Emotional abuse is one of the most common forms of abuse that occurs within the context of a relationship, however, it is the least discussed. Emotional/psychological abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse, however, victims seldom characterize it as abuse or talk about it. Although, there is no physical scars, broken bones, or bruises, victims of emotional abuse suffer one of the most painful and destructive forms of domestic violence. Unfortunately, emotional abuse in our culture is pervasive and damaging, and it’s as relevant a topic as physical and sexual abuse.
Emotional abuse can happen to anyone, at any time, with no relationship type being excluded. Sadly, anyone can become emotionally abusive in an intimate relationship. The path to emotional abuse begins at the point where resentment starts to outweigh compassion. Resentment is one of the dominating emotions that foster our feelings of entitlement. Entitlement occurs when we believe others are required to fulfill our needs, ensure our personal happiness, and respond to our demands.
Resentment is often a misguided attempt to alleviate one’s negative emotions by transferring the pain to someone else, specifically the shame of failure to feel good. Blaming others for our shortcoming and failures can temporarily shift the responsibilities and the focus onto someone else, someone that is not responsible for our actions or predicament.
Characteristic of Emotionally Abusive People Include:
- Making mean and cruel jokes at the expense of another person
- They correct or chastise you for your behavior
- They will not assume responsibility for their actions, but blame others
- They try to make you feel as though they are always right, and you are wrong.
- They engage in controlling and manipulative behavior
- You feel like you need permission to make decisions or your opinions do not matter
- They belittle, trivialize you, your accomplishments, or your hopes and dreams
- They regularly point out your flaws, mistakes, or shortcomings
- They are intolerant of any seeming lack of respect
- They often play the victim, trying to deflect blame onto others rather than taking personal responsibility
- They have an inability to laugh at themselves and can’t tolerate others laughing at them
- They disengage or use neglect or abandonment to punish or frighten you
- They don’t seem to notice, value or care about your feelings
- They view you as an extension of themselves rather than as an individual
- They don’t show you empathy or compassion
- They humiliate you, put you down, or make fun of you in front of other people.
- They have a tendency to blur boundaries and do not respect personal spacing
- They share personal information about you with others
- They try to control the finances and how you spend money
- They make subtle threats or negative remarks with the intent to frighten or control you
- They blame others for their problems, life difficulties, or unhappiness
- They accuse you of being overly sensitive in an attempt to minimize their role in hurting you
- They constantly criticize you
One of the most important steps to take when overcoming emotional abuse is to both recognize and acknowledge that the abuse is occurring. Chances are if you think you are the victim of emotional abuse, you probably are. Persons in an emotionally abusive relationship must be honest with themselves in an effort to regain power and control over their life, stop the abuse, and begin to heal.