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Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: YELLING

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.

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.


Monique said...

Thank you for this post, I just stumbled on this looking for something else but it was such a relief reading that. My childhood was extremely chaotic that way, yelling and sometimes physical abuse. I've never been able to leave that behind me and I see that as a young adult it still affects how I see myself, what I do and my relationships. When I was a kid, it took me a long time to sort of.. objectively figure out I didn't outright deserve that treatment. Thanks anyways, this helps.

Melissa Groman, LCSW said...

you're welcome! Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment!

Anonymous said...

I am a yeller at times. I grew up with someone who yelled on occassion or presented her information loud. I have done much to correct it. However, in my marriage 100% of the time I initially and often present my perspective calmly, compassionately, and I begin by taking responsibility for my own actions that lead to the issue. Unfortunately, 100% of the time I either get silence or defense in reaction with no attempt from my wife (for her own reasons) to have a productive conversation. Eventually, I yell in frustration because the other avenues NEVER work. It's not good for me, my wife, or our daughter. If presenting myself consistently the right way almost never creates a productive conversation I don't know what else to do. I am often villified for the yelling, but can't seem to help my wife understand that her consistent silence and deflection are just as painful (in my mind) as my yelling. Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks.

Melissa Groman, LCSW said...

Hi Nicki,
Thanks for stopping by and for your honest comments. Sometimes when communication is stuck, it's a good time to go to a professional third party and work it out.
You make a good and important point about how your wife's silence effects you.

Shawna said...

this is really helping me understand. I am a yellee, I am kind of stand offish when it comes to people yelling at me. I shut down and normally leads to an emotional breakdown. I've been this way for years and i also get angry with them, I get scared to ask them things I wouldn't normally be scared to ask them. Them being my parents. Do you have any thoughts as to why I do this? I have dealt with this for years usually I feel lonely as well as unloved and usually try to fight back but never do, because I normally just shut down and after they leave when I think or I know it's safe I cry and cry sometimes for hours.

Anonymous said...

I am 20 years old going on 21 in less than 3 months and i still get yelled at by both of my parents but is mostly my mom now. As a kid i would get yelled at for doing things that kids would get in trouble for but when it comes to my future i get scared. my mom's yelling felt like threats to me because if im not in school or the military of a job then im out of the house and i cant afford it yet and it makes me scared. the yelling i have been given i tried to make things right but it seemed to get worse over time. when she told me wat i just typed tht same night; i was so emotionally broken that i went for a walk but almost tried to kill myself please, what should i do i am also meeting a recruiter to reenlist for the army in hopes of fixing this mess. help me.

Melissa Groman, LCSW said...

Dear Anon.

I'm glad you posted... but it's really important for you to contact a professional and talk about your life and your feelings! You can look for help online, at
or or you can call your local county or city mental health agency... most will work with whatever you can afford or direct you. Also, you can check out families anonymous for free help dealing with family dynamics. It's important to have support and not go it alone!!!! Make a decision to find a therapist as soon as possible. If you feel like hurting yourself, call for help immediately. (911 or your local suicide prevnetion hotline number) There is always hope... and you can help make things in your life change for the better even if you can't imagine how.
I'm glad you posted.... please take the next right step and find someone local to talk to!