Your words hurt, you know?

by Claudia Ravaldi


You can be violent without lifting a finger. Sometimes it is enough to open your mouth, raise your eyebrows or roll your eyes upwards. When we express devaluing judgments about our interlocutor, with the mouth or with the face, we commit, (often) without being aware of it, verbal and / or psychological abuse.

Verbal abuse and violence are the main constituents of psychological violence, which often manifests itself starting from verbal and psychological abuse, with a bad use of silence or the deliberate use of communication barriers. Even if verbal abuse can have characters of occasionality, and therefore not be repeated, psychological violence is configured as a series of events repeated over time. An ongoing relationship (between father and daughter, between teacher and pupil, between doctor and patient) can therefore hide verbal and psychological abuses, which are absorbed by the relationship, and are not immediately visible by the victim, who initially mistakes the abuse for “advice” or “facts”.

This is the case with phrases such as: “You are not capable of having children, better if you adopt “or”It wasn’t even a baby, but a bunch of cells, what are you crying for? ” or “At 21 weeks they are fetuses, not babies “and many and many others, which have remained indelible in the ears of thousands of women struggling with pregnancies, labor and births complicated by the death of their expected children. At a safe distance, these phrases sound unpleasant, perhaps rude, but nothing more. They do not take, at a safe distance. Because at a safe distance we are stronger and we can protect ourselves from any abuse. Too bad that a woman just struck by perinatal bereavement, perhaps still in labor or just discharged from the hospital, is so annihilated by bereavement that they take as truthful , or likely , statements like these.

Verbal abuse is also commonly used in the media and the media: we find frequent examples in our daily lives, on TV and on social media and in places of ordinary life. Verbal abuse is so widespread that it is often considered normal , lawful and even ” useful ” for the interlocutor / victim of abuse.

In fact, the objective for which verbal abuse is used is not necessarily to harm the interlocutor, or to “hurt” him. As we have already said, they can be entirely occasional, in the context of a relationship up to that moment sufficiently respectful.

Often those who use words or facial expressions in an improper and abusive way strongly emphasize some reasons in support of the abuse committed: I said this to encourage, motivate, console, convince a guy , who unexpectedly reacted badly. He is too sensitive and touchy, if he takes it. Basically they are just words.

According to the abuser, the starting reasons for the verbal abuse perpetrated by him are noble: they tend to improve the life of the abuser, they have the purpose of correcting some of his thoughts or moods, or behaviors, for his exclusive good. .

The verbal abuser in fact thinks he knows many things that escape the abused, and therefore, with his words and his disapproving faces, he aims to inform his interlocutor, to unblock an otherwise too complex situation.

If we ask the verbal abuse of the well received, he will answer that no, the goal of encouraging, motivating, consoling, convincing has not been achieved at all, that there has been no significant and lasting improvement in his quality of life and that the only effect derived from the verbal abuse was increasing the discomfort and malaise, making the situation worse.

Verbal abuse begins with the intent to improve a situation, but is perceived by the interlocutor as an aggravating circumstance of the starting situation.

It is evident that at the basis of verbal abuse there is often a misunderstanding about communication, about the relationship, and about the function of communication in the relationship. Often the abuser does not realize they are abusing, because they do not have a sufficiently developed sense of the relational boundary. He thinks he can invade the intimate, private and subjective spaces of the interlocutor with his opinions and feelings, assuming he is right (and the abused, obviously, wrong). This important relational misunderstanding (no reciprocity, no parity, no inherent respectability, but a vertical distance between the up, abusive and down, abused position) can have very serious consequences not only on the relationship between the abuser and the abuser, but in the long term also on the psychophysical well-being of both the abuser (even without knowing it!) and those who are victims of abuse (who must often extricate themselves between the rational aspects of an abusive communication and the emotional ones)

Dell ‘verbal abuse after a perinatal bereavement on CiaoLapo we have spoken several times: here in the forum the parents have discussed in a very articulate way about verbal violence and inappropriateness of some sentences of both ordinary people and health workers, while here we talked about trauma by exploring the traumatogenic effects of verbal abuse and secondary trauma to this type of abuse.

Finally, on La morte in -este I dedicated a long chapter to bad communication and its effects in the elaboration of grief: many guidelines, including the guidelines of the SANDS, masterfully underline the role of good communication in the care of those affected. from perinatal bereavement.

Attention to the language used, to verbal and non-verbal communication, to the therapeutic relationship should be a constituent part of the daily life of all professionals involved in the care, especially of women and children: the advantages of training in this sense are now known, as repeatedly expressed by Italian operators in some of ours research and publications . Since 2008 with Cristina Fiore we have structured a specific training program for the helping relationship, ComuniCare, which has met with keen interest among operators in the maternal-infant sector and has made it possible to improve the approach to perinatal bereavement and to the management of physiological and low, medium and high risk pregnancy, in compliance with all the stakeholders involved.

With CiaoLapo we have been dealing for years with all forms of verbal, physical and psychological abuse and violence related to prenatal and postnatal loss events.

During a highly traumatic event, and any form of loss during pregnancy and after childbirth is, any form of neglect or abuse constitutes a secondary traumatization.

The good news is that together, by following a few simple rules of business organization, training, verbal and non-verbal communication, secondary traumatization disappears and consequently the bereaved parent has all his time and brain available to take care of the processing of the primary trauma.

The operator who works in a non-abusive and non-neglectful team also develops all his skills of knowing how to do and knowing how to be and reduces the stress related to complex assistance such as that of a couple affected by prenatal and postnatal bereavement.

Working on words and gestures is beneficial for everyone. Let’s do it!

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