Three Facts About Abusive Body Language That You Probably Didn’t Know

What’s the most ancient form of communication, still existing in full force in the animal world? You got it–body language. Oh, those rolling eyeballs that speak volumes! The nasty piece about body language is that people “read” it unconsciously and only register it as weird when the spoken language and the body aren’t saying the same thing. Let’s take an example: “Oh, sweetie, you can talk to me any time.” Sounds nice, inviting, warm, right? Now suppose someone said that with a frown, or in such an undertone that it was barely audible, or with their nose in a book. Wouldn’t that be confusing? The listener would be forgiven if she or he wasn’t sure if it were sincere. So, suppose someone was saying, “I respect you,” but they were looking bored, eyes cast off at a spot on the floor. What message would the listener hear? Suppose a mother says, “I love you” but her arms are stiff as she holds her little child. Suppose your own true love holds your hand very, very loosely as you walk down the street. Can you see how each of these gestures of the body convey an unclear meaning or one that is the opposite from the spoken one? Here are some rules of words and deeds: 1. If words and deeds don’t match, the listener doesn’t believe the words. In other words, the deeds rule. Usually, the listener doesn’t know why. In other words, the action speaks to the unconscious so the listener doesn’t consciously know what was communicated. He just feels uncomfortable. Or, the listener could come to believe...

Attraction: What If Two Victims of Abuse Marry Each Other?

People can be verbally, emotionally, sexually, or physically abused; there’s also exposure to substance abuse, borderline disorder, post traumatic stress, and there’s more too. An abused person could become both a victim (say of a spouse or boss at work) and an abuser (say of a child). A victim could turn to eating disorders or even multiple personalities (now known as “dissociative identity disorder”) as a way of hiding from the pain. He or she could just have a bad temper, or the opposite–be emotionally withdrawn–or be depressed, or a not-so-talented parent. Besides substances, a person could become addicted to sex, gambling, shopping, or work. Any possibility goes. Given all that, did you ever wonder why a person marries someone who seems healthy, clean, sober, whatever, only to discover something from the above list lurking underneath? And you wonder: How did I miss it? And when you stop wondering that, you start to go, “Woa! Why do I keep meeting people with all these problems???” Here’s my answer: It’s not your fault. It was built into our souls. I’m not kidding. I don’t want you to think that means we are fated to keep making a mistake. In fact, I don’t even think the whole thing IS a mistake. I think the ending can be good, so hear me out. You’ve heard the term “soulmate” before. Did you ever wonder where it came from? Here’s my take on it. According to the Bible, when Adam and Eve were created, they were actually a complete man and woman that were joined. (I know, I know, you never heard that one...

Emotional Abuse & Power in Relationships

Have you ever thought about who in your family is in charge and how they got that way? When that person speaks, others listen. You might say that this item is political. Who has the power? Who gets to decide what happens? Who decides what is said, to whom, and when? And how did that happen? Did everyone agree that the one with the voice was better, smarter, more capable? Or was he/she just more intimidating? Or was there some very subtle stuff going on that somehow gave one person the power while robbing everyone else? If there was, that’s emotional abuse. Let’s take an example that just came up with someone I know. The wife, lets’ call her Betty, started to explain in some detail why she was able to get free to go out on an errand her husband wanted. She wanted to give him the message that her being able to go out was something of a sacrifice of her time. But, as she was talking, he cut her off: “Ok,” he said, “Get to the point.” So lets’ analyze this. Why should she get to the point? Because he decided? But she decided that she wanted him to hear the whole thing. Who is right? Who decides? Does he have the right to dictate how much she should speak? Just to play Devil’s Advocate, it is also a question whether she has the right to force him to listen when he feels imposed upon by sitting and hearing that whole story. So who is right??? The answer really is that in a healthy relationship they...

Don’t Play Victim in Your Marriage

Don’t rush to get hurt feelings–Stay away from playing the victim in your relationship. Ask yourself one, two, three, four, even five times: Did she really mean to hurt me? Because if your spouse, lover, friend did not really mean it, you can choose not to have hurt feelings. You can calmly tell her that what she said didn’t come out right. You can explain what went wrong without absorbing all that hurt and pain. Why take poison into yourself? You don’t have to! How do we get into victim-playing? Abused children grow up to be adults who know all about abuse. They hate it but they can wear it like an old shoe. When Abuse Feels Normal This presents two problems. One is that when someone is abusive, they might not realize it because they are so used to it, it feels normal. For those people, they might take it and take it when they should either get out of the relationship, or, if there is hope of reform, go to counseling with a sharp therapist who can help the abuser to change. The second problem is a mirror image of the first. When Normal Feels Like Abuse The victim is so used to being abused that everything feels like abuse. So with that person, the partner may be doing or saying something perfectly innocent and the victim “takes” it wrong. That’s what I meant by playing the victim. That’s no good, but being a punching bag is no good either. That is, being a victim when you really aren’t is not good and being a victim when...

Two Examples Of Emotional Abuse

REPRINTED FROM NATURAL AWAKENINGS MAGAZINE, pp. 30-31 Abuse doesn’t have to be obvious. It isn’t that simple. There are some kinds of abuse that call for a really careful look to detect. But they hurt nevertheless. Example: Never praising. People Cannot Tolerate More Than One Negative Comment If Only Five Comments Are Positive Scientists have actually discovered the ratio of negative comments that a human being can tolerate before his heart breaks and something inside dies with it: 5 good: 1 bad. That’s right. People can not tolerate more than 1 negative comment or criticism in 5 positive ones or praises. So what about that kid who gets nothing but put-downs? What about that family where it isn’t obvious, where there is no foul language and no put-downs? Well, the ratio applies to any negative, any criticism, even well-meant, constructive criticism. If that’s all you hear, whether it’s from your parents or your spouse, you begin to feel like that’s all you are. And you begin to think that that’s all life is. Life is rotten. Because, for those people, it is. Let’s look at some of the ways this manifests itself in emotional abuse: 1. the Blame Game. So let me ask you something: Why do things always have to be someone’s fault? I mean, the dish broke, the car is smashed, the whatever is whatever. Can it be mended again if we just find out whose fault it is? Blame is the surest way to kill any feelings of self-worth in a child. Children who grow up always made to feel at fault suffer intolerably. When everything...
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