In This Episode:
Today we’re talking about emotional abuse. Through my work, I help clients heal from this and move past the wounds that it can leave. It can be a trauma. Unfortunately, emotional abuse can take a huge toll on one’s self-confidence and self-esteem levels. Being in an emotionally abusive relationship can have people questioning their life choices and own self-worth.
Today’s show is focused on helping parents recognize the signs of this problematic area of emotional abuse and choose better, healthier ways of interacting with each other (whether together or separated) and their children.
Now, let’s talk about what emotional abuse actually is... Emotional abuse is different from physical abuse which is really marked by explosive outbursts and physical harm. Emotional abuse can be more deceptive and subtle. While it doesn’t leave physical marks, it can sure leave emotional scars that go deep. In some cases, many people aren’t even aware that it is happening. You can’t see it like a bruise or a cut, but you can feel it. And, others around can feel it too. It can really rock people’s world. For parents, it can lead to divorce, separation, physical violence and much more. For kids... it seems like they have the most difficult situation of all. They can’t just divorce or leave. They are stuck. They may choose to cut off the relationship at first opportunity though. But, often families in these situations, just notice that their quality of life is poor at best and they often feel the painful stings of the cut downs, humiliations, control, and such.
It really involves a regular pattern of verbal attack, threatening, humiliation (social or within the family, or both), control, bullying, threats, inducing fear, and perpetual criticism. Also, more subtle tactics like intimidation, control attempts, humiliation, shaming and manipulation. They may accuse their target of being “overly sensitive” to avert the reality of their abusive remarks. In these cases, respect, empathy and compassion are either low or non-existent. Many times the abuser will share personal information in a chastening way in an attempt to degrade and demean their target. Often there’s teasing, put downs and a disregard for their targets accomplishments, hopes and dreams.
The purpose of emotional abuse is to control and overpower the other person. The abuser may not even realize that they are doing it. It most often is the result of their own painful experience from childhood wounds and insecurities that come with that. Emotionally healthy people treat others with respect, kindness, and compassion. Often, in emotionally abusive situations, the abuser may have been abused themselves leaving them with a feeling of “this is normal” or “this is acceptable”. They may even feel like a victim themselves, giving them the illusion of justification for their actions. In fact, they may deny their emotionally abusive behavior when confronted and accuse their target of being the cause of their behavior.
For parents, they often look back on how they were raised and use that as a blueprint on how to raise their own children -“this is how I was raised and I turned out fine.” When in reality they didn’t turn out fine or they wouldn’t be acting the way they do. They may feel angry, hurt, fearful and powerless themselves, so their instinct is to gain control over someone else that they can feel dominant over. Therapy can help.
It’s important to know that emotional abuse can occur in any relationship — between parent and child, in friendships, families, and marital relationships.
This can happen slowly in relationships. The long term effects can be huge. In kids, it can affect their life choices and put them more at risk for mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and in some cases even post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD. It really taxes on the feelings of self worth, especially if they were verbally abused as a child. Also, if a child witnesses emotional abuse of a parent, their perception of what a healthy relationship is and what it isn’t can be skewed from reality.
Today, Laura Reagan is on the podcast to share a bit of her professional experience with helping people heal from emotional abuse. Laura is a colluegue in the podcast world. I love podcasts! She’s the host of therapy chat podcast and she is also a licensed clinical social worker in Baltimore with a private psychotherapy practice. I love learning from her. She specializes in trauma. In this episode, you’ll here her talk about her work. She has a free e-book, Parenting after Trauma, for you as well. www.jackieflynnconsulting.com/parentingaftertrauma
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