I counsel many clients in Saskatoon who are victims of verbal abuse. Most do not know they are being abused until they enter counselling. How is this so? The answer is simple – there are factors that contribute to the difficulty of recognizing verbal abuse and the abuser’s reality. First and foremost, who would have thought the abuser lives in a different reality? Most partners of verbal abuse assume their partner shares the same reality. They do not. I will address this issue in my next blog post.
For now, let us look at the obstacles which stand in the path of recognition. Once these obstacles themselves are recognized, they lose their power to prevent awareness of verbal abuse. Instead, they become stepping stones to awareness. As I continue to maintain in all my blogs and upcoming book, Its Not Always Him, the recognition of verbal abuse is crucial to stopping and recovering from it.
The following are some frequently encountered obstacles to the recognition of verbal abuse:
- The partner of the abuser has learned to overlook unkindness, disrespect, disregard, and indifference as not important enough to stand up to.
- Upsetting incidents are denied by the abuser, and therefore the partner thinks she/he is wrong.
- Verbal abuse, control, and manipulation have not been articulated or defined for the partner, so she/he remains confused.
- The partner thinks her/his feelings are wrong.
- The abuse can be very subtle and the control can increase gradually over time so that the partner gradually adapts to it.
- The abuser controls the interpersonal communication and, therefore, the interpersonal reality by refusing to discuss upsetting interactions.
- The abuser blames the partner for upsetting interactions, and the partner therefore believes she/he is at fault.
- The partner may never have seen a model of a healthy relationship and good communication so she/he has nothing to compare the relationship to.
- At times the abuser is not abusive. Consequently, the partner forgets the ‘bad times.’
- The partner is too stunned or thrown off balance to think clearly what is happening to her/him.
- The partner does not have the level of self-esteem that demands that he/she be treated with respect and dignity.
- The partner’s reality has never been validated. Others don’t see the abuse, so it doesn’t seem real to her/him.
- The partner believes her mate is rational and his behaviour is rational and therefore has ‘some reason’ for what he says.
- The partner believes her/his perceptions are wrong.
- The partner may have no knowledge of verbal abuse and no appropriate models of better relationships to which she/he can compare the relationship.
- The partner thinks that there is something wrong with him/her.
- The partner believes that he/she has made the abuser angry.
- The partner has never considered the question, ‘Am I being verbally and emotionally abused?’
In summary, the partner does not realize than an abusive personality – one that seeks to control and manipulate another – is not capable of the empathetic comprehension that love and relationships require.
If these obstacles are helping you to suspect you have, or are being verbally abused, I recommend you seek counselling to receive the validation, education, and support you need to stop the abuse and begin recovery!