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Emotional Abuse

Definition:

Emotional Abuse - Any pattern of behavior directed at one individual by another which promotes in them a destructive sense of Fear, Obligation or Guilt (FOG).

The Bruise that Doesn’t Show

Many people who are victims of abuse live in homes or environments where they have become so accustomed to the situation they consider it normal. They do not recognize it even IS abuse sometimes, because there is no physical injury; instead an ongoing emotional barrage takes place which can be just as damaging.

Examples of Emotional Abuse

Alienation - The act of cutting off or interfering with an individual's relationships with others.

Baiting - A provocative act used to solicit an angry, aggressive or emotional response from another individual.

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.

Blaming - The practice of identifying a person or people responsible for creating a problem, rather than identifying ways of dealing with the problem.

Bullying - Any systematic action of hurting a person from a position of relative physical, social, economic or emotional strength.

Bunny Boiling - Bunny Boiling is a reference to an iconic scene in the movie "Fatal Attraction" in which the main character Alex, who suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder, kills the family's pet rabbit and boils it on the stove. Bunny Boiling has become a popular reference to how people sometimes exhibit their rage by behaving destructively towards symbolic, important or treasured possessions or representations of those whom they wish to hurt, control or intimidate.

Cheating - Sharing a romantic or intimate relationship with somebody when you are already committed to a monogamous relationship with someone else.

Compulsive Lying - Compulsive Lying is a term used to describe lying frequently out of habit, without much regard for the consequences to others and without having an obvious motive to lie. A compulsive liar is someone who habitually lies.

Cruelty to Animals - Acts of Cruelty to Animals have been statistically discovered to occur more often in people who suffer from personality disorders than in the general population.

Dependency - An inappropriate and chronic reliance by an adult individual on another individual for their health, subsistence, decision making or personal and emotional well-being.

Emotional Blackmail - A system of threats and punishments used in an attempt to control someone’s behaviors.

Engulfment - An unhealthy and overwhelming level of attention and dependency on another person, which comes from imagining or believing one exists only within the context of that relationship.

False Accusations - Patterns of unwarranted or exaggerated criticism directed towards someone else.

Favoritism - Favoritism is the practice of systematically giving positive, preferential treatment to one child, subordinate or associate among a family or group of peers.

FOG - Fear, Obligation & Guilt - The acronym FOG, for Fear, Obligation and Guilt, was first coined by Susan Forward & Donna Frazier in Emotional Blackmail and describes feelings that a person often has when in a relationship with someone who suffers from a personality disorder. Our website, Out of the FOG, is named after this acronym.

Frivolous Litigation - The use of unmerited legal proceedings to hurt, harass or gain an economic advantage over an individual or organization.

Gaslighting - The practice of brainwashing or convincing a mentally healthy individual that they are going insane or that their understanding of reality is mistaken or false. The term “Gaslighting” is based on the 1944 MGM movie “Gaslight”.

Harassment - Any sustained or chronic pattern of unwelcome behavior by one individual towards another.

Hoovers & Hoovering - A Hoover is a metaphor taken from the popular brand of vacuum cleaners, to describe how an abuse victim trying to assert their own rights by leaving or limiting contact in a dysfunctional relationship, gets “sucked back in” when the perpetrator temporarily exhibits improved or desirable behavior.

Hysteria - An inappropriate over-reaction to bad news or disappointments, which diverts attention away from the real problem and towards the person who is having the reaction.

Imposed Isolation - When abuse results in a person becoming isolated from their support network, including friends and family.

Infantilization - Treating a child as if they are much younger than their actual age.

Intimidation - Any form of veiled, hidden, indirect or non-verbal threat.

Invalidation - The creation or promotion of an environment which encourages an individual to believe that their thoughts, beliefs, values or physical presence are inferior, flawed, problematic or worthless.

Mirroring - Imitating or copying another person's characteristics, behaviors or traits.

