Healing the
Hidden Wound

Dr. Grace
Did Anyone Ever Say...

"You'll never amount to anything!"
"You'll be the death of me yet!"
"Can't you do anything right?"
"You're just like your father."
"I can't decide whether you're stupid or just lazy."

Words can kill. They assault your self-esteem, curse your future, and stamp a lethal label on your life. If words pierced your heart as a child, if they have wounded your marriage, or sent your career into a tailspin, you may be a victim of verbal abuse. This book can help you learn how to deal with the pain in order to heal the wounds.

Verbal Abuse explores the kinds of family systems that perpetuate abuse. Dr. Grace Ketterman explains what verbal abuse sounds like and the kind of people most likely to be abused and to become abusers. She can help you determine whether you are suffering from abuse and how to start on the road to emotional and spiritual recovery.

Whether the abuser is your mother, your father, your boss, your husband, your child's teacher, or your friend -- this book will help you recover your self-esteem, end the cycle of abuse, and, through forgiveness, experience the healing love of God.

[from the inside cover]

Ketterman, Verbal Abuse: Healing the Hidden Wound

About the Author

Dr. Grace Ketterman is the Medical Director of the Crittenton Center in Kansas City, Missouri, and author of several books, including The Complete Guide to Mothering, Depression Hits Every Family, How to Teach Your Child about Sex, and When You Feel Like Screaming, coauthored with Pat Holt.

[from the inside cover]

Table of Contents

Introduction / 7
1. What Is Verbal Abuse? / 11

Part One: Verbal Abuse in the Family
2. Behind Closed Doors / 19
3. Young and Impressionable / 33
4. Sibling Rivalry Gone Awry / 45
5. The Transgenerational Triangle / 57

Part Two: Verbal Abuse Outside the Family
6. Academic Stress / 75
7. Profanity in the Pews / 87
8. In the Marketplace / 101
9. Living in an Irate World / 115

Part Three: Forms and Effects of Verbal Abuse
10. Guises and Disguises / 129
11. The Name Game / 143
12. Permanent Scars / 155
13. The Making of an Abuser / 167
14. Are You an Abuser? / 179

Part Four: Combatting Verbal Abuse
15. Coping with the Pain / 191
16. Abuse and Addiction / 205
17. Doing Something about It / 219

Appendix / 233
Bibliography / 237

[from the hardbound edition]


"Many deeply wounded people have told me about their pain: 'It wasn't that bad. They never hit me or abused me sexually or anything like that. It was mostly words.' These people excused the offenders and minimized the pain because it was 'only' verbal abuse. It was 'just words.'

"Grace Ketterman shatters the myth that verbal abuse 'isn't so bad.' As she points out in her book, it devastates millions of people. I suspect that many who read Verbal Abuse will feel understood for the first time in their lives. With that understanding comes hope and healing. The wounds of verbal abuse are also an integral part of other physically, sexually, and emotionally abusive situations, so I recommend Dr. Ketterman's book to anyone who wants to take the next step in the recovery process."

--Robert S. McGee
author of
The Search for Significance

"This insightful and practical book identifies a major but ignored issue which plagues most families today. Any reader will certainly gain assistance because of the abundance of practical and structured suggestions for change."

--H. Norman Wright
author of
Always Daddy's Girl

"Relevant, practical, interesting, easy to read, richly illustrated with 'on target' examples and helpful suggests -- Grace Ketterman's book does a first-rate job in helping readers understand and deal with verbal abuse, a subject that affects us all."

--Gary Collins
author of
Can You Trust Psychology?

[from the back and inside covers]

Read more reviews of this book on the website:
Verbal Abuse: Healing the Hidden Wound

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Here are seven ingredients of verbal abuse that I have gleaned through my own experiences.

