Overcoming the Effects of Verbal Abuse - Part II

Just as the healing process for physical illness takes time, so does the healing associated with the harmful effects of verbal abuse. Victims may experience sadness or hurt when they recall being told, “You are not good enough,” or “You are a failure.” It is possible that you are struggling today with feelings of inadequacy, inferiority and insecurity. You may be overly critical toward yourself or have expectations for others that are unrealistic. You may even find yourself hurting others with your words the way you were once hurt.

Verbal abuse attacks a person at the very core of their being. It can make us question our worth, value, competency and even our significance as a human being. When we develop distorted beliefs about ourselves in these areas it automatically impacts our behavior and ultimately our emotions. For instance, if someone believes they are unlovable they will likely behave in a way that supports their belief, like the man who is easily angered or the woman who is critical and rude. When people avoid them because of these behaviors they may be left feeling rejected, sad and discouraged. This pattern of thinking and behaving is often unconscious and very difficult to break.

Whatever negative effects of verbal abuse you may be struggling with, you can begin to overcome them by applying the key steps listed below:

1.  Begin to identify and then express your emotions in a constructive fashion. Many people learn early on in life how to “stuff” their feelings down inside. They cannot express their hurt, anger, or sense of worthlessness because they are not even aware they exist. Unexpressed emotions can contribute to a number of physical, emotional and even spiritual problems. At least once a day, either write down or verbally communicate to someone you trust an “I feel” statement, like, “I feel sad,” or “I feel disappointed.” When we learn to express our feelings consistently and constructively we can avoid a great deal of emotional pain.

2.  Begin to identify your thoughts and beliefs about yourself and others. When we take the time to closely examine our thoughts we can begin to find irrational and self-defeating themes. For example, “I am worthwhile as long as people are pleased with me.” This belief reveals the notion that your worth as a person is determined by others and is conditional, when in reality it’s not. By uncovering these self-defeating beliefs you can begin to experience relief from the emotional pain that accompanies them.

3.  Spend time with people who you know will speak the truth to you in love and will affirm you as a person. One way to counter the negative effects of verbal abuse is to surround yourself with positive, caring and affirming people.  

4.  Forgive those who have abused you. It has been said that holding on to bitterness and resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. In other words, by not forgiving the people who have hurt you, you are prolonging the emotional, relational, spiritual and psychological pain and harm you have experienced.

Healing from verbal abuse is a process, not an event. Be patient with yourself and be aware that thoughts and feelings from your past will try to revisit you, but you don’t ever have to let them take up permanent residence again. Conscious daily effort to challenge and replace your self-defeating beliefs with the truth that reflects who you really are will ultimately result in healthy and positive emotions and relationships!

Live, Work and Relate Well!

Dr. Todd

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