People who indulge in verbal abuse want to keep real people out of their pretend world.  They want to turn real people into pretend people.  They feel they have succeeded if they can get the real person to try to explain him- or herself.  If the real person tries to explain and argue against what the abuser is saying, the real person is acting as if the abuser’s world is the real world, instead of a pretend one.  It is a “win” for the abuser because he or she has gotten someone to take his or her pretend world seriously.

It is better to say, “Nonsense!” to verbal abuse (since it is nonsense) than to try to deal with the abuser in a logical way.  In other words, explaining why something said to you is wrong doesn’t keep the verbal abuser from abusing you.  When people indulge in verbal abuse, they are not being logical.  They are being irrational.  Verbal abuse is all pretend talk….

Thinking about it, we know that no one lives inside another person, so no one knows our inner world.  But when someone tells us who we are or how we feel, or anything else about our inner world, our identity, how we do what we do, or how successful we’ll be, most of us feel as if we want to set them straight, correct them, or give them an explanation.  In other words, we want to talk to them as if they were in the real world with us.  But they are in a pretend world.

— Patricia Evans, Teen Torment: Overcoming Verbal Abuse at Home and at School, p. 21-23

Verbal Abuse Is Not Rational.

Realizing that verbal abuse is not rational, it becomes clear that the man indulging in it can’t hear a rational response from his partner.  But it is difficult for the partner not to respond with a rational explanation.  For instance, she may say she didn’t deserve to be yelled at, or she didn’t do what she is being accused of, even when she knows that rational explanations just won’t work.  It takes enormous conscious effort for the partner not to explain herself to her mate.  It usually seems to her that he is rational and will apologize and not do it again.

Women often talk about how hard it is to remember that there is no point in their ever responding rationally to verbal abuse, even when they know that verbal abuse is a lie.  However, it is important for you to keep in mind that since the verbal abuse is a lie, it is incomprehensible.  You must decide to see it as so untrue, so unimaginable, so unreal, that you simply say, “What?” or “What did you say?” or “What are you doing?”  This may gently prod him toward hearing himself if he starts defining you in any way.

— Patricia Evans, The Verbally Abusive Man, p. 108

What Now?

Writing a novel and living a life are very much the same thing.  The secret is finding the balance between going out to get what you want and being open to the thing that actually winds up coming your way.  What now is not just a panic-stricken question tossed out into a dark unknown.  What now can also be our joy.  It is a declaration of possibility, of promise, of chance.  It acknowledges that our future is open, that we may well do more than anyone expected of us, that at every point in our development we are still striving to grow.  There’s a time in our lives when we all crave the answers.  It seems terrifying not to know what’s coming next.  But there is another time, a better time, when we see our lives as a series of choices, and What now represents our excitement and our future, the very vitality of life.  It’s up to you to choose a life that will keep expanding.  It takes discipline to remain curious; it takes work to be open to the world — but oh my friends, what noble and glorious work it is.

— Ann Patchett, What Now? p. 76-78

You Don’t Have to Listen

He won’t change unless he wants to.  If his partner confronts his verbal battering, if she recognizes it for what it is, if she asks for change and he refuses, if his attitude is, as one abuser put it, “I can say anything I want!” the partner may realize that he can say anything he wants, however, she may also realize that there is nothing heroic about staying around to hear it.

— Patricia Evans, The Verbally Abusive Relationship, p. 34

Choose to Change Your Thinking

If you don’t like what you are thinking, particularly if it is harmful to you or others, you can change it!  What a simple idea.  But is it really possible?  Indeed it is.  And it doesn’t mean living in a state of denial about “reality.”  It means only that we don’t have to harbor any thought, bad or good….

Once I got over the initial resistance, a resistance that was fueled by fears of new behavior, I began to see that this knowledge — that we choose our thoughts and always have, even those hideously mean-spirited ones — can be very empowering.  For instance, it means that no one can put us down and hold us there.  It means that no one can make us a failure at anything we try.  It means that we are as smart as our willingness to do the footwork.  It means that we can change any experience we might be having in the middle of it!  All we have to do is change what is in our mind….

The fact is, we can free ourselves from the past and from any thought that hasn’t comforted us.  When your thoughts no longer fit your reality, change them!  You may have to keep working at it, keep challenging your thoughts and ensuring that they’re not holding you hostage to some outdated picture of the world, but the choice is always yours.  In every moment, we get to choose.

— Karen Casey, Change Your Mind and Your Life Will Follow, p. 33-37


Novelists are geniuses when it comes to looking at trees.  We’re very good at staying still and seeing what comes next….

If staring ever becomes an Olympic event I’ll be bringing home the gold.  While other people go to work, I stare out the window.  I stare at my dog.  I stare at blank pieces of paper and paragraphs and single sentences and a buzzing computer screen.  Hours and hours of my day are spent with my eyes glazed over, thinking, waiting, trying to figure things out.  The muse is a sweet idea, like the tooth fairy.  The muse supposedly comes down like lighting and fills your fingers with the necessary voltage to type up something brilliant.  But nobody ever made a living depending on a muse.  The rest of us have to go out and find our inspiration, write and rewrite, stare and stare and stare until we know which way to turn.

— Ann Patchett, What Now? p. 43-45

Verbal Abuse Defined

Verbal abuse defines people in some negative way, and it creates emotional pain and mental anguish when it occurs in a relationship. . . . 

Any statement that tells you what, who, or how you are, or what you think, feel, or want, is defining you and is, therefore, abusive.  Such statements suggest an invasion of your very being, as if to say, “I’ve looked within you and now I’ll tell you what you want, feel, etc.”  Similarly, threats are verbally abusive because, like torture, they attempt to limit your freedom to choose and thus to define yourself.  Of course, if you have defined yourself to someone, “I’m Suzy’s Mom,” and that person says, “That’s Suzy’s Mom,” they are affirming or validating what you have said.  On the other hand, verbal abuse is a lie told to you or told to others about you.  If you believe the lie, it would lead you to think that you are not who you are or that you are less than you are. . . .

Another common way the abuser defines his partner is by walking away when she is asking a question, or mentioning something, or even in the middle of a conversation.  By withholding a response, he defines her as nonexistent. . . .

Defining statements are the opposite of affirmations, which are positive statements that confirm what we know and value about ourselves.  For example, when a man says, “I hear you.  I understand,” even if he does not agree with you, he validates or confirms what you have expressed to him.  If, however, he says, “You’re too sensitive,” or “Where did you get a crazy idea like that,” he invalidates and defines you.

— Patricia Evans, The Verbally Abusive Man: Can He Change?, p. 5-6


Blame is a way we lie to ourselves.  It is not just a way of refusing to look at who we are or avoiding responsibility.  It is also a defense against knowing our pain.  To face that pain is to begin to mourn what was too overwhelming to be mourned before.  To face it and not blame it on the person who happened to stir it up is certainly the road less taken.

— Robert Karen, PhD, The Forgiving Self, p. 36-37

A Journey to God

Once you buy the evangelical born-again “Jesus saves” mantra, the idea that salvation is a journey goes out the window.  You’re living in the realm of a magical formula.  It seems to me that the Orthodox idea of a slow journey to God, wherein no one is altogether instantly “saved” or “lost” and nothing is completely resolved in this life (and perhaps not in the next), mirrors the reality of how life works, at least as I’ve experienced it.

— Frank Schaeffer, Crazy for God, p. 390