The Book Club book For December 2015: “The Verbally Abusive Relationship” by Patricia Evans
When most people think of verbal abuse, they think of name calling and screaming or yelling. …And they’d only be partially correct.
Verbal abuse is SO much more than name calling and screaming at someone.
I was surprised to realize that there was a lot behavior that I’ve experienced (or have seen) that registered as “not cool” behavior, but it didn’t register as being abusive.
…And frankly, much of this kind of behavior I would have accepted as within the realm of “normal” bad behavior (and not deal breaker stuff).
So here’s a rundown of the some take aways from the book:
What is verbal abuse?
Verbal abuse is disrespecting, devaluing, or disempowering words or attitudes. It’s a subtle form of diminishment done with angry outbursts, cool indifference, one-upmanship, scathing sarcasm, silent treatment, manipulations, irrational demands which are generally cloaked in a “what’s wrong with you, you’re making a big deal out of nothing”–or “it’s all your fault” kind of an attitude. The target of this abuse often has no witness to his/her reality, and because of this they have a hard time realizing that there is a problem—and that they aren’t at fault.
What is an abusive relationship?
An abusive relationship is one where mixed messages are sent. Words and actions frequently don’t line up. For example, I love you is said, but then actions are hurtful (verbally, emotionally, physically, etc.).
- I think it’s important to note that abusive relationships can be within any dynamic—and isn’t just isolated to a relationship with a significant other. Abusive behavior can come from a parent, a sibling, a child, a boss, a co-worker, a friend, a neighbor, a member/leader of a church, and so on. Abusive people can be male or female, young or old, any nationality, and religion, and any sexual orientation.
What is a verbally abusive relationship?
A verbally abusive relationship is often unpredictable, and the target feels shocked by what happened. Because of the seemingly random experiences of verbal abuse, the victim doesn’t link them together to see a pattern of behavior. Verbal abuse tends to include accusations and blame, and targets of this abuse tend to feel that they need to explain themselves.
They often feel that if they can only get their partner to see that they have unreasonable behavior, or that they aren’t doing these things they are being accused of, that the relationship will change—but because their partner doesn’t have an attitude of “goodwill and mutuality” (the partner is inflexible and isn’t trying to understand or be understood—or work towards a solution), the issues are never resolved.
The victim hangs onto hope that if she (or he) can just get their partner to understand the impact of his (or her) behavior, that the behavior will change. The victim confuses caring, brief actions such as flowers, or a somewhat nice text message as love and proof that the hurtful partner is changing. But then his lack of indifference towards her feelings resurfaces, and erratic temperament and she (or he) becomes disappointed…again.
The victim develops coping mechanisms: explaining themselves, justifying the bad behavior, begging, settling for crumbs, and eventually they quit asking for things to be any different. Walking on eggshells and expecting to be let down has become the new normal.
Victims often doubt their perceptions and feelings.
Common feelings of people in a verbally abusive relationship:
– Like they are crazy/misremembering/mishearing things.
– Sick feeling in the pit of their stomach
– Thrown off balance. The abusers response doesn’t line up with what’s going on
– Feeling of not being heard. (Are we speaking 2 different languages? Or the feeling of having two different conversations.)
– Wanting to escape or runaway
– Doubting their own perceptions—and wondering if they are the problem and because they have some sort of “issues” that they just don’t realize it
Most people in an abusive relationship don’t realize they are in one, because they often feel responsible for the abuse.
Verbally Abusive Behavior:
Comes in two forms: overt and covert. An example of overt abuse would be: “Shut up you dumb bitch.” An example of covert abuse would be: “You think you are so much smarter than everyone else.”
The Core of Verbally Abusive Behavior:
- Tells the partner what they are: Ex: “You are fat/crazy/stupid.”
- What a person thinks. “You think you are smarter/better than everyone else.”
- What a person is trying to do, “You are trying to start a fight/Make me look bad.”
- Partners are often abused twice: once by the abuse, and then again by the denial of it
- Many partners need to hear their abuser admit to what they were doing was abusive because they want/need their reality validated, but this rarely happens.
