The Most Miserable Man in the World

I honestly believe that Donald Trump is a deeply unhappy man. It’s been pointed out many times that he doesn’t laugh. He does smile sometimes, but more often he is grimacing.

See this analysis of Trump’s facial expressions. Very often he has a “puckered chin,” which the analyst explains this way:

The presence of this additional facial expression is quite significant because people often pull their chins in when they feel threatened “it’s a way of tensing the chin in anticipation of being symbolically punched in the face. The fact that a puckered chin features in so many of Trump’s zipped smiles suggests that he frequently feels threatened.

Conor Friedersdorf wrote last March that Trump has “an alarming relationship with trivial slights,” and since then we’ve seen so much more evidence of the sucking black hole of neediness in the depths of his soul. He must feel threatened a lot.

It appears to have really have angered him that his big moment — being inaugurated President of the United States — was dissed as not being quite as joyous or well-attended as other inaugurations. He’s like a bridezilla whose wedding was dissed. Of course, you have to have an outsize ego to even attempt to run for POTUS. But any emotionally normal person would have shrugged that off and focused on the job.

People are calling this calculated; he is undermining the credibility of the press in order to be able to establish a totalitarian regime. And there’s probably some truth to that. But it’s not the whole truth. He’s way too obvious and ham-handed about it. I sincerely believe it was important for Trump to believe he is more adored, more popular, more wonderful than Barack Obama, and I don’t doubt that the reports about the underwhelming inaugural turnout enraged him.

Again, this is not an isolated incident. There is a long and well-publicized pattern of his being unable to let go of even petty slights. And this bears a closer look.

Donald Trump, to me, has always been just a character who lived in the margins of popular culture somewhere, and I can’t say I’ve paid much attention to him in the past. But on reflection, it occurred to me that he’s not a man who really fits in anywhere. In spite of his wealth he seems to be only peripheral to New York City’s social elite. And I doubt he’s often if ever been invited to the exclusive soirées on Martha’s Vineyard.

He plays a Captain of Industry on teevee, but is he really part of the multinational corporate elite network? I doubt that, too. I can’t imagine that when Exxon or Nestlé or HSBC need a new high-level executive, that anyone has ever considered Donald Trump even for a second. Before this year, I doubt they’ve taken him all that seriously except as a second-tier businessman who owns hotels and golf resorts they may sometimes frequent. And has he ever mixed with the global elite crowd at Davos? I don’t think so.

And then there’s the intellectual Harvard/Princeton/Yale elite. Um, no.

In spite of being internationally famous as a Rich Guy, then, to the elite of the elite he’s always been the crass, nouveau riche kid from middle-class Queens.

One suspects this bugs him. He so obviously has an incessant craving for respect and even adulation. Frank Bruni wrote last March,

After Donald Trump asked voters at a recent rally to raise their hands heavenward in a pledge of fealty to him, a few commentators frothed at the gesture’s supposed evocation of a Nazi salute.

That wasn’t my take. As much as Trump appalls me, I don’t assign him control over the precise arcs of his supporters’ arms.

I was and am transfixed by something else: the scope and intensity of his hunger for adulation. It’s bottomless, topless, endless, insatiable. He gazed upon a teeming arena of admirers and neither their presence nor their numbers was quite enough.

He ached for an extra exhibition of their ardor. He had to issue a command and revel in their obeisance. I’m surprised only that he didn’t ask them to kneel or genuflect, but that could still come.

He plays to the masses because they cheer him, but it’s telling he is drawing heavily from the ranks of the Vulture Capitalism and Masters of the Universe crowds to fill his cabinet. These are the people he considers his peers, even if many of them kept him at arm’s length in the past. And now he rules them. This should be sweet!

But even after he got everything he could ever possibly want, it’s not enough. He still has no peace. People dissed his inauguration! He needed some love, so he goes to the CIA headquarters to talk to employees. “Probably almost everybody in this room voted for me but I will not ask you to raise your hands if you did but I guarantee a big portion because we’re all on the same wavelength,” Trump said. Translation: You love me. I know you love me.  #Sad!

Without ever having paid much attention to government policy, he’s now in charge of it. And he’s going to screw up and piss a lot of people off. His crude attempts to intimidate the press may (I hope) push at least a portion of it to criticize him even more.

His raging neediness can never be satiated, although I predict that he will make frequent rally appearances around the country to get his fix.

Now, here comes the sermon portion. In Buddhist terms Trump is what’s called an asura. This is a Sanskrit word translated as “titan” or “jealous god.” In Buddhist mythology, the asuras lived in a realm of wealth and power, but no matter how privileged they become they are seething with jealousy for what anyone else has. This can be understood as a mental or psychological state.

