Category Archives: Verbal/Emotional Abuse

Benefits of Group

Some of these are general benefits of being in a group, some are specific to the design of the Circle of Healing groups, and some are benefits various members have experienced. Counseling cannot promise any specific benefit as there are so many variables involved and each person is different.

Get Witnessed: Getting heard without condemnation is healing.

Hear the ideas of others and witness their stories.

Gain self-acceptance from appreciating the struggles and challenges of others in somewhat similar situations.

Decrease negative self-talk and increase self-compassion. Learn specific skills to reduce self-talk. And as you learn to appreciate and admire other group members, you can no longer be as harsh with yourself (as you would not be harsh with them).

Reduce or heal depression. Reduce anxiety.

Begin to Separate your identity from the abuser and the abuse.

Put some of your memories to rest through trauma/stress resolution.

Get support for healing from emotional or other abuse, get support during a difficult divorce, or recovery from a difficult break-up/divorce.

Learn ways to calm the mindbody. Think of it as a reset for setting your internal clock back to a state of greater relaxation, readiness, ease, and increased reserves of energy.

Learn skills for dealing with emotional abuse. The Group setting is an efficient way of teaching skills.

Learn how to select potential mates that are not abusive.

Make “moving forward decisions,” like leaving an abusive relationship, going back to school, taking a better job, etc.

Changing the Focus

A big part of healing is Changing the Focus. One of the challenges of responding to Emotional Abuse and recovering from Emotional Abuse is that Verbal abuse and other forms of emotional abuse focus the mind on the negative. In psychological terms, the emotional abuse orients the brain toward negativity. Some of the goals of emotional abuse are to throw you off balance, stun or shame you, or transfer blame. The solution involves reorienting, whether it’s responding differently to an emotional attack or recovering from a history of emotional abuse.

In this blog, I’d like to focus recovery by giving a few tips for Creating Shift from a history of emotional abuse. (A ToolKit for Healing covers responding to Verbal Abuse in detail.) Yes, the brain Is wired to respond to dangerous signals. It is also wired toward advantage and, in social creatures, toward sharing with others to benefit the whole, although the later habit usually also involves socialization. These brain habits can be diminished through lack of recovery from emotional abuse and repetitive emotional abuse. gratitude is the hearts memory

Reorientlng from emotional abuse involves recovering the habit of wellbeing, of being at ease in one’s skin. When one is able to reorient, one recovers at sense of self-esteem and self-confidence. Here are some activities to practice on a regular basis:

Cultivate the habit of breathing deeply and evenly.

  • Make a list of all the positive things that anyone has ever said about you. Update it regularly. “Take it out and review it whenever you feel stuck or down. Ask yourself, “Which one of these attributes would be most beneficial for me to embody now?” “What is the best way for me to embody this attribute(s) now?” “What essence(s) are revealed in these comments?” (Essences are qualities like Love, Peace, Wholeness, Joy, Serenity, Value, Truth, Power, Wisdom, Intelligence, Clarity, Creativity, Awe, Courage, Freedom and Presence.)
  • Every night before you go to sleep, list 10 things that you enjoyed and appreciated about the day (or about your life). This practice helps with low grade anxiety that is interfering with sleep. If your mind tends to gravitate toward the problems in your life without finding solutions that trigger a sense of ease, this exercise is especially important for you.
  • Learn to appreciate and accept complements. Breathe in the complement, smile, and say, “Thanks!” If there is a detail about whatever was complemented, say it. For instance, if an article of clothing is complemented, you might add, “It’s my favorite color.” Accepting complements is part of getting the good of life. And it’s also about connecting with others. People get stuck on whether they agree with the complement (especially if they are feeling out of sorts), and neglect the fact that receiving a complement means someone is trying to connect with you.
  • A way to physical reorient from trauma in general is to look around and focus on physical objects that you find attractive or soothing. Focus on the details of one and then another, and then another, until you feel calm and centered. Your heart has stopped racing, your mind has stopped racing, the butterflies have stopped fluttering, your breathing is easy and relaxed, and your muscles are loose or have at least released their tight grip.

These are just a few ways of Changing the Focus and Creating Shift. What are yours?


Questioning Your Relationship? Red Flags

(Note: Published originally on by Noreen Wedman 2008, published now with updates)

