Psychological Imperialism

Turns out Trump does not write his books.

In a way it does not detract from the pernicious psychological philosophy that is Trumpism.(I wrote about it here) He does not build his hotels either. And the ghostwriter Tony Schwartz, is now ashamed of his collaboration on the first book “The art of the Deal”. When I saw the list of book titles on Amazon by Tony Schwartz I assumed he was a perpetrator of the same philosophy – GCP – goal centred positivism, or psychological imperialism, or what Marx called idealism, the same standpoint a colleague called “The idolatry of quantitative methods in the teaching of psychiatry”. And I think maybe he was, maybe he still carries the dark seed.

But Tony Schwartz is more complex than just reading the titles suggests. Judging a book by its cover is a bad habit of mine. I still have not read one his books but I have listened to one of his talks on YouTube. It seems he understands one of the hallmarks of the “positive thinking” philosophy, the denial of the “shadow”. He even quotes James Hillman quite well on the need to embrace the shadow (though Hillman could not embrace his own). To accept what is, not just what you desire. He certainly is afraid of a Trump presidency.

Schwartz claims he wrote “The Art of the Deal”. I imagine that what is said in the Guardian is more the case: “In it he translated Trump’s coarse ramblings into charming straight talk”.

I have some hypothesis I’ll continue to investigate.

Schwartz attributes the problem with Trump to his “character”. He is a champion of the philosophy that Trump is a narcissist and a baddie. If he was a goodie then his positivism would be ok.

Trump is a victim at the success end of the American dream. He embodies ideology that is much larger than him, an ideology at the heart of the superstructure of the capitalist system. The rags to riches myth is meant to keep workers in their place, working hard, while they remain poor. Occasionally one of the rich believes the myth, that it is his own character that makes him rich.

Belief in being the biggest, the greatest, the best, the most successful etc. does “work” to some extent. I can imagine the US booming in the most crass and vulgar way, till it crashes and burns and maybe takes the world with it. It is not just Trump, he is the product of a system rotten at the core.

From Auguste Comte to Donald Trump

Trump is not a crazy narcissist. He is the product of a tradition of thought and practice. It may have started with Aristotle or Auguste Comte. Wonderful philosophers, they transcended superstition in favour of rational thought, but they carried a dark seed: they saw the world as a machine as something we could understand, and manipulate. The machine is also divine when weird mysticism can make more money.

The dark seed grew with all those American “think positive” evangelists: Napoleon Hill, Dale Carnegie, Werner Erhard (now Landmark Forum) Tony Robbins and for many years now, Donald Trump.

What is this school of thought? I’m calling it Goal Centred Positivism. GCP. The Learning Annex is a significant promoter of the philosophy and the evangelists. Strains of this mode of thinking are everywhere. It needs to be identified and addressed in many professions and many world views.

What is bad about GCP? To name this is harder than it looks. While it has instant appeal in its simplicity and commonsense, it is a lie. Not everything is as it looks on the surface. There are limits to thinking positively. Like in The Apprentice — Trumps (fake) reality TV show there is always one “winner” and many who loose, who are fired, who are losers. Life is not a game. Respect for the roots, i.e. being radical, going deeper, seeing the whole picture, beyond the simplistic goals.

GCP is very American, Napoleon Hill was an advisor to two presidents of the United States of America, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The rise of Trump (may he soon fall) has revealed deep social, political and financial schisms and fault lines. It has also revealed this schism in world views prevalent in therapy and personal growth.

I’m writing this here in my blog that is also about personal development and psychology. This goal centred positivism has brushed many schools of more reputable psychology. It is probably present in some way in most. The most blatant example is Behaviour Modification. It is central the frame works set by insurance companies who fund counselling and therapy. It is so important to distinguish life giving schools of thought from this dark flow. What is the antithesis of goal centred positivism? Approaches that have one of the following ideas at their centre:

Love
Person
Natural
Relationship
Collaboration
Meaning
Empathy
Ecology
Spontaneity
Revolution
Equality
Progress
Dialogue
Soul
Dialectic
Environment
Long term
Depth

Trump represents the power of a pernicious world view, it is important to understand the tradition and oppose it. Opposition does not come easily to the liberal, meaning centred approaches to change. Lets clearly distinguish true personal development from the crass version.