is older than a toddler, but the fact remains that Trump and his family agree that his psychological makeup has remained unchanged from when he was a very small boy. Most of the biographers and biographies of Trump make a similar point: Trump has experienced little emotional or psychological development since he was a toddler. Tim O’Brien, the author of TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald, warned Politico after Trump’s election that ‘we now have somebody who’s going to sit in the Oval Office who is lacking in a lot of adult restraints and in mature emotions.’

Continuing the author writes, “The last and most powerful argument supporting the Toddler-in-Chief thesis, however, is laid out in the rest of this book. It is not only Trump’s political opponents who frequently liken him to an immature child. His closest political allies and subordinates draw the same comparison. This is the strongest rebuttal to the claim that those comparing Trump to a toddler are simply partisan hacks. Individuals with a vested interest in the success of Donald Trump’s presidency nonetheless describe him as a small boy in desperate need of a time-out. They have done so repeatedly and persistently since his inauguration.”

Many more healthy memory blog posts will be based on this important book. They timely follow the many posts on narcissism. In reading Drezner’s book the similarity between two year olds and narcissists is striking. Like two-year olds, narcissists also want to be the center of attention, praised and admired, and have all their needs and wants catered to. So the narcissist-in-chief can readily serve as the toddler-in-chief.

What Can Be Done About the Narcissim Epidemic

May 17, 2020

The authors of The Narcissim Epidemic: Living in an Age of Entitlement, Twenge and Campbell offer a wide range of solutions to the problem of narcissism. They address changes that need to be made structurally by government and different industries. Given that neither HM nor his readers would be capable of implementing these changes, this post will deal with activities to be done by the individual. These changes will lead to a more satisfying and fulfilling life. It should be clear from the posts that narcissism is not fulfilling and leads to unhappiness.

Let’s begin by discussing the Chief Narcissist, Donald Trump. There was a previous post, Trump vs. a Buddhist monk, which argued that the monk is a happier than Donald Trump. His meditations produce this happiness. But what about the multiple billionaire Donald Trump? He is the president of the leading country in the world, but is he happy?

He doesn’t act happy. At the smallest slight he attacks people with nicknames and insults like an elementary school bully. There are many examples of this, but perhaps the best was his response to why his administration had taken no effective actions for the coronavirus epidemic in February. Trump had played a campaign video that purported to show his activities against the virus. Unfortunately, there was nothing in it about the month of February. When a reporter asked about this gap, Trump responded about January, when the reporter responded that the question was about February as it was obvious that the administration had done nothing during February, Trump’s response was that this reporter was a horrible person and told her so to her face. Now a response like this from any adult would be quite remarkable, but from the President of the United States?

Trump is proud of his wealth and he judges people by the amount of wealth that they have. But this is a losing quest, there will always be people who either are wealthier or who soon will be wealthier than you. Moreover, Trumps wealth is in question. He refuses to release his taxes. Moreover, he had suffered so many bankruptcies that American banks would no longer lend him money. So where did the money come from for all the building projects he had underway? The answer came from one of his sons, who said that the Russians had loaned him the money. The reality is that Putin owns Trump, and that Trump getting financing from the Russian mob goes way back (see the healthy memory blog post “House of Trump House of Putin”).

Narcissim’s fundamental problem is a sense of entitlement that comes from self-esteem (HM disagrees with the book’s authors on this point, read that post to understand why).
Research has shown that self-esteem is harmful. One example being a reluctance to try new things because it might make them look bad. Rather than self-esteem, use the terms self-affirmation or self-confidence, meaning that people can accomplish much more than they think they can, provided they persevere.

There is no “we” or “us” in narcissism, it is all about me or I. People need to think about others, and have empathy for their problems. They need to work well and share with others. They need to be concerned about the welfare of their fellow humans. These practices yield benefits to one’s own mental and physical well being.

A recurring theme in this blog is that growth mindsets are needed for a healthy memory. One should constantly be learning new topics and skills. This provides memory health, by engaging System 2 processing (thinking) in lieu of a heavy reliance on default (System 1) processing.

Doing so will lead to a more fulfilling and satisfying life that results in a cognitive reserve that largely reduces the risks of Alzheimers and dementia. Another prediction for narcissists is that they are at a high risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


May 16, 2020

This post is based on a book by Jean M. Twenge and Keith Campbell titled The Narcissim Epidemic. The subtitle is Living in an Age of Entitlement. The authors write, “College professors often comment that today’s students feel they deserve special treatment. In 2005, a Harvard professor noted that, 20 years ago, ‘When a few students were sick and missed an exam…they use to be apologetic and just grateful that I would even offer a makeup. These days I have kids who think it’s no big deal to miss a test if they have any conflict and then they think they should decide when I give the makeup.’ Some students say, ‘I need an A in this course,” as if an A were an entitlement rather than something to be earned. Others expect to get good grades just for paying tuition, even telling faculty members, ‘You work for me.’ The most entitled have decided that they get good grades by arguing, saying things like, ‘I’m not leaving you office until you change my grade to an A.’”

The authors continue, “A survey of college students published in 2008 confirmed these perceptions. Two-thirds of students believed their professor should give them special considerations it they explained they were trying hard (apparently just for trying). One-third believed they deserved at least a B just for attending class. And—perhaps most incredible—one third thought that they should be able to reschedule their final exam if it interfered with their vacation plans.”

