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What is Emotional Abuse?

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“My husband constantly calls me names, mocks me, ignores what I have to say, humiliates me in front of the family and then pretends as if nothing has happened and goes on to laugh and enjoy the dinner that I cooked for him and his family with so much effort and love. He is constantly on the phone with others and when I ask anything about anything, he looks away and carries on doing what he was doing. I was never a part of any major decision making. It is as if I don’t have a brain to think and I am not capable of understanding and dealing with situations. As if I don’t even deserve to know what is going on.”

When Rima finally found the courage to share this horrifying experience that was happening to her every single day in the past 3 years, the response she got was:

“But has he ever hit you? If he does not hit you, it is not that bad. Just deal with it.”

The friend is wrong!!

It is just as bad, if not worse: “Knives and axes flash like day, harsh words however always stay.”

Rima was being emotionally and psychologically abused for almost 3 long years before she finally realized IT WAS NOT OKAY.

What is Emotional Abuse?

A definition of emotional abuse is “any act including confinement, isolation, verbal assault, humiliation, intimidation, infantilization, or any other treatment which may diminish the sense of identity, dignity, and self-worth.

It is a painful and serious pattern of abuse in which the primary effort is to control someone by playing with their emotions for which proper relationship counselling should be taken.

Emotional abuse can happen in a wide range of relationship dynamics:

• Romantic Partners

• Husband – Wife

• Parent – Child

• Employer – Employee

• Business Partners or Team Members

• Teacher – Student

So, it can thus be said that any relationship can have the aspect of emotional abuse, and no one should be okay with it, no one should accept it. It should be dealt with, and not by accepting it as a way of life, rather to fight it and get rid of it.

Signs and Symptoms to identify Emotional Abuse:

Unlike physical abuse, where the bruises, the broken bones, the band-aids are visible, Emotional Abuse has the aspect of being sneaky and sometimes even subtle. It can take many shapes.

A few symptoms to keep an eye out for are:

  1. Undermining your self-esteem:

– Verbal aggression

– Calling derogatory names

– Repeatedly questioning one’s character

– Screaming for no apparent reasons

– Embarrassing one in public

– Dismissing everything one says as trivial or completely ignoring him

– Making fun of how one looks

– Looking down upon one’s achievements and not consider them worthy

– Constantly belittling oneself

– Questioning one’s self worth

  • Having unrealistic and unreasonable demands:

– Expecting one to put everything aside and meet unreal needs

– Demanding to spend all the time together

– Being unhappy and dissatisfied no matter what and how much one does

– Expecting one to always agree with him

– Refusing to accept one’s view of the world

  • Constant Condemnation and Criticism:

– Persistently blaming oneself

– Criticising oneself

– Ranking and comparing with others

– Lecturing one about every behaviour and pointing it out as incorrect

– Making one and his opinions feel small and trivial

– Sarcastic and unpleasant comments

– Not letting one feel independent

– Preventing one from taking steps to stand on his own feet

– Humiliating one in public

– intimidating and bullying oneself

– Punishments or threats of punishments

  • Gaslighting:

– Manipulating the truth, leading one to doubt his own emotion, feelings and

thoughts, even his sanity

  • Isolation:

– Withholding affection

– Being indifferent to one’s emotions

– Blaming one of always overreacting

– Accusing one of being too sensitive, or too emotional

– Limiting one’s freedom of movement

– Preventing one from meeting his family members and friends

– Neglecting one emotionally

– Reducing conversation with oneself

– Limiting the conversation to need base only

– Refusing to communicate at all

Emotional abuse in children include:

  • Humiliating or constantly criticising a child.
  • Threatening, shouting at a child or calling them names
  • Making the child the subject of jokes, or using sarcasm to hurt a child
  • Blaming and scapegoating
  • Making a child perform degrading acts
  • Not recognising a child’s own individuality or trying to control their lives
  • Pushing a child too hard or not recognising their limitations
  • Exposing a child to upsetting situations, like domestic abuse or drugs
  • Failing to promote a child’s social development
  • Not allowing them to have friends
  • Persistently ignoring them
  • Being absent
  • Manipulating a child
  • Never expressing positive feelings and warmth to the child
  • Emotionally neglecting the child by never showing them emotions

An emotionally abused child may lack confidence, find it difficult to manage their emotions, have issues with making friends or maintaining friendships, act out of or not behave according to age.

How to deal with Emotional Abuse?

Establish clear boundaries: Communicate a clear set of boundary with the abuser which should be intently followed. Be firm in this and stick to one’s decision.

Stop self-blame: Very often, people who are being emotionally abused start thinking that it is their fault, and they must have done something wrong.

Build a support mechanism: Don’t keep it to oneself. Reach out to people and confide in them. Find a trusted person – a family member, a friend. Share truthfully and it can help one deal with the loneliness and isolation and get a fresh perspective. One may create a network of people going through a similar situation and help each other come out of it together.

 Plan an exit strategy: If things feel like they are going out of hand and may not be manageable or treatable, remember that no one deserves to be in a toxic relationship. One has a right to a warm, considerate and caring relationship. Do not believe otherwise.

Seek professional help: One should not wait for things to get out of hand, and seek professional help before it is too late. Emotional abuse can lead to mental disorders like depression, anxiety and stress related issues. One should find a trained psychologist or a mental health counsellor and seek help. Counsellors are trained to analyse situations like this, and help understand where any abusive behaviour might be coming from and how one can work together to move towards a more mutually respectful and healthy relationship.