When we think about abuse in a relationship, we often think of bruised faces, scars on arms and legs. What we commonly think of or are more familiar with is physical abuse. There are many forms of abuse and any form of abuse is cruel.
Unlike physical abuse, emotional (or psychological) abuse is not obvious, it is subtle. Quite often even the victim does not recognize that he/ she is being abused. Although emotional abuse does not leave black eyes or visible bruises, it is often more seriously damaging to the self-esteem and will of the person being abused.
Physical abuse scars a person’s body but emotional abuse scars a person’s soul. Often, physical abuse is accompanied or follows emotional abuse. Emotional battering is used to wear the victim down – often over a long period of time – to cause so much confusion to the person abused so as to undermine his/ her self-concept, to a point that he/ she is willing to take responsibility for the abuser’s actions and behaviour towards him/her or simply just accept it.
Just as there are many forms of physical abuse, there are many varieties of psychological abuse. They include isolation, crazy-making, verbal abuse, belittling and other humiliating or degrading behaviours. Though the abusive behaviours may not be easily recognisable by themselves, they are readily identified by recognising the effects they have on the person being abused.
Emotional abuse has the aim of control and dominance. If a person constantly feels as though his/ her feelings, needs, opinions are being devalued, are given no credence, chances are the person is experiencing some form of emotional abuse.
The long term result of emotional and psychological abuse leaves the victim feeling confused, unsure of his/her own judgement and ability to make decisions, sometimes even to the extent of believing that he/ she is going crazy. Accompanied by these are often low self-esteem, as the victim’s own needs and opinions are often put down, criticised or disregarded. Depression and even suicidal thoughts set in as the victim feels so trapped in the situation (especially in a close relationship). Ironically, the victim is often being made blamed for the abuser’s bad behaviours and hence may experience a deep sense of shame and guilt.
Emotional abuse is controlling and wields an invisible prison that keeps the victim in bondage. In many cases, the victim would have been so manipulated in their thoughts to even recognise that they are being threatened or controlled. Over extended periods of time, the victim loses all sense of self-direction, self-will, self-confidence and eventually becomes dependent to the abuser and does everything to please/pacify the abuser. This then perpetuates the vicious cycle of abuse and the abuser gets to keep his dominance over the victim.
Emotional abuse is such a subtle form of control and domination which leaves no visible marks, yet has a profound effect on the emotional and mental well being of the victim. Victims often feel trapped and so emotionally hurt but cannot point a finger as what is wrong. Many people have found that once the emotional abuse is no longer effective, physical violence follows. Many victims suffer in silence – the repressed emotions which left unaddressed often manifest in ill health.
If you or anyone you know is in some form of abuse, please seek help immediately. Do not make the mistake of thinking that the problem will get better or be resolved with time. Value yourself and your loved ones enough to stand up for your own right.
The Freedom Programme© in the UK is particularly good at showing up all the myriads of ways in which emotional abuse is used within abusive relationship. To find out more, check out the Freedom Programme.