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Verbal and Emotional Abuse

February 21, 2014

photo 1Some forms of verbal and emotional abuse are obvious: Screaming, raging, name-calling, mocking, bullying, harassing, and threatening. There are also more subtle forms of emotional abuse. Being able to recognize them is important because being their target can result in feelings of low self-esteem, depression, shame, and anxiety.  Here are a few examples:

  • Alienation. When a friend interferes or destroys your relationships with others in order to keep you isolated and dependent. People use alienation when they don’t want competition for your attention or affection. What it looks like: Turning others against you, taking over your relationships with others, or convincing you that others don’t have your best interests at heart.
  • Subtle Putdowns. Such as when your friend talks down to you in a “pleasant” tone or spews you with sugar coated hostility. Here is a not so subtle example: Click Me.
  • Gaslighting. When an individual tries to convince you that your perception of reality is inaccurate. This maneuver can make you feel as if you’ve got bats in your belfry. Want to see it in action?  Rent the movie.
  • Hoovering. A term used to describe how emotional abusers will SUCK you back in after a falling out. Get it? Hoover, as in vacuum. They may claim to have changed, make false amends, or reach out to you when in crisis. Once you’re back you may be in for another ride on the crazy train. And it’s going to suck.
  • Victim Stance. This is when someone often claims to be the victim and doesn’t take any real responsibility for their contribution to problems. When called out on their behaviors they might turn the tables in order to convince you that YOU are the offender and YOU have attacked and abused THEM. Cue you groveling.
  • Emotional Blackmail. You are being controlled by an intense fear that if you do something “wrong” to your friend you will suffer the consequences of their anger. Really unpleasant.
  • They Just Keep You Hanging On. You’ve had it with the insanity and when you’ve finally mustered the guts to leave they throw you a delicious morsel of love. This is one of the most powerful forms of shaping behavior. It’s called intermittent reinforcement. And like the dog who occasionally gets thrown a scrap, you keep coming back for more.
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