Joan a financial aid counselor at a satellite campus of the University of North Carolina writes that students often tell her, “I don’t want loans; I want financial aid,” and she has to explain that financial aid consists of more than outright gifts of money. One student came into her office and announced, “I was just at the Cashier’s Offie to pick up my refund check, and they said I didn’t have one. I want to know who the slacker is around here.” When Joan looked at the file, she found that the student had not even filed a financial aid application. When confronted with the truth that she was the “slacker,” the student said, “My parents are so stupid—they were supposed to do that for me.”

The authors write, “Entitled people are also unwilling to see the world through another person’s eyes and find it difficult to empathize with another’s misfortunes. When you are entitled, all your focus is directed toward your own experience, you own outcomes, your own needs. This is an obvious recipe for disaster in a romantic relationship, but it doesn’t bode well for work relationships, either. Engagement is also linked to a fundamental lack of respect for other people. The entitled person considers his needs paramount, and the others’ needs minor.”

Regarding the employee problem, the authors write, “In business, entitlement often boils down to an equation: less work for more pay. Plenty of workers today want that, but they also want more flexibility, balance, meaning, and praise for their work. ‘If you just expect them to stand behind a register and smile, they’re not going to do that unless you tell them why that’s important and then recognize them for it,’ say John Spano, a human resources director at a theater chain. Bob runs a business that staffs industrial and clerical jobs in Minneapolis and answers the authors’ survey. ‘It’s not uncommon for an employee to call my office before I arrive for the day to inform me, their employer, that they are too tired to go to work and must get more sleep. They really see nothing wrong with staying home from work to sleep.’” One employee who did this three times in one week was fired, only to call a few months later wanting another job.”

A major problem with entitlement is that entitled people don’t see reciprocity as a two-way street. They see favors as a one-way on-ramp that leads to them. The result is that the whole concept of reciprocity gets diminished and life gets a little harder and more isolated for everyone. The authors write that “Reciprocity is the gel that binds society together, and entitlement dissolves that glue.”

Antisocial Behavior

May 15, 2020

This post is based on a book by Jean M. Twenge and Keith Campbell titled The Narcissim Epidemic. The subtitle is Living in an Age of Entitlement. The title of this post is identical to the subtitle of a chapter. The chapter title is The Quest for Infamy and the Rise of Incivility.

The authors write, “Narcissists are not necessarily aggressive all the time—unprovoked, they just act like everyone else. But they do lash out when someone else takes them down a notch. Brad Bushman and Roy Baumeister conducted a series of experiments in which college students wrote essays and received rigged feedback, which was ostensibly given by another student. The feedback said, “This is one of the worst essays I’ve read!” Eighty % of those high in narcissism were more aggressive than non-narcissists after receiving this insult. Narcissists weren’t aggressive toward someone who praised them, but an insult set them off. The narcissistic reaction is often out of proportion to the provocation.

The ABC News show 20/20 filmed several participants going through Bushman and Baumeister’s experiment. One student, call him Nick the Narcissist, scored in the 98th percentile on narcissism and laughed as he administered strong noise blasts. Afterward he was shown the video of himself and told he could choose whether it was aired. Nick said, sure, air it. Brad Bushman took him aside and explained that he might not want to look like a highly aggressive narcissist on national television. Nick said he thought he looked great, and wanted to be on TV. Perhaps the TV producers could at least digitize his face, Bushman suggested. Nick said incredulously, no way! He added it was too bad they couldn’t show his name and phone number too. The authors write, “This is one of the keys to understanding narcissists: they don’t really care if they look like jerks; they just want to be famous.”

Narcissists are also aggressive when someone tries to restrict their freedom: “Who are you to tell me what I can or can’t do?” An aggressive response to freedom restriction was painfully demonstrated in 2007 when several Philadelphia schoolteachers were allegedly attacked by students, one when he ordered a student to turn down her music, and another when he ordered a student to stop making prank phone calls on a classroom phone. Four teachers were seriously injured in separate incidents, and three of the student attackers ended up in jail for assault.

There is a relationship between narcissism, self-esteem, and aggression. High self-esteem and high narcissism produces a high level of aggression. For people with low self-esteem the level of aggression is almost identical regardless of their level of narcissism.

The authors write, “Given the upswing in the narcissistic values of American culture since the ‘90s, it may be no coincidence that mass shootings became a national plague around the same time. However, if the rise in narcissism were the only explanation, school shootings would have started earlier—perhaps in the late 1970s and ‘80s when the narcissism epidemic was just getting going. However, these types of social behaviors need to get attention before most people think about perpetuating them. Before school shootings received extensive media attention in the late ‘90s, people didn’t think of shooting a group of their fellow students as a way to get fame. Columbine and the other late ‘90s shootings provided a script for how to commit a mass killing at school, and demonstrated that these shootings could be linked to fame. If you ask students today, “How do you commit a mass killing at a school?” they know what to do. Before Columbine, few students would have thought about it. As American culture has grown more enamored with celebrity and fame, and now that mass killing in schools is seen as a direct avenue to fame and attention, the frequency of mass killings has increased dramatically. Fistfights that got wide exposure have shown a similar pattern.”


