Abusive Behavior: How to Recognize Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse is more common than you might think. The victim often has a difficult time recognizing it because of the various manipulations that are used to inflict it. However, it is imperative that you understand it’s signs and how to thwart it, because it is in fact a form of domestic violence.
Emotional abuse can be generally defined as using manipulation, fear, intimidation and guilt (among other things) to control someone and undermine their self-confidence, self importance, and ability to get along competently in life. The reason it causes so much confusion is because it can be subtle and elusive. People often don’t realize it is happening to them, no matter how smart, capable or self-aware they are.
How Do You know You Are a Victim of Emotional Abuse?
- Feeling shut off from family and friends: The abuser feels weak around those he or she feels are stronger. Family and friends are a source of support and strength to the victim and therefore MUST either be minimized in the mind of the victim or the victim must be cut off from them completely for the abuser to feel more powerful. This is not always done in an obvious or blatant manner. Sometimes the abuser will simply invalidate and attempt to discredit these sources in the mind of the victim to the point where the victim just turns his or her back on their own family and friends.
- Feeling like you’re “walking on eggshells”: Emotional/psychological abusers specialize in finding things to be offended by. The tiniest of infractions can be blown up to catastrophic proportions in the mind of the victim to the point where the victim is afraid to say or do even the simplest things in fear of offending the abuser. Meanwhile, the abuser will make little of his or her own transgressions against the victim by saying the victim “deserved it” or “asked for it” or “had it coming”. Fear of action without approval or permission is a huge control mechanism used by abusers.
- Being made to feel selfish for asking for things you need or want: This is another way of inflicting “manipulation through guilt”. Making the victim feel as though they are a burden on the abuser and/or a burden on others is a powerful control mechanism. Nobody wants to be a burden on anyone else. In fact, a huge majority of suicides are the result of the suicidal person feeling that by being alive he or she is a burden to another or others.
- Being made to feel that your problems are imagined or insignificant: An abuser will often belittle your problems and invalidate them to the point where you begin to doubt your own judgement. This is all done “in your own best interest” (of course). The victim often begins to rely on the abuser’s judgement rather than his or her own judgement. This gives even more control to the abuser.
- Being punished by withholding of attention or affection: Attention and affection are part of a healthy relationship and should never be used as a “reward”, nor should they be withheld as “punishment”. The victim often feels emotionally neglected and feels like he or she needs to continually overcompensate in many areas to “earn” affection from the abuser. There is a constant feeling of “never being good enough” to please the abuser.
- Obsessively being blamed for your partners problems: The abuser will most often fit the profile of being somewhat sociopathic which means that he or she will mostly choose wrong targets as the source of their problems. For example, if the car gets a flat, he or she will blame you, the dog, the cat, the neighbor or anyone else besides the true cause. It is all part of tearing down your walls and defenses to make you more controllable.
- Constantly being accused of hiding something or lying: It is commonly known that a criminal will ALWAYS blame others of what he or she is guilty of. This trait is not only found in criminals. It is true in the general populace. Those with hidden transgressions will always accuse you and others of doing what they themselves are doing. Don’t let the accusations bother you, just let them serve as announcements of what your abuser is doing behind your back.
- Constant criticism, sarcasm, name-calling, etc.: These are the more obvious signs of emotional abuse and are a direct frontal assault designed to invalidate everything about the victim. When the victim is being assaulted in this way over and over again, sometimes for years, it will eventually take its toll. It causes that deflated, hunted, unstable, apathetic feeling that eventually makes you succumb to the abuser.
- Being controlled by fear and intimidation: This one isn’t always as obvious as it may seem that it would be. It can be as subtle as, “It’s a good thing you have me, otherwise you’d never be able to make it”. It can be as obvious as “If you ever leave me, you’ll never see the kids again”. This is emotional blackmail and is the reason in a lot of cases why a person is literally terrified to walk away from the abuser.
- Invalidation of your goals and dreams: Many times this one goes as far as to make you feel guilty for having your goals because you are made to feel as if the achievement of the goal will hurt the abuser in some way. Sometimes it is as obvious as the abuser literally laughing at the victim’s dreams as though they are petty. Either way, without goals and dreams and without purpose in life, the victim feels useless and often feels suicidal.
If you find yourself at the victim end of one or more of the above, it is vitally important that you take action and learn how to either deal with this situation to a finite handling, or fully extract yourself from the abuser altogether. Those are you choices…PERIOD.