Wednesday, June 04, 2008

What is Emotional Abuse actually?

Posted by Hannah at 11:47 AM

I think most people have seen lists of behaviors from a number of different sources about emotional abuse, but what most don't grasp is that this is a pattern of behavior. Emotional abuse has a pattern of behavior!

PATTERN is the key element to this concept of emotional abuse, and just because someone is ugly one day doesn't make them abusive.

I think people tend to overuse the word 'emotional abuse' myself. ABUSE in general tends to be overused as well. Abuse is a 'PATTERN' of behavior not just being what the world calls a 'jerk' on occasion. Can't name a person on earth that hasn't been guilty of that!

Recently, I heard a pastor describe this very well. I will try to place it in a nutshell for you. He mentioned that week he had worked with a number of others at the church on a project he was responsible for. They didn't do something his way, and he got all bent out shape over it. Instead of handling it the way we are asked to he basically had a temper tantrum instead. His behavior was far from acceptable. He had one of those moments we have all had when we realize we opened our mouths, and placed our foot into it instead! "OH! I can't believe I just said that!" type of moments! He had to humble himself, and he had to go to the others and apologize and ask forgiveness. He truly repented of this. This wasn't normal behavior for him, and he was genuine about his asking for forgiveness, and repented of his bad behavior.

His behavior isn't called abusive because it isn't a pattern of behavior for him.

  • If he had a pattern of blowing a gasket when people on projects didn't do things his way it could be different.

  • If he apologized to people more to save face more then out of genuine repentance that would be completely different as well.

  • If his apology was full of blame shifting, "I realize I was acting awful, but if you guys would have JUST done what I asked in the first place it may NOT have happened!" This is an example of NOT being very sorry!

I'm sure we have all experienced those types of 'apologies' in the past, and we also know they were NOT very geniune in nature.

Another thing people tend to get mixed up about is the fact that a person that can be emotional abusive can also be a nice, caring person at times.

Just because they happen to be a broken soul that acts sinfully towards others at times because of wrong habit patterns doesn't mean they can't also be nice at times. It also doesn't mean they can't be genuine with their repentance as well at times.

Some people that are emotionally abusive WILL apologize after a while, and some will never mutter a word! Some will say they will stop the behavior, but that normally happens when their world has fallen down around them. Remember a couple of things:

  • If the pattern of behavior continues, and they don't do anything about it chances are they aren't all that genuine.

  • If they seek out help, and then make excuses about how that can't continue is another sign.

  • If they flat out deny things, and tell others they are basically blowing it out of proportion, being to sensitive, or claim that most people act like this another good sign.

  • Complain they can't do this (help, accountability, etc) with others, because they don't wish others to know their personal business.

  • Claim their partners behavior is just as bad, and when are they going to address their's also?

  • Make excuses about how the therapist or counselor would be bias against them for all kinds of reasons.

  • Claim they can't help it due to their past. ie: child abuse, etc.

  • They claim its just a bad temper, and YOU know they don't MEAN IT!

People on the receiving end of emotional abuse (remember its a pattern) either tend to get defensive at times, or they start to doubt themselves. They can be upfront in their approach to this person about their hurt over the emotional abuse, and their partner will respond with either:

  • Not allowing the person to finish their thought

  • Twisting what they said to tell them what they really mean. Normally very extreme twisting at that!

  • Mock or Ridicule them

  • Tell them they are being HURT themselves by listening to a complaint from their partner

  • Totally ignoring them or silent treatment

  • Pouts or storms off

  • Diverts the attention off themselves with statements like: "YOUR not perfect either!" "If you wouldn't do that I would have to act this way!" "I have to do this otherwise YOU won't listen!"

These are just a few. The end equation is that the person that is trying to get the point across about the HURT, or are attempting to explain themselves is brushed off in all kinds of ways.

I think people get this concept of emotional abuse confused by the fact that anyone can be a jerk on occasion. Anyone can call someone names, and anyone can come across as cold and unfeeling. What I tend to get confused about is that when there is a pattern there, and people are reaching out and people offer simplistic advice.

MAYBE you just need to be in a better MOOD most of the time!

Maybe they don't feel loved or respected, and THAT's way they are acting ugly!

People tend to place that burden of their pain right back on their plates. YOU can do something to make this stop in other words. LOOK at your actions, and maybe you are causing this. That's junk! That's excuses of people that don't want to get involved. Pattern show issues with the emotional abusive person that is causing the behavior in this case!

The key here is PATTERN! If your partner has a pattern of mocking, screaming, pushing you to your limit, etc..........THINK! People say we are responsible for our own actions all the time. Why is it when there is a pattern involved, and you mention this pattern they say YOU are responsible! YOU need to change so it doesn't happen. When you take your first step to realizing YOU aren't doing anything to make them blow their stacks... YOU are taking the first step towards doing something about it.

People are responsible for their own actions, and even if someone is 'pushing their buttons'.........that doesn't change. Don't allow others to tell you that is does.