May 14, 2020

This post is based on a book by Jean M. Twenge and Keith Campbell titled The Narcissim Epidemic. The subtitle is Living in an Age of Entitlement. Materialism harms others and society like many of the correlates of narcissism. But it is also harmful to the individual in the long run. The author of The High Price of Materialism,Tim Kasser, has spent his career studying the consequences of valuing money and things. Materialistic people are less happy and more depressed on average than other people. People who simply aspire to have more money suffer from poor mental health; they also report more physical health problems such as sore throats, backaches, and headaches. And they are more likely to drink too much alcohol and use illegal drugs. Apparently, striving for financial success makes people miserable. One reason is that it is very hard to get ahead for more than a short while in the materialism game. Both fashion and style change so rapidly that only the very wealthy—or those willing to carry enormous amounts of debt—can keep up. Beyond the brief feeling of excitement you get when buying a hot new product and showing it to your friends, the pleasures of materialism are fleeting. Although lots of things are fun to buy, not so many are fun to own. The authors write, “The boost to narcissism that you get from beating the Joneses lasts only until they get their own new BMW or home cinema.

Materialism is also a stumbling block in the relationships of narcissists. Narcissistic partners often say that the narcissist’s interest in material good interferes with the relationship. Guys will say, she’s more interested in stainless-steel appliances, fancy handbags. and Manolo Blank shoes that our relationship. Gals will say he’s more interested in huge flat-screen TV, Rolex watches, and expensive suits.

Narcissists also sort their friends according to material standards. One woman bragged to a group of friends that she had bought not one but three Coach diaper bags, and added that she waited to share this news until after the departure of friends who were not fashion-coward enough to appreciate her taste. Her advice for those yet to deliver their babies was to bring gift bags to bribe the nursing staff.

Throughout history people have aspired to be rich, but now wealth seems much more materialistic. Today, anyone can get into Harvard it they’re smart enough, when just a few decades ago the vast majority of Ivy Leaguers were white men from the East Coast with the right connections. There were rags-to-riches as well in previous eras, but there was more awareness and acceptance that these were unusual. The authors write, “Not long ago, low-income teenagers aspired to middle-class dreams, for example a three-bedroom house in the suburbs. These days, disadvantaged youth are more likely to say they want a mansion like the one they saw on MTV.”

The authors write, “The rich are also treated with an aspirational reverence—somewhat like the gods were to the Greeks, except that many people fervently hope they can soon join their ranks. A recent Forbes magazine cover promised details on “The Lives of the Very Rich,” including sections titled “Masters of the Universe” and Marrying its Money.” ‘Masters of the Universe’ tops the hype meter.
Aspirational reverence should be reserved from those with genuine accomplishment of for humanitarian endeavors, not for wealth, and especially inherited wealth.


May 13, 2020

This post is based on a book by Jean M. Twenge and Keith Campbell titled The Narcissim Epidemic. The subtitle is Living in an Age of Entitlement. The authors write, “Americans growing obsession with appearance is a clear symptom of a narcissistic culture in love with its own reflection. True to the Greek myth, narcissists believe they are more attractive than other people (even though, objectively, they’re not).” Carly Simon sings in her song “You’re So Vain”, “You had one eye on the mirror as you watched yourself.” Narcissists like watching themselves on videotape, and report gaining self-confidence from gazing at their reflections in a mirror. The Narcissistic Personality Inventory contains items such as “I like to look at myself in the mirror,” “I get upset when people don’t notice how I look when I go out in public,” and “I like to show off my body.” Vanity often occurs with self-centeredness, which causes so many of the negative behaviors associated with narcissism. Amanda Knox, who was accused of murdering her roommate, wrote in her jailhouse diary, “When I have an hour outside time I sit with my face in the sun so that I can get a tan. I have received letters from fellow inmates and admirers telling me that I am hot and they want to have sex with me.”

Students at San Diego State participate in an “Undie Run” at the end of fall semester every year. Picture from the 2007 event, posted on a public website, show an expanse of well—toned undergraduate flesh posing for the camera, including three young women wearing briefs that say “Take my Photo” on her rear. In the picture, they stand with their buns on the camera, pointing at the slogan. And to think that some people question the value of a college education!

But forget about college. A 2008 survey found that 1 out of 4 teen girls has sent a nude or nearly nude picture of herself via the Internet or cell phone. Sometimes these images are meant for one person, but often end up circulating to hundreds of other teens.

The authors write, “One of the dark sides of the cultural emphasis on physical appearance is the increase in eating disorders. Many people with eating disorders suffer from the “vulnerable” subtype of narcissism, which is often accompanied by anxiety and depression. The combination of self-admiration with the social pressure to look physically attractive—both of which are present in the current cultural climate—are a recipe for creating eating disorders.

Men are not immune to new high standards for appearance. Men’s skin care is one of the fastest-growing segments in the multi-billion-dollar grooming industry, and with sales up almost 50% in 2005 alone. This is especially true for younger generations, who “get their bodies waxed, work out, style their hair, and go to tanning salons.” When HM was an adolescent, the main and only concern was using Clearisil to remove pimples from one’s face.

And plastic surgeons are experiencing vast increases in wealth from plastic surgery.
The authors ask, “Why the rise in the obsession with appearance? Much of today’s desire for physical beauty springs from the fountain of self-admiration. For narcissistic people, good looks are just another way of gaining attention, status, and popularity.”

What Wealthy People Do To Get That Way

May 12, 2020

This post is based on a book by Jean M. Twenge and Keith Campbell titled The Narcissim Epidemic. The subtitle is Living in an Age of Entitlement. To answer this question the authors cited the work of Thomas Stanley and William Danko, who are authors of The Millionaire Next Door. The authors initially believed millionaires would have expensive tastes and habits. However, after some research, the found that this wasn’t true. They set up a meeting with people worth at least $10 million. They set up a table with fancy food and wine they thought the millionaires would like. But when they offered a glass of high-end wine to one, he turned it down flat. He said, “I drink two kinds of beer. Free and Budweiser.”

