Recently I encountered an individual who is very skilled in the art of verbal abuse and during our brief encounter they used the entire arsenal of the abuser which includes wagging the finger, guilt, shame, moralizing, and repeated attempts to define me and my reality. The encounter was short because over the years I have learned a series of responses to diffuse and break the spells of those who resort to scorched earth tactics. The unpleasant episode reminded me of a very good book I read on the subject by Patricia Evans called The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to recognize it and how to respond to it. Evans has written a number of books on abuse and other related topics which include, Verbal Abuse Survivors Speak Out...Teen Torment: Overcoming Verbal Abuse at Home and School...and...Controlling People: How to Recognize, Understand, and Deal with People Who Try to Control You. I recommend her work highly and encourage anyone who is dealing with emotional/verbal abuse at home, school, work, etc. to check out her work and become a spellbreaker before you look back on your life ten years from now and wonder to yourself, "why did I tolerate" such nonsense. Here are some excerpts from her book on Verbal Abuse to give you a flavor of her thoughts on the subject...and...don't forget, "Sticks and Stones may break your bones, but words will break our hearts", Robert Fulghum.
An abuser is determined to not admit to their manipulation and need for control.If they did, they would have to come face to face with their own feelings...and...since a verbal abuser needs to have Power Over their partner, they cannot accept them as their equal.
An abuser's worth is derived from a sense of one-upmanship and winning over. If one partner accomplishes something, the abuser views their accomplishment competitively.
There are many ways to manipulate another person, including being "friendly" only when one expects to get something from the other, suggesting disastrous outcomes to another's plans, and acting as if something has been agreed to or decided that hasn't been agreed to or decided.
When the verbal abuser refuses to discuss a problem, they prevent all possibility of resolution. In this way, they exercise control over the interpersonal reality...and...partners are frequently left with a sick, hurt feeling that is never really resolved. There is no feeling of closure.
Verbal abuse closes the door to true communication and intimacy. Intimacy in a relationship requires mutuality. Mutuality requires goodwill, openess, and a willingness to share oneself. An abuser cannot control their partner and be intimate with them at the same time. Intimacy is lacking if there is no equality, partnership,mutuality, and goodwill...and...because of the abuser's need for dominance and their unwillingness to accept their partner as equal, the verbal abuser is compelled to negate the perceptions, experiences, values, accomplishments, and plans of their partner.
The more a partner shares their hopes and fears with the abuser, hoping for acceptance and intimacy, the more the abuser views their openness as weakness; the more superior they feel; the colder they become, and the more Power Over they feel.