Do you find yourself questioning your relationship? Counseling can help resolve relationship issues or help you sort out whether it is better for you to leave the relationship. Although the list is written using the word partner, many of the problems signal serious problems in any significant relationship.
1. There is a pattern of sexual, emotional, physical, or financial abuse. Any sexual or physical abuse in a relationship is a signal that counseling is urgently needed.
2. Your self-esteem has deteriorated as a result of being in this relationship.
3. Your relationship feels like a contest, battlefield, or some other interminable game.
4. Nothing you do seems to please your partner.
5. You don’t have fun together.
6. You don’t feel respected or don’t respect your partner.
7. Issues don’t get resolved in a way that brings you closer together.
8. S/he maintains that the problems in the relationship are mainly your fault, yet you are usually the one on the receiving end of the abuse or both of you are abusive.
9. Your partner refuses go to counseling or work on his/her issues.
10. You don’t enjoy talking with your partner.
11. Your children are traumatized by your relationship.
12. Infidelity is not a deathblow to a relationship, but it is important to resolve it. It may indicate some problem with the relationship, a sexual addiction, or a childhood trauma/abandonment issue.
13. Sexless relationship. Physical intimacy is important to a healthy partner relationship.
14. Major problems like addiction and personality disorders will destroy a relationship without major intervention. If you have spent years with a person who is chemically dependent or very difficult, and s/he still hasn’t changed, it may be time to consider how much more you are willing to invest.
15. Your child is being abused by your partner.
16. You fantasize about injuring or murdering your partner or wish your partner were dead. You fantasize about Divorce or your spouse threatens you with divorce (whether they seem serious or not).
17. Some life events often require counseling for successful negotiation of the life passage in a way that keeps the relationship intact. Examples include death of a child, serious illness, or loss of a job.Sometimes these issues get resolved. Sometimes, the issues become destroy the relationship. If your relationship has even one of the above issues, you have probably done some serious procrastination. It is time to resolve the issues or move on in as honorable a way as possible (or, in the case of leaving some abusers, with as little damage as possible).
You may wish to see an Individual Counselor to sort out if it is even safe for you to try couples counseling if there is significant abuse in the relationship. Either Individual or Couples Counseling can help you sort out whether the relationship is salvageable, although resolving Couples Issues best benefit by a combination of Couples and Individual Counseling. Resolving problems of interrelating requires couples counseling. Sometimes the problem is that one or both parties have a significant mental health issue, which requires Individual counseling to manage. Couples or Family counseling can help relatives manage and cope with the process of healing to increase the likelihood of success. If there is physical or sexual violence, or a pattern of emotional abuse in the relationship, it is safer and sometimes more effective for both parties to get Individual Counseling until a pattern of safety has been established in the relationship. One big cue that Individual Counseling is warranted is if you answer, “Yes,” to the question, “Are you afraid of your partner or spouse?”

Negotiating with Bullies: Why our belief in give and take fails us

We are taught from the time we are young to share and share alike. We are taught to play fair and negotiate and cooperate so that everyone gets what they need and no one is left out. Somehow, bullies, including emotionally abusive adults, learn another lesson. They learn that if they ask for more than what is fair, more than what they deserve, that they will often get their way if they are adamant. Meanwhile the other person loses while getting some fake token compromise.  Meeting a bully halfway doesn’t work because they have asked for way more than is fair and they will still get what they want – often at your expense.

Bullies don’t discuss or negotiate – they control. Besides insisting on more than what is fair, they have other strategies. They may add an innocous exception, which they latter use to justify breaking a part or all of the agreement. Or they may flat out refuse to honor an agreement, arguing the they thought you meant something else or that they remembered the agreement differently.  Just the negotiation involved in everyday boundary setting and problem solving with a spouse or partner who bullies  is fraught with frustration.

The average person cannot conceive of the extreme need for protection behind the insatiable demands of a bully. It can be demands for anything – power, money, sex, fame, time, etc. They don’t negotiate fairly because they have learned that their strategy works and because they’re terrified of the vulnerability of losing. AND, they recognize your weaknesses:  your tendency to assume that the other person has good intentions and your penchant for being overly fair and agreeable, which the bully is highly skilled at manipulating. They also know your penchant for self-doubt and how to manipulate it.

Bullies are also skilled in the manipulation of the public’s idea of fairness. Bullies try to make you look unfair and have no qualms about accusing you of being unreasonable when it is they who are unreasonable.  They know your fear of confrontation because relying on your fear has been a survival strategy for them. Survival for the bully means besting others, which is way more effective for getting what they want than the victim’s strategy of just getting by. But you don’t have to have a history of abuse to be cheated by a bully. It’s just worse for you if you’ve haven’t healed your victim strategies. Bullies bully and don’t negotiate because it rewards them immensely. It “works” for them, at least in the short run, but it harms others.

And if all else fails, the bully will retaliate unfairly. A fear of confrontation is costly when dealing with a bully. Plus, with their relentlessness, for the sake of peace and quiet, many people living with bullies relent more than they know is right. They also pick and chose their battles, which is not an unreasonable survival strategy. In order to confront a bully, you have to steal yourself for the consequences. They will accuse you of being the selfish one. While that feels deeply personal, it is mostly a manipulative survival strategy. They may punish you in a variety of ways, and it is important to be prepared for that reality. It will be unpleasant for awhile and keep an eye out for your long term goals. (Of course, if they are physically dangerous, it is important to plan an exit strategy.)

 At the beginning of the Chapter Verbal Self-Defense in A ToolKit for Healing, there is this guideline:

One doesn’t argue. One doesn’t explain. One doesn’t negotiate. It’s about setting boundaries and serving notice that you will not tolerate abuse.

As long as you are explaining yourself to the bully, as long as you are dealing with the literal content and not the context of what they are saying, and as long as you are trying to negotiate as if you are dealing with someone negotiating in good faith, you will be ineffective in dealing with bullies. They will know that you are not wise to their game, which automatically gives them the winning cards. Bullies have to be held accountable.