These millionaires Stanley and Danko studied were frugal. Many drove used cars, spent very little, and saved large sums of money. Stanley and Danko identified seven key factor in these millionaires. At least two are directly at odds with narcissism. First, the authors found, millionaires live well below their means. Second, Millionaires “believe that financial independence is more important than displaying high social status. So rather than running after status, these wealthy people wanted to achieve actual wealth and independence. The narcissistic culture asks, “Why be wealthy if you can’t show it off?” But many millionaires believe that having wealth gave them a sense of freedom, a feeling that far outweighed the fleeting pleasure of looking wealthy.

Twinge and Campbell write, “The findings presented in The Millionaire Next Door are counterintuitive. Americans see people with fancy cars and clothes and assume they must be rich. In reality, it is often safer to assume that they are in debt. The credit crunch that paralyzed the economy in the late 2000s is, at base, the conflict between the pleasure principle and the reality principle. Narcissism works on the pleasure principle—it looks great and gets what it wants, but it hurts other people and even the self in the long run. In contrast, the reality principle isn’t flashy or self-promoting, but it does leads to actual wealth.

Media Transmission of Narcissim

May 10, 2020

This post is based on a book by Jean M. Twenge and Keith Campbell titled The Narcissim Epidemic. The subtitle is Living in an Age of Entitlement. Reality TV stars and other celebrities play an important role in the spread of narcissism. In the epidemiology of viruses, some people are known as super spreaders. Celebrities and the media they dominate are super spreaders of narcissism. Through gossip magazines, movies, commercials, and reality TV, Americans get a regular infusion of the narcissism virus. They create a world in which being narcissistic is cool.

A journalist wrote in an online survey, “I interviewed hundreds of well-known actors and actresses over a 10-year period, and this is basically how the interviews went: “I think…I believe… I am…My passion is…I’d like to think what I do makes a difference in the world…Me…Me…More Me…Major Me…did I mention Me? I am a role model to so many…I am, in fact, God incarnate. [They], and not only the mega-stars, were so self-absorbed, so self-obsessed, that my attendance at the interview wasn’t totally necessary. They blurted out their Me—ness unprompted.”

Another headline-making realm with more than its share of narcissists is sports. Skier Bode Miller, who failed to finish in events and nearly fell in a third one in the 2006 Winter Olympics, said, “I just did it my way. I’m not a martyr, and I’m not a do-gooder, I just want to go out and rock. And man, I rocked here. He admitted to not training as much as he should have, but he claimed he had a good reason: “My quality of life is the priority. It’s been an awesome two weeks, I got to party and socialize at an Olympic level.”

The authors report, “An increasing number of Americans not only admire fame from afar but fervently wish to enter the circle of celebrity themselves. In 2005, 51% of 18-to 25-year olds said that “becoming famous” was an important goal of their generation—nearly five times as many as named “becoming more spiritual” as an important goal. A 2006 poll asked children in Britain to name “the very best thing in the world.” The most popular answer was “being a celebrity.” “Good looks” and “being rich” rounded out the top three, making for a perfect narcissistic triumvirate. “God” came in last.

When one of the authors asked a teenage girl, “What do you want to be when you’re older?” She replied, “Famous.” “For what?” she was asked. The teen responded, “It doesn’t matter, I just want to be famous.”

Joshua Gamson, a sociology professor at the University of San Francisco said, “It’s as if being famous has become a right. One of the rights to being an American is the right to become famous—at least for an hour, maybe a day.”

In 2005, 31% of American high school students said they expected to become famous someday. Obviously, there is going to be an enormous number of disappointed students. Let us hope that some do not become desperate enough to take the route of an active shooter shooting their way to fame.

The Trap of Narcissism

May 9, 2020

This post is based on a book by Jean M. Twenge and Keith Campbell titled The Narcissim Epidemic. The subtitle is Living in an Age of Entitlement. Now the question is if narcissism doesn’t lead to success, and comes with so many costs, why is anyone narcissistic?

One reason is that narcissists’ have greater visibility, so many people believe that narcissists are phenomenally successful. Narcissists seek attention and they’re really good at getting on TV (or looking snazzy at the local bar, or showing off at the gym). It’s an example of what we psychologists call the availability heuristic—believing that things happen more often when they come to mind more easily. For example, many people think flying on planes is dangerous because they can easily remember the image of a horrific plane crash, even though driving a car is actually far more dangerous statistically. The authors write that successful narcissists are a little like plane crashes; they are spectacular, they get noticed, and they can be a disaster.

The authors write, “This phenomenon is easily seen in the media. Donald Trump, who puts his name on everything he builds, has his own TV show, named a university after himself (there was a Trump University, it has failed), and picks fights with talk show hosts, is a great example who is both successful and appears to be narcissistic. We know about Donald Trump’s success because he is relentlessly self-promoting. It is hard to miss The Donald in the media, and he is rich (actually readers of this post should know that Trump was bankrupt but Putin financed his developments, which is why he is hiding his tax returns)—but there are other real stable tycoons you’ve never heard of because they are not self-promoters and don’t want to be in the limelight. Many other successful people are not self-promoting. For example. Warren Buffet, the billionaire investor gave most of his fortune to charity and drives around Nebraska in a Lincoln with license plates that say THRIFTY. Tom Hanks, who has won two Best Actor Academy Awards, is known in the film industry for being a genuinely nice person, as was Paul Newman, who donated millions to charity. You don’t have to be a narcissist to be successful, but Americans can think of lots of successful narcissists because they’re always grabbing the limelight. [It should to be noted that this book was published before Trump ran for President]

