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The Coach's Couch

From victim to victor – Emotional and verbal abuse, part 2

Heidi Simmons

Certified Life Coach

In Part 1 of our series on emotional and verbal abuse, we defined emotional abuse as negative and hurtful behavior used to control, belittle, show indifference and undermine another person. Verbal abuse is a systematic, ongoing use of harmful words, which includes bullying, yelling, ridiculing and false accusations.

Both behaviors are manipulative and work in tandem, to crush the confidence and self-worth of another. Whether inflicted by a spouse, family member, co-worker, boss or friend, to stop this vicious “cycle” of abuse takes awareness, tools and strength to set new boundaries and enforce them.

Let us now identify the different “types of arrows found in an abusers quill” and why they use them.

Gaslighting: A technique used to undermine everything you do by using your own words against you, they lie to your face, show excessive power, blur the facts, turn your family and friends against you and even make you doubt your own sanity.

Flying monkeys: Those who are emotionally and verbally abusive will use other people to give you messages, fortifying the belief that you are wrong about them (the abuser) and all the problems in your relationship are completely your fault.

The Judge: The abuser takes on the role of “The Judge” in every situation where they want you to comply with their way of thinking. They cross examine, badger you and then pass judgment, all before you can defend yourself.

The Bully: Intimidation is their mantra. The idea is to strike fear into you, by jabbing away at your self-esteem, threatening you with consequences if you don’t comply with what they want; getting close to your face, they make you feel violated, then raising their voice, by yelling, they strike fear into you.

Brain washing: By repeatedly saying derogatory things about you, like “you’re stupid,” “you can’t do anything right” or “you would be nothing without me,” they slowly convince you that everything you do, say, or believe in, is wrong and you could not function without them.

In short, in any emotional, verbal relationship or situation, one party will try to control and dominate the other, by using abusive techniques. As the abuser gains power, the other becomes the victim, but a “power shift” can take place if the victim becomes aware of treatment they are receiving and incorporates the courage and resources needed to end this vicious cycle.

How to stop emotional and verbal abuse

Step 1. Regain control of the situation by acting confidently, looking right at the abuser while maintaining total eye contact. This one action (usually not expected) can temporarily confuse the person making them feel uncomfortable and powerless.

Step 2. Speak in a calm, clear voice with authority, saying, “Do not talk to me that way, I want you to treat me with dignity and respect from now on.”

Step 3. Stand up to the abuser, like a bully on the playground, remain steadfast in your demeanor; body language speaks volumes and shows resolve, not fear.

Step 4. Try to understand the abuser. Most emotional and verbal abuse stems from low self-esteem issues or being abused themselves, by a parent, sibling or relative who inflicted abuse onto them, or were made to watch and endure the cycles of abuse playing out around them.

Step 5. Walk away. If the abuser is relentless, and you feel the above actions are not working, walk away. If by walking into another room the abuser still follows you, attacking you verbally, take your keys and go to a neighbor’s house or get in your car and drive away.

Step 6. Build a support network At this time, seeking a therapist and having a trustworthy friend to confide in will help relieve anxiety, stress and bring you calm and support you can rely on.

Step 7. Create your own “Safety Exit Plan.” If you are in a relationship and the abuser is not willing to change or get help for their abusive behavior, it is time to get your own help. No one deserves to be abused and help is available. Remember you are not alone, and the abuse is not your fault.


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