Verbal abuse, also known as emotional abuse, is not as widely recognized as it should be. Patricia makes sure to point that out. We recognize that a person, male or female, may have been sexually abused or physically abused, but we tend not to take emotional abuse as serious, even though most sufferers of abuse say the emotional or verbal abuse is much harder to deal with that physical abuse. We can’t call up the police and say, “Someone was verbally abusing me,” but we can call and say that someone was hitting us or raping us and so forth.
People who are being abused in this manner often don’t know if they’re actually being abused or if there is something wrong with them. They doubt themselves. Is this really what’s going on? Books like this help people to define what constitutes verbal and emotional abuse.
Once a person recognizes it, what are they supposed to do about it? Are they supposed to stay in the situation? Are they supposed to leave? Can the abuser change?
Patricia details how it may, in fact, be possible for an abuser to change, but it’s not easy and nor is it common. Abusers may not care what they’re doing to a person, even if they do recognize what they’re doing is wrong. Patricia makes sure to mention that not all people realize what they’re doing is wrong.
The root of the problem is often that people are abused in various manners, then they grow up thinking that A) it’s normal and B) that they can create a fantasy life and everything will be ok. These people tend to push their ideal of a person onto their spouses, children, whomever, and if that person or people do not act in a manner befitting their ideal, they see it as ok to belittle them or pretend they don’t exist. There is often ignoring involved, walking away when someone asks a question, or outright refusing to answers questions.
Patricia suggests making an agreement. This agreement will detail the behavior of the person and the things they are not supposed to do from that point forward. The agreement also lists consequences. The agreement might work, or it might not. If it doesn’t a person has to decide whether he or she will stay in this relationship and continue to be treated in the same manner.
It is cautioned that someone who continues to stay in a situation of verbal and emotional abuse is very likely to develop serious mental problems.
What I liked
This book was very informative and hits very close personally. There is so much good information in this book. It’s a good tool to be able to understand why a person is an emotional abuser. People tend to think, “What did I do to deserve this?” Idea after idea will float through their heads and nothing was terrible enough to warrant such treatment.
I think there is so much truth to abusive people creating this image in their head of what a person should be and then trying to dismiss the real person. It doesn’t justify their behavior by any means, but it makes things more understandable. It also lifts a lot of weight off of a person being abused. It’s not you; it’s them. You can never live up to the expectations created by a bully.
I liked that this book gave a format for presenting the idea of reforming to an abuser. Maybe it works for some people. Maybe it helps. Ultimately, a person can only change themselves. You cannot force a person to change. If a person is abusing you and they show no signs of change in their behavior or speech, then you have to leave, or deal with it, hopefully not deal with it.
What I didn’t like
Some of the elements of this book felt a little “woo-woo” to me. By woo-woo, I mean something that isn’t really scientific and it’s kind of “out-there.” Maybe these things are true and I’m just not open-minded enough about it.
This book was difficult for me to read because it was so close to me personally. There were so many things I read in this book and I thought, “Been there.” It’s difficult to read eerily similar conversations and insults in a book that have been a part of your life. At the end of the book, Patricia has this list of ways emotional abusers abuse people and if you’ve been in that type of situation, you can just go down the list and start marking things off. Check, check, check, check, and so on.
This book has definitely made me consider my own situations more and consider that they’re more serious than I at first thought and could have far-reaching consequences in my own life.
In your opinion, is emotional abuse a problem in our day-to-day relationships?
Should we take emotional abuse more seriously legally?