Sometimes you cannot take it anymore and suddenly words go up your throat and you spit them out before you know it. Harsh words that pierce like a sword. They are sharp like knives for raw meat and get to the heart of the person before when you do not even know yet that you have thrown these knives at her/him. They are a slap, a punch right in the other’s face, without using your hands. It happens or has happened to all of us. To some of us, unfortunately, more than once. Nothing is the same afterwards, not even if you make peace. Repentance does not erase the damage done. There is that wound, between two people who love each other. Even when it heals, it is always ready to open again, in another fight when things are not going well and there is still the risk of slipping on the crest of verbal violence.
Right. Because also verbal violence is violence, in all respects. It can hurt very badly, even more than physical aggression, to the point of killing feelings and self-esteem, stifle love for oneself and for life, devastate relationships, families, and an entire life. It corrupts one’s soul.
It is a manner of dominating their partners for men. A form of “obsessive control”, as experts define it. Nonetheless, it does not concern only (fake) romantic relationships. Unfortunately, it belongs to the experience of every relationship where there is lack of symmetry between the interlocutors, where one is weaker and more dependent on the other, materially or psychologically, and allows the other to impose his/her will and mortify them with words. Or, perhaps they react with verbal anger themselves to the psychological and moral abuse of the other.
Violence can reside in the content of what we say or in our tone of voice. Even the truth can be violent, in itself, simply for having been shown without veils. It is our choice of words that makes us become aggressors. Words as defense or attack weapons. In many cases, in fact, an attack masks instinctive defense. The site doctissimo.it reads with regard to verbal violence: “It is normal that the behavior of the others irritates you at times. It is the destiny of every couple, family or society in general. Closeness with other people requires to make concessions and accept different behaviors. There is no point in getting nervous because of the little quirks of your partner, or complain about your daughter who spends too much time on the phone.” Then it goes to say: “Verbal violence, however, is not limited to swear words or excess of irritation. It can behind your tone of voice or in the way you address the others. Some comments or words are violent blows at times. They leave wounds, even if we cannot see them”.
Wednesday, May 25, the psychologist Francis Boz, a specialist in neuroscience and a PhD in clinical psychology, posted an interesting article, on his blog psiche.org. The title of the article is “The Devastating Effects of Verbal Violence.” It reads as follows: “When two people fight, one of them is always harder and behaves as if nothing were prohibited in a discussion. More specifically, some people who reflect on the consequences of their words during discussions, whereas other people release all the anger they have inside as if that moment were entirely disconnected from everything else. This dynamic is particularly manifest in couples. Unlike other relationships, such as that between an employer and an employee or between parent and child, the relationship between two people who love one another has to be symmetrical. On paper, his and her words have the same weight. Precisely because they start from the same level, the consequences of not thinking about the implications of what they say are devastating.”
Then he adds: “Who attacks, verbally or physically, does so because (s)he feels threatened, it is a knee-jerk response that is part of our genetic and biological history. Some people have trained their muscles to attack, whereas others reinforced their brain. People use verbal aggression and when they do so, their mind is clouded, they know where it hurts the most and hit there without planning anything. Their mind is on the boil inside and they close up to exclude the outside world. There is nothing you can tell to make them calm down, they just wants to hurt you.”
According to Boz, those who use verbal violence have sharp speculative intelligence, but they are also very fragile; those subjects struggle to control their impulses. Whereas those who suffer verbal aggression apparently in a passive way, are usually introverts with sharp social intelligence, but dependent from an affective point of view. In reality, categories resist all attempts to fix them in a rigid way. There are people who use words without much intelligence and extroverts with serious psychological and affective dependence problems. In any case, violence is bad both for those who use and suffer it, always, whatever its shape is. It eats up one’s spirit, personality, and feelings.
Release anger through words, in stressful moments, is a common temptation. If it becomes a habit, however, it is an actual disease and it can even result in a criminal offense enshrined in a Criminal Code. Also verbal expression of stereotypes and prejudices are a form of psychological and moral violence. “Calling it a minor type of violence would be an error” says Evan Stark, professor at Rutgers University, author of Coercive Control, an investigation of psychological violence against women, in an interview with the Huffington Post. “The severity of this kind of abuse consists in its frequency, not intensity, and in its cumulative effect.”
In a confused and bewildered society such as the one we live in, where many lonely and panting individuals grappling with their difficult lives, where social and romantic relationships are growing more complicated, we need to be educated to relations and verbal communication. The “science” of “non-violent communication” is based on a few simple rules, as the researcher Wayland Myers, author of The Basics as I Know and Use Them, and many others have pointed out. There are three basic principles: describe events, emotions, and needs without being judgmental; avoid insults or a defensive attitude, expressing clearly your feelings, emotions, and desires to the other, knowing that they have an effect on the other person; ask explicitly and calmly what you want the other to do, without pretending anything, angry requests, impositions, threats, or mental manipulation.
The simplest rule, however, is the most trivial one, the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto us. And knowing how to apologize, early and frankly, for our mistakes.