Fear, shame, and uncertainty, all those words serve to describe the behavior of a person who has been emotionally abused in the past. Those who have experienced traumatic experiences by ex-partners tend to keep silent about their past, and not express their fears, because they fear being judged and not being understood.
We live in a society that is so disconnected from its emotions and isolated from educational resources against emotional abuse, that, many times, a victim does not even know that it is such.
According to the OASH (Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health)1, abusers are also able to say that they love their partners, to pay attention to them and be helpful in certain moments of the relationship. But abusive behavior uses these acts to subdue and confuse the victim.
An abuser will not resort to physical violence every day but could resort to other actions such as offenses, manipulation, and threats. All of these generate damage to the victim’s mind that, although it may seem surmountable, it is not without the necessary help. But what is the solution to identify who was a victim or to help your partner who was a victim? First, it is necessary to delve into the subject to get all the answers we need.
What is emotional abuse?
Emotional abuse is a type of abuse that uses verbal and mental means to control, isolate, degrade and devalue a person2. Emotional abuse can occur in countless situations and contexts. The first image that comes to mind when dealing with emotional abuse will be that of a couple’s relationship. But abuse can take the form of workplace bullying, cyberbullying, among other.
In these cases, physical violence is not necessary to violate an individual, but rather to manipulate him/her, to invade his/her personal space and the person turns to insults to show his/her intentions. Women and men who have suffered emotional abuse do not leave all that suffering in the past, instead, if they are able to free themselves from those chains, they will continue to keep inside themselves fear and ”secrets” that will only serve to weaken the current relationship.
How does emotional abuse begin?
There is no specific time in which emotional abuse can start. Suddenly, it can appear. This is the reason why it generates surprise, and why it is believed that it will be a temporary stage through which the relationship is going.
The usual abusers’ behavior is to act normally at first. Some abusers invest a considerable effort to be a “perfect” Person. Being especially loving or caring, offering a lot of
praises, or asking to see each other often is part of their scheme. The idea is to create the feeling that they are two against the world. But eventually, the abuse is presented as the relationship is established. So, leaving or breaking the relationship becomes more complicated.
Once the idea that there are only two people in her world is implanted, the victim, who will have been isolated from his/her family and friends, will be left resourceless or without other objective perspectives on his/her life.
Examples of emotional abuse
Emotional abuse is subtle in its beginnings. No one has the thought or the will to be attracted to be abused. So, disguised signals, and that feeling of discomfort, represent the beginning of a dangerous situation. Some examples of emotional abuse are:
- Privacy is fading away: An abuser will want to be with his victim all the time and round-the-clock. The contact has to be frequent and will escalate from the most harmless thing, such as seeing each other constantly to demanding to know phone, email, and social networks’ passwords. Excuses based on trust will be given by the abuser, while the victim will give in due to the fear of jeopardizing the relationship or not to generate more conflicts, showing that he/she has nothing to hide.
- Extreme jealousy: Jealousy in a couple is to some extent a normal behavior. However, when jealousy is constant, unjustified and generates conflicts, it is a problem and a warning. In relationships people are supposed to feel loved and be happy, not unhappy.
- Isolation from family and friends: Abusers separate victims from people who care about them. Those people who are able to deduce what is happening because they are not being directly manipulated.
- Control: The abuser’s need for power will never be satisfied because he/she will always need more and more of it. His control may have started by suggesting not to go to certain place or not to do a certain activity, but it will escalate until he/she controls the finances and how the earned money is spent. It will also go to the extreme of preventing the person from working or going to doctor’s appointments. Deciding what to wear or what to eat are other behaviors that show a thirst for control.
- Verbal humiliation: Words have power, and just as they are capable of uplifting the spirit and appreciating the beauty around us, they are also capable of doing the exact opposite, to destroy it. Insults regarding uselessness, intelligence, ability, physical appearance, and others, will hurt, and scar the victims’ minds.
- Threats: Threats are an unpleasant extreme and they will disrupt the possibility of leaving a relationship full of emotional abuse. It is very common for abusers to resort to threaten with “hurting themselves” if the victims leave or do something in particular. They not only threaten to harm themselves but also to take their own life or threaten to take their partner’s life. It is a cycle that will never end due to regret and the dependency that has been created.
The negative effects of emotional abuse in the short and long term
Emotional abuse will not only cause after-effects the moment it is experienced, but it will also deeply touch the minds of those who suffer it. This is how its negative effects can be considered in the short and long term, a term that will inevitably affect the victim’s future relationship.
One of the ways the effects of toxic relationships can be understood is by understanding the abuser himself/herself. This, as part of the healing process, and prevention to promote healthy habits in the future relationship.
As an example, the manipulation abusers exercise may be due to the fact that they are people with narcissistic personality disorder. These individuals are responsible for chronically demeaning and manipulating each of the partners they have. This is called narcissistic abuse3.
In her book, “Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself”, Bestseller author Shahida Arabi explains that normally, pathological narcissists are not diagnosed or treated to control their disorder. Therefore, it is difficult to verify or identify one before being involved in a relationship with him/her.
Their manipulation tactics are different from the ones that other types of abusers use, because they are often covered up and disguised as good intentions. The addiction and attachment that victims build with narcissists is also surprising because both, biochemical and traumatic links, are generated.
Although victims manage to escape the codependency of being in a relationship with a narcissist person, they will still feel, to some extent, how he/she has been able to steal part of their souls and who they really are. However, we are able to regain everything we feel has been stolen from us so that we can start over from scratch with someone who loves us4. “The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists” by therapist Eleanor D. Payson, explains how it is possible to find yourself despite the abuse. But in other to accomplish this, you need to acknowledge what happened and ne open with the people around you.
In summary, a short-term emotionally abused person will suffer with remorse, regret, feelings of loneliness, and abandonment. While in the long term, the fear of repeating a toxic relationship again, and/or the inability to give yourself fully in soul and heart will prevent him/her from enjoying love. Not just loving another person but loving himself/herself and seeing himself/herself as a person with the ability to move on.
I would like to know your opinion on this matter. Do you know someone who has been a victim of abuse? Or maybe you are that victim. If you dare, share your experience. Remember, if you need professional help, you can write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 407-618 0212.