Psychoanalyst Justin Frank has just published Obama on the Couch, a follow-up to his best-selling Bush on the Couch; two weekends ago, Northwestern professor Dan McAdams used Obama as a case study in a keynote speech at the biennial conference of the Society for the Study of Emerging Adulthood. They’re just the latest entries in a thriving subfield: long-distance psychological analysis of the 44th president. Hover over the sections below to read a sampling of insights.
Dr. Justin Frank, George Washington University
Obama wants to reassemble his broken family, integrate his parents' ethnic identities, and manage his rage over his disjointed upbringing, but he accommodates pathologically rather than confronting these needs.
Norman Holland, University of Florida (ret.)
Obama's confidence has disappeared because he feels guilty about fulfilling his dream of becoming president, particularly because his father never achieved a goal
Stanley Renshon, CUNY
Obama's mother valued fairness, and he overcame his guilt about the unresolved problems in their relationship after her death by prioritizing fairness over all else, pushing egalitarian health-care reform during a recession.
Dan McAdams, Northwestern
Obama's self-created personal narrative focuses on redeeming youthful floundering through achievement and social consciousness—a theme that contrasts with George W. Bush's own narrative of atonement and recovery.
Avner Falk, independent Israeli scholar
Obama, like Napoleon and Atatürk, feels his duty is to raise citizens up to his high level, instead of expressing his disdain for them by having them killed.
Dr. Robert Hedaya, Georgetown
Obama's youthful experience negotiating different points of view has equipped him to avoid demonizing his
Dr. Nassir Ghaemi, Tufts
Ghaemi finds Obama totally sane—and contrasts him with FDR, whose "hyperthymia" (which is "related to manic depression") gave him the energetic characteristics Depression-era America needed. Obama, Ghaemi has said, might be helped by a little abnormality.
Emilly Yoffe, Slate writer
Yoffe filled out the Myers-Briggs test as if she were Obama and had psychologist David Keirsey interpret the results: Obama's an "Idealist," subcategory "Champion." Idealists tend to be movement leaders but not officeholders.