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Triana Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Nov-09-07 09:46 PM
Original message
What are the signs and symptoms of Emotional Abuse?
A common misconception is that emotional abuse has to take the form of a partner yelling over every little thing, belittling or constantly criticizing a partner. Other forms of emotional abuse, can however, be just as damaging, and far less overt. They can include being disrespectful, discourteous, rude, condescending, patronizing, critical, judgemental, "joking" insults, lying, repeatedly "forgetting" promises and agreements, betrayal of trust, "setting you up", and "revising" history.

To outsiders, abusers often appear as decent, successful, sensitive, calm and nondescript. To their families, they are often controlling, self-absorbed, hypercritical, compulsive, childish and mean-spirited. Most of abusers are actually BOTH. It is the disparity between the one they love and the one that harms them that keeps the woman confused. He may intersperse episodes of abuse with words of love, telling her that she is "the best thing that has ever happened" to him, and that he wants to start treating her that way, confusing her further. She keeps hoping that if she does enough, if she gives enough, he will stop hurting her and the loving, caring side of him will prevail. Unfortunately, this is a fallacy that often keeps the woman in the relationship for far too long. Ask yourself: Do you have a drawer full of "apology" jewellery, or a closet full of "apology" clothes?

One of the most difficult things about identifying and leaving someone who is a psychological and emotional abuser, is that the REALLY successful abusers are highly intelligent and hide their abuse incredibly well. They may have shelves of filled with psychology books; many are well-read and very well spoken. They know how to twist and manipulate language and people. They present an exterior of calm, rational self-control, when in reality, they have no internal control of their own pain and chaotic self-hate, so they try to control others, and drive others to LOSE control. If an abuser can cause YOU to lose control, it proves how healthy HE is, so he can say, explicitly, or implicitly (it's amazing how sighs, and rolling of the eyes can accomplish as much as words), "There you go again, losing it, crying and yelling. I'm not the one who needs therapy, *you* are." Unfortunately, if an outsider sees the abuse at all, all they see is an outburst from you, NOT the abuse that triggered it. It may make you feel as if you have had all your lifelines withdrawn, as if you are going crazy, because nobody believes you that this charming, "nice", helpful, successful man could be so incredibly psychologically cruel and deliberately hurtful.

Abusers play the pushme-pull-you game threatening to withdraw their affections, dropping statements out of the blue intended to destabilize. This has the effect of making their partners insecure and uncertain, but that plays right into the abuser's hand as he then can accuse the partner of being "too needy". Ploys such as casually talking about how he's thinking of taking a job in another city are one such example of destabilizing talk. In this kind of case, it doesn't start with any discussion of your relationship, or what might happen to it - he talks only of the cool job opportunity, with no recognition of the impact it might have on you, your relationship, or your family.

An emotional abuser may make fun of his partner, or make subtle or not-so-subtle disparaging remarks about her while with other friends, and encourage the friends to make disparaging remarks. He will then be sure to tell her about the jokes they made and act surprised when she doesn't find them "funny". He may even tell her that she is overreacting and that it was "all in fun" and that no harm was meant by the "joking".

Not all emotional abusers criticize their partners directly - sometimes it can be as simple as constantly criticizing how someone keeps a kitchen, or complaining about the mess in the house, or continuous grumbling about the laundry, or complaining about the noise and mess the kids make. He will make her think it is her job to keep him happy, and imply that household things are contributing to his unhappiness and bad temper.

An emotional abuser will seem to encourage his partner to grow, to develop new skills and expand her horizons, but then will do things to impede or prevent that progress. He will mope and sigh about how little time she has for him now that she is working more or taking that course, or back in school. Or, he will "encourage" her to advance herself, but refuse to provide any additional assistance around the house/family to ease her workload, effectively making it impossible for her to take that course or job. If he DOES provide assistance, he will let her know how HARD it is for him, and how MUCH he is doing for her, every step of the way... he will play the "sad puppy" to the hilt, trying to get her to feel guilty for the burdens she has put on him.

