It is often said that verbal abuse can be as bad as physical abuse. And I have certainly never enjoyed being “disrespected” or “disparaged” – especially in front of others. How about you? Are you appalled by the thought of being degraded by your partner, or by watching it happen between two lovers? But consider this: When people “put you down,” they just might be doing you a favor.
A few weeks ago, I blogged about meeting and listening to a presentation by the brilliant Byron Katie, author of Loving What Is. As she discussed “The Work” – her trademark system to help individuals come to peace with all of the truths about themselves so they can be free to find happiness – one participant asked about coming to peace with a history of physical abuse. Afterwards, another woman asked about how “The Work” applies to verbal abuse. Katie answered masterfully, “There is no verbal abuse.”
The audience member seemed puzzled, so Katie asked the woman to verbally abuse her. The woman called her stupid. Katie thought about it for a moment then responded, “You are correct, I can certainly think of things that I have done that could be looked at as stupid.”
In Loving What Is, Katie elaborates on this point:
There is no such thing as verbal abuse. There’s only someone telling me a truth that I don’t want to hear. If I were really able to hear my accuser, I would find my freedom. The “you” you’re identified with doesn’t want to be discovered because that is its death. When someone tells me that I lied, for example, I just go inside to see if they are right. If I can’t find it in a situation that they’ve mentioned, I can find it in some other situation, maybe twenty years ago. And then I can say, “Sweetheart, I am a liar. I see where you’re right about me.” In this we’ve found something in common. They know I am a liar and now I know it.
When I read this, I wrote “wow” in the margin of my book. What a powerful way to approach life and relationships! When someone says something to you that hurts to hear, hear it anyway; soak it up and figure out how you can use that information to improve yourself. Instead of wallowing in self-pity and hurt feelings, capitalize on the opportunity to get to know yourself better, and to accept and embrace the parts of yourself that you don’t like, (which you obviously don’t if having them pointed out upsets you). It is an opportunity for reflection and growth.
Upon further consideration, you might discover that whatever was said about you isn’t really something you want to change at all. It might be something that people usually consider to be negative but that actually serves you well – like selfishness (which I think is not only a good thing, but an impossibility to avoid). Or you may discover that there are things about yourself that you weren’t aware of but want to change, shifts that would make you happier in the long run. It’s only verbal abuse if you let it be; instead, consider it something to be grateful for – insight into the most important person in your life … you.
Either way, knowledge is power. And the more you know about yourself, the easier it will be for you to become a more Powerful Person in a Partnership.
PS: To become a Frank Love sponsor you can make a one-time contribution or contribute monthly by clicking on the amount you’d like to donate each month: $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $35, $50, $75, $100, $200 or $500.