President Harry S Truman: Psychohistory and Psychological Profile

About the President Harry S Truman, a psychoanalysis or psychological profile of his life.


Harry's father, John Anderson ("Peanuts") Truman, was a warmhearted, 2-fisted, emotional little man who was willing to defend his family or his honor on any occasion. Young Harry admired him, but with his slight build and his breakable glasses, the boy was forced to turn away from most fights. Harry was a "mama's boy," who spent most of his time at home, reading books, playing the piano, or taking care of his little sister. Truman compensated for this boyhood weakness in several ways. First, he chose--and then won--the boyish, athletic, and socially prominent Bess Wallace as his wife--a solid, protective woman always known to him as "the Boss." Even more importantly, Harry, at 17, deliberately turned away from bookish pursuits to prove himself in the world of "hard knocks." His 1st chance came in W.W. I, when he faced battlefield danger on many occasions and mastered his sometimes insubordinate troops with colourful curses that "took the skin off their ears." Harry, the underrated Mama's boy, was showing the world that he could be as tough as his popular old man, and the combative, "regular guy," straight-from-the-shoulder style became a permanent part of Truman's makeup. When Roosevelt died suddenly in 1945, Truman confronted a psychological situation that was in many ways familiar to him: He had to prove to a doubting world that he was capable of filling the shoes of an awesome father figure. Needless to say, Truman rose to the challenge and worked hard to carve out a distinctive and independent reputation for himself. His greatest fear was always indecision, uncertainty, and weakness; Harry would never be a "mama's boy" again. Historians agree that the worst moments of his Presidency stem from this need for instant decision in complex matters and an unfortunate tendency of shooting from the hip. With rare self-awareness, Truman himself offered an important clue to his personality. Speaking to a group of schoolchildren at the Truman Library, he was asked by one skinny 12-year-old: "Mr. President, was you popular when you was a boy?"

"Why no," Truman answered. "I was never popular. The popular boys were the ones who were good at games and had big, tight fists. I was never like that. Without my glasses I was blind as a bat, and to tell the truth, I was kind of a sissy. If there was any danger of getting into a fight, I always ran. I guess that's why I'm here today."

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