verbal abuse

Speaking Up After Domestic Violence

by: Lianne Johnson, LPC

Domestic Violence is everywhere your eye can see.  Statistically 1 in 6 women are victims of Domestic Violence.  That is staggering.  Look around the next time you are in the supermarket, the shopping mall, your work place, and count 6 women.  It is everywhere you look, yet remains unseen by the masses.

 

So many women, women you know, are living in a Domestic Violence situation.  Domestic Violence is insidious, it is crazy making, it is disarming to its victims, and over time it will slowly eat away at their very nature and aliveness.  In fact, many women do not even realize they are being abused because of the very nature of how Domestic Violence can be experienced by its victims.  All they can identify is that “isn’t right” about their relationship and they are scared.

As women break-free from an abusive relationship there is much relearning that must occur.  One aspect of this relearning is Learning to Speak again.   For a woman coming out of an abusive relationship, relearning to speak is like learning to reuse your leg after it brakes and has been in a cast for several weeks.  Have you ever had to wear a cast?  I have.  After it was removed my skin was very pail and wrinkly.  My leg (I broke my kneecap-ouch!) ached for a while after the cast was removed.  Walking took effort.  Rising from a sitting position took effort.  Doing normal tasks took effort.  I had to relearn how to walk, sit, rise, lay down, and run after they removed my cast.  Relearning was necessary in order to use my leg in the functional ways I needed to. In the ways I used to.  The relearning that took place was essential for my healing. Similarly, once a woman has broken free from her abuser she must relearn to speak – to use her voice.

Speaking up isn’t about announcing your abuse to the world or even throwing your abuser “under the bus,” as they say. It isn’t about shouting at your abuser either. Besides, shouting will only give the abuser a reason to discount whatever you are trying to communicate.

Speaking up is about learning to use your voice again. The goal of an abuser is to make you question your voice, invalidate it, ignore it, and twist it. The victim quickly learns from her abuser that when she uses her voice she is punished. So she stops speaking. Learning to speak again requires a woman first regain her self-confidence and self-worth. She must also begin to trust her internal voice again.

To those who’ve experienced Domestic Violence – You are no longer your abusers’ secret keeper. You are free. You are free to heal and to learn to love yourself once again. You are free to speak without punishment. You are free.

(For the purposes of this post the male is identified as the abuser. Please note that males can also be the victim’s of abuse.)

Stop Verbally Abusing Yourself

Stop Verbally Abusing Yourself

Avenues Counseling

“You’re so stupid!”

“Of course you failed at that. It’s what you do.”

“No one could ever love you.”

These are extremely painful statements to hear; ones I cringe to even write out. And if these things were said out loud to you, they could easily be called verbal abuse. No one should be told those things. No one.

And yet, how many of us have a tape that plays in our heads that sounds remarkably similar? Or maybe not quite as extreme as the statements above, but still carries with it the same underlying critical, harsh message and/or lack of compassion?

Why do we think it’s okay to talk to ourselves the way it is not okay for anyone else talk to us? Or maybe we don’t even consciously realize how severe our self-talk is. Day in and day out. An endless reel of criticism and condemnation in the face of life, that by its very nature is just hard.

These voices can come from many places – maybe they were given to you by the ones who are supposed to love and encourage you most; maybe they are what you think is needed to keep your drive alive to excel at life; maybe it’s in your DNA to be self-critical and perfectionistic; maybe it’s how you try to remain “humble”. Wherever they come from and however they’ve been formed, I wonder what it would look like to say, “It’s not okay to talk to me like that,” and to start replacing them with the voice of compassion for yourself.

Drawing upon the research of Dr. Kristin Neff, below are some practical ways to begin to better relate to yourself with compassion and to respond to the critical, harsh reel in your head:

1)   Be kind to yourself. Pain, failure, disappointment are part of this life. We are not perfect beings and never will be. Extend to yourself the same grace, forgiveness or understanding you would extend to others when you mess up or things don’t go the way you hoped they would.

2)   Remember the bigger picture. You are not alone in whatever you are experiencing. Sometimes this is hard to believe because we are all working really hard to cover up our own places of shame (and unfortunately, we’re really good at it), but I guarantee you are not alone. It is often our weakness that connects us the most to each other. Stop using this against yourself or allowing it to isolate you and start looking for ways to connect to others in our shared human experience of weaknesses.

3)   Be mindful. To begin changing the way we speak to ourselves, we must start by being aware of how we do it. Being self-compassionate does not mean avoiding your negative thoughts or difficult emotions. It means experiencing these thoughts and feelings with the posture of kindness and in the context of being human. This keeps us from over-identifying with our negative thoughts and emotions and allows for thoughtful consideration of how there might ways we could do things differently next time around.

So…as some version of the tape is currently playing in your head now, please remember: your words have impact. Instead of continuing to verbally abuse yourself, please be kind, remember the bigger picture, and be mindful as you talk to yourself today.

by:  Melinda Seley, PLPC