Iconography shows a massive tree growing out of the asura realm, but its blossoms and fruit are in the deva realm where the superior, not-jealous gods live. This makes the asuras crazy; they are perpetually assaulting the elite deva realm, but they never succeed in getting in.

It’s certainly the case that most high-level politicians and corporate leaders have a lot of asura traits. But you’d have a hard time finding anybody who more openly embodies asura qualities than Donald Trump. And he seems to already have a foot in the next realm, where asuras are reborn: the realm of pretas or hungry ghosts.

Hungry ghosts are miserable creatures with huge, empty stomachs, but they also have tiny mouths and soda-straw necks. Although they are ravenously hungry they cannot eat, and when they do manage to take in food it turns into fire or blood or pus in their mouths. Drug addicts are common modern-day examples of hungry ghosts.

So this is the doom of an asura; they crave more and more and more and cannot be satisfied. The crowds are never big enough; the gold is never bright enough. Even their gourmet food becomes tasteless (rather like the food in Trump Grill, I understand).

Back to Frank Bruni:

Commentators keep marveling at the way he “dominates” or “owns” almost every news cycle, as if what he says and does are all plotted in advance and part of some sophisticated, disciplined political strategy.

But is he executing a plan or surrendering to a jones? Brilliant or just fruitfully pathological? He mints fresh insults to monopolize the spotlight, but that’s most likely a spontaneous reaction to how cold and lonely he becomes whenever it starts to recede. Maybe he’s a multimedia mastermind, maybe just a publicity glutton. There’s a difference.

His media savvy may be more instinctual than calculated, I suspect, in which case he’s likely to make a lot of mistakes now that he’s in a completely new role.

There’s only one measure for Trump: more. More products bearing his brand. More buildings blaring his name. He’s a modern-day Midas, with a vain twist. Everything he touches turns to Trump.

He insists on that. Craves it. No reassurance sustains him for too long; no validation suffices. That would be as true of Trump the president as it is of Trump the candidate, and it would dictate the terms and the tempo of a reign from which this country would not soon recover.

He’s going to make a show of fulfilling his campaign pledges to make life better for those white working-class voters, but because he knows bupkis about government and policy, ultimately he will fail. And while the most hateful and racist among them will stick with him through thick and thin, many others will be disillusioned and stop going to his rallies. And he’s going to be facing a degree of derision and ridicule he has never known before and probably doesn’t expect.

He’s achieved the highest achievement on the planet, and it won’t be enough to make him happy. This is going to be very ugly, and very messy.

(As a side note, didja ever notice that the words miserable and miser share the same root? The Latin miser is an adjective meaning “unhappy, wretched, pitiable, in distress,” Hence, miserable. Miser as a noun for someone who hoards money originated in the 16th century, presumably because such people are unhappy, wretched, pitiable and in distress.)

Update: See also “He’s never going to admit he’s wrong in front of everyone”: President Trump’s aides are worried about his behavior

24 thoughts on “The Most Miserable Man in the World

  1. I can’t provide a link yet, but, I heard part of “The World” with Marco Werman. He had a Russian journalist as a guest. I am sorry to say, I didn’t hear the whole thing. But, the Russian journalist was talking about how Putin handles the press and I think we do well to listen to it. The essence of the part I caught was that Putin also employs smoke screens and lies. His “press conferences” never have a discussion of policy. The whole thing is a distraction. While we are distracted by the idea of catching him in yet another lie, something else and truly significant is happening.

    Anyway, I’ll get a link when it’s archived.

  2. t-TRUMP IS that dog that caught the bus.

    He doesn’t know how to operate it. Never thought about it for a minute. But, when President Obama ridiculed him at the press dinner – while hunting Osama down – he decided he wanted to add that Presidential bus to his trophy case.

    Now, he’s caught the bus.
    He expected blind adulation for doing so.
    Instead, people now want to know how he plans on driving that bus; who’s going to be allowed on – who won’t.

    He was supposed to LOSE, DAMMIT!
    And then play the butthurt guy for the rest of his life who SHOULD have won, but didn’t.

    Instead, he’s miserable.
    The job of “presidentin'” is a 24 hour one. It is relentless. It demands concentration. It also includes the trivial – like meetings with groups like Boy and Girl Scouts, certain groups, etc.
    It’s hard work. Work he’s not used to doing. He’s used to delegating jobs to people, and then criticize them for minor errors.
    The buck stops with him here – not some minion, who’s expendable.
    And it demands hours and hours of work a day – and that’s just to keep your head above water.

    He knows he’s drowning. And that many people are waiting to laugh at him drowning.

    I just hope that as he drowns – which seem inevitable – he doesn’t take the country down with him down the drain.

    Because if he drowns, he’ll leave us to that bumbling uber-“Christian” numbskull, Mike “The Dense” Pence. And that as much as watching t-RUMP go down might be enjoyable, our country will be in the slightly larger hands of an inept moron.

