Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

The Coach's Couch

Emotional and verbal abuse, part 1

Heidi Simmons

Certified Life Coach

She sat there facing me, twisting tissue in her hands, her sobs were silent, her tears unstoppable. “But he’s never hit me!” she blurted out, somehow finding solace in her own response. Jane* was a victim of abuse, but not physical. If you looked to find bruises or scars, they were there… but not visible to the naked eye. You see her abuse, she carried on the inside, and it was invisible to everyone else…except her. Jane was a victim of emotional and verbal abuse.

According to 49.23% of women in the United States suffered emotional and verbal abuse last year and those statistics are climbing. But before we tackle such topics as what is passive- aggressive behavior, what is brainwashing, setting boundaries, gaslighting and much more, let us define what emotional and verbal abuse really is.

Emotional abuse is any ongoing, negative behavior used to control or hurt another person. It can show up as consistent indifference or continual belittling of character, but always crushing our self-confidence or wearing away our sense of worth.

Verbal abuse is the systematic, ongoing use of harmful words, attempting to control or dominate another person. While caustically “cutting” away at the person’s self-esteem, using degrading words that entail accusing, bullying, yelling, ridiculing, and lies.

You may (or may not) realize that you are a victim of both types of abuse. Most of the time, you cannot have one without the other. There are several reasons this might be hard (at first) to determine. You blame yourself for the other person’s (partner, friend, family member, co-worker etc.) behavior.

Maybe you said or did something wrong, to elicit their response. It is your fault, so you deserve the way they treat you. From intimidation, indoctrination, degrading and labeling, you begin to doubt yourself, then dismiss your own feelings as being irrational.

Please explore with me now, as we meet three bright, accomplished women who, though different in many respects, shared the trauma of emotional and verbal abuse.

Let me tell you first, about Malinda*, a woman who by all standards, was very accomplished, well-liked, loved by her family and friends and owned her own home. Malinda eventually fell in love and got married. Her husband was an attorney, who was a partner in a prestigious law firm, graduating from a big five college. She worked part-time in an office and attended a local community college.

At first, she thought she had “hit the lottery.” He would send her flowers just because it was Monday, ran her bath water and complimented her on everything from cooking to the way she dressed.

All Malinda’s girlfriends were envious…until things started to change…At first, it was very subtle. He commented that she looked like she was gaining a little weight, maybe they should hire a housekeeper because it looked like she needed help. Then he upped his game. He remarked that the garage was so full of her “stuff” he wondered if she had “hoarding” issues, or was incapable of having his dinner on the table promptly at 5 p.m.?

Slowly, his tone started to change when he wanted her to do something he requested. If she did not comply right way, he would start to “badger” or “shame” her into doing it, raising his voice. This was followed by name calling and profanity. When she tried to tell him that she was sorry, he would just call her stupid or other derogatory names. Always, after making her cry…the next day she would receive flowers, which made her doubt her own sanity.

Another victim of emotional and verbal abuse was Lori,* a mother who came to see me who was “terrified” of her grown daughter. Any time they were together, the daughter would constantly ridicule her, inferring she was getting old, her way of doing things stupid and her help useless. Micromanaging everything she did while in her presence, my client constantly was walking on eggshells and fearful. The result of this relationship was severe stress and depression.

Our third victim is Debra*, a sales and marketing manager for a large corporate hotel. Divorced and raising a five-year-old child on her own, she set the bar high for herself. Beautiful, outgoing and intelligent, she had it all…and that made her a “triple” threat to four other women who were co-workers. This “click” tried to undermine anything she said or did at work. In staff meetings they would all sit together, roll their eyes when she spoke, finding fault with every idea she came up with. Continually, condescending and rude, it finally reached a point where she cried every day, hated going to work, and started medicating herself.

All three women were victims of emotional and verbal abuse, but each was “served-up” differently.

In part two of this topic next week, we will discuss the tools needed to equip yourself (or someone you know) to go from victim to victor!

*All names used in this article are fictitious.


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