Questions Questions

There are questions and then there are QUESTIONS.

I believe in asking questions.  This article went on to identify and clarify several things that I believe about questions.  The first type of question James Ryan identifies is the question that is really an insult or a put down.

Some questions are used to intimidate and put down.  Any parent that has ever asked, “You aren’t going out dressed like that?”  Knows exactly what I mean.  For those that are not parents there are the questions like “Aren’t you a little OLD to be doing that?”  “Have you tried THIS diet?”  I believe you have the idea it is those questions used to ‘prove’ the speaker is somehow superior to you.  I hate those kind of questions and work very hard not to use them.  However, it is one I have to repent of on a regular basis.  The sarcastic, put down, mean spirited question exists.  Sarcasm is the language of an emotional abuser.  It is helpful to recognize it.  It is fun to treat the person asking the question like they are serious.  “You aren’t going out dressed like that?” Answer: “Of course I am and I can take you to the store where I got it and we can have matching outfits.”  I usually think of these creative answers about 2 days later than the question.  I know some will come around again.  “Have you tried THIS diet?”  answer:  “I agree with Garfield, diet is die with a t at the end.”  I also understand if I do this it is a bit like pouring oil on a fire but some days I like to live dangerously and it is probably a bridge I need to burn.  Put down, critical questions need to be recognized as a thinly veiled insult.

I grew up in a tiny town in northern New Jersey called Midland Park; it was a blue-collar town, filled with plumbers, electricians, and landscapers. It was surrounded by wealthier suburbs, whose homeowners employed the plumbers, electricians and landscapers from Midland Park. Our grocery store, the A&P, was on the border of Midland Park and a wealthy neighboring town. As my mother was putting groceries in her car, a particularly well-coiffed woman came over and asked my mom if she was from Midland Park. After my mom told her yes, the woman pointed to the Yale sticker on the back windshield of my parent’s car. And she asked: “I don’t mean to pry but I’m just so curious: was that Yale sticker on the car when you bought it?”

You see the difference between the two questions, right? The first one was innocent, which I ultimately recognized once I got over feeling embarrassed and finally hit puberty just a few, agonizingly long, years later. The second question was hostile — it wasn’t even a question, really. It was an insult. ~Ryan

I notice on different websites that people tend to think emotional abuse is NOT all that big a deal.  The questions like the ones above are defended with “I just asked a question.”  Attacks in emotional abuse are often couched as questions, teasing, or other ways to hide the real intent.  I struggled with knowing the difference.  I discovered that if I paid close attention to the person asking the question their face often gave away their intent.  I learned the difference between a smile and a sneer.  I learned that some people feel pleasure when their intended victim squirm or get distressed.  Emotional abuse is intended to hurt.  I agree that every person says something unkind at some point in their life.  We are human and say things that hurt.  I discovered that when an abuser finds out they hurt the other person they are pleased.  If anyone else realizes they hurt someone they are embarrassed or apologize.  I fine tuned my ability to identify and protect myself.

I’ll continue with the other questions in another post.

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