Sent: Sunday, May 23, 1999 8:31 PM
Hi Dr. Irene,
I search the web constantly researching for things to help me develop instructional design
material. I am a corporate adult trainer with a masters of science. I have never
before responded to a column, but felt the need to now. I have read your entire web
site. I find your web site to be very well organized, extremely pleasing to the eye,
with lots of good info on many different aspects and ways of spotting and dealing with
verbal abuse. I do not give this compliment lightly, as I know how much time and effort it
takes to create a very good web site.
I want to thank you for your thoughtful feedback. I also want to reply to and to publish
an anonymous version of our correspondence because you bring up some interesting points.
I read the email from Carol who disagreed with you about verbal
abusers. She is of the opinion that they do it being fully aware of what they are doing.
You do not agree with her on this. Well, I disagree with both of you. I have come to
the conclusion that some people are well aware of
how they behave and why and are abusive deliberately and others are clueless about
the how and why of their behavior. How did I come to this conclusion? From my
line of work. I always train on site at many different institutions. I have
trained well over 4,000 people ( I stopped counting long ago). This has given me a fly on
the walls perspective on corporate cultures and the many people that work for them. Always
being a guest has afforded me the opportunity to observe these people at a distance, and
since I'm only there for a short period of time I have very limited emotional attachment
and can see things more objectively.
As a matter of fact, I do agree with you! "Some men
have more awareness than others, but as a generalization, their stated and usually
conscious intent, is contrary to their actions. Jeckyl and Hyde."
It is very interesting to watch peoples bad behavior, the reactions of others to it and
then the perpetrators response. While I have not grown up in a verbally abusive
atmosphere, I have been on the receiving end of it from work and just living life.
In the training profession we call them "hecklers". Some of the techniques
used to handle them are the same ones you advise your patients to use. However removing
yourself from the situation is not possible. You can't just walk out on a training
session. Instead one must confront it immediately or risk losing all credibility with the
I read the emails from the abusers and abused. It made me very sad, so much
unhappiness and misery. I know that you provide people with much needed info, guidance and
support. But it did make me cringe reading how the abuser professes to love the one they
abuse. In my mind that is an oxymoron. How can you love what you abuse?...You
Again, you are correct. Because
the angry controller cannot trust, they cannot love in the same way a trusting person can
love. Their love is more akin to the dependent "take care of me because I need
you to" love of a young child.
I remember years ago when I came of dating age, my father sat me down and explained to me
in no uncertain terms that any man that hits a woman or is nasty or is disrespectful of
her feelings and claims to love her is full of BS. And that no matter how sorry they
are afterwards or how much they promise to change, they won't. He told me to dump any man
like that immediately because there was only more where that came from. My mother
taught me that love is about goodwill towards another and to avoid any man who showed he
was jealous of me because it would only bring me misery. I followed all this advise
and ended up with a good husband. But I still had my share of dating lousy men with bad
behavior and attitudes. Yes, from experience I learned that mom and dad were right, and
that the dating world is a jungle.
Mom and Dad were right
and gave you the best advice. You have saved yourself many headaches. Your
parents raised a healthy daughter!
Of all the emails I read, the one from George (the abuser) stands out
in my mind. His constant question of "is it to late for me" raises red
flags for me. He knew exactly what he was doing, and now he is worried that he will pay
the price for his bad behavior, which he really doesn't want to do. What he really
wants is to be forgiven without having to do all the hard work of making
restitution. For two months he claims he has been a very good boy....yeah well, what
about all the years he spent being a bad boy, for which he'd like us all to believe he was
not all that bad. Mr. wants an instant fix has not learned his lesson, like he claims he
has. He's not putting all his energies into implementing solutions, he's very busy trying
to get praise and approval and pats on
the back from you, a stranger. While also looking for constant reassurance of love
and acceptance from the one he abused. George is far too needy, self centered and
emotionally immature to function in the adult realm successfully. Trainers call this type
"the drainer", or
"attention getter". To George, I say wake up and smell the coffee...what you
abuse and take for granted you lose. This is common sense and applies to all of
humanity and things earthly and man made. George, gets no sympathy from me because if he
was so sincere about mending his ways
and was as enlightened as he claims he is he wouldn't be complaining about how long it's
taking since it's only been two months. He would have a much more realistic time frame.
George tipped his hand with that comment that one bad dead does an abuser in. You called
him on that one, but for me it eerily revealed his true thinking.
Yes. Once again, you are
absolutely on target. But, if George could do better, don't you think he would? You are
right not to give George your sympathy because he does not deserve it. Yet, George is
hurting - he is about to lose the one who has cared for him. He got his wake-up call. (Or
rather, the third of many yet to come.) Maybe he is ready to fix it.
George needs to face the
consequences of his actions, and he is, since his woman is on her way out. But, then
what? Do we dump George out onto the street? Or give him the opportunity to correct
himself? If he wants it.
