Verbal Abuse Has No Rational Explanation
Don’t Waste Time Looking for One
“Verbal abuse can be ever-so-subtle, as many stories illustrate. Yet it leaves the victim in a lot of pain and confusion. Believing in a different reality where people reason and communicate in rational ways with each other, the victim tries to make sense of his or her abuser’s treatment, not understanding that sometimes other people’s mean behavior makes no sense, has no rational explanation, and has nothing to do with him or her.
But the victim so badly wants to make sense of the behavior he or she doesn’t put an end to it, and instead continue to search for explanations of what could have caused the abuser to treat him or her that way. The victim thinks perhaps something about his or her behavior made the case they deserved to be treated badly.
Because the victim does not yet fully grasp the idea of verbal abuse—abuse at a purely verbal or mental level—he or she thinks the abuser’s maltreatment must have a rational explanation.
So, the victim confronts the behavior, not the way he or she ought to confront this behavior, but the way he or she ought to confront rational behavior. The victim asks for an explanation, asks for examples of the generalizations made by the abuser, and asks the abuser to make sense of the abuse.
Few people truly understand verbal abuse. People who are exposed to it typically don’t realize that they are so exposed. And they desperately want others to behave in rational ways. They understand anger and irritation when there are good reasons for it. They understand we don’t all get along all the time. But they fail to see when someone is verbally abusive, their actions are not grounded in reason at all.
Responding effectively to verbal abuse requires recognizing it when it occurs and realizing it makes no sense whatsoever to try to reason with the abuser.
A verbal abuser will define your reality, decide what you can or cannot do, and treat you as an (in-their-eyes) ugly part of themselves, a part they have to undermine in order to keep up their own sense of self.
There is only one way to end verbal abuse: Call it to the abuser’s attention.
If that doesn’t work, the only way out is to leave, as fast as you can.”
Berit Brogaard, “Psychology Today,” April 2015