Recently I was verbally attacked via email. I thought I would turn it into a learning experience to try to help others dealing with verbal abuse. Whether is it a one-off, once in a while situation or more frequently, from the same person over and over, it can come at you in many ways, from many sources. Those who know me, know that I am all about getting out of the problem and into the solution and so I am journaling through my blog today:)
Have you ever had a boss rip you a new one in front of staff? (I have). Have you ever had a man make an inappropriate comment to you about your body, weight, intelligence, etc. in a serious way or even in a “joking” manner? (I have). Have you ever had someone attack you via email? (Check). Have you ever been groped, raped or had your physical boundaries violated? (Yup).
In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein incident, if you are a woman, you have not gone through life without being violated as a woman in one or many or all of the above types of situations by a man or even by another woman.
Verbal abuse happens to be one of the most insidious forms of abuse because it worms its way into your brain undermining your sense of self-esteem, and making you doubt who you are and your sense of self efficacy.
After you have been verbally abused you may feel some of the following symptoms:
~A feeling of disconnection/disbelief
~Unable to stop crying
Let’s review what verbal abuse looks like, then talk about what to do about it when it happens.
Wikipedia defines verbal abuse as follows:
“Verbal Abuse is described as a negative defining statement told to the victim or about the victim, or by withholding any response, thereby defining the target as non-existent. If the abuser does not immediately apologize and retract the defining statement, the relationship may be a verbally abusive one. Anger underlies, motivates and perpetuates verbally abusive behavior.”
“In schools and in everyday life, a person may indulge in verbal abuse—bullying (which often has a physical component)—to gain status as superior to the person targeted and to bond with others against the target. Generally the bully knows no other way to connect emotionally with others.”
“Anyone can experience verbal abuse. Typically, in romantic or family relationships, verbal abuse increases in intensity and frequency over time. After exposure to verbal abuse, victims may develop clinical depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. The person targeted by verbal abuse over time may succumb to any stress-related illness. Verbal abuse creates emotional pain and mental anguish in its target.
Despite that verbal abuse does not leave physical marks such as bruising, verbal abuse can be just as detrimental to a person’s health as physical abuse.”
Verbal abuse includes:
Cussing at you
Hitting below the belt with comments that you shared vulnerably
Attacking statements against your character
Demeaning and/or belittling statements
Accusing and blaming
Blocking and diverting
The behavior of ignoring- I include this because is it a mental mind-F
Denial of self anger or abuse
Judging and criticizing
Minimisation, discounting, trivializing
Threatening behavior, or bodily harm
These forms of verbal abuse typically come from the other person out of anger, and a need to feel a sense of power and control over the other person. They typically have low self-esteem themselves, are insecure about something within themselves, and as wikipedia describes, come from a person who is unable to emotionally connect with others.
SO WHAT DO YOU DO?
So glad that you asked!
1) You get support number one!!!! You talk to objective people and those in your circle who love and support you. (This can be hard as the abuser can also seek to isolate you so that you cannot turn to anyone else.) Call your therapist and get in for an appointment. (Yup, needed that!)
2) You examine the FACTS! Facts are not feelings. The feelings show up to tell you that something is wrong, off kilter or dangerous. In my case, my brain wanted to keep going over and over the email and the abusive, attacking language and to doubt my own experience, feel horrible and and lose sight of my own truth. But that is the distortion of negative filtering. Looking at only one piece of negative evidence; in my case, the email, I am going to continue to feel unworthy, and horrible about myself.
I have to look at the numerous pieces of evidence that counters the one piece of evidence. The many vastly outweighs the one negative opinion but then why does the abuse stay in my brain?
It stays in your brain because verbal abuse triggers your central nervous system into a fight, flight or freeze mode and you are then re-traumatized by the past as well as the present.
3) EXTREME self care is necessary at this point. I know I beat self care as a concept to death in my blog posts, but I cannot express the importance of self-physical and mental care.
Practice the following:
~Get good sleep and plenty of it (it is the most restorative thing we can do)
~Stay hydrated and eat well
~Exercise or practice yoga or calming techniques with your body (The karate bags were no match for me after this experience-LOL)
~Dial back on commitments if possible
~Check out on something that takes your mind off of the matter for even a short time. (Netflix anyone?)
~Prayer and/or meditation (read your bible, practice grace, meditate)
~Journal out the story, then go back and refute the inner critic who is trying to agree with the abuser.
4) Get out, get away, take a time out, delete, block and don’t otherwise engage with the abuser if at all possible.
5) Lastly, did I mention, GET SUPPORT!!. Abuse is NEVER ok. Not in any way, shape of form, or for any reason. When others are not acting in accordance with the accepted rules of society, that does not mean that you have to agree or take it on. You need to be talking to the people in your circle, both personal and professional as well as therapeutically: With a therapist, in a support group such as Codependent 12-step meetings, your church or Pastor and others.
*I realize that this is a one-off situation and if you are in a verbally and/or physically abusive relationship, the number ONE thing to do is please, please seek help and support. Call the San Diego Crisis line for referrals at 1-888-724-7240. There are safe houses, legal resources, and support available to you.
None of the above is therapy or a therapeutic relationship, but is meant to help you navigate through individual situations.
A final thought: If you are dealing with a one-off situation, as I was above, the final step is to work towards forgiveness. I know this is the hardest thing to do but I do it because practicing grace and forgiveness frees me. I CHOOSE to be the type of person who practices grace and forgiveness because that is my truth. My truth is NOT the nasty things the person said in the email. I get to CHOOSE my truth and write my own story. I am not about to let this very troubled person live rent free in my head. Forgiveness lets the other person out of jail but frees you from the prison of your brain.
I wish you strength and peace in your journey through tough situations.