Then how is narcissism bad? The authors note that narcissism shares several things in common with other destructive behaviors. “First, it felt good. It’s fun to gamble, binge drink, have an illicit sexual relationship, eat glazed donuts, or take notepads from the office. Second, destructive behaviors usually have short-term benefits and long-term costs. When you gamble, you get the fun and excitement of going to the casino and playing cards. But you also risk the long-term costs of losing all your money, destroying your marriage, and losing your self-respect. When you binge drink, you have the benefits of giddy fun, but the longer-term cost of vomiting, a massive hangover, and the inability to show up at work. Last, destructive behaviors often make other people suffer. When someone cheats in a relationship. much of the cost is paid by the uninvolved spouse and children. Consumers all pay the cost of employee theft in terms of higher prices. The risky mortgage rewards the homeowner and the lender in the short term, but hurts everybody in the long run when the owner can’t pay the bill. “
In short, narcissism harms many people specifically, and society in general.

Creating a Narcissistic Child

May 8, 2020

This post is based on a book by Jean M. Twenge and Keith Campbell titled The Narcissim Epidemic. The subtitle is Living in an Age of Entitlement. Four psychologists studied the relationship between parental styles and children’s narcissistic personality traits. In one study, 9-to-13-year-old children completed a measure of narcissism and reported their parents’ behaviors once and then again 12 to 18 months later. Children whose mothers were both warm and psychologically controlling, like a helicopter parent, later scored the highest on narcissism. In another study, narcissistic young adults reported that their parents were indulgent. Narcissists were more likely to agree that “Looking back, I feel my parents sometimes put me on a pedestal,” “When I was a child my parents believed I have exceptional talents and abilities,” “When I was a child my parents praised me for virtually everything I did,” and “When I was a child my parents rarely criticized me.”

Two other studies asked teens and young adults to report how closely their parents monitored them as adolescents. The narcissistic respondents were more likely to say that their parents didn’t really know where they went at night. The general picture of parenting that leads to narcissistic kids closely resembles the modern parent: overindulgent, praising, and putting the child in charge. The authors conclude, “None of this is good news for the parent whose kid wears a bib saying “I’m the boss.”

The authors write that today many parents are uncomfortable being authority figures. They would rather have their child like them than respect them, and would rather be the child’s friend that a stern parent. They say that this trend began in the 1970s with books like PET: Parent Effectiveness Training, which argued that parents didn’t really know more than their kids—saying adults know more, they wrote, is akin to the belief that some racial groups are superior to others. Although the book does state that parents should not let their children do whatever they want, it was the first among many parenting manuals that encouraged equality between parents and children.

Many children now make household decisions, something that was unheard of just a few decades ago. Even preschoolers help make family purchasing decisions, important purchasing decisions. An educational consultant knows a family in which the five-year-old boy chose the family’s new car.

Overpraising is another problem, one which stems largely from the belief that self-esteem is important. Consequently, trophies are awarded just for participating. The authors write, “Praising children when they do good work or behave well is fine—in fact, that approach works better than punishing children for behaving badly. But in the past few decades, American parenting has moved to a different model, heaping praise for the littlest achievement and even, sometimes, for poor performance. Thinking that you’re great when you actually stink is a recipe for narcissism, yet this is what many patents and teachers encourage in children every day in the name of self-esteem (self-esteem again, instead of self-confidence, or self affirmation).
Continuing, the authors write, “Excessive praise has even been built into our education system. Although 20% fewer students in 2006 (versus 1976) did 15 or more hours of homework a week, twice as many reported getting an A average in high school. In other words, students now getting better grades for doing less work.

Polly Young-Eisendrath describes in her book, The Self-Esteem Trap, how treating a child as “special” leads to young adults who are self-absorbed but fragile in the face of hard work and negative feedback. They feel entitled to high-status occupations but quickly become discouraged when they aren’t highly successful right away.

Narcissism and Success

May 7, 2020

This post is based on a book by Jean M. Twenge and Keith Campbell titled The Narcissim Epidemic. The subtitle is Living in an Age of Entitlement. The authors write, “Narcissists love to win, but in most settings they aren’t that great at actually winning. College students with inflated views of themselves (they think they are better than they actually are) make poorer grades the longer they are in college, and they are more likely to drop out. Another study found that students who flunked an introductory psychology course had the highest narcissism scores by far, and those who made A’s had the lowest. The authors conclude, “Apparently the narcissists were wildly unrealistic about how they were doing and persisted in their lofty illusions when they should have dropped course (or perhaps done something radical, like study).”

So overconfidence backfires, The authors write, “narcissists are lousy at taking criticism and learning from mistakes. They also like to blame everyone and everything except themselves for their shortcomings. They lack motivation to improve because they believe they already have it made: when you were born on home plate, why run around the bases? Overconfidence itself can lead to poor performance. If you think you know all the answers, there’s no need to study. Then you take the test and fail. Oops.”

In another series of studies, people answer general knowledge questions like “Who founded the Holy Roman Empire?” Then they rated their confidence in their answers and were given the chance to place a monetary bet on the outcome. Unknown to the participants, these were “fair bets”, so someone who was 99% confident in their answer would make less money than someone who was only 60% sure. This is similar to horse racing, where the favorites have smaller pay-offs(a 1-to-25 pony pays off more than the 1-to-2 sure thing), or football, where there is a “point spread” of each game. The performance of Narcissists on the questions was the same as everyone else’s, but they were more confident of their answers and bet too much and too often. Narcissists also showed their trademark decoupling from reality: they started saying they would do better than others, but they actually did worse. Nevertheless the narcissists were undaunted and continued to claim that they had outperformed others on the test and would do well in the future. The authors conclude, “At least for a short period of time, narcissists were able to live in a fantasy world where they thought they were successful. They were even able to maintain these beliefs in the face of failure. Narcissism is a great predictor of imaginary success—but not of actual success.”