An Emotional abuser will try to make his partner responsible for his happiness. Either through direct comments, or indirect implications, the abuser will let his partner know that he is not happy, that it is somehow her fault, and that she must fix it. The problem is, no matter what she does, it will never be enough, and it won't ultimately make him happy.

The abuser may take this behavior to an extreme, insisting that he is the best partner or relationship she will ever have, the only one who can truly love her (despite all her faults!), and that if she doesn't live up to his expectations, he will leave the relationship. Since abuse is really about control, the abuser knows he can have the upper hand in the relationship if he can keep her uncertain and insecure.

Emotional abusers overcompensate for their self-hate with a warped kind of narcissism. They genuinely believe that YOU SHOULD know how they feel, and know what to do to make them happy. AND that you should be willing to do those things without having to be asked or told. They believe that they DESERVE to be treated better, to be put first, to be given preferential treatment. He will expect you to read his mind. He lives by the "if you really loved me, you'd KNOW how I feel" game, and of course will punish you for not being telepathic. If confronted with the unreasonable nature of this behavior, the abuser will blame his partner for his lack of communication - it will always be her fault that he couldn't tell her what he needed or wanted. He will project HIS behavior on her, and insist that he couldn't talk to her about what was bothering him because she was too intense, or critical, or angry, or judgemental, or needy. Don't buy it. Those are HIS issues. Not yours.

And speaking of narcissism, the emotional abuser will be envious and resentful if YOU get more attention than HE does in a social setting. He will likely punish you for it by one of any number of techniques: ignoring you, sulking, disappearing for hours, flirting heavily with someone else, or leaving the party or function without notifying you.

Emotional abusers expect the rest of the household to live by their waking, sleeping and eating schedules. If his schedule is interrupted or disturbed, or if the partner chooses not to follow the same patterns, the abuser feels justified in "punishing" the offender. This can include the full battery of emotional abuse and passive-aggressive tactics - because in the abuser's mind, the partner or household member "deserves" it for not caring enough about him to live by his schedules and activity calendar.

Emotional abusers may use punishment tactics like leaving (without a word to you), a party or function that you both went to. They will have socially plausible, pathos-laden excuses for their unannounced departure, like they couldn't find you, or they were tired and wanted to go home. However, the REAL reason they left without a word, was to punish you; to wind you up, to get you worried about them, and ultimately, to have you feel guilty for not paying enough attention to them. When you confront an abuser on the concept of COURTESY around these sorts of things, the abuser will either apologize weakly, (but the damage has been done), or insist that your distress over his behavior is overreacting.

Emotional abusers will remind you of your flaws under the guise of trying to be "helpful" or sensitive. He may make comments like, "You seem unhappy with your body" - even though you have made no comments about your body image or otherwise, or "You are running late again - you never can get anywhere on time", or "There doesn't seem to be much point in planning things with you." All are comments intended to unbalance and remind you of what he perceives to be your weaknesses.

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grasswire Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Nov-09-07 09:57 PM
Response to Original message
1. thank you for posting this
As the survivor of a marriage to an abusive narcissist, I urge all women who are enduring even mild abuse to seek help and escape. It isn't your fault. No one deserves abuse.
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Triana Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Nov-09-07 11:03 PM
Response to Reply #1
7. Same here...
..I wasn't married to the cretin, thank heavens - but he was an abusive narcissist - malignant narcissist.

I identified three things that I need to work on to prevent getting involved with such a creep in the future:

Learn to recognize abuse. This seems silly but I like many women and men didn't even RECOGNIZE that the way I was being treated was abusive! A great book is 'Verbal Abuse: How to Recognize it and How to Respond" by Patricia Evans. Also, "Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men" by Lundy Bancroft. MANY people can feel that "something is not right" in their relationships and that they are hurt, confused, and upset or depressed much of the time but they can't put their finger on it. They don't recognize when they're being abused because our society largely ACCEPTS verbal/emotional abuse as "normal" and it's NOT.

