Words have the power to create a beautiful universe for our kids or totally destroy their perceptions of themselves and their world. I remember as a 11 year old being so hurt when my father berated me saying that I could never do anything right. Still struggling to come to grips with my mother’s death, trying to be independent and fill the shoes of my mother, cooking, cleaning, maintaining the house plus coping with my schooling plus being sexually abused, everything was so overwhelming. Instead of being encouraged and supported for doing my best my father would tear me down with his hurtful words.
Most painful were his threats that throw us out of the house and we would have to fend for ourselves, it was so frightening. Now in retrospect maybe he did not mean what he said and did not carry out his threat but as a child I had no way of knowing and understanding that my father was just letting off steam. However at those times hearing my father let out wrathful tirade would make me want to crawl into a deep dark hole and never wake up. Psychologist R. Douglas Fields explains how verbal abuse in childhood inflicts lasting physical effects on the brain structure.
“Emotional abuse is like brain washing in that it systematically wears away at the victim’s self-confidence, sense of self-worth, trust in their own perceptions, and self-concept. Whether it is done by constant berating and belittling, by intimidating, or under the guise of ‘guidance,’ ‘teaching,’ or ‘advice,’ the results are similar. Eventually, the recipient of the abuse loses all sense of self and remnants of personal value. Emotional abuse cuts to the very core of a person, creating scars that may be far deeper and more lasting than physical ones.”
Being subjected to words that insult, hurt, ridicule, humiliate cause deep psychic injury, and when it is delivered in childhood by a child’s parents and close family it causes lasting emotional trauma. It drives a person to constantly seek approval and validation. It makes one a ‘people pleaser‘, unable to say ‘No’ and maintain healthy boundaries. One tends to neglect one’s own needs thinking one is not good enough. When one’s sense of self is so damaged the voice which we hear is the taunts, the insults and demeaning words. It took me over 30 years to finally banish that evil monster in my head, trying to pull me down.
The worst part of being verbally mauled by the people who are supposed to care about you is, subconciously you begin to internalise the message, I AM BAD. You don’t have the verbal capacity to counter the insults. I recollect how I’d recoil when the first words that Uncle Mean would hurl to me when he saw me, “how dirty you are, what a dirty dress you are, you have hands like a man.’ I can’t remember him saying one thing nice to me. Even though the thoughts raced in my head to try and defend, explain my condition ’My mother is dead, there is no one who gives a damn about me.’ I was unable to counter those cruel words. Research has proved that verbal abuse destroys the corpus callosum.
The connections between the right side of the brain (the emotional part) and the left side of the brain ( the language part) gets affected when one is subjected to abuse. The corpus callosum is the bundle of nerves that connects the two sides and integrates the emotional and cognitive aspects of our existence. Coherent narratives about the past require both left and right hemispheres to be fully online. The right side holds the images, themes and sense of personal existing across time, while the left holds the drive to make logical meaning and put words to wordless feeling states and perceptions.
For me healing from verbal abuse has been to start expressing myself verbally, writing my story through my blog and listening to guided meditations which help ed overwrite the negative brainwashing with positive affirmations. When I get up I try to think and say positive things to myself. Of course it helps to surround yourself with kind, positive people and try to stay far away from negativity and evil people.
Listening to healing songs and meditations helps to overcome negative mindsets.
How true the lyrics of Rachel Platten’s Fight Song “Like how a single word, Can make a heart open”. As parents let us be mindful of every word we utter, they have the power to create happy children or destroy them forever.
Wounded by Words: Healing the Invisible Scars of Emotional Abuse
Verbal & Emotional Abuse: Victory Over Verbal and Emotional Abuse (Hope for the Heart)
Stand Your Ground: How to Cope with a Dysfunctional Family and Recover from Trauma
Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life