I was involved in a situation recently where I observed a woman being verbally abused by another woman in a professional setting. I know these women well enough, especially the abusive one, long enough to know this is not the first time this happened, and it’s probably not the last. They are stuck in a pattern where the abusive woman is completely blind to the effects of her behavior, while the other woman is blind to the fact that by not putting a stop to it right away, she has effectively given permission to the abuser to do it time and again. The daughter of the abused woman was kind enough to speak with me about the situation when I flagged what was happening as inappropriate and as verbal abuse. We discussed ideas on how to help situation. Her daughter was willing to confront the abuser on her mother’s behalf, which made me realize something… it’s not about someone confronting the abuser, or even the abuser leaving or changing. It is about the victim becoming empowered and changing their pattern, because if they don’t change it, then they are just leaving space and giving permission for the next abuser to come into their life and just hurt them all over again.
Over the years of dealing with verbal abuse I found that a feeling of empowerment can make a huge difference in my situation. Although moving away from my dad has been an important step in my healing (a VERY important step!!!), that in and of itself did not stop his abuse. It was my standing up to him that helped ME feel empowered.. it helped ME change, and not only did it stop him from abusing me so much, but it also keeps me safe from others who are stuck in those same sick patterns. It just helped me no longer be a puzzle piece that fits the abusive piece of those with those tendencies.
It does take two to tango, doesn’t it? So although the abuser has their issues, I realized that I as a victim also have mine, and it is important to address them because the world won’t stop hurting me unless I stop giving it permission to.
One place where I am learning about this is with a recovery group called Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACoA). Although the group has the word Alcoholics in it, it’s not limited to people who grew up in households where alcohol was present. It applies to all families who had any sort of dysfunction like verbal abuse, narcissism, perfectionism, overly critical parents, other substance abuse issues, under-earning, and so on.
Hello all, a reader recently pointed out to me that I haven’t written since my visit with the healer Doña Leova. In my response to the comment I realized that I guess I’ve “let it go” since seeing her and haven’t felt the need to write as much. But I wanted to get back to it because I feel like maybe now is exactly the time I should be writing… to share with those who are struggling that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. So yes, my visit with Donna was one piece of my healing puzzle, but there are so many more. I wanted to share what inspires me to continue to heal from a verbally and sometimes physically abusive childhood:
- My first step in healing was to become aware of what was going on and educate myself. These resources helped me. What I learned from these books is that my dad is in complete denial about his problem and therefore feels completely justified in his actions. Therefore, no amount of arguing with him will get him to see the truth, because he is too invested in his own mental image of himself and his own sense of “reality.” So once I confronted him, I felt better about myself and my own sense of power, but it did nothing to make him see the truth. Therefore, I expressed to him in my family intervention for him that if he begins to talk to me in a disrespectful manner, I will not respond to him, and I will leave. I said this several times, very clearly, so that he definitely heard me. And then from that point on, I have stuck to that. I simply get up, and walk away. No conversation needed. The other thing I learned is that anger is a chemical reaction in the brain that one can become addicted to. As is drama. So when I hear him staying things that are pressing my buttons, I take the high route and do not react. I can almost sense that he is looking for a way to elicit a reaciton to get attention. So I simply ignore it, and do not react. This in and of itself has allowed us to get over so much drama in our relationship.
- My next step was to remove myself from the situation. I moved out. It’s been huge. It’s not the end of it – I am still healing, and he is still doing his thing – but it is an important step in protecting myself on a day to day basis.
- Finding support was huge. I found a 12 step group called Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACoA), that has helped me TREMENDOUSLY. The name is a bit limiting because it’s not just for people who grew up with alcoholic parents. It is also for people who grew up with any dysfunction in their homes like verbal abuse, any addictions, perfectionism, criticism, etc. The beauty of this program for me is that it looks at the whole family including several generations and really gives you a chance to look at the big picture. When we do that, we are able to not just heal and forgive ourselves, but we can also choose to put down the baggage of blame and shame that has been passed down from generation to generation. Doing so, helped me understand why my dad ended up the way he did, and it helped me forgive him.
- Note on forgiveness: it’s not for the other person, it’s for you. It’s a way of putting down that suitcase of issues you’ve been carrying all your life and just letting it go.
- Meditation is my number one healing tool. I spent a lot of time learning about child brain development and learned that abuse cases the brain to physically be different than that of children who were not abused. Meditation heals that. Physically. It repairs it. And it is never too late to begin. Realizing that and implementing a daily practice of meditation has been THE KEY to my healing.