  3. Wow, that picture! It just exudes unhappiness. Trump likes like the angry, abusive husband, who’s wife cannot ever be subservient enough, while Melania looks ever the abused, beat down spouse, ashamed that she is, and with the man she’s with. I feel bad for them both, but really for her.

    Is this what we have to look forward to at state dinners and events?

  4. You nailed it, Maha!… Especially when he kept it so well hidden… 🙂

    Another observation is his insecurity where it come to the military, or rather his lack of military service (draft dodging). Aside from his surrounding himself with retired brass, and his comments about his attending a military academy as being the equivalent to actual military service..When he gave his first return salute as Commander in Chief it was absolutely textbook perfect..The kind of salute you’d expect from a scared trainee in boot camp. No laxity what’s so ever…That tells me that there is a sore spot that he needs to satisfy…probably due to his cowardice in running away from his obligation to serve our country when duty called.
    One thing I really don’t look forward to is Trump placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Not because Trump didn’t serve in the military, military service is not required to render that honor, but the fact that he actively turned his back and ran from his duty to our nation.. It will be an insult to those who had the courage to answer their country’s call. The stripe down his back is as yellow as the mop on his head.

  5. Not only is he a deeply unhappy and I would argue, angry man, but he rarely smiles, and he most certainly cannot laugh at himself.

    However, I am reminded of how George W Bush adapted to the presidency. Granted, he came from a political family and was a governor, his dad was president and so he had some idea of what the job entailed. Eventually W learned how to speak without stumbling over his words and saying nonsensical stuff.

    Trump was a reality TV star for many years, he is a natural extrovert (like Bill Clinton), he likes the energy of people and has some natural ability to charm them and groups of them. While right now he’s very much out of his element, that won’t last long, and his gregariousness and ability to charm is going to become more evident. He is going to make changes big and small in this country, most of them I’m going to hate, but many of them are going to be just what people want. Mark my words, people are going to start to look more favorably at him. This is part of his charm.

    Study history. Despite coming from the styx and despite the over the top right wing rhetoric, Hitler was very popular early in his reign. He made needed changes to Germany that turned that country around economically, almost overnight. By the mid 1930s, people were talking about “the German Miracle”. Time Magazine named him “Man of the Year” in 1935. Mussolini was likewise wildly popular. Something similar is going to happen with Trump.

    It amazes me to read them, but I am seeing comments from right wingers along the lines of “Goody! Now we’ll get jobs!!!” This is one of the things Trump says he’s focused on, and who knows, maybe he’ll pull it off.

  6. I don’t like the Predator-in-Chief; never will. I plan to work to make him a one-term official. When he leaves the White House, I hope the door hits him on his way out. He has already done some horrible things today that may lessen the quality of my life. And, the one thing I hate most if life is stupid men–he is the stupidest of all.

  7. “He must feel threatened a lot.”

    I wonder if THIS is also part of what his voters identified with. It’s not news that conservatives feel constantly threatened by changing culture, and they clearly seem to have an inferiority complex with respect to the “coastal elites.” And their economic anxieties also feel threatening. They listen to Fox news and Conservative Hate Radio, which reminds them to be afraid 24/7.

    Maybe they picked up on Trump’s constant fears and feelings of inadequacy, and identified with that too.

  8. I noticed that in Buddhist sculptures the asura usually have teeny tiny fingers. And the unclothed versions have something else that’s really small. (and the juvenile humor cap gets knocked off my head) More seriously, it’s been said that social emotions not only keep power and control impulses in check, they fill one’s soul, so to speak. Clinical sociopaths, being devoid of such things, are said to have an emptiness they are always trying to fill. Since they cannot love or empathize, they go for excitement. And what does a commander in chief do when he’s feeling really empty?

  9. “The dog that caught the car “.That’s about it. I’m pretty fed up with this whole shit storm. Time for a hot shower and a little Lucifer before I turn in. Pretty good show.

  10. “People are calling [the crowd size rant] calculated; he is undermining the credibility of the press in order to be able to establish a totalitarian regime.” I think that was part of the intent, but it back-fired– he made the press stronger. People can look at the pictures: Obama crowd/Trump crowd. Women’s march crowd.

    Now the press can begin every story for the next “n” years with “Today, President Trump said, incorrectly, that….” And they will.

  11. I am guardedly encouraged by Saturday’s marches and by the swift mockery of ‘alternative facts’. A strong beginning of resistance. But many tests lie ahead.

    Thank you, maha, for telling me about asura. They do indeed seem apposite to the times. What stories have you heard about them? How do those stories end?

    In the spirit of resistance, I offer this:

    Dear Donald

    Oh you special orange Snowflake
    It is time to quit your bitchin’;
    If you cannot stand the heat
    Then you’d better leave the kitchen!

