Topics on abuse and domestic violence have become increasingly popular in the news and social media, triggering discussions about appropriate and inappropriate behaviors in relationships. Sexual and physical abuse can be easily detected while emotional abuse leaves no visible scars to mark its impact, but its wounds destroy the core self and often take decades to surface.
Emotional abuse, which includes verbal aggression and cyber abuse, is the systematic use of malicious manipulation through nonphysical acts, intended to directly or indirectly control someone else, manipulate, and maintain power differential. It can occur alone or with other abuses.
Data from the National Coalition against Domestic Violence suggests that men and women experience emotional violence at about the same rate. This type of abuse also is prevalent among children and teens, inflicting life-altering consequences. Forms of emotional abuse include:
Rejecting — Using harsh criticism, demeaning jokes; teasing about appearance or ability; withholding affection or attention; refusing to communicate, using the “silent treatment”
Undermining — Finishing your sentences or speaking on your behalf without your permission
Ignoring — Failing to connect or engage emotionally; consistently not acknowledging you
Threatening, Blaming and Shaming — Cursing; using verbal threats to harm, or to reveal personal and embarrassing information; making the person do things s/he doesn’t want to do in order to prove his/her love
Isolating — Restricting or forcing seclusion; keeping you from friends or family support; being excessively possessive
Denying/“Gaslighting” — Making the abused second-guess his or her own reality; abuser makes you feel like you are losing your mind or memory
As with other forms of abuse, the cycle of emotional abuse includes the honeymoon phase and the tension-building phase, followed by the acute explosive phase when the abuse is most evident. This destructive cycle produces PTSD and depressive symptoms, and the abused are significantly more likely to report poor physical and mental health. Regardless of whether you’ve been emotional abused as a child, teen or adult, you can experience healing. The journey to healing includes:
- Understanding what abusive relationships look and feel like
- Accepting the life story into which you were born, believing that it does not define you, and having the courage to rewrite your story
- Cultivating the courage to RESPOND to the abuse assertively and intentionally, not merely react
- Establishing healthy boundaries that could include disengaging from abusive interchanges, and limited or no contact with the abuser
- Accepting that you cannot change the abuser but you can change your response
- Cultivating the courage to respond to the abuse assertively and intentionally
- Accessing counseling resources and supportive friends and family
Healing statement: God created me with a purpose and with love, as a unique individual with everything I need to fully function. I have immense worth as a Child of God and NO ONE has the right to treat me with disrespect or disdain. Regardless of the family or circumstances into which I was born, I was fearfully and wonderfully created to live fully and with dignity.