Parents and Verbal Abuse

Verbal abuse is a painful experience within any relationship. It's hard to detect which makes addressing it difficult. And when the abuse comes from your own mother and/or father, the emotional scars become messages of deep insecurity, indescribable hurt, and confusing emotions...

"I hate her/him! S/he speaks to me worst than anyone I know. But how can I feel hate towards someone I am supposed to love? I mean, I know s/he loves me but s/he has a hell of a way of showing it. Who speaks to their child like this?? I don't know where or even how to draw the line. I'm angry and hurt, but afraid to seek help - where do I start... How will s/he respond?? It feels like I'm betraying my own family if I speak up. But I am sick of this! S/he is crazy! But that's my mother. That's my father. Do other people go through this? I feel....alone."

A parents words has the power to build or destroy their child(ren). And this applies to all family, relatives, overseers caregivers/guardians, and loved ones.

Verbal abuse can show up as name-calling, false blame, false guilt, hurtful outburst, lack of respect, humiliation, criticism, teasing, abandonment, labeling, emotional unpredictability, threats, projection, belittlement, judgement, and tearing down of self-esteem. All of which leaves the need for love and security unmet. This becomes a heavy brick weighing on the chest, even into adulthood. The wounds don't show up as a bruise, black eye, or an arm cast. Instead, it shows up as insecurity, low self-esteem, fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of vulnerability, low confidence, perfectionism, guilt, loneliness, hyper-sensitivity, anger, codependency, trust issues, anxiety, and even becoming an abuser.

Verbal abuse is when a person, or a group of people, control a victim through repetitive negative words that belittles and manipulates the abused; changing the way they view themselves for the worst.

One of the key words here are repetitive. We've all said words which we wish we could take back. But when those words turn into an unresolved pattern without appropriate apology and changed action, the line has been crossed from a mistake to abusive.

So let's take a look at the different forms of verbal abuse (as displayed by "Healing the Scars of Emotional Abuse" by Gregory L. Jantz, PhD) :

  1. The Opinionated: If you like blue, they'll give you 100 reasons why yellow is better. You can not freely express or exchange your own thoughts and emotions without feeling challenged. It seems "everything is an argument." You learn to distrust yourself and depend on others before making decisions.

  2. The Jokester: You are humiliated in private and in public. You are responded to with sarcasm and often not taken seriously. There are always jokes that result in hurting you. And IF you speak up, "it was just a joke." The remarks are cutting and degrading.

  3. The Critic: You are criticized and judged at every twist and turn. Nothing you do is good enough and you often feel inadequate. There is always something you should have done differently. No attempt is enough to satisfy.

  4. The Guilt Trip: Somehow, it's always your fault. You are made to feel responsible for the quality of the abusers life, as you are their void-filler. If they have a bad day, so will you. They take out their frustrations on you because you are simply around.

  5. The Know-It-All: Similar to the over-bearing opinion, you are never right. They know more than you and are ALWAYS right. Even when they are wrong. You are argued down for anything they don't agree with.

  6. The Record Book: Your past is always thrown back in your face and your mistakes are never forgivable.There is an invisible mental list keeping track of your wrongs. What you did and what you didn't do, is never forgotten. In fact, it's their weapon to keep mistreating you. "Because you did X, I'm allowed to do Y - as long as I remember it."

  7. The Flip-Flop: In front of others, they are loving, nice, and even seem like a completely different person. But behind closed doors, it's quite the opposite - they are hurtful and abusive. Their unpredictable behaviors create an unsafe space to relax and trust, resulting in anxiety. People may even see you as the abuser.

  8. The Silent Talker: This feels like rejection. Love and relationship is withheld through the silent treatment. Your presence isn't acknowledged and you get the cold shoulder. It's hard to communicate and move forward.

Do any of these sound or feel familiar?

Maybe you can relate to more than one as most forms intertwine. You feel hurt, powerless, misunderstood, drained, angry, shameful, fearful, and controlled. Verbal abuse is tough to recognize because 1. This form of abuse can not physically been seen and visibly proven, 2. As Black people, mental illnesses are typically disregarded in our community so we lack awareness, 3. The pattern of abuse can become normalized, so we don't seek resolution or help, 4. Abusers aren't aware of their actions because they most likely have been abused themselves. Seeing their actions as normal, and 5. No one wants to categorize their loved ones as a verbal abuser - believing it's an act of betrayal. We accept these harmful words and allow them to become a part of our identity without knowing our spirit is drowning in a toxic relationship.

Healing from abuse is a process and takes a lot of time, so be patient with yourself and stay committed to your growth. You can't just "break-up" with your parent. So to break the cycle, you must set clear boundaries with your relationship while you process and release your pain. Whatever those boundaries are for you.

I encourage you to sit alone with your emotions and just feel them. Without judgement. Simply let out what your heart has been holding in. Write it in a journal. Yell it out. Cry it out.

Weep for the little you that has experienced needing love and instead received rejection.

Release the pint up anger, resentment, frustration, and depression in a healthy way. Let it out. You may feel an array of emotions, and that is okay. If you can, talk to a trusted friend, mentor, or counselor to help you process your emotions.

Along your journey of releasing, forgive. (Forgiveness does not mean re-connection, belittling your experience, or dismissal of error) Yes, forgive those who have hurt you. Because guess what? They need healing themselves. Hurt people hurt people. For those who abuse, have 9 times out of 10 experienced abuse themselves. They genuinely don't know any different. The same pain you are experiencing is the same reality they've faced and still have not healed from. Their abusive actions are their own attempts to avoid further abuse, thus creating a cycle of the abused becoming the abuser. So take. Your. Time. Listen to your spirit on how to move through this situation as everyone has different experiences. Get professional help. Don't do it alone if you don't have to. Read books. Speak life and love over yourself everyday to replace the damaging messages and to restore your spirit.

Verbal abuse results in deep wounds. But know this, those wounds can heal and it does get better bit by bit every single day as long as you intend to. As you allow your emotions to release, also intend to forgive, understand, and let go. Give yourself the love the little you needed.

Light and Love,


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