  12. The crowd size rant wasn’t a calculated move.. He’s panicked! He’s emotionally out of control in trying to transition from being able to conjure up glorious visions of all the things he’s promise to accomplish to being in a position where he now has to produce.
    There’s a scripture in proverbs that kinda speaks to the situation that Trump now finds himself..It goes: “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool returns to his folly”.
    No doubt that Trump shows moments where he’s extremely impressed with himself, but like what Maha says in her post…The need within him can never be satiated. It’s a spiritual void.
    Oh, here’s another scripture that comes to mind that might be pertinent …What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world but lose his soul?

  13. Asura the Destructor, Soul eater Asura, the images are just worth a visit to Bing or Google images.  The six armed asura has to be a groper’s delight and a nightmare for its prey.  Thanks for the introduction to this notion.  A wonderful path to be shown when souls are being eaten. 

    • bernie — In Hindu mythology some of the asuras are considered demons. Hindu scriptures have a lot of stories about them, but Buddhist scriptures don’t.

  14. I am sick with a fever for the first time in years, so forgive the grammatical and orthographic mistakes.

    At this point, I am just observing this as a psychological phenomenon, and I tend to ascribe it to the calculated use of lies. Trump is the pickpocket who draws your attention to his right hand, while his left is stealing your wallet. Most of the people I refer to as my “conservative friends,” (I admit, I am being charitable.) seem to be entranced by a set of simple formulae, if their posts on the internet are any guide. I think that we need to catalog the varieties.

    I ran into an obvious one yesterday:

    A “LIBERAL,” that is, “celebrity” or just someone who seems to have it a bit better than you do, likes latte, drives a Volvo or Prius, etc. (There is a long list of referents.) (A LIBERAL!) did something! The other day it was an SNL member who tweeted a joke about Barron. I never confirmed that it actually happened. Therefore, ALL liberals are scum! Switch to high dudgeon! Move up to total outrage, and post! (Hope it goes VIRAL!)

    What does go viral is the “two minutes of hate,” and these are repeated time and time again, PRN. It has so many tasty bits, like a feeling of moral outrage to validate your less admirable views, a sense of social purpose and the joy of poking your finger in the eye of your enemies.

    It’s a simple formula, but, it works.

    Ironically, soon we made need each other more than ever, I need someone to check my perspective from time to time. But, I don’t want to be wasting my time, or chasing some chimera on the other side of the looking glass.

  15. I don’t doubt that Trump is an intellectually stunted and emotionally twisted being but how intelligent or sane do you have to be to understand the lessons of manipulators like Hitler or Putin or even Kim Jong Un? He’s some kind of high functioning sociopath like that guy with the cumbersome name plays on the new Sherlock. But though he isn’t using his powers for ‘good’ I think it’s unquestionable that he’s learned to use them to his advantage. Whatever he is, he’s made it work for him.
    And he isn’t the only player here. Bannon is a propagandist by trade who’s made his living ff of contradicting and undermining the MSM and the rest of the GOP have been at this (attacking the media) for decades now, though it seems to be ramped up to unprecedented levels of brazeness under Trump.
    They get a couple of things out of this. They get the confusion they need to avoid being held accountable by the general public and they get a new enemy (since Hillary is no longer that viable) to give their followers someone to hate.
    Disinformation and vilification of the press or anyone else who uses elitist things like expertise or knowledge to contradict the approved facts is definitly part of the plan.

    …and then there’s stuff like this.

    • GH — I think the evidence is overwhelming that Trump is too much controlled by his own character pathologies to be an effective mastermind. And as a media manipulator, Bannon is no where near being as experienced and effective as Karl Rove was awhile back. Everything they are doing is way too obvious and ham-handed. The Trumpies also lack the solid support of the Right that Bush enjoyed; the National Review crowd is still holding out against him, and George Will is getting positively shrill. That said, it’s good to be on our guard, as they certainly are trying to establish a closed propaganda system, but it’s not yet time to get hysterical about it.

  16. Trump can try to be a populist, but he’s unpopular. And he’ll try to co-opt the political machine, but he’s only President because it’s broken.

  17. adulation hunger: his ego is a huge empty balloon that can never be filled. The whole presidential run was an exercise in ” see I’m better than Hill or Bill Clinton, better than Obama”. He has a need to trash others run them into the ground. That’s why the crowd size, that Obama far out did him, galls him so much. That is also why there may be a lot of truth in the golden shower story, the need to defile the Obamas’ bed.
    Unfortunately his lying being exposed so much this week is masking the real damage he is doing with his pen. The Repugs are pushing paper in front of him and he has no idea what he is signing onto. The damage will be greater than anyone expects. As Digby says , if we get lucky and he simply pops under all the pressure , we may get pence and avoid WWIII but that is all we will avoid.

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