The Harsh Reality of Words
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Misperception of Verbal Aggression
Emotional abuse is perhaps the least understood type of abuse. In the field of trauma it is sometimes thought of as a “little t” trauma. Many people minimize its importance or the damage it does. Think of the familiar adage: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. In my practice, however, I see every day the lasting and severe impact of both childhood and adulthood emotional abuse.
What is Emotional/ Verbal Abuse?
Verbal abuse (also known as reviling or bullying) is best described as an ongoing emotional environment organized by the abuser for the purposes of control. The underlying factor in the dynamic of verbal abuse is the abuser’s low regard for him or herself.
Verbal abuse may occur to a person of any gender, race, culture, sexual orientation, age, or size. Typically, verbal abuse increases in intensity over time and often escalates into physical abuse as well. After exposure to verbal abuse, victims may fall into clinical depression and/ or post-traumatic stress disorder. Verbal abuse includes the following: countering, withholding, discounting, verbal abuse disguised as jokes, accusing and blaming, judging and criticizing, trivializing, undermining, threatening, name-calling, chronic forgetting, ordering, denial of anger or abuse, and abusive anger (described in our next posting on verbal abuse).
What is the Goal of Verbal Abuse?
The goal of emotional/verbal abuse (or any type of abuse for that matter) is make the victim feel worthless and dependent on their abuser. Just like all abusers, their goal is to maintain power and control in the relationship, and there are several methods the abuser will use to get it. The abuser may first degrade the victim by name calling, insulting or scolding him or her. The abuser will then reject and detach from the victim by starving him or her of any affection or emotional support. This could result in the victim feeling as if their thoughts and actions were responsible for the abuser’s cold and cruel behavior. This will make most victims willing to do anything to keep the abuser happy and his or her life. This response then allows the abuser to isolate the victim from his or her family, friends or financial resources. Soon thereafter the abuser can begins using lead forms of intimidation, terrorizing, and even exploitation.
Emotionally abused victims feel as if they need the abuser in their lives. They feel worthless, depressed, fearful and unworthy of love or respect. They may become socially withdrawn and develop strong feelings of inadequacy. This may lead the victim to turn to alcohol, drugs, gambling or other risky behavior.
Whether it’s emotional or physical, no one deserves to be abused. Relationships need to be built on mutual respect and love. Your partner should never make you feel worthless or unimportant and vice versa.
If you or someone you know is being abused, please get help. Tell a family member, a friend, someone you trust. If you feel they cannot help or need assistance please call 1-888-349-1116.
Join us next week as we describe in detail the types of emotional abuse and include a profound case study on overwhelming effects of childhood emotional abuse.
From Fear to Faith. Help is out there!