Narcissists have a high risk tolerance. They are optimistic because they are so confident they are right and that things will go well. So narcissists are successful when investing in bull markets, when their overconfidence and willingness to take risks pays off. In a simulated stock market study, narcissists did better than others when the market was headed up. But their superior performance disappeared as to their higher tolerance for risk. The authors write, “This, in part, is what happened to the mortgage market during the early 2000s: Both buyers and lender were narcissistically overconfident and took too many risks. When many buyers couldn’t pay their overly optimistic mortgages, the market turned downward eventually taking much of Wall Street with it. In the short term, narcissism and overconfidence pay off in spades, but when failure came it was even more spectacular than usual. In the end, the financial crises was the worst since the Great Depression. The authors failed to note that narcissists did not time the market and lost their shirts and other articles of clothing in the crash. And they deserved losing these articles of clothing because narcissism was a critical force in moving the market to false levels.

Business professors Arijit Chatterjee and Donald Hambrick studied CEO narcissism and company outcomes for more than 100 technology companies. They found that the more narcissistic the CEO of a company was, the more volatile the company’s performance. It appeared that narcissistic leaders were using dramatic, highly public corporate strategies. For example, they might buy up a smaller competitor or start a new “cutting-edge” business venture. When those strategic decisions paid off, the company did really well; when they didn’t, it was a disaster. In contrast, less narcissistic leader produced a more study performance. Given that volatility in performance is considered a negative in the valuation of companies (in economics, volatility is seen as “risk”) narcissistic CEOs are not ideal.

The authors write, “Narcissists are also not popular bosses. Employees rate narcissistic managers as average in problem-solving skills but below average in interpersonal skills and integrity, two qualities considered very important for management. Another study found that while narcissists saw themselves as excelling at leadership, their peers thought they were below average.”

The authors note, “Enron—the company made of “the smartest guys in the room” that cooked its books and subsequently imploded—is a microcosm of the downfalls of narcissism.” Malcolm Gladwell argues in his essay, “The Talent Myth.” “Enron was the Narcissistic Corporation—a company that took more credit for success than was legitimate, that did not acknowledge responsibility for its failures, that shrewdly sold the rest of us on its genius.”

Passing 74

May 6, 2020

Meaning that today HM is entering his 75th year. One might think that when one has lived this long, he has seen everything. But that is not the case. COVID-19 is new and is, by far, the worst pandemic he has ever experienced. We are not coping well with this pandemic, due in large part to Trump declaring it was a hoax perpetrated by the Democrats to destroy him. When he finally had to concede that the pandemic was real, he said that he had a test for the disease, he called it a beautiful test, that anyone could have just for the asking. Well there was no test and the absence of the test has seriously hindered the tracking of this disease and impacts when we might be able to return to a normal life.

Trump further exacerbated the situation by saying it was the responsibility of the states. He eventually declared a national emergency but did not lead the emergency as he was supposed to do. He said it was the problem of the states. The result of this was to put the states in competition not only with each other, but also with FEMA in competing for needed resources. This not only made this important task extremely difficult, it also made it more expensive.

Trump’s only interest in the pandemic is the likely risk it poses for his re-election campaign. Consequently, his focus is not on dealing with the pandemic, but rather in deflecting any blame off himself and onto others. This is nothing new. If someone does know of anytime that Trump has accepted blame for anything, please comment.

HM engages in ikigai, the Japanese term referring to living a life with purpose, a meaningful life. His purpose, in addition to living a fulfilling life with his wife, is to learn and share his thoughts and knowledge with others. HM does this primarily through his blog healthymemory, which focuses on memory health and technology.

HM’s Ph.D is in cognitive psychology. That field has transitioned to cognitive neuroscience, a field of research and a term that did not exist when HM was awarded his Ph.D. HM is envious of today’s students. However, he is still fortunate enough to be able to keep abreast of current research and to relay relevant and meaningful research from this field to his readers.

What is most disturbing is the atmosphere of fear and hate that prevails today. It is ironic that technology, which had, and still has, a tremendous potential for spreading knowledge, now largely spreads disinformation, hatred, and fear.
HM understands why this is the case, but, unfortunately, he does not know how to counter it.
The problem can best be understood in terms of Kahneman’s Two System View of cognition. In Nobel Lauerate Daniel Kahneman’s Two System View of cognition, System 1, intuition, is our normal mode of processing and requires little or no attention. Unfortunately, System 1 is largely governed by emotions. Fear and hate are System 1 processes. System 2, commonly referred to as thinking, requires our attention. One of the roles of System 2 is to monitor System 1. When we encounter something contradictory to what we believe, the brain sets off a distinct signal. It is easier to ignore this signal and to continue System 1 processing. To engage System 2 requires attentional resources to attempt to resolve the discrepancy and to seek further understanding. System 2 involves thinking. System 1 is automatic and requires virtually no cognitive effort. Emotions are a System 1 process, as are identity based politics. Politics based on going with people who look like you requires no thinking yet provides social support.

Through brain imaging, the field of cognitive science has identified what is termed default processing, or default mode processing. As the name implies, this is the default mode for the brain, which is virtually identical to System 1 processing. One must think to get out of this default mode and that takes mental effort, which too many people do not want to expend. Consequently, someone like Donald Trump is elected.

