Come Into My Parlour....
Mental and verbal abuse is an area that many people refuse to acknowledge. The biggest lack of acknowledgment seems to be from those that are inflicting this type of abuse on other people, and especially on those they claim to love. How do they get away with his? Easily emotional abuse leaves no visible wounds, is easily explained or joked away, and often the victim does not realize it has been inflicted until it is too late and the damage has already been done.
Is the abuser a bad person that has no redeeming qualities? No, the abuser is actually an intelligent person who is a master manipulator of other people. Often, they are repeating patterns from their own lives and insecurities and are placing them onto others unintentionally. There are some abusers who knowingly treat others with this form of abuse to gain a sense of power and to lift their own egos up by destroying another person's confidence. Both types of abusers are hard to spot and are both very damaging to the people they have chosen to abuse.
Unlike physical abuse, where there are obvious wounds and bruises, emotionally abused victims are not easy to spot. The victim often may not even realize the situation they are in until it becomes intolerable or until a certain climactic incident happens to make them understand what has happened. The point of realization is different for everyone. It could be an innocent comment, bout of depression, or suicide attempt; but at some point it does become apparent that there is a problem and that it needs to be dealt with.
Mental and verbal abuse both constitute emotional abuse. It preys upon the emotions and well-being of the person being abused. It contributes to a person's stress level, physical health issues, and lack of mental well-being. It erodes the person being abused from the inside out, often taking time for the signs to be apparent. It can also create mental issues that may never go fully away during the victim's lifetime unless they are addressed & treated by a trained professional. The scars of emotional abuse are long term or permanent.
Emotional abuse is a long term, subtle abuse that is not very apparent. The abuser is very good at masking and hiding their attempts at control, manipulations of the victim's feelings and the erosion of the victim's confidence. They have infinite patience for extolling the damage and will allow time for a partial recovery from a previous attack before starting a new one. This is very similar to a cat and mouse, but we always know the cat is going to win and that is one thing that the abuser knows as well.
Said the Spider to the Fly...
Separating out words said in anger and emotional abuse can be a bit tricky for those in a relationship with someone who has a temper. There are many times words are exchanged in heated moments, tossed out carelessly without prior thought or misinterpreted, creating hurt feelings. This is not emotional abuse. These situations are avoidable, but normal, happenings in many relationships.
Emotional abuse is consistent, repetitive and intentional-either consciously or subconsciously. You may have been abused if the abuser:
-Is condescending and sarcastic towards you
-Sets you up for failure and holds it against you
-Makes fun of you in a hurtful manner
-Calls you names and belittles you
-Treats your thoughts and ideas as insignificant
-Puts you down publicly
-Uses your insecurities against you
-Blames you for everything wrong
-Withholds love and emotions until you do something to 'earn' them
-Turns situations around to make you the one at fault
-Uses your accomplishments as something to ridicule and make fun of
-Brushes your feelings aside as insignificant
-Makes you feel useless or worthless
-Lets you know you would be nothing without them
-Convinces you that they are the only ones who would love you
If you are constantly being barraged by a person who does the above actions, then you are being emotionally abused.
Do you often feel like you caused something to go wrong? That no one else would want you, love you or like you? That you are in some way to blame for the failures or mistakes in your life? That you cannot do anything right? That you are a nobody, stupid, and your partner is smarter than or better than you? That everything you do is wrong? That you should not even try to do something because you will just screw up anyways? Do you feel this way because your partner, the one that you love and who 'loves' you has brought all these 'failings' to your attention? If so, you may be a victim of emotional abuse.
I am NOT saying that everyone who feels this way is abused. There are many of us who lack self-confidence and self-esteem that also feel this way. I am saying that if another human being constantly and repetitively makes you feel this way then it is time to seriously look at your situation.
Like a Moth to a Flame...
Many victims think they can change the person doing the abusing. But the sad fact is that the one who is abusive often does not see themselves as having any issues or problems. You cannot 'fix' a person who will not see they are broken.
