12/03/2018

Identifying & Overcoming Emotional Abuse

Posted in Family, General, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , at 9:42 pm by The Water Bearer

Most of us can recall a time in our life when we felt scared, threatened, yelled at, picked on, blamed, criticised, belittled, controlled and so on. Whether it was a rare event, maybe from a school bully, a grumpy teacher, a boss, or a family member having a bad day, or perhaps an ongoing occurrence for many years, at some point it has happened to us all…. Throughout this article I’ll share some of my own personal experience on this topic (which I have never actually verbalised publicly). But for now it’s important to understand that the actions listed above are all classified as emotional or psychological abuse.

When we’re exposed to any form of abuse it can have severe long term effects on self-worth and mental stability. I can testify to this truth. The psychological abuse Ive experienced is still a contributing factor of the deep Inner Enemies I face on a regular basis. So when do the behaviours above transition from a normal part of life, into life altering abuse that needs to be identified and treated?

This article has some definitions of emotionally abusive behaviours, and states…

“Beverly Engels defines emotional abuse “as any nonphysical behavior that is designed to control, intimidate, subjugate, demean, punish, or isolate another person through the use of degradation, humiliation, or fear.” The purpose or attitude behind emotional abuse can be conscious, subconscious or unconscious.”

It is important to recognise your own feelings when determining if someone is possibly abusive toward you. If, while in their company, you commonly feel unsure, afraid, stressed, like walking on eggshells, or an unhealthy need to prove yourself, it may be due to some form of abuse. The tricky thing about being abused by someone you love or look up to, is that you constantly look to them for approval. You may get momentary praise, attention, and even affection, but it is never stable enough to stand on, because before long they are blowing up, yelling, name calling, or criticising once again. You begin to believe that if you could only be ‘good enough’ they would have no reason to be angry at you, no reason to yell, no reason to find fault in you. Apologies may or may not come after the abuse, however if the behaviour doesn’t change, and you feel unable to sever contact, you may be stuck in a cycle of abuse.

Cycle_of_Abuse

 

 

In order to break the cycle of abuse, it is vital to realise that their abusive conduct has absolutely nothing to do with our ‘bad’ behaviour. No matter how ‘well-behaved’ we are, they will always find a ‘reason’ to become critical and abusive. If you notice closely, often when you do really well and succeed in anything, they actually pull you back down, saying things like “You think you’re so much better than the rest of us don’t you” Its a toxic cycle. Make a mistake and you feel you are worth less than dirt, do well and succeed and you are labelled self-righteous and arrogant. It’s an vicious unhealthy mindset to try to function in, trust me! But you CAN BREAK FREE FROM IT!

The difficult part is, that even once you have come to this understanding, old patterns are hard to break, especially in a relationship with a spouse, a family member, parent or sibling etc. It’s almost impossible to relax around someone who is abusive, you can learn to control your reactions, set good boundaries, and keep your distance, but sure enough when the time comes to interact with them once again, the subconscious nervous system goes haywire, you watch what you say, hold your breath, waiting for it….

As mentioned above, sometimes the abuser is completely unaware that their behaviour is actually abuse, especially in the case of psychological abuse as there are no bruises or external scars to prove it. Often without proper therapy, someone who has been emotionally abused themselves isn’t able to identify it as abuse, and therefore can’t recognise when their own behaviour becomes abusive. Developing self-awareness and recognising if our emotions are uncontrollable, manipulative or used as excuses for any of the behaviours mentioned early, is vital if we are to identify our own possibly abusive behaviour.

I recently read this excellent post just to gain more understanding of abuse, and abusers who are unaware of their abusive behaviour. I just had to share a portion of this article with you….

When coming to the understanding of where the roots of her abuse began the blogger writes…

“It isn’t so much about blame as it is about the truth. Blame was like a stepping stone on the journey; it was necessary for me to go there. There was blame that had been misapplied to me and I had to put it back where it belonged. Once I saw the truth I was able to heal. I no longer have the anger and resentments that I had for most of my life. I also no longer have the pain of living with such broken self esteem and low self worth that I mistakenly believed was there because there was something “wrong” with me”.

I’ve been researching this subject for many years, fascinated by the power emotions can have over us. Determined to put a stop to my own manipulative emotions and ensure the legacy of emotional anarchy was not passed onto my children. It was the main reason for beginning my journey of faith and self-awareness.

It took a long time to understand the powerful effect this abuse had on my insecurities. Many years of therapy unraveled how each painful memory had affected me, and uncovered some memories I hadn’t realised were damaging my mental health long term. At some point I had an epiphany, I identified the abuse for what it was and realised that there was no way I could stop it, but knew I had to choose to defy it. I had to stop validating the compliments, I had to stop seeking approval, I had to dismiss my urge for affection. I had to allow abusive people to have as many issues with me as they liked and learn to ignore it. I had to stop trying to adapt to others expectations and adapt to my own instead. I had to trust God to defend me and hand it all over to Him. All these strategies are easier said than done, but they are possible. With a healthy dose of self-awareness, development of good boundaries, and trust in the promises of God to love you, heal you and deal with those who do you wrong.  The Psalms are filled with prayers, hymns and praise about God’s deliverance from thine enemies.

Yep, I’ve been working hard for decades and now I am at a new challenging stage…. Forgiveness  (OUCH)

Funnily enough I always thought I was forgiving, because I put myself back in that firing line over and over again. Plus I tried so hard not to use the abuse as a reason to in turn become abusive. I kept civil and polite as much as possible. I took the hit (so to speak), recoiled in pain, put some distance between us and then once the dust had settled and I believed I had moved into forgiveness, off I went back in. I realise now that forgiveness isn’t about staying in contact with my abuser. I can keep my distance and still forgive. They may not feel forgiven, or accept my choice, and I guess that was always my problem, I wanted them to understand my reasons for distancing myself. I wanted desperately to explain how much it hurt. I wanted them to admit it and stop it. But that never came.

It was freeing to accept that forgiving them is not about them, its about me. Its about giving myself permission to step out of the firing line, while forgiving the misunderstanding, and the false-accusations. However, the voices in my head need forgiveness too, and all the strangers whom I now fear abuse from even before they have inflicted it. I need to forgive myself for allowing it to go on SO LONG!

I’m actually really excited by this new level of understanding. I’m eager to practice forgiveness, even if it hurts, because at least now I know I’m almost at the end of a very long journey towards healing! And then only God knows what I’ll be capable of when the fear of abuse, and the fear of criticism is no longer a constant voice in my head that needs silencing, but has become a long and distant memory.

Psalm 138:7  Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch forth Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, And Your right hand will save me.

 

 

 

 

 

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