Wow, well this is a topic I could talk about all day. I have lost count of the Narcissistic friends I’ve had and dysfunctional relationships. Being a survivor of domestic violence has left me with some deeps scars. It makes you realise over time, 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. Sometimes people don’t realise what they say to me can be a trigger. They might not necessaryily be trying to emotionally abuse me, they might not realise they are doing it, but they are causing some pretty uncomfortable emotions to come to the surface.
So, lets look at the types of emotional abuse.
Psychological Invalidation. 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 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. Easier said than done, but if someone is willing to do this to you they are controlling you.
Sometimes people use this because they don’t know how to deal with the situation, however it is important not to do this, no matter the situation. Communication is much better and it can decrease the distress caused in the victim.
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 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 OK. Although, for me anger is usually because I’ve received silent treatment. Being ignored opens up a huge trauma wound for me and my then anger knows no bounds. If you hate confrontation, this is a sure way to cause it. Yes, excessive anger is wrong, but asses your actions in the situation and see if there is something that has caused it. It could be the easiest way to stop someone from becoming aggressive or disarm them. It could also help you to understand that the situation your in isn’t healthy and that its not your fault that you are being ignored. This might make it easier to not react to the situation.
Anger is healthy. You should be able to express anger, it’s an emotion like any other. To deny someones anger is emotional invalidation. What isn’t acceptable is when that anger gets out of control. That can lead to physical abuse. If you are in a relationship where anger comes from a cycle try and figure it out. It might be an abusive relationship, or there might be a trigger that causes a type of behaviour that can be broken to stop the cycle.
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 you have behaved in a way that they don’t think is appropriate.
The are psychologically invalidating you, controlling you, then 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 OK 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.
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.