Abusive people discount your thoughts, feelings and reality so they do not have to take responsibility for their abusive behavior. If your abuser can force you to doubt your perception of how something happened, what someone did, who agreed to do what, or almost anything else related to the way you understand your world, then your abuser doesn’t have to admit they are acting like an ass.
It amazes me just how little it takes for my husband to want to wipe away my reality. If he had one of those memory erasers like they do in Men In Black he would overuse it just for fun. It feels as if he wants to scramble my brains! Knowing he wants me to feel like less of a person so he can get what he wants hurts. Who does stuff like that? Oh – that’s right – abusive people do.
Some things your abuser may say to you when they want to get out of an argument or conversation or claim justification for their behavior include, “You’re a know-it-all” or “Are you looking for a fight?!” or “You can’t take a joke” or the ever popular, “You’re too sensitive!”
How My Husband Uses Discounting
My husband loves to tell me that I don’t understand how the world works. In this way, he’s able to dismiss and make fun of my observations and ideas. If he’s the only one who knows about the “real world” then he can discount anything I say as naive or worthless.
Whenever I have had a business idea or pursued a home business, he’s found every way to make me believe my ideas couldn’t work. He says that by being critical he is only trying to help me avoid problems. But how is, “Are you sure you’ll be able to keep up with that?” supposed to make me think constructively?
Or, “I’ll tell my friends about your web design thing, but your integrity is going to get me in trouble at work!” It’s a long convoluted story about how that could happen, but here he’s telling me that something he “admires” in me is my downfall. He values it, but he shouldn’t…and I shouldn’t value it either because integrity causes him problems.
How to React to Discounting
Don’t bother reacting outwardly. Your abuser will take what you say to defend yourself as an excuse to escalate the conversation into an angry blow-up. I know it is very hard to NOT react, but this is something you must learn to do anyway. Your abuser relies on your reaction as an excuse to “make it worse”. They want to blow up at you and relieve the inner tension. If you do not react, the abuser doesn’t have the chance to escalate.
They may try to escalate the conversation anyway. It’s common for abusers to follow you around, needling you with comments, trying to get a reaction from you. Ugh. It sucks being the healthier person, doesn’t it?
You can react internally. Reacting by thinking the truth is the best thing you can do. “I know you said it” repeated firmly in your mind, affirms your perception and memory of events. You do not need anyone else to confirm what you heard, saw, believed, felt or thought. You get to decide the truth for yourself.
Based on the book The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans, ISBN 1558503048, Adams Media, February 2003 and my experiences with verbal abuse.