Many people are spotlighting emotional abuse these days, but the reality is that emotionally controlling behavior has been occurring within relationships for a long time. In 1944, Ingrid Bergman portrayed an emotionally abused wife in the movie, “Gaslight.” In the scene that titled the movie and coined the term, Bergman’s character sees the gaslight dim and then brighten. Her emotionally abusive husband convinces her that the flicker was in her imagination, even though he saw it as well. Through many similar tactics, the husband sabotages the wife’s trust of her own experiences. She feels like she is going crazy.
Emotional abuse is a deliberate pattern of controlling behavior that uses emotions to dominate another person. There may be no broken bones or bleeding, but emotional abuse severely harms a person’s spirit. Fortunately, many support systems are in place for anyone who has experienced emotional abuse, and many victims find healing through counseling. Therapy may help people regain their safety, find healing, and break the abusive cycle.
The emotional abuse counselors at Thriveworks Arlington understand what it takes to heal from emotional abuse, and we have helped many clients break free. If you are a victim of emotional abuse, consider working with one of our counselors or therapists. Just give our office a call to schedule an appointment.
What Does Emotional Abuse Look Like?
Disagreements—even heated ones—are often signs of a healthy relationship. When they are respectful, tiffs and quarrels are natural. In contrast, emotional abuse is not a passionate disagreement—it is a pattern of control wherein a person tries to dominate others through manipulating their emotions.
Emotional abuse is purposeful, and it often begins subtly. Victims may not recognize the manipulation at first, then as they are desensitized to it, the perpetrator escalates. Any number of actions could be emotionally abusive, but the pattern is always the same: using a person’s feelings to gain control over them. It may be easier to identify examples of emotional abuse. The following are often emotionally abusive:
- Public embarrassment, humiliation, mocking, criticizing, name-calling, et cetera.
- Acutely jealous or possessive behavior.
- Cutting someone off from their friends and family.
- Utilizing guilt, threats, or intimidation to achieve a certain outcome.
- Belittling another’s perspective, emotions, or thoughts (e.g., “You’re just overreacting. It’s not that bad.”).
- Falsely blaming—in particular to divert attention from personal behavior or to undermine another person.
- Blocking access to vital resources that should reasonably be provided within a given relationship—food, transportation, medical care, money, and more.
- Intentionally harming or trashing another’s prized possessions (meaningful photographs, a family heirloom, etc.) without permission.
- Objectifying and using people.
- Withholding love during disagreements.
- Keeping people on edge with anger or moodiness.
- Rejecting responsibility for one’s own actions—blaming others.
Both women and men can be victims in emotionally abusive relationships. They can occur in many different contexts—within a marriage, among friends, in a religious community, at work, from a parent to child, and more. Anyone in any race or socio-economic status can also experience emotional abuse.
There may not be bleeding, scars, or broken bones, but emotional abuse can cause severe wounds. Hypervigilance, depression, suicidal idealization, fear, psychosomatic pain, anxiety, and substance abuse are only a handful of soul injuries victims may experience.
How Does It Feel to Be a Victim of Emotional Abuse?
Healthy relationships are marked by respect and freedom. Love promotes another’s welfare and does not undermine another’s self-worth. People who choose to harm others emotionally may cause their victims to feel…
- Intense fear.
- As if everything they do is wrong.
- As if they are walking on egg shells.
- That their real thoughts and feelings do not matter.
- As if they caused the emotional abuse or deserve it.
Healing from an Emotionally Abusive Relationship
It is possible to end emotionally abusive relationships and heal from the toxic environment they create. Often, it takes time, intentional effort, and a mental health professional’s care. Counseling has helped many victims…
- Repair their self-esteem—abuse is never justifiable or deserved.
- Understand that they are not at fault—their abuser chose to harm.
- Identify invisible injuries so they can find treatment.
- Heal from the trauma.
- Make their physical and emotional safety a priority.
- Restore trust in their own experiences, perceptions, feelings, and thoughts.
- Build new relationships upon trust, freedom, and love.
Work with an Emotional Abuse Counselor at Thriveworks Arlington, VA
If you are currently in an emotionally abusive relationship, know that you are not alone. There are many resources available to you, and Thriveworks Arlington may be able to help.
If you are ready to contact a mental health professional about the emotional abuse you have experienced, know that when you call Thriveworks Arlington, a scheduling specialist will answer your call. New clients may be able to meet with their therapist within 24 hours of their call, and we accept many forms of insurance.
Thriveworks Arlington is here to support you. Call today.