Name-Calling - Use of profane, derogatory or dehumanizing terminology to describe another individual or group.

No-Win Scenarios - When you are manipulated into choosing between two bad options

Objectification - The practice of treating a person or a group of people like an object.

Pathological Lying - Persistent deception by an individual to serve their own interests and needs with little or no regard to the needs and concerns of others. A pathological liar is a person who habitually lies to serve their own needs.

Perfectionism - The maladaptive practice of holding oneself or others to an unrealistic, unattainable or unsustainable standard of organization, order, or accomplishment in one particular area of living, while sometimes neglecting common standards of organization, order or accomplishment in other areas of living.

Projection - The act of attributing one's own feelings or traits to another person and imagining or believing that the other person has those same feelings or traits.

Proxy Recruitment - A way of controlling or abusing another person by manipulating other people into unwittingly backing “doing the dirty work”

Push-Pull - A chronic pattern of sabotaging and re-establishing closeness in a relationship without appropriate cause or reason.

Ranking and Comparing - Drawing unnecessary and inappropriate comparisons between individuals or groups.

Raging, Violence and Impulsive Aggression - Explosive verbal, physical or emotional elevations of a dispute. Rages threaten the security or safety of another individual and violate their personal boundaries.

Sabotage - The spontaneous disruption of calm or status quo in order to serve a personal interest, provoke a conflict or draw attention.

Scapegoating - Singling out one child, employee or member of a group of peers for unmerited negative treatment or blame.

Self-Harm - Any form of deliberate, premeditated injury, such as cutting, poisoning or overdosing, inflicted on oneself.

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.

Splitting - The practice of regarding people and situations as either completely "good" or completely "bad".

Stalking - Any pervasive and unwelcome pattern of pursuing contact with another individual.

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.

Testing - Repeatedly forcing another individual to demonstrate or prove their love or commitment to a relationship.

Thought Policing - A process of interrogation or attempt to control another individual's thoughts or feelings.

Threats - Inappropriate, intentional warnings of destructive actions or consequences.

What it Looks Like:

- by Gary

Unlike a physical injury which usually heals in a short time, verbal and emotional abuse is usually cumulative.

When you are a victim of physical abuse at the hands of someone you love or someone who is supposed to love you, then you also become a victim of emotional abuse, even if no words are spoken.

Unlike physical wounds, that heal naturally leaving only a scar, verbal and emotional wounds, left untreated, tend not to heal. These wounds are often hidden out of sight and become a part of who we are and how we act.

Unlike physical wounds, which hurt us on the outside, verbal and emotional wounds go to the deepest parts of us. Any physical wound going so deep would be fatal, and left untreated long enough, prolonged verbal or emotional abuse can also be fatal.

Emotional abuse can happen without verbal abuse but verbal abuse naturally has emotional abuse attached to it.

I also believe that there has never been a member of this community here at Out of the FOG that hasn't at one time been exposed to some form of verbal or emotional abuse, regardless of what personality disorder or relationship they have dealt with. That seems to be universal to being a "Non-PD".

The injury which comes from verbal and emotional abuse is probably one of the most serious conditions we are left with and is probably connected to all the other effects we experience. In other words, emotional and verbal abuse is responsible for the rest of the iceberg.

The only vaccine I know of that protects against verbal and emotional abuse is a good sense of self and the only medicine that heals the wounds left by verbal and emotional abuse is again a good sense of self. That good sense of self comes from self-work, good boundaries and good therapy & support .

Children who are victims of verbal and emotional abuse are most vulnerable since they can't just walk away. This puts a great responsibility on any non-abusing parent present to protect or remove the child from the abuser. If they don't, another link in the chain may be welded together and the cycle may repeat, with those children ultimately watching their own children go through the same abuse.

I also believe that if a child grows up in an environment of sustained abuse that they will begin to expect it to be normal and justified.

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.

