Love means building up others. Love is patient and kind—it seeks out another’s best. Unfortunately, many people experience the opposite in their relationships: people who tear them down. When people experience shaming, accusations, manipulation, or nit-picking from a spouse, a parent, a spiritual leader, a friend, or co-worker, they may be experiencing emotional abuse.
The goal of emotional abuse is control: trying to dominate another person’s thoughts, feelings, and actions. Emotional abuse may not leave a bruise or mark, but the wounds are real. People who experience emotional abuse within any relationship may…
- Be fearful of expressing their needs, thoughts, and emotions.
- Trust their own experiences, perceptions, and/or memories.
- Feel acute anxiety and hyper-vigilance.
- Constantly wonder when the next emotional outburst or rage will occur.
- Blame themselves for how they are being treated.
- Think that they cannot do anything correctly.
- Experience severe mental health problems.
- Do you recognize anything on this list? If you do, your relationship may be emotionally abusive.
Many resources are available to help people who have experienced emotional abuse find safety and healing. In particular, many people have found mental health counseling essential as they recover from the trauma of emotional abuse.
Wounds to the soul may not be visible, but the therapists at Thriveworks Manassas in Prince William County see them. Our professionals understand the trauma emotional abuse victims have survived, and they are committed to providing each client with holistic and personalized care.
Describing Emotional Abuse
Tiffs and bickering are normal parts of any relationship, and when they are respectful, they are healthy signs of interdependence where individuality is maintained. In contrast, emotional abuse uses feelings as weapons to control another person.
The forms emotional abuse can take are endless, but anyone who has experienced it will recognize it. Illustrations of emotional abuse are often powerful, and the following actions may be emotionally abusive:
- Unfounded accusations (“You broke [moved, stole, lost, et cetera]…” when they know that you did not).
- Outbursts of anger (Emotional responses that out of balance, considering the given situation).
- Withholding affection and love to get other people to behave a certain way (Pretending the other person does not exist instead of working through the problem).
- Objectifying other people (“What a girl” or “Man up”).
- Downplaying and minimizing others’ experiences, opinions, and/or emotions (“I doubt it was that horrible. You’re just sensitive.”)
- Using intimidation, threats, or guilt to get what is wanted (“If you really cared about me, you would…”).
- Blocking another’s means to accessing important resources (transportation, food, money, education, and/or health care).
- Possessiveness, entitlement, and/or jealousy toward another (“You belong to me.”).
- Cutting off others from their family or friends (“Why are you visiting him! Don’t you love me?”).
- Gaslighting (Sabotaging people’s confidence in their own experiences, thoughts, or memories).
- Mocking, humiliating, name-calling, shaming, criticizing, or embarrassing others (“You are such an idiot…”).
- Harming, breaking, or disposing of another’s mementos or meaningful possessions (Throwing away a beloved childhood toy, special picture, family heirloom, et cetera).
- Shifting blame and being defensive (It’s not like you’re an angel!”).
These tactics all vary in their details and circumstances, but the underlying method is the same: using emotions to gain control over another person. Often, emotional abuse begins subtly, and then, as victims become used to the treatment, it is escalated.
An example is gaslighting. The term comes from a scene in a 1944 movie starring Ingrid Bergman where her character sees the gas lights flicker. Her emotionally abusive husband pretends he does not see, and he convinces her that she cannot trust her own experiences. At first glance, this scene is a simple argument a couple has over the lights. But the movie shows the bigger pattern: the husband escalates the tactics until Bergman’s character feels like she is going crazy.
Real but Invisible Wounds: Recovering with a Prince William Counselor at Thriveworks Manassas
When people tear down another person’s individuality, they are wounding that other person. Advocate Aisha Mirza explains, “It is not the bruises on the body that hurt. It is the wounds of the heart and the scars on the mind.” Some of those wounds may include depression, hyper-vigilance, psychosomatic pain, substance abuse, fear, anxiety, and suicidal idealization.
When people receive physical wounds such as a broken broke or a gash, they need to see a physician and receive medical care. Similarly, when people receive wounds to their soul, they often need to see a counselor or a therapist.
Do you know the pain of emotional abuse? Can you count the wounds to your spirit? If you have experienced or are experiencing emotional abuse, know that you are not alone. The behaviors listed in this article are not healthy in any relationship, and if someone in your life is acting in those ways, help is available. Thriveworks Manassas has helped many clients find safety and healing after an emotionally abusive relationship.
If you want to meet with a mental health professional, Thriveworks Manassas in Prince William has appointments available, and we have done our best to make the process of setting up an appointment as easy as possible. Many new clients meet with their therapist within 24 hours—not weeks or even months. A person answers our phone—not a voice mail or automated response. We also work with most insurance companies, and have weekend and evening sessions available.
Call Thriveworks Manassas today. We are ready to help.