President Donald Trump and others in his administration must face legal consequences for their actions over the past four years if Americans are to heal from this toxic administration, according to an expert in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Dr. Seth Norrholm, a translational neuroscientist and leading expert on PTSD, told Salon’s Chauncey DeVega that Americans have effectively existed in relationship with an abuser during Trump’s presidency.
“Once the election was called, it was like an abused person now at least seeing the start of the breakup with the abuser,” Norrholm said.
Clinically, what we would do with a person who is in an abusive relationship is to conduct an “extraction.” The relationship is broken off, and then there are law enforcement guardrails put in place, such as a restraining order. There are physical guardrails too, where the abused person can move out of the abusive home and find shelter elsewhere. With Trump the guardrails that are supposed to be in place are still not there. For example, most companies do not fire somebody for cause and then say, “OK, you’ve got 70 days to get out of here,” because obviously that is a great deal of time to wreak havoc and continue to be abusive.
Trump still being president is very much the same thing. A person would not break up with an abusive spouse or partner, and then say, “OK, as of two months from now, we will formally end this.” Such a situation would be an emotional mess.
Now that President-elect Joe Biden is on track to take over in January, many Americans are feeling relieved. But this is only the beginning of the nation’s healing, Norrholm said.
“The level of stress has been excessive. There are people who have now spent four or so years having to deal with Trump’s presidency and its consequences,” Norrholm told DeVega. “Those people are more at risk for stress-related illnesses such as gastrointestinal problems, cardiac problems and exacerbation of other physical symptoms because of the stress.”
Asked what would happen if there are no investigations or punishments for the Trump administration’s crimes, Norrholm said, “That would not be a good outcome.”
For the psychological well-being of the American people, there need to be consequences for the horrible things that happened under the Trump presidency. There needs to be a resolution. In terms of the abusive relationship analogy we have been using, there need to be consequences — that courtroom moment where a sentence is handed down to the abuser. Closure is important. If there is no closure, then the abuser and all that trauma can continue to cause emotional, psychological and physical trauma.
There is a hunger and need for some kind of resolution among the American people because of what Donald Trump and his administration have done to them. Such a resolution will provide validation and affirmation. “Yes, this guy really was a bad guy” needs to be publicly acknowledged. The feelings of stress and anxiety were warranted. Ultimately, the American people need their feelings to be validated about Donald Trump and what has happened with him as president.
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