What it feels like

- By Aames

Abuse can have a confusing. hurtful. frightening effect which makes you feel emotionally unsafe. You may begin to doubt yourself, your senses, your opinions, memories, beliefs, feelings, abilities and judgment. You may begin to express your opinions less and less freely and find yourself doubting your sense of reality. You are likely to feel vulnerable, insecure, increasingly trapped and powerless. This may lead you to become defensive and increasingly depressed.

Abuse victims often find themselves "walking on eggshells" around the abuser, hyper vigilant and afraid of when - and how - to say something.

You may find yourself constantly on your "best" behavior around an abuser, unable to relax or enjoy the moment because you are always anticipating the worst. Even when the abuser is in a good mood, you are likely to keep waiting for "the other shoe to drop".

You may also begin to blame yourself for their bad mood, behaviors or actions and hope things will change, especially through your own love and understanding.

People who are abused often long for the nicer, caring side of their partner, family member, friend, boss or co-worker to come back. You may find yourself making excuses for their bad behavior and choosing to focus mainly on getting them back into their good behavior state.

Coping with Emotional Abuse

You have two basic options – remain present during an episode of abuse, or leave.

In the short run they are about equal in pain, but in the long run, leaving during an outburst is better. For one thing, leaving makes it harder for you to do something stupid yourself (such as retaliate). It also  makes it impossible for anything worse to happen directly to you after you leave. Leaving during an outburst sends a clear “This is not OK” message. It won’t be appreciated, but it will not be forgotten quickly either.

Leaving also helps remind you that YOU are in control - not the person with the Personality Disorder - and it gives you an opportunity to debrief to a supportive friend.

It’s a good idea to have a plan of what you will do and where you will go the next time an outburst hits. This will make a gracious exit more possible the next time you are confronted with verbal or emotional abuse. It helps enormously to have a friend or family member you can pre-arrange with to show up at a moment’s notice whenever necessary. If not, maybe you can find a local low-cost hotel where you can get a safe room for the night.

You may want to have a ‘bail out’ kit which has your credit cards, essential medications and important documents already packed so you don’t need to linger when you need to get out in a hurry.

If at all possible, pre-arrange with a friend whom you can call (even during the night) just to talk to if you find yourself in a situation like this. Just having someone on the end of the line who won’t attack or judge you harshly for the way you feel is an enormous relief.  You can also call a Domestic Violence hotline or crisis line for support and for a reality check.  As the adage says: You didn’t cause it, you can’t cure it and you can’t control it

What NOT to do

  • Don’t remain in the same room with a person who is abusing you. Remove yourself from the situation as quickly as you safely can.
  • Don’t try to handle it all on your own. Call for supportive help and call the police if any threats or violence occur.
  • Don’t try to reason with someone who is abusing you. When you are confronted with aggressive behavior there can be a temptation to stand your ground, explain your position and argue for what you feel is right. A person who is trying to hurt you emotionally or verbally is  unlikely to see reason.
  • Don’t fight fire with fire and reciprocate. You will regret it and probably find yourself still apologizing for it years later.
  • Don’t ignore it, steel yourself and tell yourself that you can handle it and that it does not affect you. Unless you are a robot your feelings are going to be hurt and your behavior is going to change far beyond the moment, whether you admit it or not. The reality is that when your boundaries are being crossed you are being hurt. Ignoring it increases the likelihood that the situation will repeat itself.
  • Don’t hide it from others. Most long-term cases of abuse stay that way because the victim stays silent.

What TO do

  • Remember you didn’t cause it, you can’t cure it and you can’t control it.
  • Get yourself and any children out of the room and out of the house as quickly and safely as you can.
  • If violence or threats of violence have occurred, call the police immediately.
  • Stay away from the situation until the abuse stops and you feel calmer and safe.
  • Call at least one trusted confidant and tell them what has happened.

For More Information & Support...

If you suspect you may have a family member or loved-one who suffers from a personality disorder, we encourage you to learn all you can and surround yourself with support as you learn how to cope.

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