Posted by: Lea | January 27, 2009

Dealing With Verbal Abuse

Are you in a situation where you are exposed to someone who tries to manipulate you, won’t take no for an answer or intimidates you with insults or threats? Is there someone who speaks to you, or about you to others, in a demeaning way? This is called verbal abuse. It’s also mental and emotional abuse. Even when it’s used in the context of joking, it’s abusive if it puts you down or makes you uncomfortable in some way. Verbal abuse can  come from anyone, your boss, coworkers, family and friends.

There seems to be a pattern where I’m exposed to verbally abusive people despite my efforts to stay away from such people. It makes me wonder what lesson I am suppose to learn from these experiences. I have come to the conclusion that I need to learn how to manage abusive people.

I really dislike confrontations and try to avoid them. But when such negative behavior is repeated, something has to be done.  Ideally, the answer would be to remove the person from my life. But, that is not always immediately possible. And having done that in the past, only to experience it again through someone else, I have to ask myself, what alternatives am I missing that would be of benefit to me and such situations?

Because I’m a quiet, none argumentative, none confrontational, friendly and sympathetic person, who tends to look at things in a different way than the majority of people, I think people tend to mistake me as weak, easy to influence, control and manipulate. Excellent ingredients for attracting abusive people.

So I am trying to learn how to deal with such people without my taking on their anger or fueling the abuse.

I did a search for dealing with verbally abusive people and found various versions of a Buddha story.

A very angry man interrupted one of the Buddha’s lectures and proceeded to verbally abuse him by hurling insults. The Buddha just sat there calmly. Finally the man asked the Buddha why he failed to respond to the insults and abuse. The Buddha replied, “If someone offers you a gift, and you decline to accept it, to whom does the gift belong?” The man replied, “To the one who offered it.” Buddha responded, “Then I decline your abuse and request you keep it for yourself.”

Reading that story made me realize that I was accepting the gift of abuse. I understand that now and I would like to know how I can let that unwanted gift remain with it’s source and true owner. What method or tool could I use to best accomplish this?

I found information on this through Steve Pavlina‘s blog. You can click his name to read his entire article.

Steve suggests when someone is being irrational and abusive, mentally decline the gift by letting that person keep their anger and insanity, not letting it affect you.

“Well,” you might be thinking, (as I was), “that’s easier said than done,” and “If I could do that, I wouldn’t be here looking for answers on how to deal with verbally abusive people.”

One suggestion was to use visualization and Steve used his own technique as an example. Visualize the anger as a red energy that bounces of you or passes through you and returns to its source.

I can do that! I use visualization all the time and find it quite useful for many things. Wish I had thought of that myself.

Steve goes on to say that this visualization serves as a message to his subconscious mind to acknowledge that the anger belongs to the other person. Therefore, it helps to buffer the other person’s affect on your emotional state.

He also goes on to say:

“Sometimes it’s better to respond to an angry person with some shouting of your own and then slowly bring them back down. I also mentally acknowledge that it’s probably a lack of love and happiness in their life that causes them to behave as they do.”

In my case, getting angry or losing my temper only makes me feel worse and tends to add to the situation, not defuse it. The obvious is to remove such people from my life, which I have done in the past. But, it’s not always immediately possible. Or possibly you feel the person just needs to be retrained. You can read about that in Steve’s article too.

I like using visualization and find it quite useful for many things. So I am going to try it the next time someone is being verbally abusive.

I do have one question though. I’m a healer by nature, so what  if I were to heal that red energy ball of anger with white light, then send it back to it’s source?

I’m thinking that if the energy is returned to them healed, instead of simply returning their anger back to them, the person being abusive might experience a more positive affect.

What do you think?


  1. Wonderful article,Lea. I particularly like the Buddha story. I had heard the story, but did not know where it came from.
    Pavlina makes a good point, for bring a person from their place to yours.

    One thing about Pavlina’s perspective, and healing, I think some people have so much invested in their suffering (anger, etc) that they are are afraid of who they would be without it–they associate their very identity/existence with it. In those cases, they do not wish to be ‘healed.’

    blessings and continued inspiration, dear one,

  2. Lea

    I just love that Buddha story – simple and insightful. Fortunately I rarely have to deal with verbal abuse and probably seek people and situations where I’m unlikely to be faced with it.

    When I do get it it’s usually from people close to me so I have more interest in dealing with it. I’ve learned to empathise with them which means I try not to hear the words (hard when they’re addressed to me) but to hear what’s underlying the words. What feelings are they trying to express? What needs or values are not getting looked after? What do they really want from me right now? 9 times out of 10 that kind of attention usually clams them down and we can deal with whatever is really bothering them.

    If it’s coming from someone who’s not close to me and I have no interest or energy to try to understand, then I just protect myself by running away (physically, if possible).

    Thanks for the post!

  3. Actually I was going to leave you a comment about this Lea, but it took me a long time to work through my own issues dealing with mental and verbal abuse not to mention the physical which almost always goes along and I just couldn’t find the words to express what I don’t want to remember…. I wish you and your daughter love and peace and your family of course, but your energy will provide.


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