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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Part II: When Not to Take an Adult Timeout
05/11/2013 Elizabeth Nyblade, Ph.D.

Continued from Part I


It is possible to abuse someone by withdrawing from them just as it is possible to abuse someone by approaching them and calling them names. It is completely inappropriate to withdraw from another person as a punishment when your only problem is that you didn’t get your way.

Don’t Take An Adult Timeout in These Circumstances:

  1. If you and your partner are having a pleasant exchange of opinions on a topic, but the other person does not agree with you, or does not agree to do what you want, it’s okay to postpone the conversation, pleasantly and by mutual consent. It is not okay to withdraw from the conversation and the relationship in order to punish the other for having a different opinion.

    This is an example of an abusive withdrawal from a conversation:

    Abuser: You know that schedule isn’t acceptable to me! I’m leaving for the evening and I want you to think again about your selfish refusal to give me what I want!

    These are examples of acceptable withdrawals from a conversation:

    Non abuser: You know we’re kind of at a stalemate. And I’ve run out of time because I’ve got to (go to work, go to my club meeting, go to bed). Let’s agree to talk about this again. Maybe one of us can come up with an idea we both agree on.”

    Non-abuser: That’s about as much as I can stand talking about it tonight. I don’t want to stay mad at you. How about we agree to talk about this again maybe on Tuesday night, and in the meantime (I plan to whip your ass at poker or I plan to pick up half a gallon of Rocky Road for us or I plan to turn on a movie and forget the whole thing.)

    In other words, when the process of the discussion is going okay, meaning the discussion is mostly positive with constructive suggestions, etc., then do not resort to a time-out. Instead propose a postponement, a truce and another time to talk. Or find some other positive way to acknowledge that the situation isn’t resolved yet but you’re feeling okay about the discussion and you’re looking forward to figuring it out together in the future.

  2. It is inappropriate to withdraw from a conversation with a timeout because the other partner is angry unless the other partner is treating you badly.

    It’s okay for you to be angry and it’s okay for the other person to be angry. It’s okay for you to be angry at the other person and it’s okay for the other person to be angry at you. It’s not okay for you to treat the other badly or for the other to treat you badly.

    These quotes show appropriate expressions of anger:

    Non-abuser: We aren’t getting anywhere! Why can’t we resolve this? I hate it when these arguments just drag on forever and we don’t come to any conclusion! And I can’t think of a way out!

    Non-abuser: I hate it when my parents come between us like this! Why can’t they stay out of our lives? You’d think that a thousand miles was far enough away for us to move, but no! They have to come here to interfere with us and get more attention! And I don’t know what to do about it!”

    The preceding examples shows lots of anger, lots of frustration, but the speaker isn’t blaming the partner more than he blames himself.

    These quotes show inappropriate expression of anger:

    Abuser: You stupid idiot! You know I’m right! Act like a wife, not like a baby!

    Abuser: Well, what do you expect? They’re my parents, but it’s your job to get along with them! It’s not like they treat me so well either, but I suck it up! Stop acting like a princess, for once, and call them up and make nice! It’s not like they try to come over so often! They live a thousand miles away, for God’s sake! You don’t get to avoid my parents just because they’re old and lonely and crabby. You’re pretty crabby yourself!

    The preceding examples show lots of anger, lots of blame directed at the partner along with name-calling, mind-reading, commands and demands.

  3. It is inappropriate to withdraw from a conversation with an adult time-out because you hate conflict and want to avoid conversations that expose ways you are different from your partner.

    You may not like conflict, but if you’re an adult and you want to relate to other adults, it’s your job to learn ways of dealing with conflict constructively. You don’t have to like conflict, but if you avoid it all the time, you won’t be getting your way much and that won’t be anyone’s fault but your own. If your stomach knots up at the thought of disagreeing with your significant other, or you get a headache when you think he might not like something you want, it’s time to deal with it. Read my notes on “The Power of Approval in Your Life” and begin learning to handle your thoughts and emotions about disagreement and lack of approval.

