Tag Archives: emotional abuse

Says the Editor: More Verbal Abuse

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

It was fourteen months ago that I first brought up the subject of verbal abuse and warfare.

I’ve been studying it ever since then, learning it, recognizing it, calling it out when I see it — usually privately.

But this last time? Well, not so much.

Like last time, it started with a phrase. This time, it was, “It goes without saying.”

Now, taken by itself, that’s not such a bad thing. If you’re having a dialogue and both people have the same body of knowledge, it’s a very safe phrase to use. It shows harmony between characters (or people, but do think of this in the context of fiction and fictional conflict ’cause it’s way more fun that way), a shared history, and even a similiar mindset. Oh, not every time; I’m generalizing here. The point is that there is a way that this phrase can be used to show parity between characters.

And then there’s the verbal abuse and warfare. The times the phrase is used to get one up on another, when it’s used to show that the speaker is lording their knowledge over someone who may not have the same breadth of experience and knowledge about a subject. And that’s how it was being used the other day.

As an editor, I deal with writers all day long. I am also a writer. Put those two things together, and I understand the writer mentality pretty well. We are, by dint of the massive amount of rejection we face, a pretty insecure lot. Add in the fact that we’re working in a field that relies 100% on subjective judgments by others, usually complete strangers, and I’d say we’re allowed to be.

So long as we support each other and help each other, that’s not a bad thing. In fact, it feels pretty good to help out a fellow writer and watch them grow and gain success.

But that’s not what was happening here. One writer was using “It goes without saying” as a way of lording it over others in the group that the topic of discussion was basic knowledge.

Remember: I work with writers daily. Writers who aren’t myself. The subject at hand didn’t go without saying; it was stuff I say to my clients and my friends and even casual acquaintances I’ve run across at various meetings and workshops. The scenario usually goes like this:

“I used X publisher and I wasn’t happy with how they handled…” they’ll say.

“Is it in the contract?” I’ll ask as gently as I can.

“Well, no. But they said…”

“Specifically? Did you ask? Did you ask if they could put it in writing? Did you talk to other authors who’ve used that publisher?”

“Well… no…”

I’ve had variations of this conversation more times than I can count. And each time it kills me. They didn’t know to ask. They didn’t know they could ask. They didn’t know they should.

“Lesson learned for next time,” I tell them and encourage them to contact me if they need to be walked through any steps along the way. I’ll hold their hand, I’ll give them suggestions based on my experience, I’ll let them bounce ideas off me. Many do. Many get referred to lawyers or others who I think can help them make informed decisions, too, because Lord knows I don’t have all the answers. Just hopefully experience and contacts to people who do have more answers.

And that’s the scenario I keep flashing back to as I consider what was going on between me and the other writer. She had experience she could have been sharing with the group, supporting them and helping them make really smart business decisions. Instead, she chose to lord it over them, needing to raise herself up over them. The discussion did need to be had, the questions did need to be specifically stated. Making a statement like “That goes without saying” to an observer who didn’t realize this set of questions should have been second nature makes their IWI kick up something fierce. That writerly insecurity… it’s a vicious little bastard. There’s no need to feed it, and a phrase like, “It goes without saying” turns into verbal abuse the second someone feels bad about themselves because they did need the information to be discussed.

I knew we’d crossed the line between simple lack of audience awareness (which is not a good thing for an author to do! Know who your audience is often gets cited as a top rule for a writer to consider) and into verbal warfare with a potential for abuse when she explained to me that “It goes without saying” was a phrase.

Wow. Ya THINK?

Of course, this wasn’t the first interaction with her, either. She’s been making a point of one-upping me for a couple months now. Until this, I ignored her. But this time, I called her on it. And what do you think happened?

Refer to the end of the last post about verbal warfare and abuse. Because it was the same damn thing: a clumsy attempt at a classic redirect, gaslight, and abuse.

So. As you work on your fiction, unless your character needs verbal warfare, unless he or she is a gaslighter, unless you’re willing to deal with abuse, be mindful of the phrases you use. Both “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again” and “It goes without saying” are common phrases in our lexicon. Think about the message you’re sending when you use them. Are you speaking to someone on the same level? Or are you engaging in verbal abuse and warfare?

And if it’s the latter, why?

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Tip O’ the Iceberg

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

It kinda boggles me that I have to say this, but… here goes.

Vague, bombastic comments are a hallmark of our current Narcissist in Chief. He loves them.

But guess what?

They’re a form of narcissistic abuse.

Once again, I’m faced with the difficulties imposed by narcissistic abuse. It’s sneaky. Pernicious. Insidious. (Not sure of the difference? See what Merriam-Webster has to say!)

And it’s hard to remember that not everyone has learned to spot it so easily.

So. Let me break this one (and all the other vague statements) down.

These sorts of vague statements are a tease, a way to keep you coming back for more. How often do your local TV news broadcasts tease you like this? “Did that really happen? Find out at five!”

And, of course, anyone my age or older remembers Who Shot JR?

This is one of the reasons this form of abuse is so effective: we’re used to it. Acclimated to it, accustomed to it. We almost don’t think about it.

But we should. And we need to.

Because a narcissist uses this sort of vague tease to control you. To keep you sitting at his feet, salivating and anxious for the next tidbit that he’s going to dole out… whenever he sees fit to. Which could be soon, or it could be later, or it could be never because most likely, there was never anything to wait for. No iceberg, and no tip of it. At least the news media delivers on that promise to tell the story during the 5 p.m. newscast. After a looooooong summer of wondering, the world found out who shot JR.

A narcissist, though, won’t give you the answers. For one thing, he’ll tell you that you’re not worthy of being answered… but he will never admit that the second he feels he’s losing you, you are suddenly worthy. That’s when he will set his hook, cast his bait, and you’re caught up in his cycle once again.

Truth be told, he’s not interested in satisfying you; he’s interested in keeping you close, your attention fixed on him. He’s oh, so very vested in watching his victims run in circles, trying to figure out what he’s talking about. That confusion you feel, that need to know, to be seen, to be acknowledged. It feeds his need. He’s got you, his captive audience, and it’s sooo good. All that attention, hanging on his every word. He never has to explain himself, instead using a word here, another tease there, and he’ll watch his minions spin off into emotional reactions that allow all reason to fly out the window. They’ll continue to sit at his feet and salivate, and they’ll always be at the ready to do his bidding… because they’re always waiting for a satisfaction that never comes.

This, friends, is abuse via control. It’s a deliberate manipulation of your attention, your choices, your focus, your thoughts. It’s a constant keeping you on tenterhooks, constantly keeping you craving his attention, his favoritism. He’ll take you to the point where you don’t know what’s real and what’s not, where you are so utterly dependent on him that you couldn’t identify which way was up if you lay on your back on the ground and stare at the sky.

Don’t fall for it.

When the Narcissist in Chief makes these kinds of statements — and let’s face it, if he did it on Facebook, we’d all accuse him of vaguebooking and be angry with him — ignore them for the gaslighting and abuse they are. Don’t reply to him, don’t use his name.

But do call out the behavior. Do teach others what to look for, how to recognize the abuse for what it is. Talk amongst yourselves, not to him.

It’ll drive him crazy and make him escalate, sure. But it’ll also drive him to make mistakes — and that’s when we’ll all begin to really see the winning happen.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail