Columnist Daniel Cantor Yalowitz: When egos run amok

Daniel Cantor Yalowitz

Daniel Cantor Yalowitz


Published: 07-08-2024 12:24 PM

Try as I may, I just simply cannot reconcile or rationalize the rampant extent of hunger and ego I have been witnessing daily from the presumed Republican candidate for president. As a psychologist, I have tried looking from multiple perspectives at his words, speeches, rallies, reactions, and responses to everyone and everything that hints of some degree of disagreement. What I see and hear is egotistic, narcissistic vitriol that is more extreme than I have ever witnessed. I seek to understand; I strive to expand my comprehension, but almost all of what he says is only protective and supportive of a massive ego run amok. I can only ask, Why? What has happened to this individual that he is so compelled to speak and act so viciously? What’s his real backstory? Why does he continue to perpetuate such negativity, slander, and divisiveness?

I’m not speaking of anyone’s politics here. More than enough other folks locally and nationally have had their say on the politics of it all over and over again, and I have nothing new to add to that particular discussion. What I am so deeply concerned about is the tone, tenor, and bravado of this man’s public statements. He is so deeply and completely locked in on himself that normal human emotions such as empathy, care, sympathy, sensitivity, and respect of others are simply beyond him and out of his reach. As well, I leave it for others — counters and fact-checkers — to enumerate and deliberate on his lies.

Narcissistic egotism is normal and natural for young children; typically, they grow through it and out of it as they develop healthy relationships and a respectful understanding of themselves, their identities, and others. The hissy fits, recriminations, vengeance and desire for revenge, and vituperative word-slinging goes well and way beyond what is appropriate and prudent for someone running for the highest office in our nation. Is it necessary to name-call at every turn, to scoff and laugh at and denounce others who are not his clones?

When children do this, they are called bullies, and schools and public institutions now have programs and curricula to “deal” with these types of malfeasant and malignant behaviors, which are contagious and humiliating at the same time. Even young children are taught to listen, to quiet their minds to allow others to speak, and to respond with care and respect. This particular individual, an almost-octogenarian, appears to have missed this aspect of his own growth, personal and relational development, and education.

Words harm, and the words he chooses and uses are intended to devastate and leave little to nothing unsaid. All too often, his verbal attacks come unprovoked. There’s a great book out there — a simple illustrated paperback — that I have used in my undergraduate and graduate teaching over the past four decades since it was published in 1984. It’s called “The Nibble Theory and the Kernel of Power,” by Kaleel Jamison. It patiently and pictorially explains why people “nibble” on those whom they perceive to be lesser than they are. We’ve likely all done this, and had this done to us, at some point or points in our lives. But very few of us make a living and receive tens of millions of votes for doing so.

Beyond Jamison’s lucid prose and simple picture of intersecting circles (like variations on a Venn diagram), I can see only hurt, pain, and dangerous anger emanating from this person in a way that is clinically significant. Labeling him doesn’t help, either — those who do are playing by the same rules and the same narrative, none of which is helpful. Labeling, like name-calling and bullying, is counter-productive and minimizing with regard to people’s humanity and capacity.

I understand anger; frustration, pain, and suffering all involve some degree of emotional hurt. We’ve all experienced a full gamut of emotions over the course of our lives. Somehow, most of us regulate and re-regulate ourselves so that we don’t “spin” out of control and spew invectives all over anyone who might or does disagree, or even look different, than we do. Young children come to learn this over the long arc of childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. But being 78 years of age, running for the land’s highest and one of the world’s most stressful jobs is not the situation to continue these behaviors and utterances unabated.

Would that he, and so many of his cronies, could live by the words of the late and great Bill Withers from his epic song, Lean On Me …

Lean on me

When you’re not strong

And I’ll be your friend

I’ll help you carry on …

[We all need somebody to lean on]

The world would be a stronger, healthier, safer, and more peaceful place if this man could heed and live by these words. Beyond politics, beyond parties, beyond campaigns, slogans, and rallies — we all need somebody to lean on. One place to start is not to allow our egos to run amok. Let’s vote to keep him as far away from the presidency as possible, for our individual and collective safety and sanity.

Daniel Cantor Yalowitz writes a regular column in the Recorder. A developmental and intercultural psychologist, he has facilitated change in many organizations and communities around the world. His two most recent books are “Journeying with Your Archetypes” and “Reflections on the Nature of Friendship.” Reach out to him at