Verbal abusers berate people in order to weaken or to destroy them emotionally. Sometimes they succeed, even causing nervous breakdowns. Manipulators of any kind can, indeed, make people crazy. Emotional abuse is as violent as any weapon. It damages psychological structure which can lead to impaired physical health, resulting in more suffering. Stopping emotional abuse is difficult, especially if it’s from a family member, authority figure, colleague, or someone else who’s constantly in your life. But there are solutions to emotional abuse.
A Psychology Today article details 4 Ways to Deal with Obnoxious People. The methods aren’t guaranteed to work, but if they do, more credit to you for using them.
Here’s why some techniques fail to end verbal abuse: Abusers resist good manners. They cave in to their emotions, and make themselves, not social skills, priorities. The mindset results in coercive behavior, forcing emotional abuse victims to do things in order to stop painful insults, criticisms, and threats. Abusers might even insist that the victim’s past successes “Don’t matter” and that further abuse is necessary.
Victims struggling to comprehend why anyone is an emotional abuser face a futile effort. Abusers lie that something happened and/or deny that it did. The technique is called “gaslighting” and it’s a very effective weapon for emotional abuse. That’s part of the reason why abusers won’t easily admit why they foist emotional torture on someone. Emotional abusers focus away from rational thinking. Their goal is to fill the victim with self-doubt, misery, and vulnerability by withholding truth and by not divulging the reasons for doing so. They certainly don’t want to have a rational conversation about facts and/or motives. That would end their reign of terror. The key to ending further abuse is thus to focus on ending the torture, not on getting the torturer to confess to their crimes.
Relationship therapy can help if the therapist convinces the abuser to understand why verbal or other emotional abuse damages the people they attack, and thus their relationship – including the abuser. Therapists can put the abuser in the imaginary position of the abused person, and ask them to figuratively deal with the consequences of being abused emotionally. Being in the victim’s position can teach an abuser to sense the pain and limitations that they need not cause, and to seek constructive ways to address disappointment, anger, sadness, conflicts and other upsetting issues.
Because emotional abusers can be tenacious, their victims need to choose and to time their battles for maximum effect. Bullies use everything they can to damage someone’s sense of self, including gossip, sabotage and a lack of barriers to their behavior. Public humiliation is a favorite tactic for emotional abusers, as is an intentional confusion of facts.
Here are other tactics which might work for you:
• Confront your tormentor in front of authority figures who sympathize with you. That level of support can undermine the abuser’s security and prove why they’d be wise to stop the effort to undermine you.
• Enjoy the strength of saying “Oh,” as you walk away from your detractor. Now he or she has nobody to fight with. If they ask if their remarks bothered you, shrug, and finish the task you’d already begun without uttering a word, or, look to the people observing the abuse and let the pressure of public recognition bring the abuser to a full stop. You’ve ended the conversation.
• Spend time figuring out why the emotional abuse is directed at you. Is jealousy a problem? Curiosity? Power tripping? The sheer pleasure of causing pain without consequences? Once you realize the nature of the abuse, you can go forward. Again, there’s no point in discussing your guesses with the abuser. Seek the support of friends who just might ease your suffering. Your allies might be able to convince the abuser to end their antics, or help you to find a better job, school, spouse, divorce lawyer, etc.
Therapists understand the despair that emotional abuse victims feel. Much of the problem has been with the lack of legal recourse for the victim. However, that reality just changed. Britain has a new law that will send emotional abusers to jail for a minimum of five years. Public pressure around the world can cite the legal precedent and lobby their legislators to pass similar laws. Grassroots efforts can win big victories. Protecting people from the hell of emotional abuse is worth pursuing.
Yocheved Golani is a popular writer whose byline has appeared worldwide in print and online. A certified Health Information Management professional, she is a member of Get Help Israel. Certified in Spiritual Chaplaincy (End of Life issues) and in counseling skills, her life coaching for ill people puts healthy perspective into a clients’ success plan for achieving desired goals.