Emotional abuse can be detrimental to your confidence and self-esteem. The difficult part of being a victim of emotional abuse is that it is difficult to tell whether or not it is happening. Unlike physical abuse, the signs of emotional abuse are not nearly as apparent as the signs of physical abuse.
Research reveals that emotional abuse can affect someone just as much as physical, and even sexual abuse. Following 846 at-risk children for 14 years shows that the psychological threat to safety and security is the most common type of abuse.
Emotional abuse is so harmful because of its negative effect on self-esteem. Actions, attitudes, and words that mean to degrade others are the primary form of emotional abuse, and the abuser often uses it to manipulate others, leaving them feeling confused and powerless Several studies have also shown that emotional abuse is equally distributed between men and women, and can happen in any relationship
Here are 10 warning signs of an emotionally abusive relationship (and how to protect yourself):
They try to make your dreams and accomplishments seem insignificant.
The Fix: Don’t fall into their trap.
People who take pleasure in toying with other’s emotions will use any sort of tactics, such as confusion, blame, and interrogation, in order to really get under your skin. If you have to deal with these types of people often, like in your workplace, just ignore them or surprise them by saying something nice instead of meeting them with a combative attitude. Emotional manipulators thrive off getting a rise out of you, so make sure you don’t give them what they want – after several failed attempts, they may begin to leave you alone.
They try to be in control of everything, including your actions.
The Fix: Call them out on their behavior.
These people have probably bossed around others for so long and have never been confronted for it. Stand up for yourself and let them know that they make you feel uncomfortable and taken advantage of. Even if they deny their behavior or try to turn it back around on you, at least you can rest easy knowing you actually defended yourself and stood up for the truth. Maybe they will begin to change their tune if you struck a nerve with them; after all, once they scare everyone away, they will have no one to manipulate anymore, anyway.
They try to justify their unhappiness by reminding you of something you did.
The Fix: Develop a strong mentality.
Don’t ever let their insults or outbursts get inside your head; laugh at them or just entertain their thoughts without agreeing with them. If you know what kind of person you are and have a strong sense of self-worth, nothing they say will ever bring you down.
They constantly call or text to check up on you, who you are with and what you are doing when you are not together.
The Fix: Inspire them to learn something new.
It’s important to “be the change”, and in this instance, it will inadvertently protect you because they won’t be so insecure after becoming inspired by your own non-manipulative, positive actions. Bring up the benefits of meditation, taking responsibility for their own life, etc. Use all the knowledge you have gained about becoming your best self in order to help them become their best self, too.
Maybe, just maybe, they’ll learn about the value of trust.
They insist on always being right while you are always wrong.
The Fix: Tell them “you’re right.”
As hard as this might be for the ego, your soul will give you a round of applause and possibly a standing ovation, too. Emotional manipulators feed on drama, so agreeing with them will leave them speechless and quickly put out the flames of their delusions. Just for the sake of keeping your peace of mind, simply let them win the argument. You know deep down that their behavior and accusations were wrong, but they will have to deal with that karma later anyway.
They constantly humiliate people in front of you:
The Fix: Call them out on their behavior.
These people have probably bossed around others for so long and have never been confronted for it. Stand up for yourself and let them know that they make you feel uncomfortable and taken advantage of. Even if they deny their behavior or try to turn it back around on you, at least you can rest easy knowing you actually defended yourself and stood up for the truth. Maybe they will begin to change their tune if you struck a nerve with them in public; after all, once they scare everyone away, they will have no one to manipulate anymore, anyway.
The constantly remind you of your shortcomings and failures.
The Fix: Give yourself positive self-talk throughout the day.
An emotional manipulator can completely tarnish your otherwise peppy mood, so make sure you restore yourself with uplifting affirmations and messages during the day. They thrive on seeing your mood go down the drain, so when they see you unaffected by their brash remarks, they won’t have a reason to torment you any longer.
Get smart about protecting yourself from their wrath, and they may soon get discouraged from using you as their emotional toy.
They accuse you of things that are not true, so you are forced to prove your love.
The Fix: Avoid emotional attachment with them
This may sound easier said than done, especially if they are acting everything but authentic. Look for the moment they completely steamroll your emotions, and slowly back away from the relationship. Make sure to let them know your boundaries. Emotionally abusive people constantly look for their next victim, and if you must talk to them, be civil – but don’t let it go any further than that, for your own protections sake.
Remember that this is not your fault, and there’s nothing wrong with recognizing this for what it is – abuse.
They do not value your feelings and often will tell you that you are wrong.
The Fix: Start writing down what they say during conversations.
While this might seem a little overboard, emotional manipulators have a habit of making you look like the bad guy, and twisting their words to fit any agenda. You might actually start to believe sometimes that you have done something wrong when in reality, you have fallen victim to their terrible scheme. To make sure you can actually show them what they said in prior conversations, jot down any details you think they might conveniently change later in order to justify their behavior. They may also try to convince you they never said a certain thing, but you can actually prove they did with your notes you take.
They make you feel as if you aren’t good enough for them and that you should be thankful to be in the relationship.
The Fix: Let go of emotionally abusive relationships if necessary.
If you notice this type of behavior in your boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse for a repeated period of time without change, you should leave that relationship behind in favor of your own well-being. You can’t force a person to change, no matter how many times you have brought up their volatile behavior. You deserve someone who will nurture and balance your emotions, not someone who wants to use you for their own personal enjoyment.
Left alone, the stress of an emotionally abusive relationship can manifest itself in the form of illness, depression and even long-term emotional trauma. That’s why it is important first to recognize the behavior and then seek help. Recognizing the behavior can be difficult because we are so attached to the relationship, that we don’t want to think about letting it go. That’s why we need to be aware of some key signs that the relationship isn’t serving us.