How Does Verbal and Emotional Abuse Make You Feel?
How does verbal and emotional abuse make a person feel? Some people feel as if they are “going crazy”. Here is the way it is described in the book Stop! You’re Driving Me Crazy, by George R. Bach and Ronald M. Deutsch.[i]
- You are always thrown off-balance. You may be confused, and never be able to get a handle on the problem, though you might spend hours a day trying to figure it out.
- You have “redundant, spinning circles of thoughts.” You feel disconnected, confused, and disoriented. You wonder if something is wrong, but aren’t able to put your finger on what it is.
- You feel that your world has become chaotic, and you can’t make sense of it.
- You walk around with an uneasy, weird feeling of emptiness, or feel generally “bugged” whenever your abuser is around. You feel pushed around and not in control of your own direction. Sometimes you have a strong wish to get away, yet you feel frozen and unable to move.
- You begin to lose your self-confidence and start to doubt yourself. You lose your spontaneity and enthusiasm for life, and feel you must always be on-guard.
- You start to feel uncertain about how other people read you, and you distrust your relationships.
- You start to believe that the things you actually do best may be the things that you do the worst.
- You develop an internal “critical voice,” and are reluctant to accept your own perceptions because they always seem to be wrong.
I was married for 20 years. The marriage became verbally abusive slowly, and like many women, I didn’t realize what was happening to me. I’d like to share a story that describes one of the ways being verbally abused made me feel.
It was nearing Christmas, and my husband (I’ll call him ‘Mark’, though that isn’t his real name), planned to have a large dinner party for his office at our home. There would be enough people that we would need to use our kitchen and dining room tables, and two folding card tables to seat everyone.
Mark told me that I hadn’t done a good job decorating our home. So, 2 weeks before Christmas, he sent me (who hates to shop) all over town finding knickknacks, silk flowers, and pottery to spruce it up. The last item needed was tablecloths for the 4 tables.
I went to several stores looking for the perfect tablecloths. At that time of year, they did not have 4 matching tablecloths that would fit our two large kitchen and dining room tables, and the two small card tables.
Finally, I stood in Bed Bath and Beyond for over an hour debating what to do. Should I go to yet another crowded store and try to find matching ones? I was so tired, and I had so many other things to do to prepare for Christmas with our large family. I tried to decide what Mark’s coworkers would like. I tried to guess what Mark would like. (Ha! That is a funny one! He would dislike whatever I chose!)
I ended up choosing two matching tablecloths for the large tables, and two different ones for the small tables.
When I returned home, big surprise! Mark hated my choice. Back I went to the store. I made another choice. Returned home. He didn’t like that choice either. I returned again.
As I stood in the tablecloth aisle for the third time, it occurred to me. Not only did I have no idea what Mark wanted, or what would please his coworkers, I no longer had any idea what I would like to buy. Even if I were buying these tablecloths solely to please myself, I would have no idea what to choose.
What did that say about me?
My husband’s constant criticism of me had pulled my self-esteem so low that I could no longer make simple decisions like, what tablecloth did I like?
I had turned into the woman Bach and Deutsch describe in their book:
- I had redundant, spinning circles of thoughts
- My world had become chaotic
- I was not in control of my own direction
- I had lost my self-confidence and I constantly doubted myself
- I had no understanding of what I did well
- I had developed an internal “critical voice,” and was reluctant to accept my own perceptions – even about what tablecloth I would like to buy.
How does the story end? Well, I made a third choice – I don’t even remember now what I chose. Mark was probably tired of toying with me, and accepted whatever I’d chosen. We had the dinner party, and it went well.
It took me a few more years to really understand what was happening to me….but that is for another blog.
That was my story, but here is my question for you.
Who do you see when you look in the mirror?
Do you see the person your abuser wants you to see? Someone who has no value except for the value he gives you when he decides he is happy with you?
Do you see whom God sees? God sees His own daughter. A woman He made with His own hands in His own image (Genesis 1:27). A woman so precious to Him that he knew you even while you were still in your mother’s womb, (Psalm 139:13). A woman whose very number of hairs He knows (Matthew 10:30). A woman whom He sent His son to die for (John 3:16).
That is who you really are.