You can find lists of behaviors on emotional abuse all over the internet, so I won't supply you that. I want to give you the key ingredent that most miss out on - and that is PATTERN! PATTERN is the key!

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Grace Required on 11:55 PM said...


That is the best treatment of what is abuse that I have read. Oh I so get what you say about the simplistic advice becuase of the the lack of understanding what "true" abuse patterns are. I hope that people will get this. Not just claiming abuse for the rare tantrum that is sincerely regretted. If people out there just understood that it is a PATTERN it might make a huge difference in the lives of the abused.

Hannah on 1:20 PM said...

Thank you Grace Required!

I see this portion of the equation as such a huge bottleneck, and I'm NOT sure why that is.

There are pattern of behaviors for MOST types of wrong behaviors, and people choose not see this is no different.

You have to wonder if they are all caught up in denial, or 'words can never hurt you'. As if James 3 doesn't know what its talking about! LOL!

Anonymous said...

Many Christians overlook abuse because of their lack of knowledge.
They dismiss when someone actually sets out to use and abuse people.

Their argument is that (we all have done bad things in our lives....)
But at what point do they drawl the line? When do they take the blinders off and see when they are being warned about a false believer in their church who invades peoples lives?
They would rather take scripture to a extreme misconception as far as forgiveness goes and ignore the fact that this person continues to seek out people to mislead after claiming they have changed their ways. (No true repentance)

This is a problem in the churches especially. Those who take a stand, get judged by those too blind to see the truth.

Thanks for the post.

Hannah on 11:45 PM said...

sighhh! I have to agree with you Tiffany! You do see that ALOT!

Anonymous said...

I am getting a divorce tomorrow and I am soo sad about this whole ordeal. I have cried the past few days nonstop. I logged on the internet too see if I was really abused, but decided to look it up a different way "is emotional abused over used". I came to ur website and want to say thank u. I cant quit questioning myself about his outbursts that are considered rage. It was a strong pattern in our marriage and him, his family blamed me for pushing his buttons. It was soo bad at the end I had hid the guns and he went looking for them in a rage the last nite i stayed. But then again he said he just wanted to make sure his guns were safe. Its awful and long lasting hurt that emotional abuse causes and that is with the help of a counselor for the past year. Again thanx!

Hannah on 8:40 PM said...

I will be praying for you Anonymous5! I'm sorry about your relationship.

Its not uncommon for people to question 'is this really abuse'. Questioning every aspect of it is more normal than people wish to admit.

Anyone can be ugly, and anyone can push buttons...our reaction to it shows our character. I was told I pushed buttons, and I had an 'anger problem'.

We all have times in which we react to things badly, but if that is a pattern in your life? That is the key.

Raging is NOT a normal reaction. I don't care how much people claim they 'pushed' people to react as such. When you don't do things to change the dynamic? Its just an excuse that people that rage like to use. Its called projection.

Victims tend to own more than their share of the negative aspects of an abusive relationship. I hope you continue with your counseling.

My big hump was accepting the abusive person for whom they are, and not the person I had pictured. The next was not owning their allies opinions of our relationship. If they wish to live with rose color glasses - that's fine. I needed to see things clear in order to move on from my fragile state.

It gets easier in some aspects. I hope you continue with your counselor. Its worth it by looking at our own dynamics, and learn to recognize things WAY before we used to in our pasts.

Anonymous said...

Thank you...I wasn't sure wether I was being abused, and how long I'd been taking it for...he is NOT a violent man in the least but he knows how to hurt me and does so as it suits him. The emational withdrawal. The coldness. The silent treatment. My "stupid tears" as he calls them. I admit that I have resorted to cursing him. I've had almost 8 years of chasing after him and pleading with him. Unfortunately I am pregnant with our second child, have a toddler and I am an immigrant who was made redundant. I have nowhere to go. I suppose this is it for me. But I will at least begin to detach myself. It's the least I can do. And your blog is helping. So thank you.

Hannah on 8:15 PM said...

Keep in mind you can also call the domestic violence hotline that is national - or your location shelter.

Most of the time they have very caring people that know things we ourselves may not realize. If you don't click with the person you speak with? It happens - personality conflicts or they are not qualified enough - ask for someone else to talk with.

This is not it for you unless you make that decision. Keep reaching out for support, and find yourself a support system. No man, woman or child deserves that type of treatment. God would not wish it either. God knows those tears are not stupid.

Your spouse is broken, and needs help as well. You can only do things for yourself - they must do for themselves also.

Sounds like you are more capable than you give yourself credit for.

One word of advice! Keep your education to yourself for now. Sharing with him will open you up to ridicule, mocking, and more abuse. Abusive personalities are threatened by your pleads for help. You will know when and if your journey should be shared with your spouse.

Go to the library and seek out some of the books I have in the resource section. Find online support - which is listed as well. It took me a while to 'own' my life for what it was. I didn't want to, and I doubted myself always. I knew I had to keep going, and I don't regret it.

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