Emotional abuse. It’s insidious how it creeps into your life. It’s one of those things that, at first glance, may feel innocuous. The small slights and put downs don’t feel to be that significant – at first – because they occur sporadically and are often “peppered” with random acts of kindness, which typically leaves the victim feeling confused and unsure.

Thus, it’s not uncommon for a victim to innocently ignore the infrequent snide comments. Forgiveness and oversights are common in this initial stage. But over time, it simply (or not so simply) “chips away” at how we think, value, and esteem ourselves.

However, over time the road narrows between an abuser’s acts of kindness and their emotional and verbal abuse. For those who have been there, you understand because you have found yourself wondering, “how did that happen?” and “how did I get here?” as you move from victim to survivor. That’s how insidious it is.

But let me make it clear. You have done nothing wrong. Abusers are just that good.

It’s easy when you are on the outside to question whether its the abuser or the relationship – meaning the dynamic between the two people – that spawns the emotional abuse cycle. Well, its a little of both – but let me clarify. The emotional abuse is perpetrated – solely- by the abuser. The ‘he has a bad relationship with his mother, he doesn’t like women, he was abused growing up – really don’t hold up. It’s a choice, people. For the victim, they have low self-esteem and a self worth, which makes them feel (unfortunately) that they deserve it and so they stay.

I can deeply empathize with a victim of abuse in many ways. As a therapist, it is very painful to watch, to experience, to sit across from, and to absorb. As a woman, these same feelings and experiences were once part of my life. My depth of understanding reaches far. And, of course, to watch this unfold breaks my heart.

Instinctively I want to protect those who are suffering from further harm and tell them to run. But, I know its just not that simple though I wish it were. We all have our own journey.

Here are some all too common signs of emotional abuse. Do any of these sound familiar?

14 Signs of Emotional Abuse

  • Putting you down – not just in private, but often in public as well. This is their attempt to shame you. They are projecting their feelings of low self-worth on to you.
  • Embarrassing you in public.
  • Verbal abuse – such as yelling, name calling, blaming, and shaming.
  • Using isolation, intimidation, and controlling behaviors.
  • Use physical threats, violence, or stalking as a way to control you.
  • Blaming you for their abusive and unhealthy behaviors. Using the “if, then” clause. If you didn’t do “this” then I wouldn’t do “that”.
  • Threatening to harm you or your family. Often.
  • Calling you derogatory names. Many times.
  • Making you feel bad or guilty when you don’t consent to sexual activity. Laying guilt on you that you “should” be doing this and if you really loved me, you would be having sex with me. Or “I will have to find it elsewhere.”
  • Gaslighting – a form of psychological abuse where false information is presented to their victim to make them doubt their decisions, perceptions, and judgments in their attempt to make you seem “crazy.”
  • Making you feel like you are always doing something wrong.
  • Isolating you from your family and friends. Playing victim when you want to spend time with family and friends. Stating “we” never spend time together. Saying things like “if you loved me, you would want to spend time with me.”
  • If you do go out, making multiple demands on you through numerous texts and phone calls.
  • Threatening suicide when you attempt to break up with them – “I can’t live without you”, “I will kill myself if you break up with me.”

But all is not lost. Learning to recognize the signs, getting support from family and friends and a trained professional, and personal introspection, victims can take the necessary to extricate themselves from their abusive and unhealthy relationship and move from victim to survivor!

This blog was originally posted on DivorceForce.com

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