How To Cope With Emotional Abuse
Updated: Aug 26, 2019
There was a time when the word “abuse” would conjure up a list of two, maybe three possibilities. The information that exists surrounding the realities of abuse has since increased significantly and now, tragically, the list has become quite long.
As a collective species, it appears as though we have gotten better at finding ways to hurt each other (and that is nothing to brag about). Abuse exists in places that are almost unfathomable. There is abuse at work, abuse in the home, abuse in churches, abuse in schools, abuse in day-care...there are no boundaries. Abuse is not confined by walls or even laws (it sometimes appears).
We can discuss sexual abuse, physical violence, and threatening words and you would readily identify these atrocities as abuse. How many of us though can readily identify the covert forms of abuse? The ones that are so cloaked that strangers love the abuser because he or she appears completely harmless. As the victim of that kind of abuse, how do you cope with the adoration of your abuser from unsuspecting strangers? How do you deal with the deep dark wounds of emotional abuse?
Identify the problem
Emotional abuse is a behind closed doors, under your breath type of abuse, that does not leave welts or bruises on your skin but erodes your self-esteem, your spirit, your confidence, and your mental health.
This type of abuse is about control, manipulation, and domination. It is not gender-specific nor is it age-specific. Parents emotionally abuse children and vice versa, bosses emotionally abuse employees, a spouse in a relationship may emotionally abuse another, the possibilities are endless.
Indicators of an emotional abuser
● Excessive and exaggerated responses to minor issues, and a compulsion to dole out punishment and criticisms that are bigger than the actual “crime”.
● Controlling by a third party (manipulating/recruiting friends and family to coerce the victim into doing what he/she wants).
● Unrealistic demands and expectations coupled with irrational responses to being denied or refused.
● Intimidation or ambient abuse (creating an atmosphere of fear, intimidation, irritation, unpredictability, and unease).
● Silent treatment and withholding affection.
● Rejecting and redefining your actual feelings in accordance with how they think you should feel.
● Constant mood swings, emotional outbursts, and frequent nitpicking.
● Blaming you for their mistakes
● Using jealousy as a love language (it really is not).
● Obsessively tracking whereabouts.
● Exaggerating your flaws to either deflect from their own error or to praise themselves for “being superior”.
● Using your fears against you.
● Talking down to the victim or being condescending.
● Being dismissive of wants, needs, opinions, suggestions and often mere presence.
How to deal (or not deal) with an emotional abuser
It’s not you, it’s them!
Never blame yourself or try to justify the actions of an abuser. The fault is never the victim’s. There are appropriate ways to handle every situation and emotional abuse is never one of them.
-No, you do not deserve the abuse.
-Yes, it is a big deal.
-Yes, you are worth more than they think or try to make you feel.
Suffering abuse is horrible enough, suffering in silence is far worse. Speak up. Silence is an abuser’s best friend. It ensures that nothing changes and that the abuse can continue. When you speak up and get help, things will ultimately start to change. Spend time with people who value you and build you up. Do it as often as you possibly can.
Stand up for yourself. Be firm when letting the abuser know that you will no longer tolerate their behavior and follow through on your boundaries.
Do not participate
When the abusive behavior starts to flare up, decide that you will play no part in its continuation. Walking out of a verbal onslaught is one way to follow through on your boundaries. Tell yourself “nobody talks to me like that.” (Because nobody should). If you’re being given the silent treatment, acknowledge the immaturity, reaffirm yourself and go do something else. Do not engage in arguments with an emotional abuser, you will never win. Simply walk away the moment you realize what’s about to happen.
Stop thinking you can love the abuse away
A person who uses the weapon of emotional abuse will not be changed simply because you decide to love them harder. It is a disease of their mind that needs to be treated and love is not the antidote.
There will come a time when, if your abuser refuses to adjust, get help or change, that you will need to leave. Whether it's your job or your relationship. The far-reaching effects of emotional abuse persist for generations and are passed on to children. You get to decide that the buck will stop with you.
Take serious steps to undo the damage that has been done. Find group activities, counseling sessions, organizations, books and audios that will add value to you every day. Combat the negative input with positive input. Keep positivity before your eyes at all times: on your phone screen, on your computer screen, on your desk, on your walls, wherever.
Remind yourself daily that you are a priceless treasure because you are. If you or anyone you know is suffering from emotional abuse, please take it seriously and treat it with the urgency it deserves.
There is no question about whether or not you should “stick it out”, not unless there are countermeasures in place. Not unless the abuser has acknowledged the problem and is seeking help. Sometimes, the best thing to do, even when the abuser is seeking help, is to leave. It works out better for everyone in the end.
"Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking." Marcus Aurelius