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Monday, June 7, 2010

More Verbal Abuse

Dear A. B.

Hope the book-signing in NYC went well, & that you enjoyed being in NYC, a great, fun city!

I'm reading a book about emotional abuse. One thing the author states is, "Since the abuser feels justified in his behavior, & seems to have no comprehension of its effects, we can assume only that he is acting out his repressed feelings, & is therefore, acting compulsively. Abusers seek Power Over because they feel helpless. The helpless, painful feelings of childhood that 'must not exist' & "must not be felt" do exist, & if not felt, are acted out."

He can not "feel" his feelings so he acts them out. You have pointed out to me many times that my response to verbal abuse is rooted in repressed fear. My husband's behavior is also it seems. So here's my question, about my side of it. Am I also "acting out" when I cry, get upset, feel desperate? Are these my "helpless, painful feelings of childhood" that I am projecting? I'm trying to understand.

Every time we head over to make the 45 mile drive to see my sister, who is recovering from surgery, something happens to my husband. He gets his feelings hurt by a benign comment or query from me such as, "Should those flowers be cut shorter?" You'd have thought that I'd called him every name in the book. The question was asked in a normal tone of voice, without a nasty tone, but he exploded & we drove the entire way in silence.

I feel hurt by these episodes that have followed, one after the other. I just stay quiet so as not to fuel his temper. I've always thought, even though he's been difficult to live with, that he'd come through & be there for me in a time of real need. I consider my sister's illness a serious matter. I feel so hurt, disappointed, and I must add, for the first time, my love is diminishing due to these highly insensitive, untimely outbursts.

He seems to be getting more & more fragile. Like a delicate tea cup, I have to handle him with such care.

I don't want to love conditionally. I don't like it that I feel this way. I still have been kind to him & am trying my best to be understanding. I also did let him know, gently as I could, that I have not appreciated some of his behavior lately. He wasn't receptive or interested. No surprise there.

Repressed fear, anger, pain...It seems repressed emotions are the root of all evil. How to bring these dark enemies to the light & banish them? I hope I can! G_______

Dear G________

The human psychological defense mechanism is called the "fight-or -flight" response. It is the ONLY ONE we have. When the mind experiences fear from actual danger or imagined danger, the fight-or-flight response is triggered. Stress chemicals flood the brain to enable us the extra energy to defend ourselves.

Your response to fear seems to be "flight" in the form of "hurt feelings," judgment, meanness, buying sprees,]. Your husband's response to fear is fight--yelling and screaming at you.

Why all the fear? Who knows? Childhood neglect or abuse. It is up to each of us to discover and handle our own repressed fear. If your husband's "fight" response to repressed fear results in "depression," "hurt feelings" on your part, that means your response is simply inappropriate. Why should you feel "hurt" or "depressed" because your husband's response to fear is "fight?"

I can't tell you, and no one can, the specific appropriate response you should have to your husband at any given moment. However some general comments might be helpful.

First, your response to your husband will never be appropriate unless you have gotten in touch with your own fear because whatever response you make will be coming from fear and anything coming from fear is somehow inappropriate to your own life.

If your husband becomes dangerous, call 911 and let the policemen handle him. If he is just going through "emotional release" as he might do in some controlled environment with an audience of others who are, for instance, taking an anger management course, then the audience would simply observe and allow him the release. You have not signed on for any such course, but it seems a "common-law course" is on-going, to which you are the unwilling audience.

Again, your response to your husband's emotional release will not be appropriate as long as it is coming from your own fear. Remember, nothing good comes from fear of something--fear of being "hurt," fear of being unloved, fear of not having what you want, etc. Your response will only be appropriate if it is coming from love of something--love of doing the right thing, of being the best person you can be, love of truth and love of understanding what your own fears are, etc. etc.

Don't expect to be able to love your husband on top of your own fear. That only works for new relationships.

Getting in touch with your own fear is not easy and it is painful--which is why most people don't do it. Truth is not easy and it's always a surprise.

Most psych solutions and couples counseling don't start with a person's own fear of someone's ranting and raving, they start with trying to tone down the ranting and raving.

I have found for myself that when I got in touch with my own fear, my responses to my husband's ranting and raving were more appropriate and when he found he couldn't control me by it (because my responses were no longer inappropriate) he simply stopped doing it because it became obvious he was just yelling at himself when I was long longer so "interested" in it or "impacted" by it. Since I was no longer "moved" by all the ridiculous blow-up, he was kind of stuck in it as a one man play with only himself as the "impacted" audience.

