Abuse comes in many different forms leading to different consequences and reactions. Abuse ultimately is always about power and control. The partners’ goal is to maintain power in the relationship and figure out how to control the other person. Verbal abuse is when a person forcefully criticizes, insults, or denounces someone else. Characterized by underlying anger and hostility, it is a destructive form of communication intended to harm the self-concept of the other person and produce negative emotions.
While those definitions are very accurate descriptions, it doesn’t encompass the amount of pain caused to the victim. Verbal abuse causes significant psychological damage that can’t be undone or unheard. Our words have such an impact in our lives and others lives. There are words which still cause me to recoil when I hear them. The amount of name calling, put downs, and cursing done at me make me shake my head in disgust. Verbal abuse can be the one of the worst forms of abuse. I hope the story below will inspire you to not only treat others with kindness, but truly appreciate the power of your words.
My Verbal Abuse Story
I was 20 when I met Seth. He was good-looking, charming, and very intelligent. We started dating on a regular basis and it wasn’t till many months later, close to our wedding, that he said unkind words. My parents don’t argue, so I had no inclination of how to handle the situation. How do you address someone who puts you down when you can’t handle conflict? You learn how to stand up for yourself, tell them ‘that’s rude’, but it does take time to learn these skills. The words he used at me, made me start question myself as a person. The first time he called me a ‘stupid, fucking bitch’ I sat in shock. As he repeated those words over the months of our marriage, I began to believe it. I knew in my heart I wasn’t stupid, but it didn’t stop the words from hurting my soul.
Once I moved on from the relationship, I got myself into therapy to undo the negativity. Here are a few things I’ve done over the years to help overcome the effects of verbal abuse. I start each day with writing my prayer requests and things which make me grateful. Stating what you’re grateful for each day can truly help adjust your attitude. It also helps you move the scale on any negative self-talk. Each day I say the affirmation ‘I am enough’ and the other positive attributes God has given me. This has greatly moved the needle on my self-esteem. Every year I go through the self-concept inventory below. This is very helpful as it gives you a gauge of where verbal abuse and other triggers are occurring.
- What do I like about myself? What traits do I possess that make me attractive to others — how do other people see me?
- Look at your character traits. Look at what you are and what you can do. What makes you unique?
- What would you like to improve about yourself as a person? I set a yearly goal to work on myself in whatever area needs to improve.
- What is my mission in life? What are my beliefs — what do I stand for?
- An example of self-defeating behavior is negative self-talk. Where does this come from? Find the source. Fix the negative self-talk with the positive attributes about what makes you unique.
The self-concept inventory allows you to create positive self-talk and shift any negative behaviors which have occurred from being abused. Fixing negative self-talk is such important work and can really change the direction of your life. One of my friend’s mantra is ‘You can fly as high as you want — don’t let the negative thinking cut you down.’ I love this and it’s so true! Only you can change your attitude, find those who lift you up and rebuild your life free from any type of abuse.