Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me. Many of us have heard that saying more than a few times in our lives, and while it was meant to give kids a way to stand up for themselves when they are bullied by peers, the accuracy of the statement leaves much to be desired. Simply, it’s a load of bologna. Words CAN and DO hurt, sometimes irreversibly so. A few choice remarks by the right person in the right moment and we are crippled, cut to the core of our being, and left to pick up the pieces of our shattered selves for years to come. Many would happily choose a few bruises on the knee over the havoc that can be caused by mere words.
The awful thing about verbal abuse is that so many people engage in it, often without meaning to. There will always be those who enjoy picking on others and use verbal attacks as a way to instill fear as well as a manipulation tactic. However, there are a great number who verbally abuse people without realizing they are doing so. How easy is it for us to come home from work in a grumpy mood and be caught off guard by something that just tips the scales over the edge and before we know it we respond with something thoughtless and cruel? What we are really trying to say is, “I need space. I am not in a place where I can deal with anything else right now. Please leave me alone for a while”. Though that usually is not how it sounds when we actually try to express ourselves out loud. The people that we are closest to and most comfortable with usually get the worst of it, unfortunately.
Verbal abuse can also be used as a defense mechanism. If someone has done something that hurt us, even if it was on accident, we can lash out before calming down our emotions. If we have been harmed in the past and we believe the same situation is going to manifest in our current circumstances, we might “get them before they get us”. This is often done on a subconscious level and by the time our canons have been let loose, we are ourselves spinning in their destruction, wondering how this all started. It is only too easy to give in and let go. So how can we curtail and avoid this destructive force?
Mindfulness is the answer. Be aware of your triggers and pay attention to when you tend to react badly towards others. Once you have a good idea of what and when these are, simply take a time out before engaging with others. Let those close to you know that you are not in good form and need some space. This will give you a chance to get a hold of whatever is happening internally. Sometimes talking things out DOES help, but be careful to do this in a calm and respectful manner. If you cannot trust yourself to do this, you need to remove yourself from the situation and come back to it when you feel ready to talk without saying something that will agitate or harm the other person.
Communication patterns do develop and can lead to long term worsening abusive behavior between those involved. Once a pattern of behavior sets in, it is very difficult to break. The longer the abuse has gone on, the harder it will be to break the pattern so it would be best to nip this in the bud. However, that is not always possible. In situations where the verbal abuse has become severe, counseling may help to reprogram the brain and develop new patterns to counter the old ones.
Despite verbal abuse being common, it is never okay no matter what the circumstances. Having a bad day, feeling defensive, revenge for something someone else said to you, etc. are not reasons to attack and will only make the situation worse. Start practicing your self-awareness. Get used to asking yourself how you are feeling and becoming in tune with yourself. The more you do this, the easier it will be and eventually it will come to you naturally. If you can understand yourself and what happens to you during these moments, then you will be better able to come up with ways to counter them. Nobody is immune to this, we have all said something we shouldn’t have. No one is perfect. However, there is a big difference between the person who tries to be respectful and considerate, and the one who lets all arrows fly when they are in a bad mood. Don’t be that person. Insults will only breed more insults, quickly resulting in a toxic environment to all. Be the change you want to see and treat people how you would want to be treated if you were them.
When in the midst of an abusive situation, it may be difficult to think clearly and come up with a solution to remedy the abuse, while trying to implement it may feel almost impossible. However, given the right tools and the will power to create change, it most certainly is possible, even more so– it is probable. Many may feel overwhelmed and may not know where to start, but it is important to start somewhere.
Please continue to check in with us each week for a new post about abusive behavior and how it can affect your life and the lives of those around you. There is always that first action to helping someone you care about. Let this be it!
Author Bio - Anna Czarska is a writer and actor who has 15+ years of experience dealing with various situations of abuse. She has pursued business ventures and creative pursuits as well as spending time to study psychology in both formal and personal education. For more information, you may find her Linkedin profile here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kasiakraut/