Silence: the ultimate control and power over others

Verbal abuse, in general, is a means to maintain control and power over. There are fifteen categories of verbal abuse. Verbal abuse is a violation, not a conflict. When describing verbal abuse, it is about a violation of boundaries, it is an intrusion into another, or the slighting of another in a relentless pursuit of power over, superiority, and dominance through covert or overt means.

In a conflict each person wants something different. However, in a conflict the parties discuss their desires, needs and seek a mutually beneficial solution. While the solution is sought, neither party forces, dominates or controls the other.

One might think that verbal abuse occurs primarily in low-income families with little education. However, studies reveal that verbal abuse is found at all educational and socioeconomic levels. Education levels range from high school graduates to Ph.D., M.D., J.D., etc. Occupations vary and include artists, teachers, lawyers, politicians, doctors, psychiatrists, housewives, CEOs, and entrepreneurs.

Silence, also known as Withholding, is the most damaging and hurtful form of verbal abuse. One might think that for behavior to be considered verbally abusive it is necessary to speak words. This misunderstanding of verbal abuse adds to the recipient’s confusion within the relationship. The recipient of the silence/withholding may believe the relationship is functional because the abuser can communicate functional information, but refuses, through the silence/withholding (does not respond), to communicate on an intimate level.

There has to be more than an exchange of information. Healthy relationships require intimacy. Intimacy requires empathy. Listening and being heard and understanding the feelings and experiences of others is empathic understanding. Intimacy in a relationship cannot be achieved if one party is not willing to share themselves and is not willing to support the other in an empathic way. Silence/withholding allows the abuser to control and have power over while keeping the ideal image of her intact. The abuser’s ego construct is extremely fragile and without a posture of control and Power Over, the abuser’s feelings of helplessness would feel like an assault on their well-constructed way of functioning in what they view as a hostile world.

This does not mean that two people do not always understand each other or have difficulty expressing feelings, the intention to understand and/or express feelings is the basis on which both parties function. One person alone cannot create intimacy in a relationship.

Silence/withholding speaks louder than words and creates just as much emotional damage as hostile words. In a nutshell, silence/concealment is a choice to keep virtually all thoughts, feelings, hopes, and dreams to oneself and remain silent and aloof towards others, reveal as little as possible, and maintain an attitude of cool indifference, control, and Power over.

The consequences of any form of verbal abuse can vary in intensity, depth, and breadth. However, the result of any form of verbal abuse affects the recipient’s self-perception, emotional well-being, and spiritual vitality. Verbal abuse takes away the joy and vitality of life through distortions of reality, because the abuser’s response does not match the sender’s communication.

The main consequences of verbal abuse include, but are not limited to:

or mistrust your own spontaneity

or doubt one’s own perceptions

or reluctance to come to conclusions

or perpetual preparation, state of guard

or uncertainty about the impact of one on the others

or believe ‘something is wrong with me’

o constant self-examination and review of incidents in the hope of determining what went wrong

or eroded self-confidence

or constant doubt/confusion

or frustrated/angry

or an accentuated ‘critical voice’

or loss of happiness, but unable to identify the reason

or anxiety or fear of ‘being crazy’

or fear of being ‘to blame’

o humiliation/shame/guilt for one’s own state of affairs

or realize that time passes without reconciliation for peace of mind and happiness

or sense of life passing

or belief ‘if only I could change everything about myself, everything would be better’

or a strong desire to escape, including running away or committing suicide

or the belief that what one does best may be what one does worst: damned if I do and damned if I don’t

or propensity to live in the future–“Everything will be fine if/when/after…”

or distrust relationships in general and specifically with the gender of the abuser

Verbal abusers are usually in complete denial that they are abusive. Therefore, the great tragedy in a verbally abusive relationship is that the other’s efforts to achieve reconciliation, mutual understanding, and intimacy are rebuffed because the abuser experiences it as confrontational. This is so because of their fragility and inability to be vulnerable to create a mutually equitable exchange. The plain truth is that if you are in a verbally abusive relationship, the opportunity to change the relationship is difficult. Without professional help guidance and support, it’s fair to state the obvious: it’s impossible.

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