A. B. Curtiss

Dear A. B.

Thank you so much

I will clip and carry this paragraph you wrote,

" ... Remember, nothing good comes from fear of something--fear of being "hurt," fear of being unloved, fear of not having what you want, etc. Your response will only be appropriate if it is coming from love of something--love of doing the right thing, of being the best person you can be, love of truth and love of understanding what your own fears are, etc. etc."

I will start seeing a counselor Friday. I saw him last summer for 8 weeks. He's an Employee Assistance Program counselor through my huband's workplace. This service is free for one 8 week course per year. Will show him this e-mail & tell him my goal is to work on getting in touch with my own fear. I want to become more grounded and self-possesed and self-defined.

My husband, I believe, will never get in touch with his own repressed emotions. He can never be wrong, or admit weakness, & looking at ourselves honestly always requires admitting error and weakness. No, he doesn't touch me. He justs wounds me emotionally & compounds the wound by not caring that he hurt me & never apologizes. I feel flabbergasted and thrown off kilter because 9 times out of 10 he becomes enraged over such minutia! You'd think by now I wouldn't be so thrown off balance, but I guess that shows the grip my own repressed fear has on me.

Hope you have a safe and pleasant trip back to California if you haven't arrived home already. It would be fun if you'd share more about your book signing adventures on your blog. I'm sure you met a lot of interesting people & acquired valuable insights.

Thanks again!


Dear A. B.

My husband is being nasty again these days. I have not been overly emotional. I Have really stayed pretty calm in face of my sister's cancer crisis. Long story short, he has been easily losing his patience over trivial things, being fragile, sensitve, easily hurt. He doesn't cry at times like this. He yells, he's nasty, he's unkind. I feel I've been pretty nice to him, and whenever he does do something nice, I thank him profusely, tell him how much it means to me.

But, if he can't or won't be kind at a time like this, I guess being respectful and good to me will never be a priority. Should I just move on? All this unkindness is wearing me down. It's a tense way to live, so often being judged, criticized, belittled, snapped at and yelled at. I just don't think I'm that bad of a wife or person, imperfect though I am. I think I've actually been a pretty darn good wife! I have been good to him over the years through all of this verbal and emotional abuse, pretty consistently.

I'm focusing on my sister right now. Thing is, he has to take me over to the hospital for each visit, 45 miles away. It's always miserable going with him, but once I see her, I'm so glad I'm there, of course. I feel I need some guidance if you can give it. G__________

Dear G________

I have been through this myself with a husband whose way of reacting , in the past, sounds pretty much like yours. All I can say is that when I finally got in touch with my own fear, and dealt with that, then, little by little, my husband's criticism and anger became HIS problem, not mine. As I continued to be unafraid, he began to realize that his anger had no effect on me. He could not count on anger and criticism to control me. I was a free person, beyond his control. Not beyond his effect upon me as a companion, but not as a device that worked for his own ends anymore. Finally he gave it up because he was left alone with it. I was no longer a participant, even as an audience.

The other important thing is that as I became no longer afraid, my reaction to my husband's irrational outbursts became appropriate, rather than inappropriate (because they no longer came from fear.) A. B.

Dear A. B.

It touches me deeply that you share your experience so generously. Your advice makes perfect sense.

Today turned out much better than yesterday. My husband did not apologize or even admit that he'd been jerky, but he was scrambling to please me, which felt like he realized he'd been unkind. For example, he came to me when I was dressing and said, "Whenever you're ready to go see you're sister, just let me know." I went downstairs and mentioned that I would like to bring my sister some of our blue hydrangeas. He couldn't get the scissors fast enough, and was out cutting them and getting a blue and white pitcher to carry them in. The day went on like that. No admission of guilt, no confession, but through behavior, I think he was trying to "make up" for what was lost yesterday.

In keeping with your reply, I was not wimpering around acting all wounded. I was paying bills, cleaning, checking e-mails, getting myself dressed, not moping and sulking like I might normally do. So yes, I hear you, and need to continually remind myself of this.

Thanks for being ever so patient with me. It seems like the same lesson needs to be drilled into my head over and over. Thanks again, G_________

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