This may surprise you – it did me when I first studied it years ago – but emotional abuse is the most common form of abuse although maybe we don’t always recognise it as such. Perhaps that’s because a lot of it is considered ‘normal’. It’s not always very dramatic either and is often made up of a series of small incidents occurring over a period of time.
It may not be intentional but anything that insults, humiliates, threatens or controls someone else, is actually emotional abuse.
If this has happened to you, or is still happening, you’ll know that it cuts deep into your very core, often leaving you fearful and feeling undeserving and unloveable. It’s almost as if you’re being punished.
Overcoming it can be very hard but recognising what’s happening is the first step and that happens once you know what to look for. After that it’s important not to think that you must somehow work harder to fix the relationship whether that’s with your partner, a friend or a colleague. There may be elements that you need to work on but you also need to recognise that what’s happening is hurtful and wrong.
Write down the messages that you’re receiving and then think about how you can counter them. For instance, if someone in your family or at work says “you always mess things up”, try to think about the times that actually you made a difference in a positive way by, say, arranging a birthday lunch for that person, taking part in a charity walk or saving up to buy something that you really wanted. These are the times when you didn’t ‘mess things up’ and it’s important to remember them and then find ways to be kind to yourself.
If you can’t communicate with the person making negative claims and tell them how it makes you feel, try to work on how you can be more assertive next time. When you’re alone, try out different techniques such as “When you speak to me like that, it’s very hurtful” and use your new-found skills next time that person, or people, try to put you down. It won’t be easy because changing entrenched habits never is, but whatever you’ve been told about yourself, whatever your age and gender, you are worthy of respect and love – don’t accept anything less!
If you’re finding it hard to be assertive, read about it online and practice responses with a friend who’s willing to help.
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