Verbal and Emotional Abuse – A Primer – Part I

Accepting a Painful Truth

Abuse, whether physical, verbal, emotional, or spiritual begins with one primary attitude that emanates from the abuser: superiority. The abuser will offer remarks criticizing or correcting his victim’s behavior, personality, profession, friends, family, choices, priorities, appearance, attitude, etc. He begins to strike a position of absolute knowledge and authority.

With such clarity of mind, he has no trouble finding cause to criticize, correct or condemn those things about his victim that he finds unappealing or inappropriate. You need to be more outgoing, submissive, sensitive, affectionate, flexible, athletic, or whatever. He complains that you’re not a better cook, housekeeper or lover. He leaves little doubt that your views on important matters, news, politics or family relationships are flawed or foolish. In fact, if it weren’t for him, you are led to believe you would merely limp your way through life.

It may begin as a cutting remark, a little sarcasm, or a put-down. Over time, his tone will become increasingly angry. He may throw in some manipulation, unusual demands, self-serving attitudes and actions. Because he doesn’t hit you, you fail to recognize that what you’re living with is actually abuse.

Abusers will use whatever weapons they have at their disposal. They are fully aware of your fears and failings and use them against you. If you are a God-fearing woman, he will use your faith against you, inferring that God would not be pleased by your attitude or actions. If you are truly a godly woman, you will submit to the abuser and his will. If you have a poor self-image, he will exploit it and remind you of how unappealing you are. If you suffer guilt from past issues or failings, he will find the perfect moment to throw them in your face.

Even if a victim knows in her heart that she is doing the best she can, the feelings of inadequacy he churns up compels her to question whether he must be right. So she strives even harder to earn his acceptance and affection, believing that if she just tries harder, he will see how much she loves him. The enabler-victim’s life is one of anxiety and confusion, believing that if she can hold it together, prove her loyalty and worth, he will very soon turn around and love her.

Why doesn’t it work? Because he doesn’t want what she wants, and he doesn’t want her to have what she wants. The abuser doesn’t want relationship; he wants control. The enabler wants to believe that he doesn’t really mean to hurt her; it is too traumatic to consider that this person whom you have loved and tried to please is hurting you and doesn’t care.

This is only the beginning. (See Part II)

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5 thoughts on “Verbal and Emotional Abuse – A Primer – Part I”

    1. I find this approach completely unrealistic. I don’t see how anyone can convince themselves that an intentional personal verbal or emotional attack is impersonal. That’s just denial. It seems far healthier to me to call it what it is and address it. Otherwise, you’re living a lie.

      Thanks for sharing. I just can’t go there.

      1. I believe you CAN use this approach—but ONLY if there is not a danger of remaining AND if you have no intention of having a true, intimate relationship. There is no way to have a healthy relationship with someone who is behaving in this way. I have actually gotten to the point where he can rant and rave and I just look at him and I am not moved. However, you should ask yourself, what do you gain by staying and allowing that kind of behavior? Every situation is different and we are all at different points on the journey so only you can decide whether you will continue to live in such a toxic environment and for how long. This approach can certainly come in handy if you are in the process of deciding what to do and putting your plans together, however it cannot and should not be a long-term “solution.”

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