The Relationship Between Negative Self-Talk and Grandiosity

Remember Kerry? We wrote about him a couple weeks ago. He and his brother-in-law had a flare-up because Kerry used some very sharp language to make his point. He felt entitled to “express” himself. His wife, Penny, was exhausted with a lifetime of this sort of thing. She used to quarrel with her husband and that certainly didn’t work. Then she tried to reason with him and learned, much to her surprise, that he could not apologize to her brother because he would feel it was “weak.” She disagreed; she told him that admitting mistakes is a sign of strength because it takes a strong person to do that. I asked how readers think that the story will end. Some people think that Kerry will never change. Here is my problem with that: You have to have tried everything—and I mean everything—before you can be sure that your conclusion is correct. Most people give up too easily. When You Criticize Your Child Kerry might possibly be able to change if he can heal from the original pain that caused him to become so adversarial and sharp-tongued. Kerry grew up with very critical parents. As he said, “They never had anything positive to say.” When that happens, the child is always on the lookout for criticism. He expects it. So, if the best defense is a good offense, then Kerry mastered the art. The problem, of course, is that it causes the very problem it was meant to avoid: attacks. Not only that, it certainly loses the good will of others. This is made worse because Kerry bears a painful...

Normal Reactions To False Accusations

This poor woman sat in my office weeping; she thought she was going crazy. We’ll call her Caroline. Here’s what happened: Her husband, we’ll call him Phil, decided that she was having an affair. She insisted she wasn’t, but he refused to believe her. Attacking a person with false accusations is abuse. He started questioning every second of her day; it became a grilling. Not only didn’t he let up, but the stony silence of dinner was replaced after she’d fallen asleep at 2AM with more grilling. Needless to say, Caroline couldn’t readily fall asleep after that. She finally drifted into a disturbed sleep around 5 only to be awakened by her alarm an hour later. In the morning, she came unglued, shouting and screaming. The children were frightened and Phil rushed to “protect” them from their “crazy” mother. This was the last straw. Now fear was added to distress and anger. Fear of losing her children. She called me for an emergency visit. “You’re not crazy,” I told her. “Your reactions are consistent with a person under stress who is deprived of sleep, and who feels there is no exit.” How many people out there think their reactions are crazy? How many of you are worried about this? Being calm in the face of attacks, especially false attacks, is highly unusual. That level of calmness tells me that either a person has been doing yoga meditation all his life or that he is emotionally cut off from his feelings. Now, that would be something to be concerned about. In other words, it is normal to become upset, and...

Verbal Abuse Scale From 8 to 10

This is Part III of the Verbal Abuse Scale 8 – “You S.O.B” This is overt name-calling. There’s no other label to pin on it but verbal abuse. And there is never any excuse for it no matter how frustrated you are and no matter how badly abused you have been by the person you’re giving it back to. 9 – “Nobody would want you” This is an example of a put-down that has the effect of attempting to raise the abuser’s self-esteem. The abuser believes he or she is a nothing so to compensate, he tries to lower your self-esteem. There are many websites discussing verbal abuse and they all have this one tiny point wrong. They claim the abuser wants to control you when he does this. This is incorrect. As you can see from the statement, if he says “nobody” would want you, then “nobody” includes him. If he really didn’t want you, he has no need to control you! This backwards logic even evades the speaker himself. He assures himself that he doesn’t “want” this person, gets a divorce goes to court, and then seems glued to the legal system. Why? Because he’s still connected. He does want her! He thinks he hates her but he cannot let go. The real underlying reason for his statement and behavior is his clumsy and hurtful attempt to raise his own self-esteem out of the gutter. If it’s in the gutter and he can convince himself that “nobody would want” his spouse, then hers must be even lower down than his. This gives him a hair’s breadth of...

Verbal Abuse Scale From 4 to 7

Part II of the Verbal Abuse Scale 4 – “What you accused me of is dumb.” This is much worse than #1 because it is an overt statement, not implicit, but explicit that the person you’re speaking to is dumb. Don’t use pejorative language on your loved ones! Although you did not say the person is dumb, her thinking process had to be dumb. That’s a put-down. 5 – “You don’t know what you’re talking about” This statement is incredibly rude. It is not merely name-calling. It also goes beyond the “you” statement of #3 for the following reason: “You always do [this or that]” is a behavior, but to not know what you’re talking about says something bad about your mind, your knowledge, and your Self! It is a more global sort of put-down. Now, let’s go one more. 6 – “You don’t know what you’re talking about” (regarding person’s field) Suppose a person is a stock broker and a client says the above statement to him in reference to stock-picking. Can you see how that would be really insulting? In fact, even without the level of harsh language, just the concept alone draws blood. For that reason, the following would also be included in #6: “No, you’re wrong.” Remember who is speaking to whom. It’s not any husband and wife talking to each other; it’s a person out of the field disagreeing with someone inside the field. This line of discussion is a no-go. A better approach would be, “I really don’t understand your field so well, but from my own experience, I don’t see it the...

Verbal Abuse Scale From 1-3 (Out of 10)

There was a humorous article in the newspaper about how a person manages to secure table reservations at restaurants when the hostess has been telling other people that there will be nothing available for three weeks. The gentleman in question says, “I want a reservation, please, for two people, tomorrow at 8.” (WSJ, 12/7/2011, Gardner). The speaker pointed out that normally you would say, “I would like.” His version, “I want,” is more forceful, maybe even rude, so he then tempers it with the “please.” This got me thinking about how helpful it would be if we could have a rudeness scale from 1 to 10 with each succeeding number on the scale representing a more and more aggressive statement culminating in full-scale verbal abuse. The above sentence would be, say, a 2 because the “I want” is rude regardless of the “please” but the whole thing could be a lot worse. This post would be really long so I divided it up into three parts. This is Part 1. Here goes: 1 – “Do you think I’m stupid?” It’s not overtly rude. However, you are accusing someone of thinking that you are stupid. Since “stupid” is one of those inflammatory words, it’s a bit aggressive. A more toned-down approach could be, “It sounds as if you don’t have much faith in my judgment.” 2 – see the restaurant reservations story above 3 – “You always put your foot in your mouth. Why do you embarrass me like that?” While the speaker might be embarrassed, she is nevertheless unjustified in being aggressive in return. “You” is rude. It’s critical...

Verbal Abuse or Being Polite: It’s the Extra Words

I was delighted: more feedback! I love opening emails from people or seeing blog comments; I like that sense of conversation. When people post, I know I’m not talking to myself. Imagine my surprise in reading a comment that I shouldn’t have said in a recent newsletter, “Let me know your thoughts.” Instead, I ought to have said, “Please.” And he or she was right. After all, why should you, my readers, bother to take your time to write? You have other things to do. If I expect politeness on your part, then I need to be polite to you. See, that is really what the function of the words, “please,” and “thank you” is. These words have no meaning of their own. Their meaning comes from the fact that the speaker or writer makes that extra effort to say a word or two and in return hopes the listener will make an extra effort to do the thing the speaker wanted. Tit for tat. That really is the way all speech works. We need a few extra words to completely convert what feels like rudeness, selfishness, or thoughtlessness into something gracious, meaningful, and considerate. And with the magic of those few words, we have hopes of getting our requests met. I had a conversation with a man whose wife was insulted. She wanted to discuss something and he wasn’t ready. Later, he said, “I’m ready now if you want to discuss it.” I asked him, “Where was her perspective in all this? This is about when you are ready or not. How about how she felt the first...
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