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    Recognizing the Put-Down Artist in Emotional Abuse

    “So you really think you can get that job, huh? What a joke! Why in the world would anyone want to hire you?” Jeff’s older brother sneered at him with disgust.

    “Well, I guess because I’m a hard worker and I’m willing to learn,” Jeff responded angrily, feeling that familiar knot tying up in his stomach.

    “Hard worker? Right. If you’re such a hard worker, how come you don’t get better grades?”

    Jeff felt like he had been hit in the stomach this time. “My grades aren’t that bad. I do the best I can!”

    “I’ll let you in on a little secret, kid,” Dennis got up right to him, put his arm around his shoulder, and whispered loudly, “Your best isn’t all that great!”

    “Maybe not,” Jeff replied, twisting out of his brother’s arm, “but I’m trying for that job anyway!”

    Emotional abuse can come from different sources in a variety of ways. Some of the most destructive abusers are people who habitually put down another person through their words. Instead of using their speech to encourage and lift up the other person, they use it to crush and discourage. Their use of language and their tone of voice are purposely chosen to degrade the feelings of the other person, to make them feel valueless. It is almost as if their words become verbal heel grinding down the self-esteem of the abused.

    There is nothing veiled or subtle about this form of abuse. It connects with the intensity of a right hook to the jaw. There is never any doubt how these abusers really feel about their victims. Their speech is littered with verbal garbage spewed directly at the abused. It does no good to duck. It will always find its mark.

    Put-down artists attempt to bring themselves up by pushing everyone else down. Usually their degrees of self-contempt is evident in the intensity with which they degrade others. Whatever the reason for the abuse, its effects are still the same for the abused. Life becomes a verbal minefield where anything you say can and will be used against you at any time and for any reason.

    If you are a victim of a put-down artist, you learn to suspect all relationships. A casual word, a thoughtless remark by anyone else, is immediately taken as a personal insult, a maddening slight on your sense of self. The result for the abused is suspicion and hostility in dealing with other people. There are no comfortable, relaxed relationships and no humor. Everything is taken literally and negatively. This form of emotional abuse is the verbal equivalent of a physical beating and a form likely to accompany actual physical abuse.

    All of us have spoken something in anger that was meant to hurt someone else. But in healthy relationships, those instances should be rare. Even when those angry words come, there is a deposit of good words and healthy interaction to draw on so the rash remark can be put into proper perspective, apologized for, and forgiven.

    Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 30 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others. For more information about eating disorder treatment, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.

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