In my previous post I discussed how poor shame tolerance is the root cause of most immoral human behavior that is currently labeled as narcissistic,  sociopathic, abusive, or authoritarian.


I believe it is essential that everyone learn the traits exhibited by Other-blamers, because these individuals create untold harm in millions of interpersonal relationships. I am deeply concerned that 63 million people could not recognize that Trump was an extreme abusive Other-blamer. Sadly, he is now acting out these unstable, authoritarian behaviors in his relationship with our country.

The key behaviors of Other-blamers that I list here are well-known as traits of autnhoritarians, narcissists, and sociopaths. My additional explanation regarding the influence of shame on the behaviors can help provide an awareness that all these behaviors are related. (Many more are listed on my website,, and on an excellent series of blogs on authoritarian traits by Eric R. Maisel, PhD.

  1. Violates laws and fails to conform to social norms. Laws are about fair play and being held accountable, which an Other-blamer desperately hopes to avoid. As I write in The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, “Abuse victims often experience frustration because when they try to get through to the abuser, the rules of fair play do not apply. As a country, we are attempting to apply democratic rule of law to Trump. If Trump refuses to play by the rules, and the courts and Congress do not hold him accountable, we citizens have little recourse, causing us to have the sense of helpless desperation of an abused spouse.” And Trump has refused to play by the rules in many ways, including profiting from his office, and the GOP is not holding him accountable.
  2. Exhibits cruelty, anger, hatred, vindictiveness, bullying, and violence or threats of violence. Other-blamers have formed a model of relationships based on distrust and fear, because in their world others are a potential source of rejection. They are living in a chronic state of arousal, constantly fearing the threat of what feels like soul-destroying shame. To manage this in relationships, Other-blamers use volatility, hostility, and intimidation to provoke fear in others. By training partners to be submissive and to stifle criticism, Other-blamers set up relationship patterns that serve their need to avoid a sense of unworthiness. Some believe authoritarians and abusers are propelled purely by hate and the need to punish, but I disagree. The real motivator is shame. The aphorism, “Anger is shame’s bodyguard,” explains it best. Defensive anger is a surface emotion, while shame is often a deeper, often unacknowledged, feeling.
  3. Paranoia. Because they fear the judgments of others, Other-blamers see enemies everywhere. This provokes a chronic sense of anxiety and hyper-vigilance, which simultaneously decreases cognitive abilities. Reduced ability to rationalize leads to a spiral of worsening fear, paranoia, impulsivity, vindictiveness, and irrationality.
  4. Delusions. While some diagnose Trump as delusional, this can be seen as caused by his shame intolerance. The more apparent the truth comes, the more desperately Trump will feel the need to cling to false beliefs or delusions. He will say increasingly outrageous statements that fly in the face of reality. This desperate ratcheting up of his lies is merely an attempt to avoid hearing the truth and feeling the shame of that truth.
  5. Plays the victim and blames others. Blame-shifting often involves outright blaming or an attempt at role reversal as a way to elicit pity and avoid accountability. Trump can jump from behaving as a dominating bully to suddenly acting as the helpless victim, for example with his complaints about the “unfair, fake media.”
  6. Poor sense of humor. The poor shame tolerance of Other-blamers often means they cannot take a joke or be self-deprecating. They may lack the ability to be light, spontaneous, or joyful due to high levels of hyper-vigilance to threat. This can show up in poor social skills. Despite their very apparent lack of sense of humor, when held accountable they may fall back on an excuse that a behavior or comment was “just a joke,” something Trump has done repeatedly.
  7. Opinionated, stubborn, and dislikes debate or compromise. Other-blamers have difficulty taking advice because it could signal that they don’t know something, which for them provokes embarrassment. Compromise or considering all sides of an issue feels like losing, something Trump is known to despise. So Trump and the GOP’s inability to tolerate shame are the root cause of their undemocratic behavior aimed at stifling dissent.
  8. Short attention span, ignorance, and poor frustration tolerance. Consider how you might feel if you had low self-worth and didn’t succeed or master a topic immediately. This would trigger additional feelings of unworthiness and shame, causing you to quit easily or grow bored. Learning involves an ability to admit you do not know something, to persist in the face of struggle, and an ability to be submissive to a more-accomplished teacher, both of which are shaming experiences to an Other-blamer.
  9. Has a disregard for the truth, lies repeatedly, and does not value intellect or rational thought. Truth is an inconvenience to Other-blamers. They recognize that it is through truth they can be held accountable. They prefer lies, excuses, and blame-shifting. Demeaning those smarter, more informed, or more accomplished is a means of preserving their fragile sense of self. They will often defiantly repeat false statements because to admit they are wrong is untenable. According to The New York Times, Trump lied six times more often in his first year than did Obama in his eight years. Trump and most Republicans deny overwhelming climate change science and ignored warnings from the medical community that repealing the Affordable Care Act would threaten quality and availability of healthcare.
  10. Lacks self-awareness or self-reflection. To look inward might reveal flaws which an Other-blamer finds distressing to admit. This is why narcissists and sociopaths rarely show up in psychotherapy.
  11. Lack of empathy, guilt, shame, conscience, or morals. I’ve saved the most significant problem for last. Other-blamers are in a moment-by-moment existential struggle to protect their fragile self-image. In this state of emotional panic, they lack the capacity to be compassionate, kind, or even aware of the needs of others. Other-blamers often exhibit no concern about the common good and often do not do what is right.

Trump has great difficulty acting in ways that serve his constituents. We see this when he tweets false or threatening statements that are likely to incite fear. His goal is merely to feel better about himself in that moment. He is unconcerned with the long-term effect on the country. While Trump may not have conscious intentions to harm, his unstable emotional state, character, and personality have that effect.

In my chapter in The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, I write about the lack of empathy in Trump and his followers as a type of abuse and also the cause of their abusive behavior. Respectful relationships must be built on care for the effect we have on others. Without that fundamental aspect of our humanity we will not experience the mutuality and reciprocity essential for healthy relationships. Abusive relationships may result, like the one we are experiencing with Trump.

Most of us can sense when someone is dangerous. The massive protests on the day after his inauguration and continuing resistance against Trump are indicative of this. What type of leader provokes this type of reaction? One that triggers a deep sense of distrust in his citizens. We know instinctively that he will will not do the right thing.

The cultural change we are experiencing toward authoritarianism and hate has implications beyond politics. Lack of empathy for others is a violation of essential human decency and morals. As social animals, we evolved and succeeded based on our ability to care, share, and cooperate. Behaviors such as self-serving greed, violations of the law, and a lack of concern for the less fortunate are clearly the opposite of tolerance, generosity, fairness, and compassion on which our human species was built.

Keep reading: In Part 3, I delve into the social and moral implications of blame-shifting behaviors and how they create entire blame-shifting social patterns in authoritarian societies. I list seven specific strategies we can all do to address Other-blamers and authoritarians in our lives. In Part 1 of this post, I discuss how shame is the underpinning emotion in Trump’s behaviors. Shame, as a prosocial emotion, is the foundation of morals and ethics, because it mediates fairness and kindness in relationships because poor shame tolerance leads to blame-shifting, or Other-Blaming.

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… be kind to yourself

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