Emotional abuse hurts just as much as a slap on the face or a punch in the gut when you least expect it. It throws you off course, leaving you reeling and struck dumb in disbelief.
Whether the abuse is cutting criticism, sudden rage, a black look or mocking sarcasm, it feels like a dagger through your heart, leaving you gasping in shock and squirming with guilt and shame.
As a person with good intentions you will most likely-
- Justify- Tell yourself they must be stressed or going through a hard time. They haven’t been themselves recently. They didn’t mean it. The kids have been playing up and they’ve got money problems.
- Deny – Tell yourself you must have misheard them or misread their meaning, thinking, ‘Maybe it’s me, maybe I didn’t hear them properly. They always say I never listen’.
- Blame Yourself –‘It must have been something I said. They picked me up wrong. I always get mixed up. I shouldn’t have provoked them’. Or the classic – ‘It’s me, I’m just too sensitive-It’s all my fault-I’m always winding them up and pressing their buttons.’
- Explain– You tell them you didn’t mean to say what you said, the way you said it. It came out all wrong. What you meant to say was… Then you go off in a tangent of further explanations and twist yourself into a pretzel. Each sentence starts with, ‘I just’ or ‘I only’. You believe that if you can ‘just make them believe that your words or actions were well intended, they will understand and realize that it’s all been a ‘communication problem and that you’ve been misunderstood all along.
- Argue– Arguments seem like never ending circles of confusion. No matter what you say, they always have a counter argument. These circular arguments are never ending. There is no closure and nothing is ever resolved. You just end up feeling beaten down, exhausted and utterly confused.
Emotional abusers don’t care about mutual communication. All they care about is power and control. All they care about is being right and proving you wrong-even when you’re right. And making you feel that you’re unable to trust your own judgement. Depending on the level of their toxicity, they may even thrive on the attention (Narcissist) or get pleasure from your pain (Psychopath).
Either way, when you feel that you’re constantly trying to explain yourself to someone who is determined to make you feel misunderstood, then you’re dealing with a controller, manipulator and abuser. You will never be right and you will never win.
Jacqueline Groves is a counsellor/ coach specializing in emotional abuse recovery from toxic relationships with a partner, family member, friend or work associate.