What is Emotional Abuse?

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What is Emotional Abuse?

Abuse is any behavior that is designed to control and subjugate another human being through the use of fear, humiliation, intimidation, guilt, coercion, manipulation etc. Emotional abuse is any kind of abuse that is emotional rather than physical in nature. It can include anything from verbal abuse and constant criticism to more subtle tactics, such as repeated disapproval or even the refusal to ever be pleased.

Emotional abuse is like brain washing in that it systematically wears away at the victim’s self-confidence, sense of self-worth, trust in their own perceptions, and self-concept. Whether it is done by constant berating and belittling, by intimidation, or under the guise of “guidance,” “teaching”, or “advice,” the results are similar. Eventually, the recipient of the abuse loses all sense of self and remnants of personal value. Emotional abuse cuts to the very core of a person, creating scars that may be far deeper and more lasting that physical ones. In fact there is research to this effect. With emotional abuse, the insults, insinuations, criticism and accusations slowly eat away at the victim’s self-esteem until she is incapable of judging the situation realistically. She has become so beaten down emotionally that she blames herself for the abuse. Her self-esteem is so low that she clings to the abuser.

Emotional abuse victims can become so convinced that they are worthless that they believe that no one else could want them. They stay in abusive situations because they believe they have nowhere else to go. Their ultimate fear is being all alone.

Types of Emotional Abuse

Abusive Expectations

  • The other person places unreasonable demands on you and wants you to put everything else aside to tend to their needs.
  • It could be a demand for constant attention, or a requirement that you spend all your free time with the person.
  • But no matter how much you give, it’s never enough.
  • You are subjected to constant criticism, and you are constantly berated because you don’t fulfill all this person’s needs.

Aggressing

  • Aggressive forms of abuse include name-calling, accusing, blaming, threatening, and ordering. Aggressing behaviors are generally direct and obvious. The one-up position the abuser assumes by attempting to judge or invalidate the recipient undermines the equality and autonomy that are essential to healthy adult relationships. This parent-child pattern of communication (which is common to all forms of verbal abuse) is most obvious when the abuser takes an aggressive stance.
  • Aggressive abuse can also take a more indirect form and may even be disguised and “helping.” Criticizing, advising, offering solutions, analyzing, proving, and questioning another person may be a sincere attempt to help. In some instances however, these behaviors may be an attempt to belittle, control, or demean rather than help. The underlying judgmental “I know best” tone the abuser takes in these situations is inappropriate and creates unequal footing in peer relationships. This and other types of emotional abuse can lead to what is known as learned helplessness.

Constant Chaos

  • The other person may deliberately start arguments and be in constant conflict with others.
  • The person may be “addicted to drama” since it creates excitement.

Denying

  • Denying a person’s emotional needs, especially when they feel that need the most, and done with the intent of hurting, punishing or humiliating
  • The other person may deny that certain events occurred or that certain things were said. confronts the abuser about an incident of name calling, the abuser may insist, “I never said that,” “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” etc. You know differently.
  • The other person may deny your perceptions, memory and very sanity.
  • Withholding is another form of denying. Withholding includes refusing to listen, refusing to communicate, refusing to be affectionate and emotionally withdrawing as punishment. This is sometimes called the “silent treatment.”
  • When the abuser disallows and overrules any viewpoints, perceptions or feelings which differ from their own.
  • Denying can be particularly damaging. In addition to lowering self-esteem and creating conflict, the invalidation of reality, feelings, and experiences can eventually lead you to question and mistrust your own perceptions and emotional experience.
  • Denying and other forms of emotional abuse can cause you to lose confidence in your most valuable survival tool: your own mind.

Dominating

  • Someone wants to control your every action. They have to have their own way, and will resort to threats to get it.
  • When you allow someone else to dominate you, you can lose respect for yourself.

Emotional Blackmail

  • The other person plays on your fear, guilt, compassion, values, or other “hot buttons” to get what they want.
  • This could include threats to end the relationship, totally reject or abandon you, giving you the the “cold shoulder,” or using other fear tactics to control you.

Invalidation

  • The abuser seeks to distort or undermine the recipient’s perceptions of their world. Invalidating occurs when the abuser refuses or fails to acknowledge reality. For example, if the recipient tells the person they felt hurt by something the abuser did or said, the abuser might say “You are too sensitive. That shouldn’t hurt you.”

Minimizing

  • Minimizing is a less extreme form of denial. When minimizing, the abuser may not deny that a particular event occurred, but they question the recipient’s emotional experience or reaction to an event. Statements such as “You’re too sensitive,” “You’re exaggerating,” or “You’re blowing this out of proportion” all suggest that the recipient’s emotions and perceptions are faulty and not be trusted.
  • Trivializing, which occurs when the abuser suggests that what you have done or communicated is inconsequential or unimportant, is a more subtle form of minimizing.

Unpredictable Responses

  • Drastic mood changes or sudden emotional outbursts. Whenever someone in your life reacts very differently at different times to the same behavior from you, tells you one thing one day and the opposite the next, or likes something you do one day and hates it the next, you are being abused with unpredictable responses.
  • This behavior is damaging because it puts you always on edge. You’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop, and you can never know what’s expected of you. You must remain hypervigilant, waiting for the other person’s next outburst or change of mood.
  • An alcoholic or drug abuser is likely to act this way. Living with someone like this is tremendously demanding and anxiety provoking, causing the abused person to feel constantly frightened, unsettled and off balance.

