Elizabeth Nyblade, Ph.D.
Gateway Centre
1313 E. Maple Street
Bellingham, WA 98225
P: 360.647.8295
Why Trump Won't Give Up the Verbal Abuse
Donald Trump is many things. . . businessman, entertainer and politician. But did you know that he is a verbal abuser?
The Verbal Abuse of Donald Trump

The presumptive Republican Candidate for President is a verbal abuser. Donald Trump has called his political opponents names like “hypocrite,” “weak,” “a pathetic figure,” “liar,” “choker.” And he relishes repeating nasty nicknames for his opponents: “Crooked Hillary,” “Lying Ted,” “Low-energy Jeb.”

I have seen and treated many targets of verbal abuse over my last forty years as a practicing psychologist. With Donald Trump as a candidate, we can all see the cycle of abuse playing out on the national stage.

Part III: How to Take an Adult Timeout
The abuser is in a timeout from you when you can no longer hear, see or pay attention to the abuser. Your goal is to take a timeout as rapidly and as consistently as possible when your partner says something that is verbally or emotionally abusive.
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Defining Verbal (and Emotional) Abuse
04/05/2013 Elizabeth Nyblade, Ph.D.

I’ll be using the terms ‘verbal abuse’ and ‘emotional abuse’ interchangeably throughout my website because all verbal abuse is emotional abuse and most emotional abuse involves the use of words to control, punish, humiliate, embarrass, isolate and financially control the victim/survivor. Any behavior that threatens, intimidates, lowers the victim’s self-esteem or curtails the victim’s freedom is abusive. Constant criticism, name-calling and inconsistent responses are abusive behaviors designed to confuse and harass the victim. Abusers may ignore, ridicule, accuse and withdraw from the victim and these and similar actions are designed to increase the control the abuser has over the victim. All of these behaviors are also aimed at keeping the victim unaware of the nature of the abuse and its source. Abusive behaviors are designed to blame the victim for the perpetrator’s problems and for the abuse itself.

Some people toss around the term ‘abuse’ as though it would be abusive for someone to deny you something you want or abusive for someone to disagree with you or be angry at you. But most victims of abuse are more likely to minimize or deny the problems, taking the blame themselves for the abusive behaviors, just as the abusers would like them to. 

It’s easier to see the distinction between normal behaviors and abusive behaviors when you ask yourself the question, “Who benefits from this action?” For example, some men marry women who are overweight, then never lose an opportunity to call them “fat” or poke fun at “tub of lard over there.” When asked why they do this, the men will often say that they want her to lose weight ‘for her health’ or ‘so I’m more attracted to her.’ But no one loses weight when they’re the subject of taunts and name-calling. Calling someone names doesn’t cause weight-loss. Instead the ridicule causes depression, lack of self-esteem, and maybe emotional eating. On the other hand, if the woman begins a diet, rather than supporting her efforts, suddenly her husband brings home doughnuts and encourages her to eat them. It’s pretty clear that he doesn’t actually want her to lose weight – he was attracted to her just fine when they married. What he wants is an excuse to humiliate her and feel powerful. He wants to feel good at her expense – even though he may be more overweight than she is! He wants her to feel bad, because it gives him a sense of control. 

Abusive emotional and verbal behaviors are not trivial problems. They cause major mental health problems that last throughout the lifespan. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued findings from a survey of adverse childhood experiences such as abuse (verbal, physical or sexual) or family dysfunction (domestic violence, divorce, or a family member who is mentally ill, incarcerated or abusing drugs) in December 2010. Twenty-five percent of those surveyed reported experiencing verbal abuse as a child, and both women and men were the targets. The CDC suggested that a higher number of these adverse childhood events were associated with premature mortality, noting that up to 20 years of life could be lost due to these childhood experiences. 

Victims tolerate verbal abuse for a variety of reasons that seem legitimate:  they may not recognize that some negative behaviors are abusive. They may think that abuse is inevitable because they were abused in childhood. Or they may believe that they deserve to be treated badly. More often, victims don’t know how to end the abuse, or believe they can only end it by ending the relationship. 

Verbal abuse comes in many varieties. It’s easy to recognize name-calling as abusive, but that’s not the only way abusers operate. They may insult you with criticism, threaten and intimidate you when you try to act independently and use subtle psychological manipulations.
Many victims of verbal abuse believe that the abuser would not say hurtful things unless the abuser believed them, but abusers don’t have to believe an insult to use it. The abuser says hurtful things to achieve control, knowing full well that he doesn’t believe what he’s saying himself. Or a victim believes that the abuser must be saying those unpleasant things because the insults are the truth, but that is not the case either. The abuser’s goal is control, not truth-telling. If he can make you believe negative things about yourself, however untrue, the abuser has achieved his goal. The abuser is not trying to provide accurate information in a neutral fashion. The abuser presents biased and untrue information to help reach his goal. 

If victims try to ignore the abuse, it may accelerate rather than stopping. The abuser does not abuse for attention, but abuses for control. Attention may be only a small part of what he wants, or achieves, with the verbal abuse. 

Often verbal abuse takes the form of manipulation which means using a hidden agenda or maneuvering to take control while concealing the goal. A common manipulation is to tell the victim that the abuser is just ‘expressing his feelings’ or ‘venting his anger’ as though the victim owes the abuser to tolerate abuse for the psychological good of the abuser! 

Let me assure you that psychologists and counselors don’t believe that someone who vents anger at someone else is getting psychologically healthier. We don’t believe that having people express their anger at the counselor is good for them, and we don’t tolerate abuse even when we’re being paid to listen because it doesn’t actually do the abuser any good and it does the listener harm! 

It’s good communication for someone to explain that he is angry, but someone who says he’s angry at you is not abusing you. It is abusive if he repeats it continually and uses the anger to try to achieve the goal of controlling you.

If you listen to verbal abuse day in and day out, you can’t help but be affected by it. You would bloom if someone complimented you continuously, day and night, and you will wilt if someone continually tells you that you are wrong, stupid, fat, immature, badly adjusted, crazy, a bad mother, etc. You will feel badly whether you believe those statements or not, but it’s very likely that you will start to believe them if you keep hearing them. 



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