We all have bad days. Days where we say things that are unkind, impatient, or thoughtless. Perhaps we momentarily lash out at others, because we are incapable of compartmentalizing every day stress and keeping the emotions focused on the event or people who are actually at fault, and we do and say things we normally would not. Maybe some of us who have been victimized suffer from PTSD and have triggers that temporarily steal our sanity and connection with the present. Immediately following for the majority of us is regret. The average person does not take pride in losing control and speaking with a sharp tongue. What if, however, this slowly becomes part of a normal routine? What if the offending party shows little concern or remorse for the sting they have dealt another person, especially someone they are close to? What if you slowly begin to fade into a shadow over time and lose the sense of your value, worth, dignity, and self?
Many easily dismiss verbal and emotional abuse as a falsehood, as something imagined and manufactured. They accuse those of us who endure it of being needy of attention, unstable, or having a loose grip on reality. Their reasoning behind it is simple: what you cannot see must not exist. Falsely they believe that because those of us who have endured verbal and emotional abuse have no visible injury or scarring that occurs with physical and often sexual abuse that it does not qualify as abuse at all. This is part of what makes verbal and emotional abuse so dangerous; the wounds we cannot see existing beyond the line of sight, slowly eroding away our confidence, self-esteem, and peace until we are so far decayed that all that remains is a shell. That you can look at a person or look upon ourselves in a mirror and not see the destruction going on inside the mind and heart. Thus, a slow emotional death has been exacted upon us without so much as one witness to our plight. Our very hearts disintegrate and crumble without leaving behind one physical scar to alert others that something has gone terribly wrong.
In the beginning, differentiating between the two can be daunting. The initial stages of verbal and emotional abuse can be mistaken for the abuser merely having a bad day. That them saying something a little out-of-the-way you incorrectly believe is not an inherent part of their character. By the time many of us realize what is happening, it may already be too late. How can we not see this coming? The abuser is a master manipulator. Everything they do to an intimate partner relies on this crucial stage; if they are not able to mislead us long enough to strip us to an empty shell, they would not be able to further dominate and control every aspect of our lives. We cannot see it coming because it is devious, insidious, and subtle in nature, and generally we believe we can take others at face value. We cannot see it coming because the abuser has a hidden agenda. None of us go into an abusive relationship with the knowledge this is about to happen to us.
I have stated before that verbal and emotional abuse is, in my opinion, the worst for of abuse because its destructive nature and the fact that the damage it causes us cannot be seen by the naked eye. While physical abuse can cause wounds and injuries that leave us with a lifetime of issues, the bruises, cuts, welts, breaks, redness, swelling, etc., fade away. Emotional trauma has a tenacity that can hinder our ability to move forward in our lives after we leave, because it cripples us by destroying every last fiber of self-worth and love we have for ourselves. The empty shell left behind by this heinous erosion of self is filled with twisted, evil things meant to demean us and trap us with the abuser, because we not only come to believe these things are true, we further believe that if anyone else were to find out what lies beneath, they would not want us either. So we suffer a slow, torturous emotional death that some unfortunately even after years of therapy cannot negate.
If you fear that you are or have been a victim of verbal and emotional abuse in your relationship, it is important for you to know three things. One, you are far from alone. I would venture to say that we all endured varying forms of this form of abuse, because the stripping away of value can only be accomplished via this route. Two, you are never at fault for the verbal assaults and emotional manipulation you have been subjected to. You are made to believe this so the abuser can keep you trapped as long as possible. They want you under their control. You are their possession to do with what they please. Three, you are not any of the things he (she) has pounded into your head. These lies have been planted there as an integral part of the abuser’s plan to reign you in and strip you down so they can build you into what they need you to become: a shell incapable of acting in defense of yourself. Because you come to believe the ugly lies thrown in your face. That you are ugly, stupid, fat, unworthy, unwanted. That your family doesn’t love you. That you are crazy, unstable, selfish, lazy, greedy, hideous. That the only thing you are worth in this life is to be a whore, a woman unworthy of love, contemptible, unscrupulous.
I can also say that no one has a right to tell you what constitutes verbal and emotional abuse. What I mean is no one has a right to tell you that what is being done to you to cause you pain is not based on someone else’s definition of the “proper amount of severity.” What is the proper amount of severity? This varies by person. However, if someone consistently says and does things that make you feel as though you have no value, that you are undeserving of being loved, or worse, that you should be dead, you are experiencing verbal and emotional abuse. Once your emotional response reaches the previous three thresholds, you must know that you are being abused, and you do not have to endure it.
To get a full understanding of the difference between verbal abuse and emotional abuse, you should do a little independent research. A good place to start is with the knowledge that verbal abuse is one of the many methods to employ emotional abuse on us… and it has a distinct list of signs all its own. While you do not have to be verbally abused to suffer emotional abuse, because of the extremely close correlation between the two, it is highly unlikely that an abuser would separate one from the other.
On the site Out of the FOG , I have found a very in-depth breakdown of the various tactics used to employ verbal and emotional abuse. The pages on the site I found this information on are Out of the Fog — Emotional Abuse and Out of the Fog — Verbal Abuse. Due the amount of information presented here, I have chosen the include a basic list of signs and further details of just some of the types of emotional abuse we can experience. The website actually has links with further explanation for each sign listed. Please take some time to either bookmark the site for later reading and research or look for things you know you experienced. I learned a lot from the information provided here… more than I can possibly share.
