Verbal and Emotional Abuse

Verbal and emotional abuse are forms of abuse. They do harm. They can’t be simply dismissed with slogans such as “Sticks and stones can break your bones but words can never hurt you.” or “It’s only your feelings that got hurt.”

Techniques of Emotional Abuse

(from Healing the Scars of Emotional Abuse, G. L. Jantz)

1. Emotional Abuse through Words

  1. The Overbearing Opinion–Another person refuses to consider your opinion and forces you to always accept his or here.
  2. The Person Who is Always Right–Whenever there is a disagreement of any sort, this person always has to be right and have the last say.
  3. The Judge and Jury–The person who incorporates harsh judgments of you as a person or your behavior as a way to produce personal shame and guilt.
  4. The Put-Down Artist–The person who uses comments like “You’re crazy! How could anyone think such a stupid thing?” to devalue your decisions and feelings.
  5. The Stand-Up Comic–The person whose use of sarcasm is meant to dig up past issues, drive home a point of view, or belittle you as an individual.
  6. The Great Guilt-Giver–This person uses unrealistic and undeserved false guilt to control your behavior.
  7. The Historian–The person who tells you you’re forgiven but then proceeds to bring up over and over again every past issue to shame you into accepting his or her decisions and feelings.

2. Emotional Abuse Through Actions

  1. The Commander-in-Chief–The person who desires to control every aspect of your life from your thoughts to your actions by rigid, militaristic behavior and espectations.
  2. The Screamer–This is the person who uses screaming, yelling, and name-calling as weaons to control you.
  3. The Intimidator–Intimidation, fear, anger, and inappropriate threats are used by this person to get his or her way.
  4. The Roller-Coaster–This person’s moods and behavior swing from one extreme to another, removing any sense of safety and consistency from your relationship.
  5. The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde–There is a public persona and a private persona that are distinctly different from each other, with the public person using a false front to mask his or her true nature.
  6. The Person Who Plays Favorites–This person displays the “Why can’t you be more like…?” favoritism, making it clear that you do not measure up to the other child.
  7. The Role Reverser–Relational roles become confused and reversed, with the parent taking the role of child, the child assuming the responsibilities of the parent, or the child being put in the role of the emotional spouse.
  8. The Wrath of God–The person who misuses Scripture to get his or her own way and who equates his or her own opinion with that of God.

3. Emotional Abuse Through Indifference

  1. The M.I.A. Parent–A parent physically removed himself or herself from any interaction in your life.
  2. The Absent Caregiver–A parent removes himself or herself emotionally from interaction in your life.

Techniques of the Verbal Abuser

(from Verbal Abuse Survivors Speak Out On Relationship and Recovery by Patricia Evans)

  1. Withholding—-“By withholding, the verbal abuser is saying, I’ve got something you want and I can withhold it from you. Therefore, I am in control. Or, If I don’t respond, if I refuse to answer, I can control the outcome, that is, I can maintain the status quo. I can be sure that there will be no change. I don’t have to ask. I don’t say “no.” I don’t have to say “yes.” I don’t have to be vulnerable. I can stay in control and therefore risk nothing.”
  2. Countering—-“By countering his partner, the verbal abuser is saying, I can think for both of us. What you think is wrong. What I think is right. If I can get you to doubt yourself, I can control you more easily. “
  3. Discounting—-“By discounting his partner’s perceptions, the verbal abuser is saying, I can decree the worthlessness of your perceptions and actions. I am not accountable. I can stay in control.”
  4. “Joking,” “Teasing”—-“By telling his partner that the abuse is only a joke, the verbal abuser is saying, I feel so up putting you down that I never want to give it up, so I decree that my comments are humorous – I’m in control. I can say what I want.”
  5. Blocking and diverting—-“By thwarting his partner, the verbal abuser is saying, I do not accept any responsibility to respond to you as a rational person, so I can change the conservation at will -I am in control.”
  6. Accusing and blaming—-“By blaming his partner for his abuse of her, the verbal abuser is saying, You are to blame for your pain and for everything I say or do to you and for everything that isn’t the way I want it to be , so I do not have to stop my behavior. I’m in control.”
  7. Judging and criticizing—-“By judging and criticizing his partner, the verbal abuser is saying, When I tell you what is wrong with your thoughts and actions, I put myself in charge of you and therefore in control of you.”
  8. Trivializing—-“By pretending that his partner, or her actions or perceptions or opinions or thoughts or concerns, are less than they are, the verbal abuser is saying, When you see how insignificant you are, I will have more power over you.”
  9. Undermining—-“By undermining his partner, the verbal abuser is saying, When I erode your confidence and lessen your determination, you are easier to control.”
  10. Threatening—-“With this very obvious means of control, the verbal abuser is saying, I have Power Over you. I am in control. Do as I say. If you don’t, I’ll . . ., or if you don’t, you might get hurt – implying physical harm by a fit of rage or by an unspoken threat like punching the wall.”
  11. Name calling—-“By calling names, the abuser is saying, You do not exist. You are annihilated, you are now BLANK. Now that you are wiped out, I’m in control, just like in a war.”
  12. Forgetting—-“When the abuser regularly forgets appointments, agreements and/or incidents, he is saying, I’m in control of your time, energy, or reality and I don’t have to be accountable because I’m in control.”
  13. Ordering and demanding—-“With these direct displays of control, the verbal abuser is saying, I have a right to assert Power Over you in an overt act of control. If all the other intimidating behaviors achieved my goal, you will do as I demand.”
  14. Denial—-“By denying all of his abusive behavior, the abuser is saying, I can keep everything exactly as it is, with you under my control, and I will not be held accountable.”
  15. Abusive Anger—-“By being abusively angry, the abuser is saying, As long as I am scary and threatening to you I can have my way.”

Related Issues

Verbal Abuse in School. See Psychological Abuse in the Voice Studio: Feeding Empty Egos by David L. Jones. An interesting perspective for educators.

Emotional Abuse in the Classroom: Implications and Interventions for Counselors.Preview By: McEachern, Adriana G.; Aluede, Oyaziwo; Kenny, Maureen C.. Journal of Counseling & Development, Winter2008, Vol. 86 Issue 1, p3-10, 8p; (AN 28512765)

Verbal Abuse in Therapy. See Verbal and Emotional Abuse in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis How do you distinguish between an emotional abuse in theraputic settings and the unavoidable emotional turmoil that is part of therapy?



  1. Patricia Evans, The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize It and How to Respond, Holbrook, Ma. Bob Adams, Inc. 1992
  2. Patricia Evans, Verbal Abuse Survivors Speak Out: On Relationship and Recovery By
  3. Patricia Evans, Teen Torment: Overcoming verbal abuse at home and school.
  4. Gregory L. Jantz, Healing the Scars of Emotional Abuse
  5. Susan Forward and Donna Frazier, Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You. Perennial Currents, 1998.
  6. Albert Ellis and Marcia Grad Powers. Secret of Overcoming Verbal Abuse: Getting off the Emotional Roller Coaster and Regaining Control of Your Life (Wilshire Book Company, 2000)
  7. Beverly Engel. The Emotionally Abused Woman: Overcoming Destructive Patterns and Reclaiming Yourself (Random House, 1992)


  1. Homepage of Patricia Evans. Lots of good info in addition to marketing for her books and seminars.
  2. Emotional Abuse: the hidden form of maltreatment, Adam M Tomison and Joe Tucci
  3. Growing Beyond Emotional Abuse


  1. “Do not associate with a man given to anger; or go with a hot-tempered man.”
    Proverbs 22:24
  2. “An angry man stirs up strife, and a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression.”
    Proverbs 29:22

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