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Doc@DrIrene.com

Food for Thought

Dr. Irene's Food for Thought

by Dr. Irene Matiatos

My constantly evolving thoughts and observations on verbal and emotional abuse:

Updated March 5, 2001

bulletVerbal abuse takes place when one individual attempts to control their partner and the partner does not realize such and / or does not know how to protect their space.
bulletVictims need to do 2 mains things: Stop acting out themselves and Not permit themselves to be abused. (Hard to hyperlink this last one since so many pages are about helping the victim take their power.)
bulletVerbally abusive individuals are good performers in the legal system. They usually "win" given their adeptness with lies and with manipulation.
bulletAbusive people are good manipulators. They often con well-meaning therapists. These therapists cannot help their clients. 
bullet Some therapists, blind to their own anger and abuse issues, may inadvertently hurt their clients -  especially since the topic area is poorly understood. 
bulletReaders need to be very careful in self- or partner-  diagnosis. There is too much room for error. Also, other stuff could be going on - in addition to or instead of abuse. If you think you are being abused, or are abusive, get a professional opinion.
bulletVictims are not contemptuous weaklings, as abusers, who cannot deal with their own imperfections, tend to see them. They are highly empathic individuals who don't value, respect, or trust themselves. 
bulletAbusing individuals are not horrible people (though some of their victims will laugh at this one! ), but it is true. They were badly hurt early on. Abusive individuals are their own victims.
bulletAbusive people are self-centered and self-absorbed and don't know how to get out of that space. They find solace by going to a painful place where they can feel sorry for themselves while they ignore the cruel, abandoning world - and get back at everybody in it!
bulletAbusive people can't meet their emotional needs. They think their partner should do that.
bulletAbusers often think they are the victims! (In a way, they are.)
bulletVictims often are abusive. 
bulletVictims sometimes think they are the abuser. They can't see they are the victim who simply has to stop acting out in response to the partner's "stuff".
bulletAbuse is just one more framework for viewing relational difficulties that can be seen in other ways as well. Viewing dysfunction through this framework is useful because many people can identify with the phenomenma.

 

Verbal Abuse is not recognized and is poorly understood by the therapeutic community. This is surprising since:
bulletIn my experience, verbal and emotional abuse is widespread and is exhibited to varying degrees. 
bullet Note how common the term "dysfunctional family" is. Note how many of us speak of an emotionally or otherwise abusive childhood. Why then are we shocked that we grow up to be "abusive" or "codependent" or "victim?" 
bulletBoth victim and abuser are "codependent," as described by Burney in his book: they have lost their connection to their inner self. (Click to get Burney's Codependence: Dance of the Wounded Souls.) 
bulletBurney's  "classic" definition of "codependence" allows the angry abuser codependent status as well ("counter-dependent") as the victim - the person typically perceived as the codependent. 
bulletDysfunctional families produce adults who do not take care of themselves. These individuals either give up the self to care for other ("codependent") or expect to be taken care of ("counter-dependent" or abusive codependent"). 
bulletVerbal & emotional abuse phenomena are a byproduct of not caring for the self and not taking responsibility for the self, and the self alone.
bulletThe only person who can take care of you - is you! (Nor would you want it any other way!)
bullet Verbal and emotional abuse in childhood teaches the intricate skills necessary to be both victim and perpetrator - depending on the balance of power in a particular relationship, and the degree of not taking responsibility for one's life (the codependency). 
bullet The two extreme ends of the abuser-victim continuum are (1) responsible, self-caring behavior and (2) batterer/battered victim, with most people somewhere in the middle.  Note I put the batterer and the victim together. Each one needs help.
bulletSome people are clearly more on the "victim" end; others are more on the "abuse" end. The pathology is a matter of degree.
bulletBoth victim and abuser need to clean up their act. Both harbor a set of irrational, automatic thoughts and lack various skills, such as impulse-control, assertion, etc. as they begin to listen to what is inside the self.
bulletAbusers, in their "it is your job to care for me" mode often evidence narcissistic and/or  antisocial aspects. This makes recovery more difficult and reduces treatment motivation.
bulletRecovery for both parties: The inner self provides the way. The skills provide the means.
bulletWomen are usually, but not always, identified as the victims of abuse. Men are usually, but not always, identified as the offenders.  
bulletThere are lots of abused men out there. Their predicament is even tougher to identify. When's the last time you saw a men's shelter?
bulletToo many former female victims of abuse, including authors and lecturers, have serious anger issues of their own; many hate men. It shows. They're just not finished with their recovery yet.
bullet Abuse is not a sexist issue, even though some victim groups attempt to politicize or exploit the phenomenon.
bulletAbuse is an equal opportunity employers and doesn't care what color you are, or about your gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status or where you live.
bullet"Protecting" the victim is akin to enabling their sorrowful behavior. Victims need to be empowered. But they must understand empowerment first.
bulletAbusers need to be empowered. But they must understand empowerment first.
bulletIt is difficult for an inexperienced lay or professional person to tell who is the abuser and who is the abused: both parties may present in a loud and angry manner
bulletThe abusive person expects that the victim take care of them. The victim is happy to oblige. When the victim inevitably fails in care taking, the abuser gets mad or resentful.  Here's a quick guide to the abuser's treatment.
bulletAbusive individuals are self-serving though typically well-intended and intensely protective of their loved ones. However, the loved ones usually experience their control as intensely negative - and it is!
bulletSome abusers are simply out for blood. These people are probably antisocial personality disordered. 
bulletEven antisocial types who really really want to turn it around - can.
bulletOnce they own it, most abusive individuals are horrified by their behavior. They are not horrible people. They are hurt people who are married to their egos and have little or no clue as to who they are.
bulletThe same individual may be the abuser in one relationship and the abused in the next! It is about the balance of power of the degree of anger each person has relative  to same in their partner.  
bulletVerbal abuse issues are closely related to codependency problems. Put another way, the codependency literature is a useful framework through which to view and identify with this phenomena. 
bullet Both partners are disconnected from Self though the codependency issues may appear more apparent in the victim. Both caretake.  Both try to control others; neither controls themselves. There is a loss of the self in both.
bulletVictims and abusers bounce off each other, though the provoking "starts" in most cases with the abusive person. (It can only start however if the partner picks it up!)
bulletAbusers and victims owe it to themselves to be the best people they can possibly be. Both need to learn to accept themselves, and to control themselves rather than to  control others. Both need to stop distorting and to face reality. Both need to get honest, take responsibility, and stop blaming. Both need to set boundaries. Boundaries, self-control and self-respect are central to the recovery of both the abuser and the victim. They have much in common though their issues are expressed very differently.
bullet"Addiction" to anger, or food, or alcohol, or drugs, or shopping, or gambling, or sex, or love, or pornography, or people, etc., etc. simply means that the "addict" lacks the skills to recognize and/or deal with emotional issues that arise. "Addiction" is conceptualized as an obsession/compulsion where the individual focuses on an idea (the "obsession") and does not experience relief unless engaging in the "compulsion," i.e., the behavior that reduces discomfort. This series of acts is done instead of focusing on dealing with the issue at hand.
bulletVictims and abusive types both can tend towards addiction , i.e., running away vs. coping behaviors.