Emotional Abuse ©

Emotional Abuse is a form of deliberate manipulation used to control another person, in just the same way that physical abuse is an attempt to control. This type of abuse if frequently employed by a parent or a romantic partner. The singular difference is that the emotional abuser does not use physical forms of abuse such as grabbing, hitting, kicking, pinching, pulling, pushing or other physical forms of harm.  The abuser uses emotional abuse as their weapon of choice and in some instances the abuser is not aware that he/she is being abusive. In intimate relationships, emotional abuse can result in the victim feeling ashamed, fearful and isolated from friends and family. The Silent Abuser employs disengagement and refuses to accept anyone else’s perspective.  



A person may sometimes raise their voice to a higher and louder octave in order to express their emotions, but screaming at someone hysterically in an emotional verbal assault is emotional abuse. A factor that makes emotional abuse so devastating is the likelihood that victims will blame themselves. When someone hits you, it’s easy to see that he or she is the problem. However, when the abuser implies that a victim is a bad parent/person, incompetent, not worthy of attention, stupid, ugly and/or that no one could love them, the victim is more likely to think that it is their problem and may not discuss the abuse for fear of being disbelieved.


Victims may also excuse a parent or partner's abuse, tolerating conditions such as stress or depression, bad days, bad moods etc believing that they deserve this abuse, criticism or disapproval. The victims may believe that these are their own problems, primarily because the abusers frequently leave their victims with diminished self-esteem.


Victims of emotionally abuse can develop anxiety, depression, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive habits, sleep issues, or may abuse alcohol or drugs. When the abuser becomes aware of their wrongdoing, these angry, resentful abusive people are likely to blame it on their partners and may say things like, it’s your fault, you always push my buttons. Because angry, abusive people feel like victims, in their minds this justifies them victimising others.


Parents who emotionally abuse their children use similar controlling tactics to gain power over their child and in return the victim child may feel that they are responsible for the behaviour of their parents. Additionally, they may feel that if they were better children, then their parents would be more loving. Sometimes a victim may not realise they are being abused, especially when tactics such as gaslighting* are used.

 

Emotional Abuse tactics can include:

  • Alienation

  • Baiting (A provocation used to gain an angry, aggressive emotional response) 

  • Belittling

  • Blame with hostile sarcasm

  • Bullying

  • Coercion

  • Condescending

  • Constant criticism

  • Controlling demands

  • Denial of the abuse and blaming of the victim

  • Gaslighting*

  • Guilt

  • Humiliation

  • Ignoring

  • Insults

  • Intimidation

  • Isolating

  • Manipulation

  • Mind games

  • Mocking

  • Name-calling

  • Pathological Lying (Habitually lies to serve their own needs)

  • Patronising

  • Physical rejection

  • Punishment and threats of punishment

  • Put downs

  • Refusal to accept a partner in a dynamic

  • Refusal to communicate

  • Shaming

  • Silent treatment

  • Threats

  • Using belittling language

  • Verbal put-downs and assaults

  • Withholding affection 

  • Yelling or swearing


* Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a victim, hoping to make them question their own memory, perception and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilise the victim and delegitimise the victim's belief. These may range from the abuser denying that previous abusive incidents ever occurred to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim.


Therapy/counselling

This type of abuse can be difficult to treat unless the victim distances themselves from the abuser. Couples therapy is not recommended in most cases of intimate partner violence, unless the abuser acknowledges their problem and agrees to attend therapy, as it often brings further abuse on the victim.

 

Gene Barry Psychotherapist

© Gene Barry