As such, I found it a very difficult task which specific behaviors to include details for, because I experienced so many of them. As with past posts of this nature, things I experienced with Kevin are designated by red text with further personal notes in blue text. At the end of each section, I will include but not explain additional signs of both verbal and emotional abuse.
Examples of Emotional Abuse
Baiting – A provocative act used to solicit an angry, aggressive or emotional response from another individual. Most often occurred by means of repeatedly speaking of my family and loved ones in a demeaning, hurtful manner.
Belittling, Condescending and Patronizing – This kind of speech is a passive-aggressive approach to giving someone a verbal put-down while maintaining a facade of reasonableness or friendliness. Most often used in public so he could get away with being cruel to me without anyone being able to tell unless they were intimately involved in the conversation.
Imposed Isolation – When abuse results in a person becoming isolated from their support network, including friends and family. Refused to let me out of the house, initially approved and then at the last-minute would not allow me to have family or sisters in the congregation over at the house. Denied contact by phone or email unless it was monitored by him being present for the conversations. Would take both cell phones with him when he left the house. Would not allow me to take calls.
Intimidation – Any form of veiled, hidden, indirect or non-verbal threat.
No-Win Scenarios – When you are manipulated into choosing between two bad options. He generally would force me to make a choice and then after doing so, inform me that I chose incorrectly so I could be properly punished. If I changed the next time the situation came around, I would be punished for not doing it the first way I had already been demanded to never do again.
Ranking and Comparing – Drawing unnecessary and inappropriate comparisons between individuals or groups. I was constantly compared to every woman he ever knew and repeatedly told how worthless or stupid I was because I was not like them.
Sabotage – The spontaneous disruption of calm or status quo in order to serve a personal interest, provoke a conflict or draw attention. He would deliberately start arguments so he had justification to beat me, slander me, and run the streets using my money on drugs.
Shaming – The difference between blaming and shaming is that in blaming someone tells you that you did something bad, in shaming someone tells you that you are something bad.
Silent Treatment – A passive-aggressive form of emotional abuse in which displeasure, disapproval and contempt is exhibited through nonverbal gestures while maintaining verbal silence.
Sleep Deprivation – The practice of routinely interrupting, impeding or restricting another person’s sleep cycle. He used this to coerce me into giving him money I was withholding from him (because he used it all on drugs), into staying home from Bible study and weekly religious meetings, and bullying me into sex before and after which he would beat me up.
Targeted Humor, Mocking and Sarcasm – Targeted Humor is any sustained pattern of joking, sarcasm or mockery which is designed to reduce another individual’s reputation in their own eyes or in the eyes of others. He always did this in front of others, and I was expected not to respond if I couldn’t fake a laugh.
Thought Policing – A process of interrogation or attempt to control another individual’s thoughts or feelings.
Alienation, Blaming, Bullying, Bunny Boiling, Cheating, Compulsive Lying, Cruelty to Animals, Infantilization, Mirroring, Name-Calling, Dependency, Emotional Blackmail, Engulfment, False Accusations, Favoritism, FOG – Fear, Obligation & Guilt, Frivolous Litigation, Gaslighting, Harassment, Hoovers & Hoovering, Hysteria, Invalidation, Objectification, Pathological Lying, Perfectionism, Projection, Proxy Recruitment, Push-Pull, Raging, Violence and Impulsive Aggression, Scapegoating, Self-Harm, Splitting, Stalking, Testing, Threats
Examples of Verbal and Emotional Abuse
– By Aames
WHAT THEY DO:
- Ridicule or insult you then tell you it’s a joke, or that you have no sense of humor.
- Put down your beliefs, religion, race, heritage – or that of your family / friends.
- Withhold approval, appreciation or affection.
- Give you the silent treatment.
- Ignore direct questions…Walk away without answering.
- Criticize you, call you names, yell at you.
- Humiliate you privately or in public.
- Roll his or her eyes … or mimic you when you talk.
- Disrespect or insult you, then tell you that you’re too sensitive.
- Seem energized by arguing, while arguing exhausts you.
- Have unpredictable mood swings, alternating between good and bad for no apparent reason.
- “Twist” your words, somehow turning whatever you say against you.
- Complain about how badly you treat him or her.
- Threaten to leave, or threaten to throw you out.
- Say things that make you feel good, but do things that make you feel bad.
- Compliment you enough to keep you happy, yet criticize you enough to keep you insecure.
- Harass you about imagined affairs.
- Manipulate you with lies and contradictions.
- Act immature and selfish, yet accuse you of those behaviors.
- Question your every move and motive, somehow questioning your competence.
- Constantly interrupt you while you’re trying to make your point.
- Make you feel like you can never win : damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
- Incite you to rage, which is “proof” that you are the one with the “problem” – not them.
- Try to convince you that they are “right,” while you are “wrong”.
- Frequently say things that are later denied or accuse you of misunderstanding.
If you feel that these and other tactics I did not include detail for may have been or are being used against you, please visit the Out of the Fog website for further information. Each type of verbal and emotional abuse listed have links to pages that present more in-depth information. Also, there are suggestions for things to try to avoid and how to handle the situations with which you are faced. Additionally, there is a side-bar containing a wealth of information related to behavioral disorders.
You do not deserve to be abused in any way. There is help available. Please consider seeking assistance if you are being emotionally abused… Remember, it IS abuse!