Professor of Psychology, Ian Robertson‘Now, being the President elect, the most powerful position in the world, his ego will swell commensurately.’

As heard on Today with Sean O'Rourke

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There is a place in the world for gentle, shrinking violets. Tender souls, attuned to the sensibilities of all of those around them.

Now, maybe I’m generalising just a little, but perhaps the worlds of international business and politics are not the ideal places for those shrinking violets and tender souls. Certainly, to succeed in any cutthroat world, a degree of self-confidence seems a prerequisite.

But the dividing line between self-confidence (perhaps fed by training and experience) and outright arrogance (fed by pure ego) can be a fine line. And it’s a line that has been subject to some discussion of late. As one texter to one of our sister shows said this morning, it seems that in politics these days, what matters most is no longer qualification, it’s sheer brass neck.

And that theme was very much to the fore in Sean O’Rourke’s chat this morning with Ian Robertson, Professor of Psychology at Trinity College, Dublin, and founding director of the Trinity College Institute for Neuroscience. Sean didn’t beat around the bush with his first question.

“Is there anybody with a bigger ego on the planet?”

“I don’t think so. Particularly now, being the President elect, the most powerful position in the world, his ego will swell commensurately.”

Ironically, Sean’s interview with Ian Robertson was originally due to take place under very different circumstances. The team had set up the Trinity Professor to come in and speak about how a man with the ego of The Donald would handle the disappointment of losing. And losing to a woman, no less! The ignominy of it all!

But how differently things turned out. The genie has been well and truly let out of the bottle.

“He has, throughout his life, had enormous power. First, as a privileged young man with a very wealthy father, he had enormous financial power. Then the enormous power of celebrity. Now the culmination, with the enormous power of politics. There are very few people in the world who have had that combination. He has the adulation of half the American population.”

And the actual effect on the brain?

Very few human brains can cope with that. It’s like a massive infusion of drug. A potentially addictive drug. There’s a number of things he lacks that makes me very, very worried about how he can respond to that super dose of drug.”

He wasn’t sitting on the fence, the Professor.

On the flipside, many have speculated that this journey was just a bit of a lark for the Donald. He never took it seriously, never thought he would get the Republican nomination, let alone ascend to the presidency. So was this whole journey more about chasing the victory rather than being in power? Was that the real motivation, the thrill of the chase?

No, according to Ian Robertson. This is a man who just wants more of everything, a man with a lust for anything at all that will feed his ego: money, power, sex, you name it. Our best hope, he feels, are the checks and balances provided by the American Constitution and Democratic systems worldwide.

Of course, one of the immediate duties of the President is the appointment of a Cabinet. There, he is less optimistic.

“He would require obsequiousness, he would require submission. He would require them to recognise his total dominance… Maybe Vladimir Putin would be somebody he would give a bit of ‘manly respect’ to. I think he is a man that is utterly, utterly fixated on dominance.”

In relation to the psychology of Donald Trump, and how he might react to being thwarted, to a huge extent, by Senate and Congress in relation to seeing through some of the more extreme of his policies, we may be in for some volatile times.

Perhaps, more than ever, the words of Plato are apt. “Those who seek power are not worthy of that power”.

Or, if you prefer, comedian Billy Connolly’s take on those words. “The desire to be a politician should be enough to ban you from ever becoming one”.

You decide.

The Donald was interviewed by Sean O’Rourke when he visited Ireland, just over two years ago. And during the interview, which you can hear by clicking here, Sean took a listen back to some of that interview.

© The Listener 2016

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