There are times I hear stories from friends or acquaintances and want to reach out and let them know that they are experiencing Psychological Abuse. Of course it is not always easily said, especially when a person is not yet ready to hear the truth or ready to recognize it (let alone stand up for themselves in it). During the holidays we can easily become trapped in our own social circles responding the same way we have always responded as if we are programmed. Because of this, I find it an appropriate time to publish the below comprehensive list of behaviors that may constitute abuse. Half of the battle can sometimes be recognizing the signs and understanding why something “just didn’t feel right in the gut”.
Seeing/identifying abuse and choosing to not be lackadaisical about removing yourself from the situation will be imperative and can also save a lot of tension at social gatherings as well as creating boundaries that will protect your own heart. Sometimes removing yourself will be getting in the car and leaving while other times it may be cutting off the conversation abruptly. No matter what response the Holy Spirit leads you to in these situations my prayer is that you will take care of YOUR heart and treat it as Jesus would.
Blessings to each of you during this holiday season!
Secrets, Lies, Betrayals – Maggie Scarf p56-57
Recognizing Psychological Abuse
What are the specific behaviors that constitute emotional abuse? One of the most illuminating answers to this question, at least in my opinion, is that provided by a Boston-based human rights organization called Peace at Home, Inc. In the comprehensive Warning List that this group has drawn up, a particular cluster of behaviors is identified as abusive—behaviors seen in situations where ongoing psychological assaults on the mate, but not necessarily any physical attacks are taking place.
Again, it should be emphasized that in the majority of cases the victim has no conscious knowledge that anything “abusive” is actually happening; far more often she is blaming herself and her own failings for the fact that the relationship feels so flawed and ungratifying. For, over time, the abuser’s sense of his own legitimate power, control, and essential “rightness” has continued to expand, while his partner’s sense of her self-esteem and competence has undergone a process of attrition. She may be feeling bad, lost, guilty, isolated, and despairing; she may be suffering from fierce headaches, painful stomach troubles, a sense of constant tension, heart palpitations, fatigue, or back or neck problems; but all to rarely will she make the connection between her mental and bodily state of being and anything so alien sounding as “emotional maltreatment”.
The Peace at Home, Inc. Warning List
- Destructive Criticism/Verbal Abuse: Name calling; mocking; accusing; blaming; swearing; making humiliating remarks or gestures.
- Abusing Authority: Always claiming to be right (insisting statements are “the truth”); telling you what to do; making big decisions without consultations; using “logic”.
- Disrespect: Interrupting; changing topics; not listening or responding; twisting your words; putting you down in front of other people; saying bad things about your friends and family.
- Abusing Trust: Lying; withholding information; cheating on you; being overly jealous
- Emotional Withholding: Not expressing feelings; not giving support, attention, or compliments; not respecting feelings, rights, or opinions.
- Breaking Promises: Not following through on agreements; not taking a fair share of responsibility; refusing to help with child care and housework.
- Minimizing, Denying, and Blaming: Making light of disturbing behavior and not taking your concerns about it seriously; saying the abuse didn’t happen; shifting responsibility for abusive behavior; saying you caused it.
- Pressure Tactics: Rushing you to make decisions though “guild tripping”; sulking; threatening to withhold money; manipulating the children; telling you what you must do.
- Intimidation: Making angry or threatening gestures; use of physical size to intimidate; standing in doorway during arguments (as if to block the way out); outshouting you; driving recklessly (to scare the partner, even put her in fear for her life).
- Destruction: Destroying your possessions (such as furniture); throwing and/or breaking things.
- Threats: Making threats to hurt you or others