Learn to set and enforce healthy boundaries - the place between where I end and other people begin. What type of treatment will I absolutely NOT tolerate from anyone? How do I express that to anyone crossing my boundaries and enforce consequences of they are violated? This is a SCARY thing if you're not used to doing it and never learned! And many people - haven't!

Examine codependent tendencies. I don't necessarily mean as a partner to an alcoholic but rather depending too much or relying too much on what OTHERS think of you - for your esteem and self-image. Esteem YOURSELF. Give YOURSELF what you want instead of depending on someone else for it: love. acceptance. understanding. accomplishment.

Get counseling to help, if needed, do research on the internet and read books. PROTECT YOURSELF - because no one else will do it and no one else can do it.
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yasmina27 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Nov-09-07 09:58 PM
Response to Original message
2. Thanks!
A great article. I've read a number of books on this topic for various reasons. I would love to do research on women who are victims of verbal/emotional abuse and how many of them were also victims of relational aggression as teens, and were never taught defensive mechanisms and continue into adulthood believing that they "deserved" this kind of treatment.
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opihimoimoi Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Nov-09-07 10:24 PM
Response to Reply #2
4. Google tim fields, abuse, npd, and will be amazed as to whats out there for Help
and understanding.....
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Triana Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Nov-09-07 10:49 PM
Response to Reply #2
5. It's true...
Edited on Fri Nov-09-07 11:05 PM by Triana
...that there are predators out there who constantly seek to take advantage of others and who find an endless supply of unwitting targets to be their drug supplier (the 'drug' being the high they get from having power and control over another person emotionally, and otherwise). They are sociopaths, narcissists, psychopaths.

The targets/victims are those who don't recognize abuse, and who think they 'deserve' it. Their abusers will insist overtly and covertly that they deserve it and that they are inferior human beings, twisting every episode, word, joke, phrase and situation around so that it's always "someone else's" fault (the victim's).

The target/victim begins to believe it and starts questioning his/her own perception of the abuse. It's insidious. It's called 'crazymaking' for a reason. See the film 'gaslight' for a good example.

Targets of abuse most often don't know what healthy boundaries are or how to enforce them to protect themselves because they never learned -- society and/or their home environment in childhood didn't encourage or teach that. And they are often codependent.

Abusers LOOK for people like that to have "relationships" with. They have a sense of entitlement about them, and a sense of omnipotence and superiority and they act upon it with their victims. Abusers often have a "Jekyll/Hyde" personality: one "Mr/Ms. Wonderful" face they show to friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, the church, and society, and another, monstrous one only seen by the person they are in an intimate relationship with - the victim. This tactic serves to isolate and discredit the victim, and makes all others in the abuser's life unwitting allies in the abuse.

If the abused tells anyone (s)he is being abused no one believes it. (S)he'll get: "Whaaat?! But Oh but (s)he's SUCH a wonderful person! I can't believe (s)he'd ever do thaaaaaaaaaaaaat!"

The abuser tells the victim (s)he's "crazy" and needs psychological help and that (s)he's just "oversensitive". The victim begins to believe it because no one believes her/him.

And on and's ABUSE. And the damage it does to a person's spirit and soul is WORSE than a bruise or broken bone and takes much longer to heal. Victims of severe emotional abuse can be and have been diagnosed with PTSD.

Physical abuse is often the culmination of months or years of prior emotional/verbal abuse. By the time it gets physical, the worst damage to the victim and whatever children may be witness to it, has already been done. It destroys lives and breaks the spirit of the victim and any children in the midst of it, teaching them to become either targets or abusers themselves.

Personally, I'd like to see a campaign of education and enforcement about emotional/verbal abuse - as a preventative measure against physical abuse - because where there is physical/sexual/financial abuse in relationships, it is ALWAYS preceded by verbal/emotional abuse.

A prerequisite to Domestic Violence education ought to be Domestic ABUSE education. Start at the beginning of the problem instead of at the end.
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truedelphi Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-10-07 01:33 PM
Response to Reply #5
9. I learned early on that the "Perfect people" are as likely to be abusers
As anyone else.