1. Verbal abuse causes emotional damage because of the victim's sense of rejection of his or her value as a person.
2. Verbal abuse may isolate its victim from social activities and friendships by destroying the self-esteem required for such relationships.
3. Verbal abuse creates terror in the victim. The fear that he or she is worthless destroys hope for the future.
4. Verbal abuse ignores the basic needs of its victims. Everyone has three basic emotional needs: unconditional acceptance, approval, and consistency. The victim of ongoing verbal abuse knows only the last of these, and then only in an emotionally damaging way.
5. Verbal abuse may corrupt the values and behaviors of the victim through the use of vulgar language and crude accusations. One young woman told me, "my father accused me so often of being a whore that I decided I might as well be one!"
6. Verbal abuse degrades victims by robbing them of self-esteem.
7. Verbal abuse exploits its victim for the benefits of the abuser, especially from a temporary sense of power -- false as it is -- unleashed during the abusive tirade.

Verbal Abuse: Healing the Hidden Wound
pages 12-13

Elaine was overjoyed at being a mother. Her first-born son was a fine and delightful baby. The new grandmother had come to visit for a few days to help until her daughter regained her strength. Their time together offered opportunities to leisurely reminisce about Elaine's own childhood and anticipate her brand new role as a mom.

Grandmother was startled during such a talk to hear Elaine say, "Mother, there's one thing I will never say about my son! I will never let anyone think he is shy. When I was little, I used to stick to you like glue whenever strangers were visiting. I just felt safer at your side. But you would tell them I was your 'shy child.' I hated that, but the more you said it, the more I actually felt insecure and became shy!"

Grandmother's eyes filled with tears as she realized what she had so unwittingly done in labeling her child. She was anxious to interpret her old feelings and actions to her adult child and find forgiveness. Elaine's mother wanted people to admire and love her child. She was afraid they might see the young girl as snobbish or rude, and felt their frequent visitors could accept shyness more comfortably.

Elaine's mother really believed that she was doing her child a favor by interpreting her reserved disposition as shyness. So immersed in caring about what others thought, she neglected to observe the hurts she inflicted on her own child. Somewhat later, Elaine's mother had discovered that it didn't matter very much what others thought about her or her children, but some damage had already been done. Avoid labeling your children!

Abuse is often unintentional and unrecognized; therefore, forgiveness is never sought and healing is difficult to find. It's quite normal to want others to love your children. Just be careful that you do not try too hard to make that happen. Check out any descriptive term you give your child. Is it one you yourself would be proud to wear? Is it a word your child may experience as belittling and hurtful? Verbal abuse is surprisingly easy to administer, even with the best of intentions!

Verbal Abuse: Healing the Hidden Wound
pages 41-42

Once again, the definition of verbal abuse can help to clarify one's situation. Words and attitudes are abusive when they belittle another, leave him/her feeling helpless, inflict pain that is not forgotten, and in some degree permanently affect the other person in a negative manner. Remember to always check out your attitudes as well as your words. Be certain they are aimed at the best for everyone, not at the transient power of having your own way!

Healthy confrontation includes these elements:

  1. A clear conception of issues, including a broad overview.
  2. An open mind that is willing to accept and check out new information.
  3. An inner certainty of your good-will for people involved in the issues -- whether or not you particularly like them.
  4. A willingness to speak your mind clearly and emphatically, as well as the willingness to listen equally attentively to others' emphatic statements.
  5. The ability to accept decisions graciously -- even when you are not totally in agreement -- and work out the agreed upon solutions.

Ask yourself these questions. Am I proud of being blunt, even cruelly honest? Does this practice lose friends I once held dear? Above all, do I feel that subtle sense of disquiet after a disagreement? When I confront someone, do I later realize that I out-powered him or her? And did I do that maneuvering in a way that made the other person feel stupid, worthless, or helpless? How wonderful it is to discover that you've been hurting people -- because now you can change!

Verbal Abuse: Healing the Hidden Wound
pages 185-186

[from the hardbound edition]

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Healing the Hidden Wound

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Buy Dr. Ketterman's Book

Other Books by
Grace Ketterman, M.D.

Learn more about these books also written by
Grace Ketterman, M.D.:

When You Can't Say "I Forgive You":
Breaking the Bonds of Anger and Hurt

Call Me Blessed: Becoming a Mother of Honor

Real Solutions for Abuse-Proofing Your Child

When You Feel Like Screaming

Don't Give In, Give Choices:
Winning Your Child's Cooperation

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