Counselor's Corner: Emotional abuse with words


Fred Cavaiani

Note: Every now and then I believe it is interesting to look back over the years at a past column. This one is from 6 years ago. We often refer to our world as "constantly changing," but after reading this piece written years ago, I ask ... has our world changed?

People are hurt by words. We often make judgments of other people when we have absolutely no facts. The problem is that we share these judgments with other people. It is called gossip. It is really emotional abuse through words, however. Politicians do this as easy as breathing in air. But I do this and you do this also. It really diminishes us. It causes conflict and puts others on the defensive. Friends can become enemies because of the unawareness of our emotional abuse through words.

Watch television and read the newspaper and you will discover the painful power of emotional abuse through words. Listen to a group of people conversing and you will experience this happening over and over again. It is sad. It is human.
It is something we all practice.

Emotional abuse through words is not going to stop. We can see this undesirable quality flourishing more and more through Facebook, Twitter, and many of the other Social medias in which we participate. Middle school children and high school age students create painful environments for rejection and deep emotional pain through the emotional abuse of words. Unfortunately, college students are experts at this as well. The truth is that we are all guilty of promoting emotional abuse through words. Yes, we send out painful and judgmental attitudes toward other people because we become so certain that our way of looking at things is correct and someone else’s way of looking at things is wrong.
Religion and politics are the two greatest offenders of emotional abuse through words in my judgmental opinion. It is an opinion and you can disagree with me. Yet in my many decades of life I regret every time I have condemned someone with a different philosophy, spirituality or opinion different from mine. I can disagree with someone’s opinion or attitude but how I treat that person in stating my opinion is what I have regretted over the years. I hope age has made me more tolerant and accepting of everyone.

The other day our 5-year-old granddaughter said to her mother, our middle child, “Mommy when you become real quiet, does God come closer to you?” Children say such words of wisdom. She just gave a theologian’s treatise on prayer.
Yes, when we become quiet and listen, we experience something deeper. Usually this means that we can open up to the negative aspects of ourselves and allow love to enter our lives in a deeper manner.

Over the years I have appreciated the effort to become quiet and listen carefully to other people, to myself and to God. Yet I have discovered in each of these areas my big ego wants to judge other people, convert them to another way of thinking and feeling and not be patient to what they might be thinking and expressing. Yet I have discovered when I stop judging others or condemning them in my mind, I feel free and more at peace. When I accept that the world doesn’t have to be the way I think it should be, peace happens inside of me. When I treat everyone with kindness and don’t get bent out of shape by their attitudes or viewpoints, my life seems to go better. And then I seem to get along with everyone because people do not have to be the way I want them to be for me to have peace. Maybe peace results from realizing that other people and other nations do not have to be the way I want them to be. Maybe the pressure I put on other people to change is what stops them from changing.

In my life, the people that I know who are humble, kind and peaceful have a powerful influence on everyone around them without even realizing it. I like to be around people like this. I think that most of us like to be around people like this.
So I am going to work harder at not emotionally abusing anyone by my words and even my thoughts. If I become more peaceful in doing this, maybe I can bring more peace to the world.


Fred Cavaiani is a licensed marriage counselor and psychologist with a private practice in Troy. He is the founder of Marriage Growth Center, a consultant for the Detroit Medical Center, and conducts numerous programs for groups throughout Southeast Michigan. He can be reached at 248-362-3340. His e-mail address is: and his website is


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