Have you ever been in an emotionally abusive situation where you couldn’t just walk away? What if you have a toxic boss and you’re unable to find another job? Maybe you’re married and you don’t want to leave your children. How do you Battle Back from Emotional Abuse when you’re stuck?
Abuse and the Current Pandemic
Covid 19 and the corresponding lockdowns have created stress, isolation, and spikes in reported domestic abuse. If you or your children are suffering from physical or sexual abuse or neglect, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 to create a safety plan. Call 911 if you or your children’s lives are in danger! Remember, emotional abuse from a domestic partner can also escalate into physical abuse, especially when you are attempting to leave the situation.
The Most Common Form of Abuse
While emotional abuse is the least talked about, it is the most common form of abuse. Emotional abuse occurs when the victim’s self-worth and emotional well being are altered by things like name calling, blaming, shaming, denying, minimizing, and etc. Read a more extensive list of behaviors here. Behaviors can also be more covert, such as word twisting and feigning ignorance. While everyone exhibits unhealthy behaviors from time to time, the emotional abuser acts purposefully to undermine your confidence. In other words, their actions aren’t simply reactive, they are intentional. The fact that a loved one would hurt them without provocation is often difficult for victims to grasp.
How to Stifle Emotional Abuse
While I’m not a psychologist, I’ve read extensively on the subject and compiled behaviors that helped with my own toxic relationships for this post. I’ve included links to my favorite books on the subject as well.
1. Stop trying to reason with your emotional abuser.
You can beat your head against the wall for hours, explaining and begging for changes in their behavior, but it will not do any good. A light bulb will not suddenly go off in their heads as they say, “You know what, you’re right. I just said that to make you mad because I’m having a bad day myself. Please forgive me.” Remember, they know their own actions are done on purpose and will probably never admit that to you.
2. Do not argue with them.
Do not go down the rabbit hole with an emotional abuser! You will be dragged into a four hour argument that will end with no resolution. The refusal to accept responsibilty or resolve the problem are hallmarks of emotionally abusive people. Emotional immaturity is another character trait. Abusers prefer conflict over peace and they are at war with their victims. They will deny or minimize their wrong actions and turn the tables on you. Also, you will say things that you don’t mean and feel ashamed later because you brought yourself down to their level. It takes a tremendous amount of practice and self control to keep yourself from being sucked into the vortex, but you can begin working on that skill now.
Create consequences for unwanted behavior.
Emotional abusers won’t listen to your words, but they do understand consequences. Is your Aunt Jane rude and condescending on a regular basis? Does she enjoy embarrassing you at family gatherings as she makes you the butt of her jokes? Guess what? You don’t have to go to her house for Christmas. Tell her why you aren’t coming. She may stop just because she doesn’t want you to call her out in front of the rest of the family. Many times emotional abusers put on a charming front for others and don’t want people to know what they’re really like behind closed doors. Does your wife argue with you in the car, where you’re trapped and can’t get any relief? Next time, refuse to go anywhere with her if the goal is to trap you in the car and argue. If she wants you to go to the mall with her, she’ll have to learn to be nice.
Make them accountable.
Tell someone the abuser respects about their behavior. Emotional abuse stays hidden because the abuser usually has some type of power or control over you. They’ve probably worked hard to put themselves in that position. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be able to get away with the abuse. Appeal to a higher authority. Tell his or her parents or your pastor. Telling people about the abuse is like prying moldy boards off the porch. Let the sun get in and dry it up. Are you afraid that people won’t believe you? Some people might not. But don’t give up until you find someone who can help. Are you ashamed to tell anyone? Don’t be. The abuse is not your fault or something you deserve.
Educate yourself and take notes.
Read books and articles on the subject. Learn the names and definitions of abusive behaviors. Learn to spot emotional abuse while it is happening. Write abusive behaviors down as they occur. Look for patterns. Does the abuse get worse over long weekends? Does it happen at events that you were specifically looking forward to enjoying? Does it escalate during the holidays? Have other people been abused by this person in the past? Having a clear picture of the patterns of abuse will keep you from being blindsided in the future.
Be nice when they’re nice.
In my opinion, it’s ok to be nice to an emotionally abusive person when they’re kind and loving towards you. However, unless they’ve been going to counseling and you’ve seen real change for a long period of time, do not let your guard down. They can expect gravel when they’re abusive and sugar when they’re sweet. The choice is theirs to make.
I hope you enjoyed this post. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 if you need help or someone to listen. Call 911 if you or your children’s lives are in danger!