    This quote shows an inappropriate avoidance of discussion:

     Abuser: Wait! Stop! I don’t need to hear this! I know you’re just going to get mad, like you did the last time, and I can’t stand it when you get mad! You’ve got an anger problem! I’m leaving and you should get into therapy!

    Whether or not he got mad the last time, if he can talk without abusing you, you need to discuss the matter. You want him to talk to you about the conflict in an appropriate way, not avoid all discussions of it because he sometimes gets angry.

    Abuser: Stop! I know you want to change the schedule but I don’t! Things are going just fine now and there’s no reason to talk about it. I’m leaving if you bring that up again.

    Well, things are going fine for the speaker, but they’re not for the partner. Avoiding a discussion when you’re getting your way and your partner isn’t won’t make the process of resolving differences any easier. The partner can also unilaterally change the schedule and began following a schedule he likes instead without your permission or agreement. If you can just refuse to discuss something, so can he.

    This quote shows an appropriate avoidance of discussion:

    Non-abuser: Look, we’ve been over this six times! If you don’t have anything new to add to the discussion, I’m not willing to put any more time into it. We have an agreement to do it this way, and I’ve already done my part. You’re just trying to get out of your part of the bargain! I’m not willing to listen to you tell me over and over again that you’re not happy with your part of the bargain now that I’ve given you what you wanted. Do you have anything else to say about it besides that? Because if not, I won’t discuss it with you. And if you keep trying to get me to listen to you again, I’ll leave.

    Holding a discussion again and again is verbal abuse if the person bringing the issue up brings nothing new to the table. Nobody likes being criticized over and over about something. If a partner says it once, it’s a legitimate expression of feelings or wants. If a partner says it over and over again, it’s not an expression but an attempt to influence you by punishing you.

    Non-abuser: You know we don’t agree about my mother. Why do you care whether we agree about her anyway? I don’t impose her on you and I don’t complain about her to you. I don’t need to hear your opinion about her over and over again when I’m not asking you to like her or do anything with her. It’s my business what I do with my time when I’m not with you anyway. And if you keep bringing up your criticisms of her, I’m leaving now.

     If the partner won’t agree to disagree about certain issues that don’t interfere with the relationship, such as one person’s relationship to another when the outside person doesn’t have a role in the marriage, then the conflict is unnecessary. You shouldn’t need to conduct a defense of your mother every time your partner wants to badmouth her, and you don’t need to listen while your partner attacks any of your opinions he/she disagrees with. Most disagreements between two people don’t need to be resolved by coming to an agreement about them. You can agree to disagree.

The bottom line is that “walking out” is a very effective punishment for the other person, but your goal shouldn’t be to learn how to be a better abuser of your partner. Withdrawing, or taking a timeout can be a punishment, and if you use punishments much in the relationship, then you just have an abusive relationship. You may think you’re a non-abuser, but if the other adult isn’t permitted to bring up disagreements, express anger, or get his own way, you’ll have a very nasty, unstable relationship. Why should anyone want to stay with you if you behave that way?

Taking a timeout when you’re an adult is a serious negative reinforcer. It should be used in situations where other tactics have not worked to lower the verbal and emotional abuse your partner uses to try to control you.

Now continue on to read Part III How to Take an Adult Timeout

Related Articles:
  • Defining Verbal (and Emotional) Abuse (04/05/2013)
    Most victims of abuse are more likely to minimize or deny the problems, taking the blame themselves for the abusive behavior. Any behavior that threatens, intimidates, lowers the victim's self-esteem or curtails the victim's freedom is abusive. Dr. Nyblade defines and discusses verbal and emotional abuse
  • Part I: Why to Take an Adult Timeout (05/10/2013)
    A timeout for an adult is meant to accomplish the same goals as a timeout for a child. You can only be in control of yourself. One adult can’t effectively control another adult (except with approval) but an adult can go on a timeout for herself without permission from the other adult. One adult can deny another adult the pleasures of her own company, attention and approval. Therefore, an adult timeout can be an effective response to verbal or emotional abuse.
  • Part III: How to Take an Adult Timeout (05/12/2013)
    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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