Sticks & Stones: Why Verbal Abuse Kills, II

Sticks and stones
May break my bones,
But words could even kill me…

Have you noticed that while you are accumulating birthdays the you inside doesn’t get any older? Somewhere in my late 20’s I realized I didn’t feel any different than I had when I was 18 or 22. Now I look in the mirror and think, “Who is that middle-aged woman?” I’m still the same me I was 25 years ago; I just have more experience.

This phenomenon illustrates the reality that who we are is not defined by our physical bodies. Yes, our physical appearance and health can influence who we are, but who we are is not our bodies. Because this is true, there is another reason why verbal abuse is just as powerful, and more certainly deadly, than physical abuse.

Physical wounds heal relatively quickly. Wounds to your personhood – emotions, mind, psyche – often never heal. Time certainly isn’t the healer of these wounds. When you look back at physical wounds received in the past there is no pain, the memory of what it felt like is dimmed by time. In fact, the pain you feel in retrospect is more likely be the emotional/mental pain attached to the incident, not the physical pain.

But psychological pain — pain within the you inside your skin — is just as fresh today as it was 15 years ago. And in retrospect, the pain of a physical assault is no different from the pain of a raging verbal abuse. The pain is due to the assault on your person, as I wrote in part 1.

This is also why the pain of abuse is cumulative. You don’t “get over it” so the next assault is falling on a clean slate. The next assault is falling on wounded, broken places, tearing them down further.

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