Emotional abuse attempts to damage your self-worth through manipulation, isolation, intimidation, shaming, and other tactics. Sometimes emotional abuse is obvious, but often, it is subtle and underhanded.
Emotional abuse can include…
- Name calling
- Backhanded compliments
- Giving the “cold shoulder”
- Forcing you to “choose” between the abuser and other people you care about
- Consistently putting down other people you care about
- Threatening to leave
- Threatening to take away needed resources
- Ordering you around
- Demeaning your opinions
- Degrading you in front of other people
- Making you feel that you’re always wrong and they are always right
- Making jokes at your expense
- Controlling your money
- Keeping close tabs on what you do and who you talk to
- Treating you like a child
- Making you feel like you have to “walk on eggshells” around them
- Minimizing your successes
- Pointing out your flaws and failures
- Blaming you for their problems
It can take a long time to realize that you’re being emotionally abused. The way I see it, there are two reasons for this. First, emotional abusers are very good at making victims believe that they deserve to be treated badly. Therefore, victims may not realize that they are being emotionally abused because the abuse seems justified. Second, victims care about their abusers. Most abusers aren’t evil, cartoonish villains… they’re people, who usually have as many good qualities as bad ones.
If you believe that you are a victim of emotional abuse, there a few things you should know.
- The abuse is not, was not, and never will be your fault. No matter what the abuser or anyone else says, no one deserves to be abused, ever.
- You are not alone. Unfortunately, many people have been victims of emotional abuse. Being victimized does not mean that you are weak or a pushover. Victims of emotional abuse are often savvy, strong, and caring people.
- You do not have to feel pressured to leave an emotionally abusive relationship. Staying or leaving is your choice. There are many good reasons why people choose not to leave emotionally abusive relationships; for example, fear of retaliation. If victims do choose to leave, there are valid reasons for it to take a long time. For example, you may be socially isolated from everyone but the abuser, and want time to re-establish relationships with friends and family, so that they can support you in the process of leaving. Or you just may want to be completely sure that this relationship can’t be recovered before breaking it off.
- Emotional abuse is no less significant than any other type of abuse. Sometimes people feel that unless they have been physically or sexually abused, their abuse is “not that big of a deal,” or that they are “overreacting.” Those who have been emotionally abused have just as much of a right to feel their feelings and get help as anyone else does. Everyone’s experience of abuse is different, and comparing experiences doesn’t accomplish anything.
- Help is available if you want it. Therapy is a safe place to figure out if you are being emotionally abused, process emotional abuse from your past, or to decide whether or not to stay in a relationship. Domestic violence shelters can also help, particularly if you fear you are in imminent danger. Finally, you may consider joining a therapeutic group on trauma, self-esteem, or women’s issues. Connecting with people who have had similar experiences can be validating and inspiring. You can also call the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
Please don’t hesitate to comment or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Take care of yourself and be well.