Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Elephant In The Family Room

Verbal abuse in a family situation…what a shocker that families treat each other with the abuse of words.
Words are used as physical blows and have as much or more power than physical blows.
Would you take a weapon to inflict as much as pain as possible to your family member? Many families practice verbal abuse in the safe confines of their homes and family relationships. Violence is violence, no matter whether it is inflicted with physical blows or verbal blows.
How do you handle verbal abuse in a family situation? I know it is like the proverbial “elephant” in the room and is usually swept under the rug in families.
I have always strived for honesty and support in family relationships and believed that the power of hurtful words should be dealt with at an appropriate time. It seems like there is no appropriate time in many families. It’s like alcoholism or drug addiction, ssshhhh, lets not talk about it and it doesn’t exist. Talking about verbal abuse would be admitting that it exists. Giving verbal abusers an excuse, such as "they have a big mouth” or “they are just that way” only enforce this behavior. The individuals who offer these excuses for abusers are only enabling and participating in the abuse.

Identifying Emotional Abuse (copied from this online article)
How do you recognize emotional abuse? One thing that can help is to step back from your situation & examine the overall climate in your home or your workplace. Trust your instincts & feelings about people. Sometimes, a person can just look at you & you know that they are looking down at you. Other times, their words are okay but their tone is mean. Emotional abuse is insidious & can be very subtle, so trust your gut; it's telling you something.

Verbally abusive individuals seem to acquire this mechanism from toxic relationships and use it to their advantage. Abuse is abuse, it doesn’t know the difference between words and physicality. It is practiced with the intention of one goal, to knowingly inflict pain on another person. That pain causes mental scars and the intention of the abuser is always the same. Family members tend to use words because they believe they are safe from the repercussions of the abuse since they are related to the victim.
Verbal abuse can be compared to something we are all very familiar with, bullying. Do you remember the playground bully, the one who intimidated the seemingly weak individual ??? Did he bully the “strong” kid on the block??? No, he struck at the person that had a weakness. It may have been the scrawny kid, the kid with the dorky glasses or the one with a physical impediment. That bully always had an uncanny way of knowing weaknesses. He or she learned, early in life, how to sense what he/she perceived as a weakness. It is my opinion that they always had a parental or parental-like role model that taught them this skill.
The following info is taken from a Wikipedia post…
Despite the fact that it is the most common type of abuse, verbal abuse is generally not taken as seriously as other forms of abuse. However, in reality; moderate to severe cases of verbal abuse (in which the victim is under constant attack, especially a child) is even more detrimental to a person's health than physical abuse.
Verbal abuse starting from a young age contributes to inferiority complex, machismo attitudes, and many other negative behaviors that plague many people into adulthood.
People who feel they are being attacked by a verbal abuser on a regular basis should seek professional counsel and remove themselves from the negative environment whenever possible. Staying around verbal abusers is damaging for a person's overall well-being, and all steps to change the situation should be pursued. Children may become victims of verbal abuse as part of bullying.
Familial bullies strike at a relative that won’t strike back. The bully feels secure in that they will not be reprimanded for their bullying.  Most times that reason is a learned behavior. It is a learned behavior to be the willing recipient of verbal abuse and is usually patterned from the abnormal reaction that a child observes in a parent or parental figure. When a child observes one parent verbally abusing his or her spouse, that child patterns his or her behavior after the abuser or the abused. image

