“You can’t do anything right”. “This is your fault – It’s always your fault”.
Understanding Emotional Abuse and Stress
Emotional Abuse is the tearing down of another human being and it can be the result of inappropriately handling one’s emotions, the excessive need to control others and the situations around them, or it can be learned from those who have had influence on the person such as parents, coaches or supervisors.
Those who are emotionally abusive, are just as dangerous as those who are physically abusive.
Various Types of Emotional Abuse:
1. Rejecting – worthlessness and undermining self-esteem, criticizing, humiliating, blaming, ridiculing
2. Ignoring – detachment, withholds affection, indifferent
3. Terrorizing – threatening to punish or take away possessions, pets, or other family members
4. Isolating – jealousy, restricting access to people or money, secluding from outside world
5. Corrupting – exposes or puts into inappropriate situations
Emotional abuse is a very serious and often hidden problem. The scars, though not visible, can run very deep. Click to tweet
Many of us have grown up, been in a relationship with, worked for, or even been coached by, someone who was emotionally abusive. It is often seen as a normal part of the culture of the organization and tolerated. We see this in elite sports…that coach who thinks he gets the best from his players by belittling them, pitting them against each other, and blaming them for the losses. We see this in the workplace…CEO’s who yell obscenities at their workers, who demand unquestionable obedience, or who pit teams against each other. We see this in the home…where a partner isolates, belittles and ignores.
Emotional Abuse can lead to many emotional, physical, cognitive, and behavioural issues. It can impact social development, future success, and relationships outside of the abusive relationship.
General Impact Of Emotional Abuse:
- Low self-esteem and confidence
- Unable to make decisions
- Lack of interest in life
- Sleep problems
- Substance use
Emotional Abuse and Children
Patterns Of Behaviour:
In children, emotional abuse can be seen as a pattern of behaviour that attacks a child’s emotional development and sense of self-worth. (National Committee for the Prevention of Child Abuse) In children, you may specifically notice signs such as the development of rocking, sucking or biting one’s self, being inappropriately aggressive, speech problems, tantrums, excessive anxiety and fears, and an inability to relate to others. The child may make self-hate statements, and/or be shy and overly compliant.
The existence of one of these signs may not indicate emotional abuse, however, several of these over a period of time should not be ignored and should be investigated and explored further.
What Can Be Done?
People who are the target of emotional abuse are made to feel insignificant and incapable. They may actually begin to feel that they have brought this on themselves and that it really is their fault. Often, having an advocate or a person that they can confide in, can help them to see the abuse is not their fault and to reach out for support to deal with the abuse that they are facing. Many organizations and workplaces now have policies and guidelines on how to handle bullying and harassment situations, including how these situations need to be documented, reported, investigated, and rectified.
Here are some general suggestions to deal with an abusive situation.
As The Recipient:
1. Take precautions – look for the signs of excessive jealousy and control
2. Don’t blame yourself for the way other person is treating you
3. Believe in yourself – believe that you deserve to be treated with respect
4. Trust your instincts – if you feel uncomfortable than this is probably not a healthy relationship
5. Talk to someone – find someone you can trust – a family member, friend, co-worker, EAP, supervisor, spiritual leader, community advisor or health professional. Call the Distress Centre and they can help make the appropriate referral. These resources can help you to examine all of your options so that you can decide what is best for you.
What To Do If You Feel You Are Becoming Abusive:
1. Recognize the types and strength of the various feelings related to numerous situations
2. Develop a realistic attitude about what you and those around you can achieve
3. Be respectful of other’s ideas, opinions and talents
4. Find alternative ways to express difficult emotions
5. Get help – find a counselor, therapist or a doctor that can assist you in examining why you attack and tear the other person down and help you to take personal responsibility for the steps needed to change your reactions.
Words DO Hurt
The childhood rhyme of “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me” may have some truth to it. But continual emotional abuse does hurt. It can affect the development and the self-esteem of the individual and it may ripple out to affect those around the person who is being attacked. Emotional abuse is serious but help is available – both to the one being abused and to the person being the abuser. Recognition is the key.
If you have some strategies to share – comment on this posting!