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Emotional abuse

Emotional Abuse: The Truth

Emotional abuse is the primary tactic used by a narcissist.  There may be instances of physical, sexual and verbal abuse but emotional abuse is often the reason victims stay attached for so long.

 

So what is emotional abuse?

 

One definition of emotional abuse is: “any act including confinement, isolation, verbal assault, humiliation, intimidation, infantilization, or any other treatment which may diminish the sense of identity, dignity, and self-worth.”1

Emotional abuse is also known as psychological abuse or as “chronic verbal aggression” by researchers. People who suffer from emotional abuse tend to have very low self-esteem, show personality changes (such as becoming withdrawn) and may even become depressed, anxious or suicidal.

 

(From: Healthy Place)

 

In relationships it can present as any of the following behaviours:

  • Neglect (emotional and physical)
  • Harassment or malicious tricks
  • Being screamed at or shouted at
  • Unfair punishment
  • Cruel or degrading tasks
  • Cruel confinement
  • Abandonment
  • Touch deprivation
  • No privacy
  • Having to hide injuries or wounds from others
  • Forced to keep secrets
  • Having to take on adult responsibilities as a child
  • Having to watch family members being hurt
  • Being caught in the middle of parent’s fights
  • Being blamed for family problems
  • Other forms of emotional abuse

 

(From: Betrayal Bonds)

 

These experiences are traumatic and have a lasting impact upon our mind, body and soul.

 

Body

 

Although emotional abuse is not physical, the connection between the mind and the body has long been established. Our bodies respond physically to abuse. The old adage “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is sadly false. Words hurt. In fact there is substantial evidence that the long term impact of chronic emotional abuse is significantly worse than physical abuse. I am not by any means dismissing physical abuse, I am just stating that it is important not to underestimate the impact of emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse

 

When we are verbally attacked or feel threatened or scared, our body goes into a stress response. This triggers adrenaline and our fight/flight/freeze response. The above graphic shows how this impacts our bodies. Long term exposure to this is trauma and can cause PTSD and Complex PTSD.

 

Mind

 

Our emotions are our innate guidance system. They tell us whether we are in a good place or a bad one. Safe or not. They also connect us to other people and form the basis of relationships. When they are abused they impact both our cognitive and emotional processing skills.

 

This brain scan shows the impact it has on the brain and the areas most affected by abuse.

 

Brain scan

 

Victims of emotional abuse often describe the “fog” they live in. This is due to the damage abuse does to the frontal lobe. It numbs the emotions and slows responses. It is why trauma bonds occur. The victim seeks extremes to feel anything. Boundaries get pushed to achieve that emotional high. It is why victims can become co-narcissistic or unrecognisable to themselves and others. They are addicted to the abuser and behave out of character to keep that bond. Also known as Stockholm Syndrome.

 

Breaking that bond is like giving up heroin

 

Soul

 

Your emotions are your indicator of your connection to your true self. When you feel good, excited, happy, loving, flowing you are living your soul purpose. When you feel angry, sad, frustrated, hateful you are ego and fear based. Not only does emotional abuse separate you from your soul, it ruptures your navigation system. Victims struggle with knowing who they are and what they want. They can get stuck in those negative emotional states.

 

But it us do important to know that your true self never separates from you. Your alignment is available to you at all times. You just need to learn to listen and feel again. Take a moment to connect to your body. What are you feeling? Where are you feeling it? How can you move up that scale? So if you’re angry, what is a slightly better emotion? Determined? Focused? Keep going until you feel more positive. Don’t try to jump from anger to happiness. It’s too much of a leap. Small steps.

 

If you want to reconnect to your soul, book your Moving Forward session today.

 

 

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emotional abandonment

Emotional Abandonment: When Your Needs Are Being Met In a Relationship

emotional abandonment

 

We may not realize that we’re feeling emotionally abandoned or that we did as a child. We may be unhappy, but can’t put our finger on what it is. People tend to think of abandonment as something physical, like neglect. They also may not realize that loss of physical closeness due to death, divorce, and illness is often felt as an emotional abandonment. However, emotional abandonment has nothing to do with proximity. It can happen when the other person is lying right beside us – when we can’t connect, and our emotional needs aren’t being met in the relationship.