It is common knowledge that Donald Trump is a narcissist, meaning that he comes first and everything is about him. Unfortunately, HM has come to the conclusion that the United States is suffering from a narcissism epidemic. Narcissists vote for Trump because they regard him as a fellow narcissist.

Previous healthy memory posts have emphasized the enormous potential of technology. Today people, especially young people, are plugged in to their iPhones. Unfortunately, the end result is superficial processing. They get information expeditiously, but they are so consumed with staying in touch with updated information, that they have neither time nor attention left for meaningful System 2 processing. Unfortunately, technology, specifically social media, amplifies these bad effects, thus increasing misinformation, hatred and fear. Countering these bad effects requires implementing System 2 processes, that is thinking. A massive failure to do this enables Trump to build his politics on lies spreading hatred and fear.
As has been written in many previous healthy memory posts, System 2 processing will not only benefit politics, but will also decrease the probability of suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Personally, all this is upsetting. But HM believes it is essential to love one’s fellow humans. He tries to deal with this via meditation. Progress is both difficult and slow, but it needs to be done. Hatred destroys the one who hates. So HM continues a daily struggle to be a better human being.

This post began on 17 October 2009. HM thinks that there is valuable information on all posts, and encourages readers to review old posts. HM will endeavor to provide new information in all upcoming posts. Readers will find that some points are repeated, but one can take the number of repeats of information as a rough index of the importance of that information.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


May 5, 2020

The second point on which HM disagrees with Twenge and Campbell in their book The Narcissim Epidemic is the concept of self-esteem. They make a distinction between narcissism and self-esteem, and HM believes that this distinction is ill-founded. Twenge and Campbell are psychologists as is HM. It was psychologists who argued for the importance of self-esteem to mental health. They regarded competition as bad because competition produced losers and losing reduced self-esteem. They promoted sports for which everyone would win. And for sports like baseball, all players on all teams would be given trophies. We psychologists need to accept responsibility for causing this damage to society and to personal development.

One of the first problems noticed about self-esteem, is that children, and possibly adults, would be reluctant to try new things because they might fail and that would injure their self esteem. The problem with self-esteem is the problem of entitlement. People assume they are entitled because they have high self-esteem. This is the fundamental problem with the concept.

Of course, everyone needs a sense of value, but rather than term this as high self-esteem, call it self-confidence or self-affirmation. This means that we think that we can accomplish objectives and learn new skills as long as we apply ourselves. Unfortunately, too many people have been told that they can accomplish anything as long as they apply themselves. This is grossly wrong. Chance, luck, is important in most cases. For a variety of reasons opportunities are missing. But people should be self-confident that they can accomplish much more than they think they can. The importance of growth mindsets play an important role in healthy memory posts. Just enter the term “growth mindsets” into the search block at and see all the hits you get. We need to set for ourselves a series of goals. Being self-confident you can accomplish a goal and work to achieve it. When that goal is achieved, set another goal and so forth and so on. This way we are able to bootstrap ourselves up to personal success and, more importantly self-fulfillment. High self-esteem assumes a sense of entitlement and leads to disappointment and a false sense of entitlement.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Narcissim Epidemic

May 4, 2020

The title of this post is identical to the title of a book by psychologists Jean M. Twenge, Ph.D. & Keith Campbell. The subtitle is Living in an Age of Entitlement. This is the first post in a series of posts on this topic. It has become apparent to HM that there is a narcissism epidemic of which he was unaware. It accounts for the large homes being developed in his neighborhood and the election of Donald Trump. As readers should be aware HM has been completely stumped as to how someone as ill-suited for the office of the President of the United States could be elected, by the Electoral College, not by the popular vote. Due to this epidemic of narcissists, Trump’s election was virtually pre-ordained.

Psychologists usually assess narcissistic personality traits in individuals using the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, which was developed in the 1980s by Robert Raskin and Howard Terry at the institute of Personality Assessment and Research at the University of California at Berkeley.

The authors make a distinction between the personality trait of narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). The authors state: Being highly narcissistic or a narcissist is not the same as having a diagnosed disorder or a pathological level of narcissism. To be diagnosed with NPD, someone has to meet at least five of nine specific criteria describing a long-term behavior involving grandiosity, a lack of empathy, and a need to be admired. It is likely that there are psychiatrists who would make this diagnosis. There is a previous healthy memory post based on a book titled, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President”. That book presents a protocol for assessing the mental health of both the president and the vice-president. It is a tad ironic that physical exams are mandatory, but mental examinations are not. It would seem like the latter is more important that the former.

Although the authors have done an exemplary job, HM has some quibbles with their work. He regards their tracing of the history of narcissism to be incomplete. Although they do cite Nathaniel Brandon’s first book “The Psychology of Self-Esteem,” they fail to mention Brandon’s relationship to Ayn Rand and her philosophy of objectivism. Their relationship was more than intellectual; they were also romantically involved. During the sixties, when HM was in high school, Ayn Rand made appearances on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. HM watched these appearances and read a couple of her novels. Understand that objectivism is an extreme right-wing philosophy. Her ideas, although not adopted by HM, were carefully considered. But when HM’s face cleared up, so did his mind and he categorically rejected the philosophy of objectivism.

