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 is their fault, they begin to believe they are faulty, they are just no good. The pain of living within one’s own skin when people believe that they are faulty goods is something they just can’t bear.
That is one of the biggest reasons adolescents turn to alcohol. And also a reason for the school shootings. The kid is made to feel worthless by his peers, and remember that 5:1 rule? He needs to hear lots and lots and lots of support and encouragement to make up for it. (Let’s do the math. He hears 5 nasty things every day from the bullies at school. How much praise does he need for his spirit to survive? Ans: 25.) Such a person will do anything to get rid of that awful feeling, including starting to get rid of the blame by blaming others. Not too helpful to anybody, but where did he learn good coping skills?
2. Going for the Jugular. Here’s one that’s so subtle, you really have to look out for it. It begins with the certainty that each and every one of us has flaws. Do we not? We are all human and humans are not perfect. That’s ok with me. But, some parents and lovers will capitalize on the flaws of the other. They will pick on that one sore spot, bring it up, remind, hold it over your head again and again. In fact, it is not a coincidence that they will do it usually when they want something and can’t get it out of you. It’s abuse but it probably didn’t start that way. They were probably treated that way themselves and they can’t live inside their own skin either; it hurts too much. So they try to get rid of the rotten feeling by focusing on someone else’s weak spots. And the only way they know how to get back at you for not doing what they want is just the way they were done to.
Verbal Abuse Is More Likely To Be Passed On To Kid’s Kids Than Violence
These three examples tell us one more thing about abuse: it is transmitted intergenerationally. And here is the most fascinating-and awful-part: Verbal abuse is more likely to be transmitted to the next generation than physical violence. I suspect that the reason is that violent people can see plainly how wrong it is and often make up their minds not to do to their children or lovers what their parents did to them. But that verbal stuff is so hard to pin down sometimes. It just kind of gets by you and you couldn’t quite figure it out. So naturally, you’re going to think it’s normal. You do it too. And then your children suffer. And you can’t even figure out why. Abuse is a lot more than black and blue marks, although it is that too. We have to be really aware of what people say or do to each other or we could be abusers and not even know it.