A respected family relative, the life of the party, a big hit with the ladies, a dean at the Episcopalean Church, a community leader, and my all time childhood idol, "hit' on me when I was eleven.

I ran faster than he could, but I was not able to bring myself to tell anyone - he had said he'd hurt my younger sister if I told.

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Triana Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-10-07 06:52 PM
Response to Reply #9
13. There you go...Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde...
it's insidious.
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nightrider767 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Nov-09-07 10:18 PM
Response to Original message
3. Good Article accept...
I'd suggest changing the "he's" and "she's" to them and they's. Obviously either party can be an emotional abuser, passive aggressive bully..

Yes I know this is the woman's rights forum, but this is good information for anyone.

Thanks for posting.
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Triana Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Nov-09-07 10:55 PM
Response to Reply #3
6. well it was written by a woman who had been abused so..
...she wrote it from her standpoint but yes, you are absolutely correct - abusers can be male or female. No restrictions on that.
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Warpy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-10-07 12:08 PM
Response to Original message
8. Heartfelt K&R
from somebody who has been there and got the hell out.

If you want to know if someone is being abusive, watch for the words "always" and "never." They're dead giveaways.
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Triana Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-10-07 06:51 PM
Response to Reply #8
12. yes. absolutely - and also "you're too sensitive" and "you can't take a joke"...
...BIG RED flags.
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truedelphi Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Nov-11-07 02:44 PM
Response to Reply #12
15. My mother, & my son's wife use that one all the time on me
I can't accidentally sneeze while they say something without being accused of not listening. And not caring.

But hey they can behave however they want, and then after hurting me, they can say, "Oh how sensitive you are," as if the crap they pull doesn't hurt me.

I am learning to say, "Most intelligent people are sensitive. And they speak up when they have been hurt."

But their body language dismisses me. And body language is a hard one to respond to.
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Triana Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Nov-11-07 09:51 PM
Response to Reply #15
17. a suggested response for you:
Tell them "Yes, I am sensitive. Please respect that." Look at them directly when you say it - don't smile, don't flinch. Then, leave the room if you can. Let them sit with that for a few minutes. No sense arguing with their assertion. That only validates it. Whenever someone is projecting onto you or defining you - forget arguing - that only validates their crap - gets you into the arena with them - and they're controlling you that way. Instead, agree with them and ask them for what they're not giving you: RESPECT.

You're not too sensitive. They're likely the ones who need to cultivate some sensitivity.

If that doesn't work, distance often does. Distance and detachment. Start avoiding spending time with them or getting into conversations with them. Before you do that, tell them you're going to do it and why you're doing it - set a boundary - state the reason you're doing it, then enforce it. Don't yell or anything, just state matter-of-factly as above (think about how you'll word it, rehearse it if you need to), then leave or hang up. Let them chew on that for a while. Stay out of the arena with them, if you can.

They'll either learn to respect you, or they won't. You can't control their behavior. But you CAN control how you allow them to treat YOU. You can control YOUR behavior in response to theirs.
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mrreowwr_kittty Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-13-07 06:23 PM
Response to Reply #12
23. A good response to that - even if it's just in your head is:
No, I'm not too sensitive/unable to take a joke/whatever, you're an asshole.

Works like a charm!
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Triana Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-15-07 12:56 PM
Response to Reply #23
25. it's true, too...
...get a load of this:

...for clues as to how these types make everyone ELSE the problem, when the problem is really THEM.
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truedelphi Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-10-07 01:37 PM
Response to Original message
10. A close friend, Sr Susan Sanders PhD, now at St Xavier's University in Chicago
Edited on Sat Nov-10-07 01:37 PM by truedelphi
was compiling data on dating relationshiops.

And the surveys came with information on physical and emotional abuse. Although they were linited, as geared to girls in abusive romantic relationships (And our kids and young people can be dealing with an emotionally abusive mother, father, or other relative in a relationship that is familial rather than romantic.)

