Just recently the Michigan Counseling Association invited Alice Carleton to present her paper, Society’s Hidden Pandemic: Verbal Abuse, Precursor to Physical Violence and a Form of Biochemical Assault at their fall conference.

What makes Alice’s paper so special isn’t just the academic research she did, it’s her personal life-story which inspired her to study and write about verbal abuse—because she experienced it both as a child and as an adult.

Alice is joining us at Therapy Soup to talk about the destructive force of verbal abuse and share some of her experiences.

Welcome, Alice. Can you define “verbal abuse” for us?

Words which are dis-empowering. Words which tell a lie about us: “You are” words….You are stupid, crazy, wrong, etc….They are an attempt to re-define a person—a human rights violation.

We all understand cruel words, etc., but the abuse can be so covert, we don’t realize what we are hearing. The same techniques used in POW camps, are the same ones abusers use.

What are some examples of types of verbal abuse?

Some categories of verbal abuse are:











Most of these are so familiar! I think we’ve all encountered at least some of these some of the time. But sustained verbal abuse in relationships, over time, especially as a child, damages a person so much so, it may require take nearly a life-time of recovery.

We know you are passionate about this issue, but please tell us why.

Because I grew up verbally abused (and physically abused), and then experienced the same in a 31 year abusive “marriage.” It took me 25 years to find the answer as to what was happening to me.
When I did, I began a personal crusade to make others aware of the devastating murder of the soul.

I was born in a little town in Maine, and except for 3 years in the army, lived in an abusive situation. My mother was verbally and physically abusive.

In therapy and outside of therapy, many say that the verbal abuse feels more injurious than physical abuse. It can be harder to process and “let go” of because it touches the deepest part of us. Repeated, extreme, verbal abuse can be so traumatic that PTSD can develop.

We lived in a 120-year old tenement house with cockroaches and rats (who rarely visited us…fear of my mother, LOL).

It was a childhood of poverty. No phone, refrigerator, car, bathtub or shower. Snow came in through a crack in the wall. I was molested by a drunken neighbor while asleep (didn’t know who it was), and another drunken neighbor held my hand over an open fire in the kitchen.

I still cringe when I hear the nickname of the tenement house fifty years later. It is not a bad word, but the idea that people knew my house by a name was for me…..the final stigma/shame (for me, it was worse than the abuse and poverty combined.)

I was married to a physically and verbally abusive man for thirty one years.

Later, I wrote a book, about the anguish of a lifetime: Sanctuary of the Soul (poems of anguish, healing, hope, comfort and celebration), and am honored and humbled by my endorsements: Elie Wiesel, Nikki Giovanni, Drs. Alice Miller, Wayne Dyer, Ellen Langer , Dr. Larry Dossey, Oriah, and others have endorsed my book.

My memoir: Ghost Child to Triumph (from a child with no voice, to someone who speaks up against injustice) is in the process of being edited.

At age sixty, I won a scholarship because of my writing, and now, at sixty six, I am a freshman in social work/counseling! I am the most resourceful, stubborn person I know, and I never give up (sometimes that is not a good thing).

More with Alice Carleton, soon.



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    Last reviewed: 5 Dec 2012

APA Reference
& C.R. Zwolinski, R. (2012). Rising Above Verbal Abuse. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 29, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/therapy-soup/2012/12/rising-above-verbal-abuse/


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