- If the abuser thinks his/her behavior is his/her nature or something from his/her past, then he evades accountability and responsibility for change. It’s important that they realize that while there may be reasons that drive their behavior, it still doesn’t make it okay.
Some questions to ask yourself :
– How often does verbal abuse occur?
– When did it start?
– If the verbal abuse continues, what do you think your life will be like in 5-10 years?
My 2 BIG Take Aways From This Book:
Take Away #1: There are 2 realities and 2 types of self esteem:
Reality 1 Mindset: The (often subconscious) goal of an abusive person is to get and keep power and control over others (generally those closest to them–a significant other, or another family member like a child or a sibling.) They create a win/lose situation in order to get power and control over their victim. It is impossible to have anything other than a one-sided relationship with a person with this type of mindset, as it’s always their way or the highway.
Some behavior traits of a Reality 1 Mindset are:
– Competition (Looking to win)
- There is no shared planning or mutual goals with a reality 1 person.They do whatever they want (although they may claim to want to work together). The partner is left picking up the pieces. Partner tries harder to get through to a Reality 1 person (especially since there are often glimmers of hope that are there).
Reality 2 Mindset: The goal of people with a Reality 2 mindset is that of mutuality and goodwill. They work towards creating a win/win situation, and they do so by working to understand where others come from, and seek to find solutions to problems.
Some behavior traits of a Reality 2 Mindset are:
– Mutuality (Looking to understand)
The Two Types of Self-Esteem:
Self-Esteem 1: A person with a type 1 self-esteem justifies why others treat them poorly or abusively. They stay around to fix the partner, the relationship, or themselves. They often wonder if they are the problem, and often ask themselves, “Am I too selfish, too sensitive, or too demanding?”
Self-Esteem 2: A person with a type 2 self-esteem realizes there is no justification to be treated in an disrespectful, disempowering, or abusive way. They have healthy standards and boundaries for what kind of behavior and people they accept into their lives, and instead of trying to change others, they focus on what they do have control over (which is themselves) and they leave disempowering situations.
(My two cents: These self-esteem types are not set in stone. We can (immediately) take on a type 2 self esteem once we realize there are 2 realities and 2 mindsets out there. We can take our power and control back starting now.)
Take Away #2: There are 15 different types of verbal abuse:
1.Withholding. (This would include a lack of what I call, “open, honest, sincere, and solutions oriented communication.”) Ignoring the other person. Pretending not to hear them. Abusive people withhold communication because there is a lack of intimacy/connection to others. Since all their relationships are one-sided, they only do what they want to do, regardless of how their behavior impacts others. They may make statements such as, “There’s nothing for me to say.” “You never let me talk.” Or, “We do talk.”
2.Countering.They make themselves right—and their partner wrong. Even if their partner agrees, the abusive person will pick something else out in the conversation to argue about!
3.Discounting.This is a denying the partner’s experience as a valid experience or percetpion. The abusive person minimizes it to nothing, often saying things such as: You are too sensitive. You don’t have a sense of humor. You take things too seriously. You blow everything out of proportion. You’re not happy unless you are complaining. You’re looking for a fight. You twist everything around. You think you know it all. You don’t know what you are talking about.
4.Verbal abuse disguised as jokes.These are insults disguised as “jokes” that are only funny to the abusive person, and are often focused on the target’s feminine/masculine nature, intellect or competency. (Comments such as, “What can you expect from a woman/man? Women drivers are terrible. You are such a blonde. You are easily entertained.”) Or the abusive person may frighten their partner and the laugh like it’s a joke (even after the partner tells them not to do this).
5.Blocking and diverting. Used to prevent discussion, withhold information, and end communication. Examples: “Get off my back. You know what I meant. Oh, we’re going to fight about this again.” Diverts to another issue. “We’ve gone thru this before, I don’t want to go thru it again. You think you are so perfect. How about that one time when you did XYZ.” Potential response by victim: Stick with the main question.
