When thinking about verbal abuse, yelling and name-calling may come to mind, but the term encapsulates behaviors that most people aren’t aware of. Verbal abuse goes by many names, most of which the general public participates in on a daily basis because it’s been considered the norm since childhood. As addicts, we too, may be falling into these same patterns because our main focus is to find that drink and get that high, but have you ever stopped and thought about what you’ve said to get that prize?
Verbal abuse is a learned behavior, most often formed through childhood experiences. If the people around you were unable to communicate in a healthy and effective way, you learned their way was the right way. And that’s okay! The journey to finding ourselves in a happy and healthy future comes in many forms, and it starts when you’re ready to learn and grow.
As addicts and alcoholics, when we emerge from our substance cocoon, we enter what feels like a new world, but the world around us hasn’t changed. Through the recovery process, we learn how to take responsibility for our actions and deal with our traumas and repressed emotions which means a portion of recovery is dealing with the consequences of our former behaviors. Looking at abusive traits is an important part of that journey, ensuring we are processing our feelings and treating others with respect and compassion as we move forward.
Types of Verbal Abuse
We’ve all said some things we didn’t mean in a moment of anger, but verbal abuse is a pattern of negative behaviors and traits that go unacknowledged by the person enacting them. There are many types of verbal abuse. Let’s start with the most common and work our way into subtle definitions and uses.
- Name-Calling/Put-Downs: We’ve all been there. We’ve called someone a bad word and said something about a friend or family member that was passive-aggressive, but if we are resorting to name-calling, we are on thin abusive ice. If our only “out” of a conversation is to attack the other person with personal information, we may not be listening and or we may be triggered by the information the other person is trying to relay.
- Yelling: Anger is real, especially if we don’t know how to process our emotions in a healthy way. But anger and rage feed off your weaknesses just like addiction. If you resort to yelling, you are letting your emotions win and fueling a fire that aims to burn others and yourself.
- Threatening: When we feel backed into a corner, an easy way out is a threat. “If you don’t do _____, I’ll break up with you.” “If you say one more thing to me, I’ll break your phone.” Threatening others makes us feel as if we are in control, but threats aren’t a healthy way to communicate. Threats use fear to gain the power back in the conversation, negating any chance of a compromise.
- Gaslighting: When someone gaslights you, essentially, they are telling you what you feel and what you experienced didn’t happen and or you’re misinterpreting the situation. This is a highly effective abuse tool because with enough energy, you can make the other person believe they are “crazy” and wrong. Gaslighting means you are denying the other person of their own thoughts or experiences because you believe they simply “aren’t true.”
- Circular Arguments: The purpose of a circular argument, or an argument that never seems to have an ending because the two parties can’t come to an agreement, is to tire out the other person. If you refuse to hear the other and continue to drive home your point, it gets you nowhere causing the other person to eventually give up.
- Ignoring: Most people think verbal abuse has to be heard but ignoring someone is actually a characteristic. Refusing to participate in conversation is a form of communication. When you ignore and refuse to speak, you are communicating that you have the power and you alone decide when the fight or disagreement will end.
- Withholding: Have you ever known where something was and didn’t tell the other person? Or knew what time a show was on but refused to share that information because you were upset? This is called withholding, and it’s a form of abuse. By not sharing information because you are angry, you’re causing the other person unnecessary harm.
- Accusing/Blaming: Another way we often disregard ownership of an issue is by accusing the other person of something “worse” or blaming them for the incident in the first place. Accusing and blaming shut down conversation and remove the onus from you by directly putting it onto the other person’s shoulders.
- Forgetting: We all forget things. We are human. But not paying attention to the people we love is a form of abuse. Forgetting once or twice is okay, but constantly ignoring another person’s wishes or experiences is harmful and wrong.
This list isn’t here to make anyone feel bad about themselves. It’s a tool to uncover the ways you were taught to communicate and cope as a child. Using this list, we can all start to use healthy communication skills and break generational patterns of negative coping mechanisms. And we can do this without shame or guilt.
When caught in addiction’s web, it becomes easy to say and do anything to keep us feeling in control, but when it’s time to get clean and sober, we must own up to our mistakes. If this sounds like you or someone you know and are struggling to get clean and sober, The Summer House Detox Center in Florida is a great starting point. We will help you work through your substance issues in a comfortable setting while teaching you how to maintain physical and mental health. What are you waiting for? It’s time to live the life you’ve been dreaming of. Call (800) 719-1090 to learn about our treatment options or visit us at 13550 Memorial Highway Miami, FL 33161.