How to deal with verbal attacks from your loved ones.
Relationship Advice Tips from Dr. Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.
Feeling small after your loved one attacks you!
Are you the butt of attacks from your loved one?
Do you feel ‘got at’ for no particular reason and try to fight back unsuccessfully? Maybe you have tried placating, ignoring or using reason and logic as counter moves with better results.
When you feel personally bad mouthed, it’s hard not to take it seriously and attempt to right the wrong. But when all your strategies appear ineffective your sense of fear and anxiety makes you put up walls in an effort to protect yourself, disconnecting from the relationship.
What if you could deal with the experience of feeling attacked in a way that maintained your sense of safety and connection?
What if you could handle the verbal abuse directed at you without buying into the awful things your loved one was accusing you of?
It’s entirely possible if you follow Petra’s lead in taking back the authority and power she had unconsciously given to her partner Gerry.
Tired and burdened with work problems Petra came home one Friday night to face a barrage of insults from her angry and disgruntled partner. Gerry accused her of not making meals for the family and dumping a load of chores on his overworked shoulders-as usual!
photograph copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.
Petra buys into Gerry's insults and shrinks inside, depleting herself of power and self-worth.
Gerry puffed himself up and told Petra he wasn’t going to take it anymore! He was going to stand up for himself and make sure he was treated with respect. He started ranting about what he was going to do and what he wasn’t going to do – the back drop being Petra- the one he had to fight in order to assert his rights.
Petra was dumbstruck during and after the outburst. Despite knowing that Gerry’s accusations were not true, some other part of her believed it, making her feel small and incidental. It was as if she were back on the porch with her screaming father accusing her of spoiling his food or his fun or his sleep! She believed her father, and now she believed Gerry.
Shaking with indignation and fear Petra tried to express her confusion in a calm manner. Being mousey had worked to quiet her father. Unfortunately it made Gerry goad her to be honest about her experience – thinking of him as a pig and saying it out loud!
Petra didn’t rise to the bait but retreated in hurt silence. She didn’t want to be provoked into being like her father or Gerry, but nor did she want to be reduced to feeling like she did as a little girl – bad, in the way, a nuisance, useless and unloved.
The dilemma was stark. Either buy into Gerry’s nonsense and relive the past all over again, or perceive Gerry’s attacks as a statement about his needs without taking it upon herself to absorb the fall out.
photograph copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.
Gerry and Petra flex their emotional muscles on an equal footing and restore the balance in their relationship
As Petra worked on her fear and anger about the sustained attacks, she became aware that Gerry, like herself never had a chance to discover his metal and prove his ability to stand up for himself as a kid. That’s what he was doing now. He was putting Petra in the role of an authority figure and flexing his emotional muscles.
Gerry wasn’t attempting to diminish Petra or turn her into a bumbling ball of fear.
That wouldn’t give him the chance to feel equal. He was just performing and practicing his new found sense of power as anyone does when they discover something new that is exciting and fills them with self-worth.
As Petra’s work in therapy progressed she was able to understand that she needed to do exactly what Gerry had accomplished – fill herself up with a sense of worth, practice her right to be treated respectfully and take back the authority she had given Gerry.
Petra soon began to distinguish between what Gerry might say about her in one of his practicing modes and what was real and true.
She didn’t take it personally as if it were coming from a father like figure who must know best. She gave herself the honor of knowing herself best and putting it out there. She too flexed her power muscles and became Gerry’s equal.
Now that Petra and Gerry communicate on equal terms, there is no need for attack and retreat, winners and losers, just times to perform the art of self-empowerment.
Copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.
Disclaimer: this article is for informational and educative purposes only. Dr. Raymond is not responsible for any reactions you may have when reading the content or using the suggestions therein. Interacting with this material does not constitute a therapeutic relationship with Dr. Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.