Unfortunately, currently there are politicians who have not rejected this philosophy, and this is highly disturbing. Remember Kahneman’s distinction between Type 1 and Type 2 processing. Type 1 processing is fast and efficient and has much in common with default mode processing. Type 2 processing is what we call critical thinking and requires cognitive effort. A common theme in this blog is that system 2 processing requires mental effort and is key to the thwarting of Alzheimer’s and dementia. It is also key to a healthy memory and an effective democracy. HM finds the thinking of politicians who have adopted Rand’s philosophy defective. Were critical, effortful thinking pursued, the flaws in objectivism would be obvious, but it requires less mental effort to avoid criticizing and instead adding to and supporting current beliefs.

So in addition to the many problems and evils to be discussed regarding narcissism, it is also central to fostering an unhealthy memory and cognitive decline.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Why HM is Interested in Narcissim

May 3, 2020

The next series of posts will be on the book, The Narcissim Epidemic: Living in an Age of Entitlement. There have been many healthymemory posts on Trump. These posts have documented how Trump is a danger to not only the United States, but also the world. HM has be puzzled by the appeal of Trump. He has wondered how people can vote for Trump giving his unseemly behavior and his glaring ignorance and ineptitude.

There is no question that Trump is a narcissist. There might be some psychiatrists who question whether his narcissism is a psychiatric disorder. HM is not a psychiatrist, and he is a cognitive psychologist not a clinical psychologist, yet it appears to him that Trump spends most of his time in an alternative reality. The best example of this was what happened when he gave an address at the United Nations General Assembly. He was giving his usual spiel that he gives at his rallies. The members of the UN broke out into laughter and this obviously surprised Trump.

So HM decided it was time to read Living in an Age of Entitlement by Drs. Jean M. Twenge and Keith Campbell. They claim that there is a narcissism epidemic. The book provides strong support for their contention. HM found it tough not only reading the entire book, but then needing to write posts on the book. Narcissists are disgusting individuals, and there is indeed an epidemic. The authors discuss whether it is a pandemic that the world is suffering.

So the disgusting truth is that Trump, the supreme narcissist, was elected by narcissists. It is comforting to note that he did not win the popular vote, but was elected by the outdated and incompetent Electoral College, that did not do what it was supposed to do, to prevent an obviously incompetent individual from being elected president.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

System 2 Processing and a Healthy Democracy

May 1, 2020

The immediately preceding post stressed the importance of System 2 Processing to prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia, and to live a more fulfilling life. As the title of this post implies, System 2 Processing is necessary for a healthy democracy.

To briefly review the previous post, this blog has many citations of Kahneman’s Two System Theory of Cognitive Processing. System 1 is our most common mode of processing. It is fast and efficient. Unfortunately, this speed is paid for at a cost. The failure to think critically can be disastrous in more important decisions. Cognitive neuroscience, which conducts brain imaging studies, has a term for mental activity which is the typical norm, called, accordingly, default mode processing. This mode can be identified in brain images. The default network of interacting brain regions is known to have activity highly correlated with each other and distinct from other networks in the brain. These regions are negatively correlated with attention networks in the brain. Normal conversation and well performed tasks are System 1 activities. Thinking and learning are System 2 processes, and they involve cognitive effort. Most of the time spent on social media involves System 1 processing primarily.

A successful democracy also requires System 2 processing. Trump works only through System 1 processing. System 1 processing is emotional. He targets hate groups, illegal immigrants, and others and proposes simplistic solutions. He is also a hypocrite. The simplest and best solution to illegal immigration is to severely fine and even imprison people who hire illegal immigrants. Foremost among these people is Donald Trump. He likes to hire illegals because they are easy to exploit. So it is clear that Trump supporters are not doing any System 2 processing

Many laborers are strong Trump supporters. But Trump’s common mode of developing is to abandon the project and leave the workers unpaid. He is no friend of labor; he is an exploiter of labor. So any laborer who supports Trump is dong little, if any, System 2 processing.

Previous posts, see the House of Trump, the House of Putin show a long time relationship with Russia. His credit was so bad in the United States, that no lender would lend him money. Yet Trump kept building expensive properties. His son said he could do this because Russia had no problem lending him money. Previous posts have argued that Trump needs to explain where his funds came from. He refuses to do so, and the reason he hides his taxes, is that they would reveal how he is compromised with Russia.

Now we come to the Coronavirus. Although a majority of respondents think Trump is doing a poor job only several percentage points indicate that many do support Trump’s job. First of all, Trump has done his best to defund or underfund all scientific enterprises. The Obama administration also left a plan for dealing with this epidemic, but Trump had the plan destroyed. In the first days he denied that there was a pandemic and accused this pandemic of being false news generated by the Democrats to keep him from being elected. When he did admit that there was an epidemic, he said that there was a test, a beautiful test for the disease that was readily available. It was not, and as of the writing of this post, it is still not available. The lack of this test is a very large, if not the largest, shortcoming damaging the fight against this pandemic.

Eventually, Trump said he was taking charge and was the general fighting this disease. But he has been an ineffective general, and it can be argued that he has done more damage than good. Rather than lead the fight as a general should do, he says that this is for the states to handle. Now the declaration of a national emergency is done to put the federal government, the President, in charge of the battle. The National War Powers Act gives the President the power do this, but although he has activated the National War Powers Act he has not used it. Consequently states are competing against each other and FEMA trying to get necessary equipment. This not only slows delivery, but greatly increases costs.

Yet a large percentage of people believe he is doing a good job. This is based on the lies he is telling them. No System 2 processing is being done that would correctly indicate that Trump is lying.

This absence of System 2 processing where it is needed could lead to Trump’s reelection. And that would likely be the end of American democracy.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.