Monday, June 24, 2013

Verbal Abuse

There is not too much that is cute or redemptive about this subject - verbal abuse.  It is probably as hurtful and serious as physical abuse.  

The insidious thing about verbal abuse is that like the proverbial frog in the pot of boiling water, it tends to heat up slowly. It gradually numbs the recipient of the verbal abuse until their perception of reality is skewed and what would once have  one seemed unthinkable has become normal.  Recipients of verbal battering become depressed and their self esteem erodes.
The effects of the verbal abuse are so slow and destructive over time, that rather then jump out of this deadly brew, the abuse recipient develops a tolerance and this reality becomes the new normal.

What is verbal abuse?  I would define verbal abuse as name calling, vulgar language, public criticism or any verbal exchange that involves cruelty.

Verbal abuse is 100% intolerable and unacceptable. I repeat it is not to be tolerated and in a gentle sort of way requires firm limit setting.  

 I would not attempt to dialogue or reason with a person who is being verbally abusive.  In a firm but non-reactive way, I would exit the conversation and perhaps say that you need a time out. I would certainly not retaliate or escalate the situation in any kind of way. These kinds of exchanges are about power and control not about reason or rationality.

A good response might be That hurt my feelings. I need some space.

Reactive, heating up the situation even further is guaranteed not to work. Be an adult - take a walk, if you can, read a book, call a girl friend.  Do your best to sooth yourself, a psychotherapists like to say, and not to participate in a situation that is already regressed and deteriorating.

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