Verbal abuse is toxic. The following is Kate Carlson, OTR/L interviewing domestic abuse consulting expert Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D. in an effort to help people recognize and understand verbal abuse in unhealthy relationships.
1) K.C.: In your words, please define verbal abuse and emotional abuse. And how someone can recognize these within a relationship.
Dr. J.K.: Verbal abuse is the use of derogatory language and/or tone toward another person. Emotional abuse is the intentional manipulation of and/or disregard for another person’s inner world.
Both emotional and verbal abuse evolve out from one person’s effort to establish and/or maintain unequal power within the relationship.
2) K.C.: Does verbal abuse typically begin right away?
Dr. J.K: The time in which verbal abuse creeps into the relationship is a function of numerous factors. One can expect to see it before physical abuse and along with emotional abuse.
3) K.C.: How can you tell verbal abuse from relationship strife?
Dr. J.K.: Verbal abuse carries with it the intent to establish and/or maintain unequal power within the relationship and is rarely, if ever, shadowed by any remorse. Relationship strife, on the other hand, is misplaced aggression and is typically followed by authentic remorse.
4) K.C.: What are the effects of verbal abuse on the individual? Can you comment on how the escalation of verbal abuse affects an abuse victim’s behavior over time?
Dr. J.K.: The effects of verbal abuse on an individual depend on the individual. For some, it will cause them to pull away from the relationship; whereas, other individuals will remain in the relationship and become beaten down over time by the verbal abuse.
The effects on the “abuse victim’s” behavior become progressively more debilitating as long as one remains in the abuse dynamic. Often one will internalize the battering commentary and begin to see themselves through the eyes of their abuser.
5) K.C.: How would you recognize it in yourself, your relationship with your partner and in your self-talk?
Dr. J.K.: Good question. It’s my opinion that it’s most readily first recognized in oneself from the inside out. You begin to define and refer to yourself in the same language and perspective as the battering partner, particularly when in the company of this person.
As far as how it is noticed in the relationship, you observe and experience an unequal distribution of relationship power (and control) between yourself and your partner. Obviously, with the battering partner being the empowered one in the relationship and the verbally abused partner being the un-empowered party.
Your self-talk as the victimized partner will often mirror the “felt meaning” of the verbal assaults from your abusive partner. That is, the actual language and tone may not be the same, but the feeling it leaves you with can very well trigger the feeling state that you experience when being defined by his/her battering language.
So, for example, you may begin to regard yourself as your battering partner expresses and begin to believe that the things being told to and about you are true.
6) K.C.: Does the communication pattern between an abuser/victim tend to encourage the victim to ignore her true or initial feelings? Does that tend to show up in her self-talk/inner dialogue?
Dr. J.K.: Yes, when listening to oneself reflexively, the victimized partner will hear the louder, more dominate side of her/his inner dialogue-that as often defined by the abuser.
For more information on recognizing, ending and healing from emotional and verbal abuse, see Emotional Verbal Abuse. Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D. helps people identify, stop and heal from domestic abuse. Kate Carlson is a OTR/L at victoryspeaks.com http://www.PreventAbusiveRelationships.com
©2009 Jeanne King, Ph.D. – Domestic Abuse Prevention and Intervention
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