by Therese Farnham
Here’s a great Article by Maria Bogdanos on Emotional Abuse.
Signs of emotional abuse
Emotional abuse is elusive. Unlike physical abuse, the people doing it and receiving it may not even know its happening.
It can be more harmful than physical abuse because it can undermine what we think about ourselves. It can cripple all we are meant to be as we allow something untrue to define us. Emotional abuse can happen between parent and child, husband and wife, among relatives and between friends.
The abuser projects their words, attitudes or actions onto an unsuspecting victim usually because they themselves have not dealt with childhood wounds that are now causing them to harm others.
In the following areas, ask these questions to see if you are abusing or being abused:
- Humiliation, degradation, discounting, negating. judging, criticizing:
- Does anyone make fun of you or put you down in front of others?
- Do they tease you, use sarcasm as a way to put you down or degrade you?
- When you complain do they say that “it was just a joke” and that you are too sensitive?
- Do they tell you that your opinion or feelings are “wrong?”
- Does anyone regularly ridicule, dismiss, and disregard your opinions, thoughts, suggestions, and feelings?
- Domination, control, and shame:
- Do you feel that the person treats you like a child?
- Do they constantly correct or chastise you because your behaviour is “inappropriate?”
- Do you feel you must “get permission” before going somewhere or before making even small decisions?
- Do they control your spending?
- Do they treat you as though you are inferior to them?
- Do they make you feel as though they are always right?
- Do they remind you of your shortcomings?
- Do they belittle your accomplishments, your aspirations, your plans or even who you are?
- Do they give disapproving, dismissive, contemptuous, or condescending looks, comments, and behaviour?
- Accusing and blaming, trivial and unreasonable demands or expectations, denies own shortcomings:
- Do they accuse you of something contrived in their own minds when you know it isn’t true?
- Are they unable to laugh at themselves?
- Are they extremely sensitive when it comes to others making fun of them or making any kind of comment that seems to show a lack of respect?
- Do they have trouble apologizing?
- Do they make excuses for their behaviour or tend to blame others or circumstances for their mistakes?
- Do they call you names or label you?
- Do they blame you for their problems or unhappiness?
- Do they continually have “boundary violations” and disrespect your valid requests?
- Emotional distancing and the “silent treatment,” isolation, emotional abandonment or neglect:
- Do they use pouting, withdrawal or withholding attention or affection?
- Do they not want to meet the basic needs or use neglect or abandonment as punishment?
- Do they play the victim to deflect blame onto you instead of taking responsibility for their actions and attitudes?
- Do they not notice or care how you feel?
- Do they not show empathy or ask questions to gather information?
- Co dependence and enmeshment:
- Does anyone treat you not as a separate person but instead as an extension of themselves?
- Do they not protect your personal boundaries and share information that you have not approved?
- Do they disrespect your requests and do what they think is best for you?
- Do they require continual contact and haven’t developed a healthy support network among their own peers?
Do you feel this article describes any of your relationships? Do you experience feelings of shame, guilt, embarrassment, inferiority or humiliation on a regular basis when you are in the company of someone you are in a relationship with, either a partner, parent, child, sibling, friend or teacher? Does it feel like the person is trying to change you or is not accepting you in some way? Do you end up feeling you have got something wrong again? Do you feel uncomfortable or small or do you get angry and defensive? These feelings could indicate that the person you are with is behaving in some of the ways described above.
Let me tell you now it is never ok to bully and control others. As human beings we all deserve the freedom to be safe, the freedom to choose our thoughts and the freedom to choose our actions if they do not hurt another.
Your first thought might be ‘How do I change them?’ The short answer to that is ‘you can’t’ but what you can do is you can change yourself and the way you relate to and respond to this person.
You could decide to stay away from them or break off the relationship, however this is not always easy or desirable, especially if you love that person and would like to maintain a relationship with them. Now, changing your behaviour is not necessarily going to be that easy. If you think about it you have probably been relating and responding to others in the same way for most of your life. In fact we all learn our ways of relating to others and the world in our families of origin from a very early age.
The first step to changing is acknowledging within yourself that you want to change. Start to notice how you respond to that person and what kind of things set off those feelings we identified earlier. Remember this is not about them but about you nurturing and caring for yourself. Writing your observations in a journal can help you to reflect and identify patterns. Reflect also on yourself and all the things you like about you. Start acknowledging that you are worthy of your own love and respect and the love and respect of others. You might like to reflect on ways you can respond differently next time a similar situation arises and practise these responses. Remember to be easy on yourself too if things don’t go the way you intended. It is human and ok to make mistakes.
Remember that change takes time. The more you can identify the patterns in your behaviour, thoughts and feelings and you realise that you are important and worthy of love the more your impetus to change builds.
Don’t struggle with this alone. Talk to someone you trust to encourage and support you in your desire to change. If necessary seek professional help and support.