Sometimes the signs of emotional abuse can be difficult to detect. Different from physical abuse, emotional abuse is often experienced without the people in the victim’s life realizing that it is even happening.
What’s worse is that the victim also doesn’t realize their own abuse as it gradually becomes more intense. Many times, the victim will even justify their mistreatment in order to make sense of it and even write it off.
Emotional abuse can be more harmful than physical abuse since it can undermine what we think about ourselves. It can paralyze everything that we are destined to be. When we allow it to happen, it turns into something that falsely defines who we are. Emotional abuse can happen between parents and children, husband and wife, family members, co-workers and managers, and even between friends.
The abuser will usually project their words, behaviors or actions onto the victim or victims they have chosen. It is one of the preferred strategies for avoiding any type of conflict that might cause the victim to question the abuser’s false self-esteem and also serves as a way of attacking their victim, making them dependent and creating a sense of helplessness.
So, how do we know if we are victims of emotional abuse?
By answering the following questions, we can get a better idea of what makes us victims of emotional abuse.
Humiliation, degradation, denial, judgement and criticism.
Is there someone who makes fun of you or puts everyone else’s needs in front of yours?
Do they make fun of you by using sarcasm as a way to put you down or degrade you?
Do they tell you that your opinions or feelings are “bad” or don’t matter?
Is there someone who regularly ridicules you? Do they reject your opinions, thoughts, suggestions and feelings?
Domination, control and shame.
Do you feel like this person treats you like a child?
Do they constantly correct or chastise you because your behavior is “inappropriate?”
Do you feel the need to “ask permission” before going somewhere or doing something, including making small decisions?
Do they control how you spend your money?
Do they treat you as if you were inferior to them?
Do they make you feel as if they were always right?
Do they remind you of your shortcomings?
Do they undermine your achievements, aspirations or plans?
Do they scornfully disapprove of your looks, comments or behavior?
Accusing and shaming, trivial expectations or unreasonable demands, and denying their own shortcomings.
Do they accuse you of something when they already know it isn’t true?
Are they unable to laugh at themselves?
Are they extremely sensitive when other people make fun of them or make any kind of comment that may seem the least bit disrespectful?
Do they make excuses for their problems?
Do they make excuses for their behavior or blame others/outside circumstances for their own mistakes?
Do they call you by your name or by a mean nickname?
Do they make you feel responsible for their problems or unhappiness?
Do they continuously disrespect you?
Emotional distancing and “the silent treatment,” isolation, abandonment or emotional neglect.
Do they use withdrawal or withhold attention or affection?
Are they not concerned with meeting your basic needs or use neglect or abandonment as a punishment?
Do they use projection to put their faults onto you instead of taking responsibility for their own actions and behavior?
Do they not realize or care about how you feel?
Do they not show empathy or ask questions to get information?
Codependence and entanglement.
Do they treat you like an extension of themselves instead of as an individual?
Do they not protect your personal boundaries and share information that you don’t want shared?
Do you believe that the lack of respect for your requests and what the other person thinks is better for you?
Do they require continuous contact and haven’t developed their own healthy network of support among their own colleagues?
If you answered “yes” to some of these questions, it is possible that you have been faced with someone who abuses you emotionally. Look for people you trust who you can talk to about your experiences; it is silence that your abuser relies on so that they can continue behaving the way they do.
Take off the “happy face” that you wear for everyone around you. And most importantly, allow yourself to receive professional help and assessment; no one should be allowed to trample on your life.