As sick as the behavior is, who can fault a child in making the decision to be an abuser or the victim of an abuser? Children in these situations have to choose or be chosen for one or the other of these roles. This decision will forever shape their lives. Once a child is chosen to be the abused victim, by the family, the pattern is set for the duration of his or her life. This abused child will forever fill the role of being the victim of the bully or bullies of the family. I’m of the opinion that this pattern cannot be changed without psychological intervention.The following excerpt is taken from this online article and I felt it dealt with some good points about verbal abuse. The excerpt is written in the form of spousal abuse to a woman but is adaptable to familial abuse…
                Other Forms of Verbal Abuse
Trivializing can also be a form of verbal abuse. It is an attempt to take something  said or done and make it insignificant. When this is done in a frank and sincere manner, it can be difficult to detect. Often the partner becomes confused, believes she hasn't effectively explained to her mate how important certain things are to her.
                Undermining is also verbal abuse. The abuser not only withholds emotional
                support, but also erodes confidence and determination. The abuser often will
                squelch an idea or suggestion just by a single comment.
                Threatening is a classic form of verbal abuse. He manipulates his partner by
                bringing up her biggest fears. This may include threatening to leave or
                threatening to get a divorce. In some cases, the threat may be to escalate the
                Name-calling can also be verbal abuse. Continually calling someone "stupid"
                because she isn't as intelligent as you or calling her a "klutz" because she is not
                as coordinated can have a devastating effect on the partner's self esteem.
                Verbal abuse may also involve forgetting. This may involve both overt and covert
                manipulation. Everyone forgets things from time to time, but the verbal abuser
                consistently does so. After the partner collects herself, subsequent to being
                yelled at, she may confront her mate only to find that he has "forgotten" about
                the incident. Some abusers consistently forget about the promises they have
                made which are most important to their partners.
                Ordering is another classic form of verbal abuse. It denies the equality and
                autonomy of the partner. When an abuser gives orders instead of asking, he
                treats her like a slave or subordinate.
Denial is the last category of verbal abuse. Although all forms of verbal abuse have serious consequences, denial can be very insidious because it denies the reality of the partner. In fact, a verbal abuser could read over this list of categories and insist that he is not abusive.
That is why it is so important for the partner to recognize these characteristics and categories since the abuser is usually in denial. Thus, the responsibility for recognizing verbal abuse and doing something about it often rests with the partner.

 The abuse inflicted by the bullies in a family spills over into the lives of the next generation that arrives as innocents in a family. Their fates are sealed…they will be abused psychologically by this family. The scapegoats will be the families’ “black sheep” because the verbal and nonverbal messages will be sent to them that they are weak and not as “good” as the bully family members. Education can break this pattern but it is extremely difficult to break a generational behavior.
Survival of the fittest may be the base instinct that is called on by verbal abusers. Only with verbal abuse, the fittest, is artificially determined by the family unit. One child is the “weak” individual because one parent has deemed it to be so and the other parent finds it easier to “go along with the behavior”  rather than standing up for the child who is being bullied. The family dichotomy is set in place. Abusers have to have victims.
There are no “pretty” photos for this post because the subject is an evil and dark subject usually not broached in public. Education and bringing light to this dark subject is the only way that I know to deal with it. Honesty on the part of one person will be dealt with by more bullying and verbal abuse. Prayer and thoughtful behavior should come naturally when open hearts and minds can be engaged to break the bonds of verbal abuse in families.
Verbal abusers in families have to have other family members receive the abuse in order for this cycle to continue. If you notice, there is no mention of love in this post. Love and family loyalty are two different relationships. If one engages in verbally abusive behavior, does that mean love doesn’t exist? I wish I knew the answer to that question. If that love is twisted into that dysfunctional relationship it isn’t recognizable.
Healing hearts and changing abusive relationships can only be accomplished by openly aware hearts given over to a healing God. God possesses the ability to change dysfunctional relationships into functional families who want to stop an insidious circular inheritance of abuse and hatred.
After writing and reviewing this post I have gone back and forth on posting it. I am trusting God that this is the right thing to do.  May I please ask for your prayers to heal so many families who suffer with this problem and lead their hearts into the light of God’s love. heartheart


  1. I think you did the right thing in posting this. Verbal abuse (in all of its forms) is a serious problem that needs to be considered seriously. You've given us much to think about. Thank you.

  2. What a great post! I am glad you chose to post it and I pray it reaches those who would benefit from this information. I will definitely add your prayer request to my prayer journal.

    ~ Tracy

  3. This is a great post, and such a good reminder to each of us who read it...
    Words can and do... hurt~
    I pray for all the families who are hurting....



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Tennessee, South, United States
Intense...the best description of living and loving life that I know...without intensity, life is mediocre and without definition...