Diving into Emotional Abuse

Posted on November 15, 2018

Emotional abuse is the act of purposefully making others feel terrible about themselves so that they fulfill the abuser’s expectations. It is a misuse of power to obtain what the abuser wants. Within relationships among family members, people largely have strong sense of control over their loved ones’ sense of self because of the close emotional connections established. Hence emotional abuse present within a family usually eventually affects one’s sense of self.

Abusers often use toddler-brain splitting as a coping mechanism. This is when the abuser makes their partner feel good when they themselves feel good at the beginning of the relationship, but makes their partner feel like they are not worthy of kindness, affection and compassion when the abuser feels bad.

Physical abuse and emotional abuse are slightly different in nature. Physical abuse usually happens when the abuser is unable to control their partner’s behavior with emotional abuse. The abuser has fulfilled their purpose when he or she manage to get their partner to comply to their every request using fear and humiliation without violence.

Physical abuse does less psychological damage than emotional abuse, unless it involves severe situations like maiming, scarring, disfigurement or other more serious physical distortion. Physical abuse usually takes place occasionally and in cycles whereas emotional abuse usually happens every day. When the abuser resorts to violence, it is perceived as his or her failure in terms of controlling their impulses, as compared to emotional abuse that is perceived by the victim as their personal failure.

In more serious cases, victims of emotional abuse can lose the connection they have with their sense of self, lose their sense of identity, confidence, the ability to manage their emotions and their self-efficacy where they lose hope in their worthiness of a meaningful life. This is possibly related to the receiver of the abuse, perceiving their identity as that of a victim, mainly focusing on the negative aspects of themselves and their sufferings rather than their resilience, strong points, the desire to recover, progress forward and grow. Hating oneself over long periods of time, self-contempt and the lack of meaning, direction, value or happiness in their lives are effects of perceiving the self as a victim and the work of emotional abuse.

Abuse is degenerative and a condition that typically does not improve on its own. Abusers gradually become emotionally addicted to the adrenaline felt when they abuse someone, liking the temporary confidence and energy in them which they do not usually feel when they are not abusive. Since the body is designed to control and resist adrenaline, the abuser craves for more of it to obtain a sufficient amount of energy and self-confidence to become more abusive. Abusers who have a romantic relationship with their victims usually feel subconsciously guilty and ashamed of their abusive act towards their partners regardless of their attempt to justify their actions. The remorse and shame they feel, would turn into a sense of loathing towards the self, depriving them of confidence and energy, hence strengthening the desire for adrenaline.

There is often a misconception that abuse stems from the dynamic of a relationship, causing the receiver of abuse to doubt their own behavior in their romantic relationship as one that triggered their partner’s abusive state. However, abuse is generated from the abuser’s inability to manage his or her emotions.

Emotional abuse tarnishes one’s perception of reality and induces self-doubt. Victims find it hard to leave their abusive relationships as they still love their abusers who have some positive characteristics in general. However, they need to know that putting up with their partner’s abusive acts contributes to their partner’s hate for themselves because of the guilt felt from abusing their partner. The compassionate way to resolve the problem is to put an end to the relationship.


Category(s):Adjusting to Change / Life Transitions, Adult psychological development, Emotional Abuse, Ending a relationship issues, Health Psychology

Source material from Psychology Today


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