“Not all scars show.
Broken bones mend
And bruises grow fainter
Time, they say, heals
Wounds steady and slow –
The scars that show!
Oh, what about the scars that don’t show
Those your hands and feet didn’t inflict
Yet, your words flew quick and hollow
Bit into my heart, and split my spirit
Will those wounds ever heal –
The scars that don’t show?”
Abuse isn’t just physical – the ones that break your bones and leave bruises on your skin. Words can be as abrasive as the severest of lashings, infact even more so. Physical torture is visible – you know for certain that it is abuse, and you shouldn’t put up with it.
Emotional abuse is sneaky, constantly bothersome, and forms a corrosive pattern chipping away at one’s core confidence, self-esteem, and a sense of well-being. The most heartbreaking part of this form of psychological abuse is that it leaves the victim confused, ashamed, and doubtful of their own judgments – usually unable to decide if indeed they suffer from emotional torture. This is the grey area that needs to be highlighted and addressed in no uncertain terms.
When is it Emotional Abuse?
If you are constantly being treated in a way that makes you feel ashamed, upset, sad, embarrassed, powerless and isolated, then you are experiencing emotional abuse. It usually follows a pattern and is repetitive.
Emotional abuse lowers your self-respect and makes you feel worthless. This form of mental torture is so virulent that it can cause depression and anxiety. Your physical and mental wellbeing is at stake – you may experience constant headaches, stomach issues, leg cramps, and back problems.
Signs of Emotional Abuse in a Relationship
Abuse in any form consistently humiliates, hurts, and crushes you, and you won’t even realise it is happening until much much later. You go through several stages of recognition including a longer period of denial before the realization and reality of emotional abuse hits you squarely in your solar plexus. Here are a few identifiers to help you realize sooner:
*Constant Criticism & Fault Finding
Things you do are never good enough, your actions barely pass muster. Nit-picking every single thing you do is a form of emotional abuse. Done repeatedly, you end up feeling useless and incapable of doing anything right.
* Verbal Abuse
Threatening, yelling, and swearing, shaming, blaming, ridiculing, and insulting are all forms of verbal abuse wherein words are used to constantly crush you. Sad reality is that how you are spoken to often, usually end up being the way you talk to yourself.
Emotional abusers have a knack for twisting things around to suit their purpose. It is usually so subtle you will hardly notice that you are being expertly manoeuvred. Gaslighting is a classic case of manipulating one’s partner into doubting their own sanity.
* Withholding Affection
You may often find yourself negotiating with your abusive partner for affection. Emotionally abusive partners withhold affection as a form of punishment.
* Name Calling
“You’re so stupid and clueless!” Attaching any kind of negative label to your personality is degrading, distasteful, and disrespectful. No one has the right to address you in such a manner.
* Silent Treatment
It can be quite frustrating when your partner resorts to sulking, scowling, and refuses to talk and sort out the issues. Remember, the onus of the relationship falls equally on both the partners. Most of them consider ‘ghosting’, wherein a partner decides to stop all communication as a form of rejection, as a serious form of emotional abuse, but jury is still out on that one.
* Domination & Control
Constantly checking up on you, monitoring your texts and phone calls, deciding on your behalf, demanding that you seek their permission at every step, controlling and restricting your access to family finances are serious forms of emotional abuse.
Why do we choose to suffer emotional abuse in silence?
When you continue to stay in an abusive relationship and decide not to speak up, you make a conscious choice to suffer. When you make excuses for an emotional abuser, you enable them to continue their tirade of abuse. No relationship is worth losing your self-worth over.
We belong to a morally uptight society that advocates sufferance in silence by terming it as ‘endurance’, ‘compromise’, ‘family honour’, and ‘resilience’. Society doesn’t know squat! We are more often taught to shut up than speak up. Times are changing and the younger generation is learning not to mince words but it’s a painfully slow process.
Emotional abusers are master manipulators who prey on their victim’s weaknesses and turn them into the guilty party. The victims of emotional abuse will continue to remain silent as long as they believe it’s their fault and that they contributed to their partner’s abusive behaviour.
Ways to deal with emotional abuse
* You have a right to a considerate and caring relationship. Don’t let your partner convince you otherwise.
* Realize and accept the fact that you cannot ‘fix’ your abusive partner. You are neither responsible nor to blame for their behaviour.
* Recognize the long term implications of emotional abuse on your mental health. Know that you have the right to cut off any toxic individual from your life.
* Reach out to your friends and family. Confide in them. Form a network of support to help you deal with an abusive relationship.
Seek professional help if need be. Bottling up your feelings will only make matters worse. In a counselling session, you get to sift through your thoughts and feelings in a safe and non-judgmental space. Remember, you are not alone. And you don’t have to deal with emotional abuse on your own.