Thursday, October 30, 2008
Have you ever been yelled at? Okay, probably. Do you yell? Truth is, sometimes I outright recommend it. But only when you are alone, safe (fine in the car, but not while driving, okay?), and won't scare or harm anyone. It's a great emotional release, and can really bring on relief. Just so long as it is not directed at anyone. So I am all for private yelling for medicinal purposes. Let it loose! But....
For those of you have been yelled at as children, or get yelled at as adults, you know all too well the scars that yelling leaves. Even without name calling and threats, being yelled at, or around a lot of yelling, can induce extreme fear, anxiety, hurt, lonliness, and anger, not to mention shame, self pity and deprivation.
I have listened to many stories from my therapist's chair. Histories of emotional abuse. Even from otherwise pretty good parents. Some studies actually conclude that being yelled at, verbal abuse, is actually more damaging than physical abuse. It's no surprise to me that people who come from homes where there is a lot of yelling tend to be much more anxious than those from homes where there was less volatile communication.
In fact "researchers are trying to codify the definition of emotional abuse while, at the same time, understanding more about its effects. A study in the July 2001 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry that compared 49 subjects with depersonalization disorder with 26 emotionally healthy subjects, found that emotional abuse was the most significant predictor of mental illness, more so than sexual and physical abuse."
So there are many reasons why people yell. Not rocket science. And some of us are drawn to the drama and the rev. Controlling one's rage takes a lot of effort for some people. Yelling at someone is like a big chewy emotional binge. It's like saying I am out of control, I don't care about anything but me and I am going to blow all my stuff right on you. Because you deserve it. And it tastes downright righteous in the moment. Then the backlash of humiliation bloat starts up and it bite back. For some, this leads to more yelling. What a trip.
Honestly, having listened for many years to both yellers and yellees, I can tell you that there is no good end of the stick. The yeller feels lousy usually for losing it, and the yellee is left wtih all of the above and then some. Or is so used to it that their system shuts down in protest and they just sort of turn off. Problem is, that the turn off usually lasts a long time, far longer than the yelling. Pretty damaging and distancing effect on the relationship.
Not to mention a small child.
So here I am again with my plug for talking. Words and more words. But not loud ones. Not cannon balls. If you grew up being yelled at, you might recall the effect it had on you, and most likely still does. And if you are a yeller now, well, I will tell you that I do get the need for relief. But not at the expense of everyone else. Or even the one who pushed the button.
I am not sure what made me think of yelling today. Just perhaps that someone told me recently that whenever she cried as a child, her father would bark at her. At least it sounded like a bark to her. He would, loud and sharp, say, "BAH!" And she would curl up into her self and want to disappear. It has taken her a long time to heal from this. A long time to be able to cry safely.
And perhaps another story. More of an image really. Of a friend of mine who used to sit at the top of the steps and listen to her parents scream at each other at the bottom. She says that she had an old Raggedy Ann doll that she used to bury her face in until they stopped. I asked her why she listened, why not go to her room and shut the door. There was no where not to hear, she said, and at least she knew that as long as the noise was going, there were both still alive. She always thought one of them would kill the other. That's what her child's mind really thought. She thought that if she kept a vigil, no one would die. Lots of terror.
I listen to the yellers as well. I know it's about anger, frustration and fear. But same deal. Gotta talk it out to someone safe. Either which way. Gotta heal it. It can make or break whole worlds.