* The following content may trigger readers…
Wow, well this is a topic I could talk about all day. Emotional abuse is a challenging topic to talk about.
It stems from dysfunctional relationships and behavioural patterns. Often if people grow up in this environment it can be hugely challenging for someone to even understand emotional abuse is happening to them.
It can grind people down overtime, persistently until they loose the capability to function without it.
It’s also very difficult to pinpoint or even to point out to someone it’s happening to them…
It can be hugely damaging to the people who experience it and it’s not always recognised as abuse even though the effects of it can be devastating.
I’ve been left with some deeps scars myself and It makes you realise, when you take the time to understand the types of emotional abuse, that you don’t react to things like others do.
Sometimes I feel like I’m broken. I’m not. There’s just some trauma wounds that need to be healed…
Often people don’t realise what they say to me can be a trigger. There not even trying to be mean and they usually don’t realise they are doing it, but they are causing some pretty uncomfortable emotions to come to the surface.
I guess when you’ve lived through any kind of abuse, it can come back to haunt you. I’m always reminded of that quote:
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”Plato
So, lets look at the types of emotional abuse…
The act of dismissing someones feelings. You might not be doing this deliberately, but it could be something like ‘Man up,’ or ‘stop acting that way,’ it’s a way of making you feel like your emotions are not acceptable or that they are wrong.
It causes serious psychological effects. It creates emotional distance, conflict and the recipient feels worthless, inferior, confused, problematic.
The Silent Treatment.
Is there anything that hurts more than being ignored? It’s a way of creating power over someone. It’s a way of punishing someone. It creates a dismissive and unaccepting environment where one person isn’t allowed a voice, or to express how they feel. It’s incredibly damaging, especially to someone who has experienced trauma in the past.
It causes conflict, anger, shame, guilt. If someone uses this against you, it is a form of control and designed to make you feel inferior. Although incredibly painful, resist the urge to get angry and lash out. The easiest thing to do is to leave the situation.
Sometimes people use this because they don’t know how to deal with the situation, I mean there is a difference between having an argument with someone and not wanting to talk to each other until you’ve cooled down, (I think we all do this from time to time) to intentionally invalidating someone to make them feel inferior.
The use of this behaviour is designed to make us react, however it is important not to do this, no matter the situation. Instead leave the situation where you can and say you will speak to them when they are ready to be mature.
Humiliation or constant criticism.
This is designed to put someone down and make them feel like they’re not as good as you are. It makes the recipient feel invalid and humiliated.
People criticise others to point out floors. Humiliation is intended to injure a persons dignity and self respect. They are both damaging and unacceptable. If this happens often, this is abuse.
Shouting and Threatening Behaviour.
This is never okay. Removing yourself from the situation could be the easiest way to stop someone from becoming aggressive or to disarm them.
It could also help you to understand that the situation you’re in isn’t a healthy one.
Anger is healthy, you should be able to express anger, it’s an emotion like any other. To deny someones anger is emotional invalidation. However, what isn’t acceptable is when that anger gets out of control. It can lead to physical abuse.
If you are in a relationship where you’re experiencing anger that is frightening or physical please get help.
If you live in the UK some domestic violence helplines are:
Blame, Shame, Guilt.
‘There is something wrong with you because of the way you’ve behaved.’
‘You’ve made me feel awful.’
‘You’re the reason everything is wrong.’
These are all tools to make you submit. They are gaining control over you by making you feel guilty for being upset for example, or even angry. You feel like there is something wrong with you because of how you have behaved.
They are psychologically invalidating you, to control you, by making you feel shame for the way you react.
How to validate someone, and undo the damage that has been caused
Reflect on the other persons experience. Try to understand how it has made them feel.
Empathise and tell them you see it from their perspective. You can say something like “It’s okay to feel like that, I understand why you feel this way.’ You are not trying to agree with someone, you are trying to show empathy to their situation.
Don’t give them advice. They don’t need fixing, they need validation.
Validation means accepting, acknowledging and understanding someones feelings. Don’t judge them, show them support.
When you validate someones feelings, they begin to feel safe with you.
Emotional abuse occurs whenever an individual is dictated on how to feel, told they are too sensitive or dramatic or advised not to feel a certain way. It denies the rich emotional repertoire that makes people wonderfully and complexly human.
Our emotions are not right or wrong they are a reflection of our inner experience. If you are at the receiving end of emotional invalidation, just know you are not crazy or unstable. Your emotions are real and valid.
It’s easy to jump in and try to defend yourself. This can lead to frustration, defensive behaviour and aggression, but just know this is exactly the purpose of what the perpetrator is trying to do, they are trying to distract you from what is really happening.
The real issue at hand is that they are trying to control you.
Instead of acting out on their intentions, remove yourself from the abusive situation. You do not deserve to be abused. You should leave and stop playing into the abusers game.
Finally, I just wanted to say never forget that you are as valid as everyone else.
Your emotions are important.
The road to recovery is long, so if you’ve suffered emotional abuse in the past don’t let anyone tell you that your behaviour is wrong. Connect with that supportive network of people around you who truly care.
Love is unconditional.