As kids, almost everyone was told, “sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” when another child teased or taunted. This nursery rhyme, however, rarely fooled children into feeling better because people inherently know that words can cause severe hurt. As adults, when people use manipulative words and actions to control another, it is called emotional abuse. Author Aisha Mirza explains how “It is not the bruises on the body that hurt. It is the wounds of the heart and the scars on the mind.”
A spouse, a friend, a co-worker, a parent, a religious authority…any relationship can be emotionally abusive. The red-flag for emotional abuse is control. Relationships are healthy when both parties are free to be themselves, to disagree, and to make their own choices. Emotional abuse occurs when one person tries to control the other through emotional manipulation.
If you are in a relationship where someone pulls at your emotions to try and control you, then know that help is available. There are many accessible resources, and one of the most effective is counseling. Many victims re-establish their safety with the help of a skilled therapist.
Thriveworks Richmond offers emotional abuse counseling. We understand the wounds emotional abuse inflicts, and we have walked with many clients as they heal.
Emotional Abuse: Love Is Not Controlling
In healthy relationships, there is freedom for disagreements and unique choices. People are distinct beings, and those distinctions should be respected. Emotional abuse, in contrast, is about controlling what another person feels, thinks, and does through emotional manipulation. When there is a pattern of emotional domination, then the relationship is most likely emotionally abusive.
The pattern of emotional abuse is often subtle and harder to identify than other forms of abuse. The following behavior illustrate that pattern:
- Irrational jealousy or possessive behaviors.
- Openly embarrassing, humiliating, shaming, criticizing, mocking, or name-calling.
- Refusing to take any personal responsibility for their behaviors (Blaming others).
- Isolating a person from their friends and family.
- Denying affection or love until receiving what they want (When you… I will…).
- Falsely accusing another of wrongdoing.
- Minimizing another’s thoughts and feelings. (“You’re just sensitive…It’s not that bad.”)
- Objectifying people.
- Using intimidation, threats, or guilt to gain what they want.
- Refusing access to vital resources: money, food, transportation, and/or medical care.
- Harming or destroying another’s personal or prized possessions without permission.
- Using anger and moodiness to keep others on edge.
The common thread among these actions is that emotions are used to control another person. Emotional abuse undermines another person’s sense of self and security so that a perpetrator can overshadow their autonomy.
Gaslighting is the perfect example of the deliberate pattern of emotional abuse. The term has become more and more recognizable recently, but the concept has been around a long time. The 1940s movie, “Gaslight” with Ingrid Bergman coined the term, and it comes from a scene where Bergman’s character sees the gaslights flicker. Her emotionally abusive husband pretends he did not see it, and he convinces his wife that the flicker was in her imagination. Through this and other, similar tactics, Bergman’s character eventually feels like she is going crazy. She loses trust in her own experience and he gains more and more control over her.
Harm and Loss from Emotional Abuse
When someone is a victim of emotional abuse, their wounds are very real even though they are not visible. Such wounds may include psychosomatic pain, hyper-vigilance, fear, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicide idealization. Victims often feel…
- Frightened of their perpetrator.
- As everything they do, think, choose, or feel is wrong.
- Fearful of having their own thoughts and feelings.
- Responsible for the emotional abuse.
- Anxious about when the next anger outburst will occur.
Healing from Emotional Abuse: Counseling at Thriveworks Richmond
The counselors at Thriveworks Richmond want anyone who has experienced emotional abuse to know:
- No one deserves emotional abuse.
- Abusers make the choice to harm and are responsible for their choices.
- The pain is real.
- Healing from emotional abuse takes time and effort, but it is possible.
- Your emotional and physical safety are important.
Our therapists understand that you have survived a personal nightmare. You do not have to recover from emotional abuse alone.
If you call Thriveworks Richmond today, you may be meeting with your counselor tomorrow. Many new clients have their first appointment within 24 hours. We offer weekend and evening appointments. We also work with many insurance providers.
If you think you are being controlled or emotionally manipulated by someone in your life, know that Thriveworks Richmond is ready to help. Call today.