Sanctuary for the Abused
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
by Teresa Brouwer
A lot of people don't know the Dynamics of Verbal Abuse or how to recognize it. In the book, The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize it and How to Respond by Patricia Evans, Evans explains the difference between Power Over and Personal Power. I will explain the two in my own words.
Power Over is about control and dominating the other person. The abuser will manipulate and blame the other person for his wrong doing. As a result, the victim will eventually tolerate the abuse and lose one's self-esteem.
Personal Power is when a couple is mutually supportive and empathetic towards each other. It is when a person is connected with their own feelings and is able to recognize the Power Over abuse. When a couple both have Personal Power they have a healthy relationship.
Let's take two characters named Jeff and Debbie:
Debbie is absorbed in a book when Jeff comes into the bedroom and jumps on the bed and says, "I guess you don't care that I worked all day?" (he is in Power Over and now feels that he is in control.) Debbie puts her book down on her lap and says, "Why do you think that?" (she responds as if what Jeff had said was valid.) She thinks that Jeff had the right to ask that question the way he did.
Jeff answers Debbie with a loud, firm tone and says, "I am hungry and I thought that maybe you would have started dinner by now." Now Debbie feels that she must apologize and responds, "I am sorry, you're right, but I was busy, too today." Jeff feels that he has won and has acted out the Power Over Model. Debbie fell into the Power Over by asking "why?"
If Debbie was in tune with her feelings (Personal Power) she would have said, "Stop it." or she may have said, "That remark was uncalled for." She wouldn't have accepted his manipulation and would have been in touch with her feelings and recognized his verbal attack.
If Jeff was familiar with Personal Power he would have said, "I know you were busy today, but when do you think dinner will be ready?" (Personal Power) He acknowledged her feelings and still was able to ask what he wanted in a more sympathetic way.
Verbal abuse is about name calling, but it is also how a "person speaks to you and their tone of voice." This kind of abuse shows no visible scars. The scars are hidden through low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence. The abused now watches what they say and tends to walk on eggshells. At times, the abuser isn't even aware that what they are doing is actually verbal abuse, and at times the one being abused doesn't realize that they are being verbally abused.
Verbal abuse takes many forms such as, humiliation, degrading, put downs, mind games, crazymaking, manipulation, and double messages. A person may feel confused, disoriented, and fall into a depression.
I was in a somewhat verbal abusive situation with a friend. The difference for me was that I did recognize it. A friend had misunderstood an email I sent. This person then ripped my words apart and picked at every sentence. They then called me early in the morning one day and told me that "I was overreacting," and that I was making a "big deal out of nothing," and that I should stop being so "ridiculous." I, inturn told this person that they crossed the line of our friendship and said that they were down right mean. I let this person know that her words were wrong and I was "not" about to apologize for my actions when her actions were way off. (Personal Power)
Patricia Evans explained in her book that she was talking to a friend about verbal abuse at a party and that she wanted to show him an example of verbal abuse. They were talking and he turned and looked at a table filled with food. Patricia Evans asked, "Why aren't you looking at me when I'm talking to you?" The friend responded, "Uh, oh, I am sorry, I was just looking at the cookies." She quickly explained that that was her example by the question she asked and he was "shocked" that he fell for her Power Over by apologizing.
In her book, she writes:
"When you respond to verbal abuse, speak firmly and clearly, stand or sit straight and tall, hold your head high, look the abuser in the eye, and breathe deeply.
We all know our feelings, we all know what makes us feel bad, we must speak up and nip it in the bud."