Emotional Needs

Often we aren’t aware of our emotional needs and just feel that something’s missing. But we have many emotional needs in intimate relationships. They include the following needs:

  • To be listened to and understood.
  • To be nurtured
  • To be appreciated
  • To be valued
  • To be accepted
  • For affection
  • For love
  • For companionship

Consequently, if there is high conflictabuse, addiction, or infidelity, these emotional needs go unmet. Sometimes, infidelity is a symptom of emotional abandonment in the relationship – by one or both partners. Additionally, addiction may be used to avoid closeness. If one partner is addicted, the other may feel neglected, because the addiction comes first and consumes the addict’s attention, preventing him or her from being present.

Causes of Emotional Abandonment

Yet even in a healthy relationship, there are periods, days, and even moments of emotional abandonment that may be caused by:

  • Intentionally withholding communication or affection
  • External stressors, including the demands of parenting
  • Illness
  • Conflicting work schedules
  • Lack of mutual interests and time spent together
  • Preoccupation and self-centeredness
  • Lack of healthy communication
  • Unresolved resentment
  • Fear of intimacy

When couples don’t share common interests or work/sleep schedules, one or both may feel abandoned. They have to make an extra effort to spend time talking about their experiences and intimate feelings with each other to keep the relationship fresh and alive.

More harmful are unhealthy communication patterns that may have developed, where one or both partners doesn’t share openly, listen with respect, and respond with interest to the other. When we feel ignored or that our partner doesn’t understand or care about what we’re communicating, then there’s a chance that eventually we stop talking to him or her.

Walls begin to build and we can begin living separate lives emotionally. Signs are if we talk more to our friends or a relative than to our partner or are disinterested in sex or spending time together.

Resentments easily develop in relationships especially when hurt or anger isn’t expressed. As a result, we may either pull away emotionally, put up walls, or push our partner away with criticism or undermining comments. Unexpressed hurt and needs lead to more disappointment and resentment.

Denial or shame about our feelings and needs usually stems from emotional abandonment in childhood and can cause communication and intimacy problems. Usually, this fear isn’t conscious. In counseling, couples are able to talk about their ambivalence, which allows them to grow closer. Sometimes, abandoning behavior occurs after a period of closeness or sex. One partner may physically withdraw or create distance by not talking or even by talking too much. Either way, it may leave the other person feeling alone and abandoned.

Emotional Abandonment In Childhood

Good parenting provides children security that they’re loved and accepted for their unique self by both parents and that both parents want a relationship with them. Parental failure to validate their feelings and needs is a trauma of emotional abandonment. Often clients tell me that they felt that their family didn’t understand them, that they felt different from the rest of the family or like an outsider. What is being described is the trauma of invisibility.

This can also happen when parent-child interactions revolve around the parent, the child is serving the parent’s needs, instead of the other way around, which is a form of abandonment. Even if a parent says, “I love you,” the child may still not feel close and accepted for who he or she is as a separate individual, apart from the parent.

Emotional abandonment in childhood can happen in infancy if the primary caretaker, usually the mother, is unable to be present emotionally for her baby. It’s often because she’s replicating her own childhood experience, but it may also be due to stress or depression. It’s important for a baby’s emotional development that the mother attunes to her child’s feelings and needs and reflects them back.

She may be preoccupied, cold, or unable to empathize with her baby’s success or upsetting emotions. He or she then ends up feeling alone, rejected, or deflated. The reverse is also true – where a parent gives a child a lot of attention but isn’t attuned to what the child actually needs.

In addition to situations where a parent is physically absent or doesn’t share in parenting, abandonment happens later, too, when children are criticized, controlled, unfairly treated, or otherwise given a message that they or their experience is unimportant or wrong. Children are vulnerable, and it doesn’t take much for a child to feel hurt and “abandoned.” Abandonment can also occur when a parent confides in a child or expects him or her to take on age-inappropriate responsibilities. At those moments, the children must suppress their feelings and needs in order to meet the needs of the adult.

A few incidents of emotional abandonment don’t harm children’s healthy development, but when they’re common occurrences, they affect children’s sense of self and security and can cause internalized shame that leads to intimacy issues and codependency in adult relationships.

As adults, we may be emotionally unavailable or attracted to someone who is. We risk continuing a cycle of abandonment that replicates our abandoning relationships and be easily triggered to feel abandoned. For an in-depth examination of this process and how to heal, see Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You.

Couples counseling can bring couples together to enjoy more closeness, heal from abandonment, and change their behavior.

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