With bullies, you need to start by calling them on their game – calling them on their tactics and unfairness and manipulation – that is to say call them on exactly what they are doing. Describe the game. Be prepared for their ridicule or to turn and be sweetly or deceptively manipulative. Then you have to be adamant and stick to your truth. This is calling game is up: “We are not playing that game anymore.” When you negotiate with them, there is a line that you must not cross – Insist on fairness. Initially, when you negotiate, you will probably have to ask for far more than is reasonable or that you could hope for. Match their outrageousness with outrage at their selfishness, their brazenness with bravery, their implacability with firmness, and their rigidity with diligence for what is right. In addition to boundary setting, you may also have to make more unilateral decisions than you would wish for in a relationship for your own sanity and well-being. Bullies will accuse you of being unfair. Don’t buy it. It is for your own good and their own good.

Humans have let bullies rule for a long time. We elect bullies to political office and hire them as CEOs, mistaking their brazenness for strength and their cunning for wisdom. They well know how to use the masses. But fortunately, the masses grew up believing in being fair. Bringing the case to the public for goodness and fairness can be used to stem their power. Bullies can be emotionally, economically, sexually and physically violent: Sometimes you have to call for reinforcements because they are difficult and dangerous to deal with alone.

©Noreen Wedman, M.S. 2013

Losing Your Cool with Your Teenager Too Often

This post is in response to Worthless Teenagers and the Parents Who Make Them

Parents who Emotionally Abuse to the extent described by the teenager in “Worthless” have severe psychological problems like personality disorders and/or chemical dependency. Sometimes the style of emotional abuse is more subtle, but every bit as relentless. Inside, many of these parents are terrified hurt children who cope with their own fears of powerlessness, helplessness, and lack of self-worth by projecting onto others and by trying to have control and power over others instead of themselves. They can’t parent effectively because they haven’t grown up yet themselves and haven’t taken responsibility for their own healing.

Instead of taking a position against abuse, like many survivors of childhood abuse do, some may have subconsciously aligned with their abuser. Most abusive people have their own histories of childhood abuse and/or abandonment. They often do not remember their own abuse due to the age at which they were abused and/or to the psychological phenomenon of dissociation, by which the brain blanks out upsetting memories.

In addition, the age at which they were abused affected the development of their brain. Due to new imaging technology, we now know that the brains of people with borderline personality disorder have different sized amygdalae, which probably contributes to intensity and frequency of triggering that they experience.

All of the above factors contribute to the development of personality disorders.

My heart really goes out to the teenagers like the one in “Worthless.” She is in the worst position because both parents are abusive. It is going to take a lot of effort for her to recover. Having one loving, relatively emotionally stable parent who is loving and supportive can counteract a lot of the damage done by the out-of-control abusing parent. This is also true for involved grandparents, aunts and uncles, and family friends. Even teachers can have a significant impact through words of encouragement and being supportive of a troubled teen’s talents.

ARE YOU A TEENAGER WITH A PARENT WHO YELLS AT YOU or CONSTANTLY PUTS YOU DOWN or CALLS YOU NAMES? It you are an adult or a teenager that has experienced this level of emotional violence, please know that it is not your fault. Also, please contact a counselor or other trustworthy adult. There are a number of books written on the subject of Verbal Abuse and Bullying. I have written a workbook on Healing from Verbal Abuse for Adults and older teens who have had Emotionally Abusive childhoods:

IF YOU ARE A PARENT who recognized your behavior, there is help available. While you may be overcome with feelings of shame or guilt or be tempted to deny your reality, DON’T. There are reasons for why you have these issues and there is help available. It will take a lot of courage and a good dose of humility.

 If you are addicted to alcohol or other drugs, seek treatment: SAMHSA; AA; NA, MA; or SOS. But don’t stop there. If you are emotionally abusive, get a good assessment. Then find a counselor who specializes in working with your issues.

If you have a personality disorder (which I prefer to conceptualize as complex PTSD – Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) find a counselor who specializes in working with personality disorders. Sometimes there are other psychological issues involved like bipolar disorder or cognitive processing disorders. Sometimes a combination of Aspergers and narcissistic traits looks like Narcissistic Personality Disorder, but isn’t and the therapy is different. Other resources include National Alliance on Mental Illness; Support for family members and partners of people with Borderline Personality Disorder; and NPD Family.

I know that it is scary to consider, but You and your family will all benefit if you seek help.

©Noreen Wedman 2011

Becoming Comfortable in Your Own Skin

STOP right now and Notice. What is happening in your body? Are any of your muscles tense? Is your body comfortable or contorted into an uncomfortable position? What is happening in your mind? Are you “tense” there too? Thinking Anxious Thoughts? If so, it is probably impeding whatever goal that you have because too much Stress diminishes the creativity of the mind. Continue reading

What is it about Verbal Abuse?

There is something key about words to the human psyche. Educational researchers have found that the number of words that a child hears or sees before the age of three is the single biggest predictor of future success. Early on, word exposure affects brain development. Word usage is fundamental to human development and interaction. Continue reading