How the Verbal Abuse Victim Becomes His or Her Own Abuser

August 1, 2019 Jenn Carnevale

Can the verbal abuse victim become the abuser? And, if so, who does the abuse victim abuse? The answer will surprise you, so read on.

Verbal abuse affects a person's thought process, belief system, and emotional state. It damages these aspects of identity through yelling, name-calling, gaslighting, silence, and so much more. What most people don't realize is that once the victim leaves his or her abuser, there is still more work to do because verbal abuse can cause the abuse victim to become the abuser -- by giving life to the inner critic.

How the Victim Becomes His or Her Own Abuser

I've suffered all types of verbal abuse. I've had the yellers and the name-callers. I've lived with the narcissistic gaslighter and, what I'll call, an avoider. He didn't want to talk about feelings, and he would get upset and shut down if I tried. I've suffered the blamers, the accusers, and the passive-aggressive jerks. I've seen the spectrum of how far people will go to avoid their feelings.

After my last live-in relationship, I felt it was time to live alone indefinitely. I think unconsciously, I wanted to know I was safe at home. I wanted to know there wouldn't be a fight, an argument, or anyone that could steal my peace when I walked through the door after a long day. I was happy for a while, but the years of verbal and emotional abuse had sunk deep into my psyche. Even without the abuser, I noticed I was still feeling abused. It seems I broke free from the patterns of abuse, but I gained a false sense of security being away from my abusers, a concept that was illuminated after reading the book, Mastering Your Mean Girl, by Melissa Ambrosini. I realized my abusers were still with me through my own negative mental chatter.

Patterns of Verbal Abuse that Create Negative Self-Talk

After I broke free from my narcissist almost 11 years ago, I lived in survival mode, constantly looking for external danger. I was always ready to defend myself because I believed abuse could be lurking around any corner. However, I realized the fight wasn't happening outside of me. It was all in my head. Years of verbal abuse had formed an egg in my mind and birthed another me--a little me--that was mean, angry, and passive-aggressive. The little me was a gaslighter, name-caller, accuser, and blamer. The victim had become the abuser.

No, this couldn't be right, I told myself as I worked through Ambrosini's book. I'm not like them. But after years of abuse, I had unconsciously learned all of their patterns of behavior. I constantly put myself down with the, "You're not good/pretty/skinny enough," narratives. I was really critical of my work and shamed myself for making mistakes. I also doubted the loyalty and love in friendships and intimate relationships I was forming.

The more I analyzed, the more I heard my abusers coming through. But this time, it was through my own voice. I realized, every day, I was telling myself no one liked me, I didn't have any real friends, and I was worthless. And I was allowing this negative chatter to sabotage the new life I had desperately fought to create.

The Importance of Knowing Your Inner Child

Let's go back to the little me in my head. I had a therapist introduce me to that girl, and she called her my inner child. At first, I thought this lady was nuts, but after some time, I realized there was a little kid inside me hurting, scared, and traumatized. She wasn't really a mean girl. The negative self-talk is what she learned from years of abuse, and she had witnessed so much of it. She reminded me how dad used to yell and swear all the time. She showed me the stairs we used to sit on and listen. She showed me my ex screaming in my face as he broke the bathroom door an inch away from my head. She showed me my grandfather gaslighting me at holiday dinners. She showed me how many men simply refused to acknowledge my feelings and intelligence. The egg was formed during childhood and fertilized in my early adult years. The little me was a product of it all.

Per my therapist's instructions, I started listening to my inner child. Now, when I get upset, I turn inward and ask her why. It's usually because she is afraid someone is going to get mad at us, so she puts up a wall in defense. I make sure to leave emotional space for her at night, being sure to check under the bed for monsters. I also work hard to keep her safe and protected when facing tough moments at work or in my personal life. Because I've finally learned to value myself, I protect her at all costs.

I may have physically removed the abusers from my life, but the lesson here goes far deeper. If you're someone that has suffered abuse, never forget your own inner child. Most of us survivors have been in this pattern since childhood which is why it's so hard to break and why your inner child is so scared. They carry our fears, our repressions, and our traumas. But the beauty of the inner child comes from making friends with her because when she learns to trust you, she'll show you how beautiful and fun this world can be. To start the process, all you have to do is listen.

Are you a victim of abuse who became your own abuser? How are you dealing with the situation today? 

See Also

APA Reference
Carnevale, J. (2019, August 1). How the Verbal Abuse Victim Becomes His or Her Own Abuser, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 14 from

Author: Jenn Carnevale

Find Jenn on Instagram, Facebook and her personal website. She also produces the podcast: Someone Needs to Hear it: Rewriting Our Narratives.

August, 1 2019 at 11:21 am

gentle and beautifully shared

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