You cannot argue with a wall

Often, in bitter arguments among loved ones and intimate friends, things can turn very
nasty. Name-calling, giving the silent treatment, gas-lighting, talking about unrelated issues like one’s family, background, education, disabilities, habits, morals, and ethics, and even one’s appearance, create deep rifts and chasms that cannot be breached. Verbally abusive behaviour is rarely seen as domestic violence in India. Various studies have documented that the incidence of physical and verbal abuse is higher among females, those be- low 18, low-wage earners, those in bad relationships, LGBTQ individuals, and
the disabled. In one survey, results showed that 15% of people are unaware of the terms ‘verbal’ and ‘emotion- al’ abuse while 35% have no idea of what it entails. Verbal
abuse of the elderly is also a matter of grave concern. A report by HelpAge India stated that 35% of elders suffered abuse by their sons and 21% by daughters-in-law. Another study conducted in Kanpur found that the abuse of aged people often includes neglecting their basic needs for food, clothing, shelter, and medical attention. Abusive people feel a surge of energy when they discover a weakness in you. They ex- ploit it, using it to gain more power and control. One cannot reason with them. In fact, abusive persons don’t have
a problem with their own anger; they have a problem with you getting angry. No matter how badly they treat you, they believe that your voice shouldn’t rise and your blood shouldn’t boil. They believe that the privilege of rage and violence is reserved for them alone. Arguments also escalate when we want to be right and ensure that the other person understands and respects our position and point of view. However, when things are volatile, we cannot talk sense into another person. The same goes for us. When we get angry, we listen to the tone and pick out one or two words and phrases and react to them. When we
are replying to apparently baseless accusations in anger, we also need to examine ourselves. Why do we want to convince others that what they are saying about us is
wrong and hurtful? The attack and verbal abuse are coming from deep emotional wounds.
People search for the most bitter and painful words to hurt each other in anger. But where does this painful experience come from? It comes from within ourselves. We will often use those very words and bring up incidents to hurt another person, which, in some other form, have actually caused us emotional pain in the past. So, when we use words as a weapon, we need to examine when those very words have caused us pain. One can usually stop
the attacker’s vicious verbal vitriol from exploding into physical violence by remaining non-responsive and appearing unaffected. One cannot argue with a wall. It is important that those at the receiving end learn to “absorb” and not retaliate. When we meditate and heal from within, we become compassionate and seek to understand the attacker’s agony and unhappiness, rather than wanting to hurt them back. The same action of someone will seem rea- sonable, foolish, unimportant, or even offensive based on our own mental state. A Zen story talks of a seeker who had a volatile temper. He eventually approached his teacher, ‘Master, I have an uncontrollable temper. How can I control it?’ ‘Show it to me,’ said the master. ‘I can’t. It occurs suddenly,’ the boy answered. ‘Then it can’t be your true self,’ said the master, ‘or you wouldn’t have difficulty in showing it! Why do you let something that isn’t you, to worry you?’ The master’s words came back to the boy whenever his temper rose. Soon, his awareness led him to develop a placid temperament. When we begin to under- stand that the attackers can- not help being the way they are because they have low self-esteem, and their deep- rooted self-loathing is showing up through their bullying and abusive behaviour, we too become healed and move further in our spiritual evolution.


Deepam Chatterjee is a teacher, writer, storyteller and corporate speaker, integrating Mod-
ern Life Lessons with Military History, Hindu Scriptures, Mythology and Mysticism. He can be contacted on

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