Verbal Assaults

  • Berating, belittling, criticizing, name calling, screaming, threatening

  • Excessive blaming, and using sarcasm and humiliation.

  • Blowing your flaws out of proportion and making fun of you in front of others. Over time, this type of abuse erodes your sense of self confidence and self-worth.

Abuser’s Tactics, Red Flag Signals
by Mary M Alward

Abuser’s Tactics

There’s a wide range of tactics that the abuser uses to debilitate the victim. If you recognize any of these tactics, a red flag has been raised…

Domination
Abusers are extremely dominating to the point that they want to control everything that the victim does. If they don’t get their way, they act like spoiled children. On top of that, they use threats to get what they want. If you allow your abuser to dominate you, you will lose your self respect…

Verbal Assault
The abuser tends to verbally assault their victim by calling names, degrading, screaming, threatening, criticizing, berating and humiliating. They will center their victim out in front of family and friends by taking small personality flaws and embellishing them to the extreme. They make snide remarks and use sarcasm to erode the victim’s sense of self-worth and self confidence. Making the victim look bad in front of others is an attempt to isolate the victim and keep them at their mercy. Then, the abuse worsens…

Gaslighting
Gaslighting is a slang term from the 1950’s but is the perfect word to describe one tactic of the abuser. The dictionary definition of gaslighting is to drive someone crazy. This is used to keep the abuser’s victim under control. The abuser will swear that events never occurred and that certain things were never said. The victim knows better, but over time will begin to question their sanity. Be alert to gaslighting tactics that can beat you down and make you think you are going insane…

Blackmail
The abuser uses emotional blackmail to get what they want by pushing your buttons. He plays on his victim’s sense of compassion, fears, sense of guilt and values in order to get his own way. He may refuse to talk to his victim or threaten to end the relationship or withdraw financial support if the victim is dependent on him for basic living necessities. Emotional blackmail is the act of working on the victim’s emotions so the abuser can get what he wants…

Constant Chaos
An abuser will keep the household and his victim’s emotions in total chaos by starting arguments and constantly being in conflict with other family members…

Abusive Expectations
This happens when the abuser makes unreasonable demands on their victim. They may expect their partner to reject everything in their life to tend to the abuser’s needs. Included can be frequent sex, forcing the victim to perform sexual acts that are against their will, demanding all of the victim’s attention or demanding that the victim spend all free time with the abuser. No matter how hard the victim tries to please the abuser, she will always demand more. The victim, whether male or female, will be constantly criticized and berated because they are unable to fulfill the abuser’s demands…

Unpredictable Responses
This includes emotional outbursts and extreme mood swings on the part of the abuser. If you partner likes something you do today and hates it tomorrow, or reacts to the extreme at an identical behavior by the victim, this is an unpredictable response. This behavior damages the victim’s self esteem, self confidence and mental well-being because they are constantly on edge, wondering how their partner is going to respond to their every move….

Living with a person who has unpredictable response is difficult, stressful, nerve wracking and it causes a great deal of anxiety that can lead to health problems. The victim lives with fear and security and has no sense of balance in their life. Abusers who drink excessively are alcoholics or drug abusers often have unpredictable responses to trivial events….

Red Flag Signals

Many people of both genders interpret early warning signs of abuse as attentive, caring and romantic. Here is a list of early warning signs of future domestic abuse…

* Your partner insists you spend all of your free time with them in order to isolate you from family and friends

* You always have to tell your partner where you are going, who you are going with, what your plans are and when you will be home

* Your partner is extremely agitated or angry when they don’t get their own way

* Your partner tells you what you can and can’t wear and insists on going shopping with you when you shop for clothes

* You are accused time and time again of cheating, flirting or having an affair

* Your partner refers to women in derogatory slang, or is secretive about previous relationships

* The person was abused mentally, physically, emotionally or verbally as a child

* Your partner grew up in an environment where one parent abused the other emotionally, mentally, physically or verbally

* He is a charmer or a smooth talker

* He is abusive to his mother or sister and refers to them in derogatory slang

* The person has expectations that are not realistic

* The person has a tendency to be cruel to animals or pets

* The person has hurt a child in some way

* Your partner has hit spouses in a previous relationship

If so, it will happen to you too

* The person displays a tendency to have extreme mood swings for little or no reason

* Male abusers often feel women are inferior and were born to indulge their every whim

* Female abusers feel men are inferior and expect their partner to give them their full attention at all times

* Abusers like to intimidate and use threatening body language.
They may throw things, punch walls or destroy their victim’s possessions

* Abusers stop their victims from leaving the room during an argument or dispute

Warning!

If you see any of these warning signs in your partner, be ever vigilant. For your own safety, it’s best to end the relationship immediately.

It’s better to be alone than to be in a relationship where you are constantly abused in any way

Get help now!

Note: Courtesy of Jessica Marie Jones

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