Emotional Abuse: Some Characteristics

What is emotional abuse? Over the years, I have witnessed abuse first-hand, and I have listened carefully to the accounts of others who have been victimized by abusive partners or family members. Here is a working list of some the characteristics that I have experienced or heard about in conversation:

Is emotionally withdrawn, as in makes the frequent use of “the silent treatment” to willfully negate and hurt your feelings; does not ask about your day or your thoughts at all; uses unnecessary scowling and pouting to scare or shame you; displays grandiose or exaggerated anger over minor subjects, conversations, or disagreements; blows things constantly out of proportion; intentionally fails to be present when help or concern is needed; questions your every move, but freaks out if you question them about dang near anything; has an unreasonable and perhaps hateful disposition towards your feelings or thoughts; distorts or negates reality; falsely blames you for the awful things they do to you; consistently hides behind material possessions and uses those things to give them a sense of self-worth; uses material possessions to gain attention, praise, or companionship; intentionally ignores your calls to the extent that it produces anxiety and worry (they use the phone as a weapon); gloats easily; is overly selfish, narcissistic, or has to always be right or the center of attention; dominates conversations (especially with uninformed opinions or facts); shows excessive criticism or rages when you’ve made a genuine, unintentional mistake; refuses to grow up emotionally; expects life to be mostly fun and games, e.g., does not handle normal stress or life’s challenges very well; maintains rigid allegiance to social norms or personal beliefs that reinforce inequality or power imbalances; demands unrealistic expectations of you or your role without previous agreement or arrangement (maybe “in return” for something that they allegedly “gave” you without requesting repayment); has the expectation that you will do for them what they could or should be able to do for themselves; refuses to forgive you when they expect forgiveness or understanding from you always; contacts you by text when they know they have done something to hurt you, but primarily to see if they still have access to you; creates an environment for physical or sexual encounters, but rarely makes the time or space for the development of emotional intelligence or intimacy; dismisses or discourages your innermost thoughts and feelings (and they may actually mock the way you feel); habitually and blatantly denies reality; maliciously or intentionally refuses to be there for you when you are genuinely in need (not just when it is convenient); hurls hateful and hurtful putdowns on you for no apparent reason; bashes your hopes and dreams; accuses you of doing the abusive and awful things that they do; breaks promises and expectations regularly, and as a means to control or punish you; tells many and unnecessary lies; throws temper tantrums when things don’t go their way (i.e., walking out on you or literally throwing you out); makes it seem like you are not worthy of their love, when really it is the other way around; they yell, a lot; they often wake up or come home from work noticeably pissed off making you feel as if whatever is wrong is your fault; blames you for everything that is going wrong; repeatedly makes you fearful or walk on eggshells just to be around them. In conclusion, people who are emotionally abusive are unfortunately very terrifying to be with.

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A Cautionary Note to Self on Surviving Abuse

Careful, that you don’t become just like those who failed you with hate, anger, and abuse.

You deserve a life that is truly free from their madness and confusion.

Just getting away from them is not enough.

Letting them go and surviving the trauma is also refusing to carry your abuser’s self-destructive thoughts and ways around inside of you.

© 2018 annalise fonza, Ph.D.