She had the surveys go out to dozens of Catholic girls' high schools in an effort to reach as many girls as possible.

I wish every school district did this for every junior and regular high school.

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Triana Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-10-07 06:51 PM
Response to Reply #10
11. Education...
...I WISH they would do this in every jr. high and high school too - and follow it up with education at primary and secondary levels geared towards educating people about what abuse IS, what boundaries are, and what codependency is - ESPECIALLY the girls!

Our society largely sees ABUSE as 'acceptable' and 'normal' and those of us who've been there, got out, and FINALLY learnt better know full well it is NOT acceptable, moral and most of all, it is NOT "normal"
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truedelphi Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Nov-11-07 02:46 PM
Response to Reply #11
16. And also there is the abusive boss - how many Americans
Despise the way their boss treats them yet need a paycheck too badly to move off to
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Triana Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Nov-11-07 09:57 PM
Response to Reply #16
18. There are some ways to deal with that however...
Edited on Sun Nov-11-07 10:05 PM by Triana
..the ultimate result is the employee has to find work elsewhere. Many of them (abusive bosses) are narcissists, sociopaths, or psychopaths (think George W. bu$h) and there is no dealing with them, except ultimately to leave.

Suggested Books:

Who's Pulling Your Strings? How to Break the Cycle of Manipulation and Regain Control of Your Life
by Harriet B. Braiker, Ph.D

Controlling People. How to Recognize, Understand, and Deal with People Who Try to Control You (this will also help with the family/in-laws, etc.)
by Patricia Evans (also the author of The Verbally Abusive Relationship - ALSO an excellent book for everyone)

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musette_sf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Nov-11-07 01:29 PM
Response to Original message
14. kick
"joking"... "sad puppy"... constant criticism. so, so true.
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Lydia Leftcoast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-12-07 09:22 AM
Response to Original message
19. Abusers aren't necessarily sexual partners, either
They can be parents or grandparents. :-(
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Triana Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-12-07 09:40 AM
Response to Reply #19
20. Very true...
...or brothers and sisters, etc.
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Control-Z Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-12-07 08:26 PM
Response to Original message
21. I was raised by
a physically abusive father after my mother died when I was young. I ended up in foster care as a teen and then orphaned when my father died. At the age of 18 I could not have imagined being more battered or alone.

I went on to marry a physically abusive man. (gee, shock) Getting away from him was a living hell.

But it wasn't until my second marriage to a "charming" narcissist that I learned about real hell and torture. With my past I was his perfect target. What he did to me, emotionally and psychologically, was the most devastatingly painful experience of my life. And, as is usually the case, it was not witnessed or understood by even my closest friends. Even those who got a glimpse of his behavior toward the end, a personal taste when he tried to use them against me, have no real comprehension of what it has been like.

Men like my husband should be punished - their actions are criminal. But there is no legal recourse. At best, both parties are considered to be "at fault", at least in California. The abused partner is then expected to get a grip on her emotions - learn how to react to the abuser in "healthier" ways. The abuser is expected to do nothing. Seriously, it's a big, ugly, never-ending joke.

My husband has been out of the house for years now, other than when he visits the kids one day a week, but still manages to stir up the crazy when he can. Just this past week he started sending "nighty-nite" messages to me on my cell phone. Sounds nice, right? This man is never nice without a self-serving reason. Ever.

The red flag is up. I'm on my guard.
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Triana Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-15-07 12:54 PM
Response to Reply #21
24. If you want more info ....
...PM me.

I was with a narcissist for four years. It was a nightmare. NO ONE believes "Mr. Charming" would ever be so nasty - because he wasn't.




This "jekyll/hyde" personality is typical of abusers. It's how they get away with their crap.

Education and exposure are key. DON'T keep their secrets. They're poison.

I know it's hard with society and the law so ignorant and oblivious to this issue, but we have to stick together and EXPOSE them when and where we can.
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Turbineguy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-12-07 10:31 PM
Response to Original message
22. Thanks for posting
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