When a person who has been emotionally abused for a long period of time understands that there is a problem with the relationship and it is not their fault, often they seem to try to remedy the problem with passiveness and acceptance. They shoulder the blame and go on, trying to be perfect and do no wrong in order to gain the approval of the abuser. By this time, their self-esteem and confidence are so worn down they do not recognize the pattern they have fallen into. When they get an approval or positive word from the other person, it builds them up to continue to try harder, like a puppy getting a pat on the head. This bit of positive reinforcement is often a means for an abuser to continue to torment by giving false hope of change.
Hopefully at some point the person who has their tail tucked between their legs will realize what is actually going on and will get out of the situation. This is a dangerous and scary situation for those who have been abused. The abuser does not want to relinquish their power and control and may threaten or actually do harm to those who leave. Many times, this is a shifting point to those in these types of relationships.
Once you get tired of living on eggshells, being browbeaten and brought down by another person or have had enough of trying to fix everything the will to survive kicks in and makes you a stronger person. You may need the help of friends, shelters, and various legal departments. Do not be ashamed or scared to use them. They are there to help those in less than ideal situations. Once you have accomplished the inevitable leaving, you can start the healing process. You can start to live again, be happy, and build yourself back up to your full potential.
The First Day of the Rest of Your Life!
As scary as it is being in any kind of an abusive relationship, the scariest part is leaving and healing. You are now heading into the unknown and rebuilding your mental and physical life. There are as many issues to rebuilding yourself mentally as there is with living in the abusive relationship. There are scars, emotional baggage, and trust issues to deal with as well as confidence, esteem, and negativity.
A huge help in starting and getting through the healing process is counseling. A trained professional can point you in the right direction by helping you to realize that the abuse was the fault of the abuser and the effects need to minimalized to provide long term, permanent healing of the emotional scars. This part of the healing process will take a lot of dedication and time but is worth every bit of it once you begin to heal and gain your confidence and self-esteem back. There will be times of doubt and second guessing, but these will be the normal, everyday variety that everyone goes through, not the torn down and damaging times from before. You will also be better equipped to deal with these feelings and not let them cripple your efforts.
Rebuilding relationships and friendships and starting new ones will add to your sense of well-being as you gain healthy and supportive feedback. It may take a bit longer to trust others, but you cannot isolate yourself or the healing will not be complete. You also need to place your emotional baggage at the door; it is not fair to the new people in your life to suffer from the damage done by your past. Everyone has their past, issues, and bad experiences, but those who truly learn to live again and build a fulfilling life also learn to empty the baggage and make room for good experiences.
Set goals for yourself, make a bucket list, and work towards obtaining a dream! With each small thing you accomplish, you will find the satisfaction of meeting a goal, gaining a reward so precious and dear. You will learn to live with success, not tremble with fear of failure. If you do find that you were not able to meet your goal or make something you wanted work out--try again. No one is perfect, but those who come the closest to it acknowledge their failures and learn from them. Often the lessons learned are more valuable than the task or goal in the first place.
Forgive yourself and the abuser. Do not forget the abuse or even continue with a harmful relationship, but when you forgive a person that has harmed you, you also release them of any power they still hold over you. There is no reason to contact the person you are forgiving; this is a personal and very intimate step that only you can accomplish. In all honesty, no one else needs to know about your forgiveness but you--when you feel the release of the hold-over emotions, you will then be completely free of the damage and hurt and will be able to fully heal and recover.
Acknowledging abuse is the first step in healing and becoming whole again. Even if the relationship continues with the abuser, the victim can take steps to protect themselves and minimalize the damage. There are many levels of abuse and harm, and not every level is cause to end a relationship that may function quite well otherwise. It often comes down to the individual and their willingness to stand up for themselves and gain strength emotionally.
Most importantly, we all need to realize that our words CAN hurt people and cause others unseen damage. It does not matter if it is words spoken in anger, just kidding around or a thoughtless comment. Think before you speak and if you do slip and say negative, hurtful things to those you love or care about, apologize. Take extra care next time not to say them and be aware of how others are treated. Learn to communicate with others the same way you want others to communicate with you. That is a lesson we all can benefit from learning. Make this the first day of the rest of your life, be kind, and heal. If someone you know is being hurt emotionally, be a good friend and teach them to value themselves, they are worth it!