Most of us have been on the receiving end of criticism, to some extent, throughout our lives. Some of us have been raised by extremely critical parents or have been influenced by critical lovers, friends, or teachers. This type of criticism goes well beyond what is constructive. It may be labeled as nitpicking out of an inner sense of resentment, intent on finding what is wrong with a person rather than appreciating what is right.
Those of us who have grown up in such an environment know some of the damaging effects. Being constantly criticized, for example, can leave us cowering and guarded, like a frightened animal with our tail between our legs. This is especially true if we lack enough praise or acceptance for who we truly are. Such a person can end up lying in wait for the next “attack,” because it truly feels as if we are being attacked. (Note: If you have repeated dreams of being chased, “stabbed” or “shot” at). It can, thus, become increasingly difficult to open up and trust. Some individuals can come to feel anxious; that the world and the relationships formed within it are unsafe.
Some people who have been criticized too frequently can even end up walking with their heads down. They can be withdrawn or unable to look a person in the eyes when talking to them. They can end up walking through life feeling perpetually guilty, even when that feeling is not justified. In fact, most people who suffer this way or “take” criticism are generally gentle and kind people who do not wish to hurt anyone.
Other people who are criticized too frequently become like a dog who has been beaten or scolded too many times. They may begin to growl whenever a person approaches too closely or directly. They are on the defensive and may develop a pattern of becoming critical or abusive themselves.
While being criticized in this manner is difficult enough to contend with, sometimes criticisms are made public and directed at pointing out to others another person’s flaws, defects or disabilities. When true, they can have a shaming effect upon the person who is subject to such remarks. When false, the effect can be quite shocking and upset a person’s equilibrium; for it is hard to believe that a person would lie and destroy another person’s reputation or respectability without good cause. It can be especially damaging if the person who commits such slander was someone who was trusted and reputable.
More so than personal criticism, slander has a very isolating effect upon its victim. It forces an individual to remain withdrawn and separated from anyone who may believe in the slander, in order to remain safe. A person who is slandered can be disbelieved or unsupported, even while telling their truth, so this leaves someone suffering from a type of assault that they have nowhere to turn and no soft place to fall.
Sometimes, when slander is used as a weapon, the intention is to psychologically “isolate” a person so that receiving support will prove difficult. This can happen in dysfunctional families, abusive relationships, divorces, political campaigns, or corporate takeovers. The main intention of the person doing the slandering is to get the public or others to lose faith in a person; to stop supporting them so that support can be maintained for the person who is engaging in slander.
When slander is relatively minor, it is simply called gossip. Gossip may become used as an unconscious type of weapon when we either see someone as weaker than we are (because weakness can make us feel uncomfortable), or when we see someone as too superior or having rejected us (which can provoke jealousy, envy, or a desire to knock a person down a peg). In such cases, it seems to be driven by inner resentment toward the person being gossiped about. Gossip occurs so often that it may be hard to understand the harm that is done or the hurt it causes.
Legal slander, on the other hand, is a more severe form of gossip and done with the intent to be deceptive or to smear a person’s good name. With this type of slander, there is usually a subtle (or not so subtle) drive to sever a person from their support systems, whether conscious or unconscious. There is something self-serving and self-protective about this kind of public defamation.
When it occurs within relationships, it often happens when one person is guilty of abuse or wrong doing and so defames a person out of a habit of projection (projecting the other person as guilty of abuse or wrong doing) or out of self-defense (to discredit a person who might be able attest to abuses in a way they will not be supported or believed).
As an example of the later, some parents will send their children to therapists for help with their issues, but defame their children to such therapists to make sure they aren’t believed. Such abused children can be accused of being “liars” or other things. This type of pattern also suggests why we can hear of cases of abused women where their partners are seen as charming individuals while the women were made out to be crazy or other things. When believed, it perpetuates the abuse and enables the abuser, unless the person who is being abused can overcome some of their real weaknesses and break free.
The sad thing about slander is it can often occur in divorces or custody battles. Children can become isolated from or prejudiced against parents who have been falsely accused of abuse, neglect or other things. I have known people who still carry resentments toward a parent who was not in their lives, even though the custodial parent campaigned and fought to make this happen. Some parents are slandered to their children or others that they did not pay child support or other things, even when they have. This can create a feeling within those who are victims that they can never win. It can also result in a person becoming fearful of committing to another relationship fully in case there is the risk of losing everything again.
This is one of the reasons that real slander and false accusations are a crime. People can lose friendships over it, jobs, reputations, families and other things.
So, how can you heal and move forward if you have been harshly criticized or slandered?
While the effects can be long lasting and damaging, all a person can do is work to rebuild their trust in the world day by day. I recommend letting go of needing to prove yourself to others as it can trap a person in a vicious cycle. More and more hurt can build up if a person is continually unsupported despite their efforts to be believed. It may be difficult, but sometimes it is best to let go and allow people to believe what they are going to believe.
Sometimes what happens is that the victim attempts to prove themselves and this places them in a position of weakness (because they are looking up to others to be approved of). Because they may feel in inner sense of guilt and shame within, even if unwarranted, this guilt and shame can become projected in a way that others may perceive the victim in a guilty light.
It is also recommended that a person not allow their resentments to build up to the point they are projected onto anyone who will listen. It is easy when one feels a sense of injustice to want to balance the scales, but it can make a person look weak and bitter, and thus more prone to attracting negative criticism and remarks. If you can stand up to the person who slandered you, do so, but then let go if they seem unmoved or unable to care. Sometimes we have to accept that people cannot support us no matter what we do. They may have their own weaknesses and limitations that they have to work through.
The best way to move forward may be to find a new support system. Be willing to be patient as you heal your heart and start afresh with a new circle in which to rebuild your trust and self-esteem. Select individuals to surround you who are supportive rather than critical. Stay away from anyone with narcissistic tendencies, as narcissists are more likely to use deception and slander to gain an upper hand or control. Most of all, work to love yourself for where you are and the good that you do. Be compassionate and patient with the part of you that was hurt. Remember that it is true that time can heal all wounds.
In the end, remember that no one deserves to be slandered. While it is not productive to be enabled in our bad behavior (making constructive criticism a necessary part of growth), constant criticism and slander is not productive and is of no benefit or growth to anyone. So, know when enough is enough.
About the Author
Mandy Peterson is a psychic visionary, empath, channel and EFT Practitioner. She is the author of the book, “I Am the Lotus, Not the Muddy Pond: Peace Through Non-conformity” and the EFT Divination & Chakra Deck. As an empathic healer and reader, Mandy works 1-to-1 with clients, helping them to achieve clarity, peace and balance. For more information, see Mandy’s website at www.mysticmandy.com.