Understanding the wrath of emotional abuse
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to control someone's thoughts? Unfortunately, there are some people who can do this very tactic: emotional abusers. When we hear about abusive relationships, the first type we often think of is physical. But another largely unknown type is emotional abuse.
In a recent Huffington Post article, psychotherapist Abby Rodman writes about a survey that found 53 percent of women said they divorced their spouses because of emotional or psychological abuse — the number one reason women gave for leaving their marriages.
Emotional abuse is like brainwashing in that it continuously wears away at the victim's self-confidence, sense of self-worth, trust in his/her own perceptions and self-concept. It can include anything from verbal abuse and constant criticism to more subtle tactics, such as intimidation, manipulation and refusal to ever be pleased.
Emotional abuse does not limit itself to any one race, age group, gender or socioeconomic group. It is normally seen in women and children, but has also been seen in men. And while statistics are indefinable, researchers have agreed that this abuse has reached epidemic proportions.
Abuse is often seen in repetition — a cycle. According to HelpGuide.org, it flows in this pattern:
- Abuse: The abuser can attack with aggressive, belittling or violent behavior. The abuser will want the victim to know he/she is in charge. This may include isolation and psychological signs. Isolation can be anything from being restricted from seeing family and friends, rarely going out in public without their partner and having limited access to money, credit cards or the car. The psychological warning signs can be anything from having low self-esteem — even if the victim is confident — to showing major personality changes and being depressed, anxious or suicidal.
- Guilt: After the abuse, the abuser worries that he/she may get caught or face consequences for the behavior.
- Excuses: The abuser avoids all responsibility for what he/she has done and will find any excuse to cover up the issue, including blaming the victim.
- Normal behavior: To regain control of the relationship, the abuser will turn on the charm to make sure everything is back to normal. He/she may shower the victim with gifts in order to make sure the victim is still committed in the relationship. "The peaceful honeymoon phase may give the victim hope that the abuser has really changed this time."
- Fantasy and planning: The abuser begins the planning stages — fantasizing — of how he/she will start abusing you again. This may include picking the next target of the victim's life to isolate the victim from. The abuser will then make the fantasy a reality.
- Set-up: The plan is taking place for the abuser to "attack" his/her victim again.
- Loving gestures: Throughout the cycle, the abuser may apologize and give you loving gestures in order to make it difficult for the victim to leave. "He/she may make you believe that you are the only person that can help him/her, that all things will be different this time and that he/she truly loves the you."
Valerie J. Packota shares in "Emotional Abuse of Women by their Intimate Partners: A Literature Review" that studies carried out in the U.S. indicated that 55 percent of divorces were due to psychological abuse; 27 percent of dating relationships reported psychological abuse; 89-97 percent of engaged couples in counseling reported that emotional abuse has taken place in the last 12 months.
But things finally seem to taking a turn for the better in recent years.
"Victims of emotional abuse are finding their way back to health and self-love," Rodman said. "More than ever before in history, women are making it abundantly clear they're no longer willing to stay married to partners who abuse them."
No matter what type of abuse is being suffered, it leaves a scar. If you or someone you love is a victim of emotional abuse, there is hope. It is a problem worth fixing and preventing, for the sake of society's future as communities and families.
To stop the cycle of abuse, the first step is understanding the pattern of abusive relationships.
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