The problem is that far too many
"drainers" stay stuck in spending their energy manipulating others and getting
sympathy. George might go this way, or he may not. Or, he may start out
manipulative and get to work later. Or whatever. Only time will tell if George
emotionally grows up. Remember that George never learned to think in ways that are natural
for a healthier person. Yet, that is no excuse or reason to allow him to continue to hurt
those he loves. Ultimately, what George does or doesn't do is George's
responsibility. (His partner is the only one who can decide if she wants to
deal with it - in the event that he does not change, a distinct possibility. She is also
the only one who can decide if she wants to stick around during the long, bumpy road of
the recovery process.)
I think what you do not see as a
person who doesn't stick around over the long haul is the progress that some of these
people make; they can transform their lives if they are serious.
Trainers need to constantly upgrade their
skills. Going to conventions and seminars over many years has allowed me to hear
many stories of how people behave. I've also met many teachers of all different
kinds. From being exposed to people all day long and others who deal with people all day
long, I have learned that the whys and hows of people's behavior falls mainly into many
shades of gray. Carol thinks all behavioral problems are genetic and you think they
are all learned. I think that sometimes it is genetic, and sometimes it is learned
and sometimes it is a combination of both, with widely varying contribution percentages.
Not true. Nowhere do I say this is all learned. While I focus
on the learned aspects since my field is psychology, I am solidly in the
"Nature/Nurture" camp." Current thinking in the field (backed by
some anecdotal and experimental evidence) strongly suggests an interaction between
nature and nurture. Specifically, an abusive or neglectful environment imposed on the
genetically-prone infant is thought to predispose to problems of this nature.
My hope in sending this is that maybe one day
your profession will see the many different shades of gray and not just the black and
white and design a curriculum that can be taught to people so that they can avoid getting
into abusive relationships in the first place. The old saying "an once of
prevention is worth a pound of cure" comes to mind here. And I would like to see that
these classes be mandatory starting in junior high.
So would I - though I think
Junior High is much too late. I vote for starting in preschool! - Dr.
A web surfer.
Sent: Tuesday, May 25, 1999 9:48 PM
Would George do better if he could? I don't know enough about him to make that
accurate a judgment call. But from the little I do know about him I would say
no. Why? Because George wants what he wants, and he doesn't want to work for
it, he wants it served to him. George is one
of those, who thinks the world and those in it owe him something.
Now, he does. You gotta start somewhere...
Too bad verbally abusive men do not come with a warning label attached to
them. While it would be very drastic to tattoo misogynist on their foreheads, it would
certainly save many women lots of unnecessary grief and aggravation.
Yes! (Same with the abusers who are women.)
I also want to bring up another point. I don't agree with you that all recipients
of verbal abuse are co-dependent. A stranger can do this to you, and they have no
idea what you are all about. Road rage is a good example. For an even better example, one
only needs to ride the subways of NYC. That's a real eye opening experience.
That is just plain old unmitigated anger, poor
manners, and disrespect!
You bring up the point that I do not stick around over the long haul for the
people I train. This is true, but minimal short term bonding happens, if it happens
at all. Therefore, it is not necessary to be in it for the long haul. Unlike your
profession, where much bonding occurs for the long term and it is necessary to be in it
for the long haul.
Exactly my point. If you are not around for the long haul, you
cannot watch people make changes before your very eyes!
I stand corrected. I checked, and you are right, no where did you say that you
believe all behavior is learned. Personally I think the nature vs. nurture percentage can
fall anywhere along the percentage line, ie, 90/10, 20/80 etc. In addition, I also
think there is another realm as well, and that is that some people are just plain
Again, we're on the same page with the percentage stuff. I don't
have much to say about the evil people hypothesis; I don't know; no experience with this
I agree with you that it is a long bumpy road one travels when one is with a spouse who
has to change abusive behavior. And I also think it is a risky gamble.
And then at best they will always be a recovered abuser, who could
revert back to the old ways at any given moment.
Only if they haven't really grown. Now I'm
going to say something really unpopular, but here goes anyway - kind of like the
recovering alcoholic who populates the AA rooms for 20 years falling on and off the wagon.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying they shouldn't be given the opportunity
to redeem themselves. It's just that there is a lot at stake in giving them this
opportunity - your emotional well being, which is linked with your physical well
Absolutely! I advise my young women clients from getting involved
with this type to begin with, suggesting they find another loving codependent
type, like themselves. It is sad how too many younger women don't appreciate the
"nice guy" until later in life - after they've been bopped on the head a few
times. But, once they are involved and have a history together or children
together, it is a different story and there are strong mitigating factors. Now the victims
have to make tough choices - though some abusers are so bad, they make the choices easy.
I still think junior high is a good time to teach dating 101, because then they would have
the cognitive skills necessary to process the information. And then there should be
mandatory parenting class. After all, you have to get a license to drive a car and fly a
plane, yet everyone is left to their own devices when it comes to learning how to be a
good parent and how to pick the right mate for life. Of course then you would have a lot
of unhappy practicing family law lawyers running around trying to put gag orders on the
advocates of such practices...lol.
The reason I think preschool is late enough is that
children acquire basic trust/mistrust by age 1, according to Ericson. This is real early
stuff, though lots of opportunity exists later to modify it. Maybe the family law
attorneys can run around with pacifier restraints!
Have a good Memorial Day Weekend. -A web surfer