6.Accusing and blaming.This is where the target is accused and blamed for things that they didn’t do. “You’re attacking me. You have issues. I’ve had it with your attacks. Nothing I do is good enough for you.” Potential response by victim: “Stop accusing and blaming me right now.” “I’m done with this conversation.” Verbal and emotional abuse is like an adult throwing rocks at your windows. You will get farther by saying “stop throwing rocks,” than you would be to trying to explain why to not throw rocks. To explain the basics of adult behavior to another adult (when they know better—which they all do) is an exercise in futility. *Most all abusive people do an EXCELLENT job at spinning things around onto the victim, so in the end the victim is the one apologizing—even if they didn’t do anything wrong. They are left feeling confused, and doubt their perceptions of what really even happened, or how that conversation got so far off track. A great way to cut through all this confusion is to ask yourself how someone else (think of someone with healthy boundaries) would handle this situation. Seeing what’s going on from an outside perspective can provide the clarity needed as to what’s really going on in the situation.
7.Judging and criticizing.This type of behavior comes across with “you” statements, subtle or harsh criticism, or telling embarrassing or critical stories about the target in front of others—followed with claims they are only trying to help, or didn’t mean to embarrass or criticize the target. (This is a form of “playing stupid” which all abusive people do. If they wouldn’t want the same thing done to them, then they DO realize that this behavior isn’t okay. …Of course, because of their need to always “win” they will most likely say that they wouldn’t mind being judged or criticized in this way—but the target knows that if they were to give them the same type of treatment that they wouldn’t take it well at all.)
The person being abusive may say, “You can’t take a joke. You’re too sensitive. You are too critical.” The criticism disguised as help—and is often focused on aspects of the target that they can’t quickly or easily change, (or that they have no desire to change) such as their appearance, their profession, how much money they make, their religion, their sexual orientation, or their parenting.
8.Trivializing.The person with abusive behavior often focuses on just on the smallest part of a big accomplishment. The partner feels confused and hurt as to why they don’t seem to see all the work that went into it. The partner can’t get the abuser to see how important things are to them. (This is because the Reality 1 mindset is one of “power over” others, and they perceive any type of achievement as a threat.)
9.Undermining.Undermining behavior could be comments that withhold emotional support and erode self-confidence or comments that are a disruption or an interruption. For example, barging into a room or playing the piano when someone is on the phone.
10.Threatening.Threatening behavior manipulates a partner by going after their biggest fears. It’s the implication of do what I want or I’ll cheat/divorce/leave/hit/not pay child support, etc.
11.Name Calling.All insulting name calling is abusive. This can be done with more obvious hurtful words, (calling someone fat, a slut, a bitch, etc.) but can also be the tone in which “nice” words are said.
12.Forgetting.This is where they claim that they don’t remember what was said, or saying what did occur, didn’t occur.
13.Ordering.As in, ordering a person around. “Get in here.” “You’re not wearing that.” “You’re not going out with them.” It’s a form of diminishment and minimization.
14.Denial.(Aka “Gaslighting.”) Denial of what reality is one of the worst kinds of abuse, as it denies the reality of the partner. “I never said that.” “That never happened.” “You’re crazy.”
15.Abusive Anger.Partner is not responsible for the actions of the abuser, but is made to feel like they are. Abusive anger can be verbal or physical, and may or may not come on out of the blue. The partner often looks for rational reasons and explanations for angry outbursts.
To read more of my take aways (there are 8 in all) click here to read them.
I hope these notes help, and I will be reading and sending out notes on one new book club book a month. The topics will range from abuse, codependency, setting healthy boundaries, and how to move forward and heal.
The book club book for March will be, “You Can Heal Your Life” by Louise Hay.
*The links to the book club books are “affiliate links” for Amazon, which means that if you buy a book using the link, the site gets a (very) small percentage of each sale. Using the link doesn’t cost you extra, and helps me to keep this site going. 🙂
My goal is to educate, empower, and inspire other abuse victims in understanding more about what happened to them (and how to prevent it from happening again), as well as how to go on and rebuild an amazing life.
Even though I have had a lot of "in the trenches" experience with highly manipulative people of all kinds, I consider myself to be a student of Narcissism, mindset, motivation, healing, and life in general, and am by no means an expert on any of these topics.
It's for these reasons, that when you are reading my information that I encourage you to hold to what helps, and let the rest go.