Susan Heitler
Clinical psychologist, popular book author, and blogger

Impeachment and Indictment: Same Abusive Tactics?

Are the populations of both countries being weakened by a similar phenomenon? (c) ruskpp/fotosearch

For some time now I have been working with adults and children who have been targets of a form of domestic abuse—highly damaging both to the targeted parent and to the child/ren—called parental alienation. I also have written an earlier blog post here on political alienation, my term for when one political leader or group attempts to alienate the citizenry of a country from another of its leaders or political parties via unwarranted accusations.

Today I realized that alienation, without necessarily using this word for it, may be haunting many Americans and Israelis, not just me.  Why? Impeachment and indictment.

Are impeachment and indictment both tactics that pump up how bad trivial actions of the targeted other have been?

Do they try to prove false narraitves in order to turn their populations against and dethrone a current leader?

Are the impeachment attempt against President Trump and the indictment hearings against Prime Minister Netanyahu  similarly abusive of the countries’ populations?

Sure looks to me like Yes.

What is parental alienation?

Parental alienation refers to systematic attempts by one parent to poison the attitude of the child toward the other parent.

Alienating parents instill negative attitudes toward the other parent in their children by describing whatever the targeted parent does in a negative light. They refer to normal behaviors of the targeted parent/politician with implications that whatever they have  done, it’s bad. They further poison the alienated child/population by insinuating , based on undeserved charges, that the other parent/politician is dangerous, crazy, dishonest, and more.

Severely alienating parents tell false narratives, issue false accusations, and bring court cases against the other parent on trumped-up or totally false charges in order to remove the targeted parent from their parental role.

Sound like impeachment and indictment?

Note that an alienator’s accusations almost always are projections, ie, the pot calling the kettle black.  Alienating parents’/politicians’ criticisms thus merit a close look.  When alienators say that their ex-spouse is dishonest, it’s likely that the alienating parent is the dishonest one.   Notice what Trump/Netanyahu are being accused of.  Is these behaviors in fact what the accusaers themselves are doing?

Alienating parents build a team of allies, telling their friends, family, the child’s teachers, whoever will listen, how terrible the targeted parent is. Does this propagandizing sound to you like the way that so many newspaper, TV, radio, and internet journalists have become foot soldiers in the battle to brainwash the population and thereby dethrone Trump/Netanyahu?

Children exposed to a barrage of negative views of Dad or Mom begin to have doubts about their prior positive regard for the targeted parent. These doubts show up initially as intermittent hostility to a parent whom they used to love and trust. Eventually, they may swallow whole the alienated parent’s fixed beliefs and all-or-nothing thinking about their Dad or Mom. They behave rudely and eventually avoid the targeted parent altogether as they come to view the alienating parent as all good, and the targeted parent as all bad.  Has this happened vis a vis President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu?

Sadly, severely alienated children can not tolerate hearing anything positive about the once-loved and now feared and hated parent. They may even run out of the room rather than listen to a positive perspective that contradicts their firmly held beliefs. Sound familiar with regard to how many citizens of our country now react to hearing positives about Trump/Netanyahu?  Sound like why so many citizens want “anyone but…”?

So how might alienation apply to the current impeachment and indictment hearings?

Consider the supposed Russian conspiracy and the Mueller investigation; the confirmation hearings on Justice Kavanaugh; and now, the current Ukraine Congressional impeachment hearings. Do these fit a pattern of accusations based on pumped up or outright false narratives? And the accusations against Netanyahu as well?

Our political leaders and their media megaphones appear to be telling us untruths.  They certainly appear to be issuing pumped up and false allegations to accomplish political alienation.

Alienation in the forms of impeachment and indictment is abusive, both to the targeted leader and to the country’s citizens.

The bottom line, and a truth that is certain, is that kids thrive the most when they can love and feel cared for by both their mom and their dad.  Kids want their parents to learn to discuss and resolve their differences cooperatively.

Likewise, most citizens want our governmental “parents” and their respective media allies to stop attacking each other and to resume paying attention to the children’s/population’s needs.  They want the leaders whom they have elected to be able to serve out their terms focused on the work of parenting/governing, not on having to defend themselves against their co-parent’s enmity.

Will our opposition political leaders continue to victimize elected leaders, with the population paying the price, or will they relect on the harm that their alienating actions have been doing?   Will they choose instead to work cooperatively on governing?  Let’s hope.

In the year ahead and ever after, may we all accept the leaders our populations have fairly elected, work respectfully together, and thrive.

About the Author
Susan Heitler, PhD, a clinical psychologist formerly from Denver, has recently made aliyah to Israel. Dr. Heitler's popular blog—Resolution, Not Conflict—has received more than 25 million reads. Her Power of Two book and workbook, teaching communication and conflict resolution skills, has been published in six foreign languages including Hebrew. For her techniques for relieving depression, anger, and anxiety, see her website at
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