- Kundalini Yoga is a tool I also appreciate and use in my daily life. It’s not like most hatha yoga classes you might take in a gym or yoga studio. It includes a lot of cardio and meditation with chanting and mantras to physically break through the energetic barriers in my body that have been keeping the abuse stuck in my system. I feel like it’s really helping me.
- Going gluten and dairy free has also been a tremendous help for my brain. There’s are a lot of books about the stomach/brain connection and how dairy and gluten can affect thinking and lead to depression. When I am clear, I am stronger and feel more empowered. When I am empowered, an abuser has no way to attack me.
All of these healing approaches have one thing in common: they put the focus on me, and naturally shift the focus off the abuser. As sick as it may sound, my dad was abusing me in order to get attention. It was negative, but still attention, and he is so hurt that this was better than nothing. By changing myself, I have shifted that attention to my own healing, giving him nothing to hang on to, so our relationship has naturally shifted. I personally didn’t want to cut ties with my dad. I want to heal and I want to forgive him. My wish for him is to heal too. Our relationship has transformed in the recent years and I am very thankful for it.
My healing journey continues. I have become very aware of the fear I feel around men in general. A trauma block of sorts. I am going to attend a healing session with this healer:
Doña Leova is a Traditional Healer from the Nahuatl Indian nation of Puebla, Mexico. Her work is based in a cosmology of Healing that is known as the “Tradition of the Grandmothers”….. named because historically, one grandmother would share the practice with one granddaughter who would then go on to become the next practitioner.
Within her Community she is renowned as a Medicine Women and in her tradition a “Limpia” (or inner cleansing) is a form in which using a combination of body-work, massage, prayer and the intention of the healer and the client the echo of old pains, traumas, fears and tendencies that no longer serve the client can be released and cleared. Generally people feel lighter, more balanced, open and profoundly relaxed following a treatment.
Her work is deep…. and filled with Kindness…..
If you have success stories on healing from trauma from verbal abuse, please feel free to share.
The TED fantasticness continues. Radical Self Love is where it’s at.
Recently I had a breakthrough moment in my relationship with my dad. He had another one of his yelling outbursts which finally pushed me to see the truth about verbal abuse. Since then, I’ve been doing a lot of research about this topic and how to deal. I found a great series of books by Patricia Evans on the topic, and have opened up about this to close friends, my therapist and called 2 hotlines to gain as much perspective as possible. I found a lot of information about what verbal abuse is, but surprisingly very little on how to actually deal with the close person in your life who is doing it. I want to share my story in the hopes that it might be helpful for someone to read. And if you have dealt with this issue in your life, please share your experience here too. I know someone out there is looking for guidance, just as I am.
First Thing’s First:Prepare
Since I’ve been exposed to abuse throughout my life, I’ve had a very hard time developing a healthy sense of self, and the self-confidence to speak my truth, and trust that it is worth being heard. I’ve been convinced all my life that the things I have said were not true, did not matter and were invalid. So as you can imagine, it is very hard to go from this state to one where you can say “STOP” when someone is hurting you again. Any such protests are simply met with more invalidation and even intensified abuse. So I have to say that the foundation of the confrontation that finally took place with my dad was a preparation process that took many years. I have been working on healing my sense of self, trusting my inner voice, and finally allowing that voice to be expressed for at least 3 years since I began working with my amazing art therapist. I have also been journaling, creating art work, practicing yoga and meditating on a daily basis. Each of these things has helped me discover who I am and realize that my voice is valid. I would also add that a particularly helpful therapy for me was hypnosis, as it allowed my therapist and I to work on the subconscious level of my mind where many of the negative things my father has told me over the years have been stored, influencing my daily decisions without me even knowing it. Continue reading
A friend just sent me a link to a beautiful blog that had some healing wisdom I’m benefiting from tonight:
“…often when we are hurting this much it is because there is something we fundamentally do not like about ourselves. The part that we hate, or that we are afraid of, the part we try to spin or hide when we interact with others, this part got prodded somehow, and that’s where the pain is coming from. Letting yourself feel this, trying to put an arm around it, can feel like tumbling headfirst into the abyss.
But you CAN do it. And until you can sit with this part of yourself, until you can accept it and treat it with compassion, you will always be coming to the world divided. You will never be bringing your full strength or your full authenticity to the table, never be fully intimate with anyone. You will continually attract embodiments of this inner hurt into your life instead of the loving, strong people you want to surround yourself with.”
I doubt it is a coincidence. I’m taking these words IN. Keep reading here: truebeautyalways.com/2013/03/08/when-its-all-torn-open/
And I had some very healing conversations with friends and my mom today. We are letting our truth surface. It is a collective energy movement. I feel gratitude.
Do you have any fave ways of coping with those dark moments in life? Do share…