Emotional Abuse

by Dr Cheryl Dusty

These commonalities occur in those who have been emotionally abuse:

  1. Don't really have a sound concept of "normal" or what constitutes healthy behavior
  2. Lie when they don't need to, which may have been used to avoid punishment, to get attention, or to diffuse anger in the past
  3. Judge themselves more harshly than others judge them
  4. Tend to have a hard time letting go or having fun
  5. Take themselves very seriously or not seriously at all.
  6. Sensitive individuals who think others will know what they want
  7. Are willing to take responsibility for things that don't work out but have a hard time accepting responsibility for things that go great
  8. Insecure so they seek approval
  9. Are uncomfortable accepting compliments
  10. Poor judges of who deserves loyalty and who does not
  11. Feel a need to be in control and overact to things which aren't in their control
  12. Many times feel like a victim and blame others for their impulsive actions and mistakes
  13. Have trouble finishing tasks or goals
  14. Difficult to be successful in intimate relationships (lack of boundaries or try to control the relationship)
  15. We continue to attract emotionally unavailable people with addictive personalities
  16. Tend to procrastinate and have difficulty following project through
  17. Low self- esteem
  18. Become people pleasers
  19. Feel guilty when we stand up for ourselves or have healthy boundaries
  20. Often uneasy around other people, especially authority figures
  21. Attract emotionally unavailable people who may or may not have  addictive personalities
  22. Lack clearly defined personal limits and boundaries thereby becoming  enmeshed in our partner's needs, emotions and wants
  23. Are so afraid to be alone that even a bad relationship is better than none, and after all, the abuser may "change"
  24. Emotional abuse often escalates to pushing, shoving, and more dire physical abuse

Abuse is found in behavior that controls or subjugates another human being through fear, manipulation, humiliation, coercion, intimidation or guilt. The only difference in emotional abuse compared to physical abuse are the visual signs including cuts and bruises, and includes constant disapproval and/or criticism and verbal abuse.

Emotional abuse is insidious because it usually begins slowly and escalates. My belief is that almost all emotional abuse, given enough time, has a tendency to escalate into physical abuse. Emotional abuse distorts the victims self perception and concept, eating away at a person's self esteem until they have little idea of what is reality and what's not. The victim grows to believe that somehow they may be deserving of the treatment, but are so afraid to be alone that they remain in the relationship.

Emotional abuse victims can become so convinced that they are worthless that they believe that no one else could want them. They stay in abusive situations because they believe they have nowhere else to go. Their ultimate fear is being all alone.

There are many forms of emotional abuse which include:

Verbal Abuse

  1. Using sarcasm and humiliation; belittling, criticizing, name calling, yelling, threatening

  2. Casting blame (it's always your fault)

  3. Putting you down in public, blowing your flaws out of proportion.

Emotional Blackmail

  1. Hot buttons are used against you to take advantage of fear, your values, compassion, or guilt. This enables the other person to get what they want.
  2. Controlling techniques that use your fear such as threats to end the relationship or withdrawing love, affection, or communication with you.

Inappropriate Expectations

  1. No matter how much you give or do, it won't be enough
  2. The partner either wants and makes constant demands or isolates you to spend all your time with them
  3. You will be reminded how you are unable to fill all of their needs
  4. You are expected to put your own life, desires, or projects aside to fulfill their needs


  1. You give up self respect when you allow yourself to always be dominated by another person.
  2. The other party has the power and control. They really would like this over every aspect of your life and will threaten your security to get it.


Aggressive Behavior

  1. Healthy relationships come from healthy adult interaction. Using techniques including threatening, ordering you around, calling you names and constant blaming takes away the equal power in a relationship. They also do this by judging you, finding you lacking and invalidating your beliefs or behavior.
  2. Sometimes abusive behavior is hidden in the guise of helping you if they control or demean you and your actions. This behavior teaches you that you are insufficient to handle your own life and teaches you that you probably couldn't get along without the abuser.

Invalidating Your Perceptions

  1. Your perception is invalidated when they make light of your perceptions, what is real to you and how you feel.

Chaos Junkies

  1. Chaos junkies are constantly in crisis, in the middle of an argument with someone, or in drastic circumstances, and if it's not, they'll make it happen.

Keep You On Your Toes

  1. The idea is to keep you off balance and on your toes. This causes anxiety and stress (your constantly in a fight or flight state). They like it because they are in control. Addictive personalities are like this also.
  2. Having to be in a constant flight or fight state never allows you to relax. This is extremely damaging to your physical health. You go from one crisis to another never knowing about your partners mood or actions.
  3. Unpredictable responses include reacting to the same stimulus differently on different days. For instance your meatloaf may be great one day and the next week they think it's inedible. You'll also find them having surprise emotional outbursts or very drastic mood changes

Your Feelings or Reactions Are Not Valid

  1. Just another way to deny your reality. They may admit that the event happened, but your reaction to it are over the top and unnecessary.
  2. They will listen to what you are saying or what you feel you might have accomplished, but it's not really important or count for much. No big deal, right?
  3. Tell you that you are crazy and you just don't remember or it didn't happen like that
  4. If it's no what they believe or think it's not allowed
  5. You've had your reality denied for so long that you begin to question and distrust your own feelings and perceptions of events
  6. Training an animal is one thing, but when you lives with emotional abuse, you can eventually doubt your own mind and sanity
  7. When a partner withdraws communication, love, or validation from you, it is emotional abuse and it's used to punish you for not going along with the program
  8. Waiting until your down and need support from your partner, they withholding that support to punish, humiliate, or hurt you

When I Grow Up...

I don't think that I've ever met any child who said "when I grow up, I want to be in an emotionally abusive relationship. Nope, your friends and maybe even family will not understand the dynamics that got you to this place in life. Heck, you don't even understand where it went so wrong.

First, let me say "You Are Not Crazy". We are all souls who've come to Earth to learn life's lessons, and we do the best we can with what we know at the time.

But ultimately, each soul is responsible for it's own choices. Did you set out to pick an emotionally abusive relationship? No, of course not! But we do indeed have the power to attract into our lives the very perfect piece of the puzzle to mirror the things in our lives that we need to heal.

So now you stand at a crossroads: you've discovered that maybe you're not crazy after all and yes this situation is actually happening to you. So what are the choices that you can make? You can indeed choose to stay in this abusive relationship because you love your partner. You need to know that the only reason that you could "love" this partner that is abusive toward you, is that you have not realized that love does not have to hurt. That it's not meant to hurt. And that you are a unique and special individual in your own right. And that the fleeting moments of "honeymoon" (that's the phase when they think they are going to loose you and do anything, promise anything to woo you back) are going to get closer and closer together because they always follow abuse. You see, abuse escalate from verbal and emotional abuse to physical abuse, which escalates in severity. It is a damaging cycle that could ultimately cost you your life.

Will he change? Probably not until the consequences of his/her behavior are so unbearable or unthinkable that they are forced to get professional help. That help is not an overnight fix. It takes time and commitment from the abuser, and you should never consider trying it one more time until that abuser has gotten the help and then have a considerable time under their belt of learning new behaviors. Or there may be so much water under the bridge that you've gotten your own counseling and wouldn't give him another shot at you on a bet. Remember: our children learn 100 times more by example than by what we ever tell them. So consider breaking the cycle now so that abuse does not become a generational plague.










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