Is This Abusive Presidency Driving You Crazy?

If you feel like Trump’s candidacy is literally driving you crazy, it’s because that’s how abusive techniques work. They defy the normal rules of engagement. They throw you off-balance. They twist reality until you question your own perceptions of it. Emily Crockett, Vox, 2016

That was then, this is now. Trump Anxiety Disorder and Post-Trump Stress Disorder are realer than ever, if not actual DSM diagnoses. Yet.

Maybe you don’t actually feel crazy anymore. Maybe you feel anxious, scared, stressed, fatigued, run down, depressed, despairing…But crazy? Well, it’s just a feeling, not a fact.

I’m not speaking as a therapist, though I am one. I’m speaking as a citizen who happens to be a therapist who sees clients who share many of the same concerns I do and who shares back.

As Bella DePaulo, PhD, has reported (Psychology Today), “In striking contrast to decades of precedent, therapists are now routinely making their political opinions known to their clients. In a recently published survey of 604 psychotherapy clients from 50 states, only 32% said their therapist did not disclose their political beliefs.”

In today’s world speaking up as a therapist is important. We must be aware that abusive techniques such as gaslighting are commonly used. Stephanie Sarkis, PhD, who wrote the 2018 Gaslighting: Recognize Manipulative and Emotionally Abusive People – and Break Free, names Trump as a “classic gaslighter in an abusive relationship with America” (USA Today). Furthermore, The more gaslighting continues, the more off-kilter and confused the population becomes, until people are too tired to fight back.”

A reminder of the warning signs of gaslighting, per Sarkis (Psychology Today):

  1. They tell blatant lies.
  2. They deny they ever said something, even though you have proof. 
  3. They use what is near and dear to you as ammunition. 
  4. They wear you down over time.
  5. Their actions do not match their words.
  6. They throw in positive reinforcement to confuse you. 
  7. They know confusion weakens people. 
  8. They project.
  9. They try to align people against you.
  10. They tell you or others that you are crazy.
  11. They tell you everyone else is a liar.

Now, however, it’s not just Trump à la his 2015-2016 campaigning, it’s also those appointed to his administration. The abusive leader and his lackeys. The strong man and those who fear him…

The nation’s “father figure” and his followers and his enablers.

Jessica Winter, New Yorker: “We are all members of Trump’s toxic, traumatizing family now.”

Particularly those who’ve been abused elsewhere are repeatedly triggered and affected. Regarding the rest, if you’ve experienced the trust and safety of a loving home, environment, and life—and if you’ve perceived past Presidents as relatively respectful—now you’re likely to be totally thrown off course.

As Professor George Lakoff (“Understanding Trump“) has opined, the values hierarchy represented by the Trump admin is as follows:

…God above Man, Man above Nature, The Disciplined above the Undisciplined, the Rich above the Poor, Employers above Employees, Adults above Children, Western culture above other cultures, America above other countries. The hierarchy extends to: Men above women, Whites above Nonwhites, Christians above nonChristians, Straights above Gays.

Just imagine how many Americans that subjects to one-down, often victimized, positions. Britt Peterson, Washingtonian.com, on the current state of affairs:

Two and a half years into the Trump administration, it’s news to no one that the 45th President has generated angst in many people, regardless of party. The American Psychological Association has even documented the phenomenon. According to its 2018 Stress in America survey, 62 percent of Americans say the current political climate is ‘a significant stressor’ for them; more than two-thirds say the nation’s future is stressing them out—a ‘significant increase’ from 2017, the report says. ‘Trump May Not Be Crazy,’ read a headline from Politico Magazine just before the survey came out, ‘But the Rest of Us Are Getting There Fast.’

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