The Verbally Abusive Relationship is the title of the book that Patricia Evans wrote in 1992 and is now in its third edition published in 2010. This book has been in my shelf since early 2000 and has remained a book that I have constantly found the need to hand out to my clients. It is a book that I would recommend to every teenager as a must-read to really understand how the way we speak to each other matters.
Certain language can be used to control and manipulate leaving people feeling crazy and confused and self-blaming as a result. Patricia talks about two different paradigms that she calls Reality One and Reality Two. Reality One being “Power over”, where there must be a Winner and Loser and Reality Two Being “Self Authority”, “Self-Power”, where there is a sense of working with another, mutuality and respect.
Reality One is a mindset where the person will dominate, win an argument in order to not feel vulnerable, to be in control, to be the winner, be on top whereas Reality two requires that a person have an unshakable sense of their own value. People may want to operate from Reality Two however may not have learnt the wisdom that is required to understand their own value. It may not have been experienced at home, at school, in the workplace or in relationships.
There is Wisdom in knowing what mindset a person is operating from and being able to act accordingly rather than defending, justifying or trying to convince another that what you said makes sense. If you feel like you are in a boxing ring, jumping around trying not to get hurt, feeling attacked, justifying, trying to be understood, but told, “you are too sensitive”, “it was only a joke”, “you are not thinking clearly”, “you are making a huge deal about nothing” then you are relating to someone from Reality One, who wants to dominate and be in control.
People who control are operating then from a “Power over” mindset and what is important is understanding the tools that people who want to dominate use. Rather than fighting someone using control tactics, like put downs disguised as jokes, withdrawal, sarcasm, countering etc … it is about understanding what tool(s) they are using. Each tool is designed to keep the partner responding against a wall, one that will stop any form of intimacy.
Intimacy occurs when both people feel heard, respected and are self responsible for any reactions they might be experiencing, Reality Two. This leads to more closeness and growth for the couple. It is important to remember that even though you might be interested in intimacy and connection, mutuality and respect, it doesn’t mean your partner is. A Reality One person will not understand a Reality Two person. Therefore rather than expecting them to do it your way it is important to see what your partner is actually doing.
Are they operating from Reality One or Reality Two. This can be done by keeping a record of your interactions on a daily or weekly basis. Look for cycles of closeness and hostility, which will often include, put downs, outburst, name calling, etc which leads to self blaming, being concerned about placating your partners mood and the hope when its over for the nice version of the person. It is important to really get to know patterns. It is easy to forget what can happen when a day has past and a nice experience occurs.
It is also really important to know that you are not able to change the person dominating if they do not want to change but rather to recognise what is happening to yourself, and to move away from what is harming you. To do this you need information and what I find is that this book provides great information about control dynamics in clear and easy to understand language. It explains power and how it can be misused, its effects, the language that is used when operating from control and how change is absolutely possible.
If this resonates with you, then it might be a great book to take a look at and it may also be the time to talk to a counsellor to understand why this relationship is in your life. You might be experiencing this style of connection with a Boss, in your marriage or relationship, with a friend, family, etc …. You might be finding that it might be represented in many areas in your life not just one. This then is a great opportunity to understand control and power and how you have learnt to relate to it.