Awareness of Emotional Abuse

Awareness of Emotional Abuse

What does it feel like to be in an emotionally abusive relationship? How do you know you’re in the middle of one? This can be difficult if you were raised around people who were emotionally abusive.

THE FISH BOWL ANALOGY

I liken it to being raised in a fish bowl that never got cleaned and was always green, murky and had a few things floating around in it. Being a young fry born into this environment you’d think all water is filled with scum and floating objects and when you went to find another fish bowl to jump into to start your own family you wouldn’t think twice about jumping into your next bowl with the same muck in it.  If you did meet a potential fish partner with a bowl with clear water you’d think, “What’s that, that’s strange, is that even for real?” and find a partner hanging out in murky water just like you. As humans we go for what is comfortable and familiar.

I liken it to being raised in a fish bowl that never got cleaned and was always green, murky and had a few things floating around in it. Being a young fry born into this environment you’d think all water is filled with scum and floating objects and when you went to find another fish bowl to jump into to start your own family you wouldn’t think twice about jumping into your next bowl with the same muck in it.  If you did meet a potential fish partner with a bowl with clear water you’d think, “What’s that, that’s strange, is that even for real?” and find a partner hanging out in murky water just like you. As humans

My experience is a bit different, but it still got me into a bowl of muck.  Both in my past situation and for the fish above there is a lack of discernment and understanding. Discernment is just a fancy word for being able to tell the difference between something that’s good for you and something that’s bad for you.  I was raised in a fairly clear watered bowl with loving parents and yet I still lacked awareness of what to avoid! Combining my naiveté with my personality (e.g. compassionate, always hopeful) and my youthful impulsiveness I quickly jumped from my bowl into another’s with my eyes closed and ended up a cloudy situation.

Here’s some things you might be feeling, thinking or doing if you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship:

  • Feeling like what you do is never good enough
  • Thinking that something is wrong with you and feeling shame
  • Doubting your ideas and decisions
  • When your partner is away for a while life seems easier to handle
  • Keeping information from your partner for fear of judgement or control
  • Being exhausted and more prone to sickness
  • Being aware of how everyone else feels, but not sure how you feel
  • Feeling on guard or “like you’re walking on egg shells”
  • Having to defend your ideas and opinions
  • Fearing what your partner might say or do when you’re around others
  • Feeling ignored and criticized
  • Giving up, going along, shutting up, keeping quiet
  • Using alcohol or other substances to cope

 

So what is emotional abuse?

Emotional abuse is pattern of behaviors someone does consistently and repeatedly over time. I have boiled my personal definition of emotional abuse down to this: Any behavior done repeatedly over time that DOES NOT HONOR your WILL, your VOICE, or your UNIQUENESS.

 

Your WILL is your power to choose, to act on ideas, to make decisions and execute plans. If emotional abuse is taking place you may feel like you have little or no control over what you’d like to do or accomplish. In my first marriage, I often had to ask to do things rather than execute my plans. Since I am vocal and outspoken, I would often find myself pleading for things I’d like to see happen and most often would hear an automatic “NO.”  Eventually, I asked less and less and avoided communicating things that might get a negative reaction. So I’d just do it secretly. In a loving partnership there is discussion and both discuss decisions together. Sometimes one bends for the other and vice versa, but in an emotionally abusive relationship there is an imbalance of power rather than shared mission.  In my experience, a parent-child dynamic was taking place where my ex made decisions and I had to seek permission. Often I had to craft requests in such a way that made him believe it was his idea which created feelings of insignificance in me.

Here’s a recap of how ones’ WILL is dishonored in an adult relationship:

  • Being insulted or punished for doing something
  • Being treated like a child
  • Being restricted or controlled (e.g. not being allowed to spend time with others, having money or possessions taken from you)
  • No recognition for your accomplishments and wise decisions

 

Your VOICE is all the thoughts, ideas, beliefs and opinions that you possessKnowing your voice and expressing your VOICE is vital for an abundant life.  Having loved ones honor your VOICE by taking time to listen and kindly respond is vital for building one’s confidence and self-esteem. In my early marriage, I first noticed my voice was not asked for. I can’t remember my ex ever asking any of these simple questions: “How are you? How was your day? What would you like to eat? What do you think of this? If I did offer my opinion or idea I usually would experience one of the following responses: no comment or response about it, seeing him walk away from the conversation, a flip of the wrist looking like my partner was flicking an insect away and dismissing the comment, a fast quick “shushing” sound stopping me mid-sentence, or an insult claiming I was “crazy” or unintelligent in some way.

 

 Here’s a recap of how ones’ VOICE is dishonored:

  • Being insulted or belittled for your ideas, thoughts and opinions
  • Your ideas, thoughts, and opinions or not asked for or considered
  • Your requests are ignored or insulted
  • Being ignored when speaking
  • Being interrupted or yelled at when you speak
  • Being told to shut up
OK, TIME OUT LADIES, I realize that some of these things I just wrote are hard to read and might tug on your heart strings, I want you to know that I don’t share these things to gather sympathy or get even with my ex. In fact, you’ll never hear me mention his name.  My intention and hope is that by sharing some of my story and using my VOICE, it might shed light on your situation and help bring you to a place of healing and hope. Being in an emotionally abusive relationship is an incredibly lonely and frustrating place, I want you to know I’ve been there and you are not alone.

 

Your UNIQUENESS is all the special things about you that make you, you! UNIQUENESS includes your personality, interests, talents, physical attributes, strengths and even weaknesses. Emotional abuse dishonoring your uniqueness may take the form of direct insults or belittling statements about your interests, hobbies, your body, how you choose to do things, or being seen as inferior because you don’t do things the way they do things.  Dishonoring your uniqueness can also happen when your partner expects or demands you to change yourself to meet his/her preferences. Some examples of this are: losing weight, exercising more, keeping your hair long, being quieter, being more sexually alluring etc…  Really, there are so many painful ways someone could dishonor your uniqueness. It’s disgusting to me and makes me mad quite honestly!!

Here’s a recap of how uniqueness is dishonored:

  • Insulting or belittling your interests or hobbies
  • Insulting or belittling your physical attributes
  • Insulting or belittling your spiritual practices
  • Insulting your personality and/or way of doing things
  • Expecting or pressuring you to change
  • Saying little or nothing kind about you

 

Reflection Questions:

Ladies I realize a lot was shared here and there’s a lot to digest. For some of you, the lights may have just come on and you’re looking around realizing what you’ve been stumbling over all this time. You may be feeling angry or overwhelmed. I encourage you to spend some time writing in a personal journal to process what you are feeling and thinking.  Awareness must first come before healing can take place. Here is a list of reflection questions for you to go deeper and discover more about your situation:

  1. What are you feeling right now after having read about emotional abuse?
  2. What did you relate most to, did anything jump off the page and hit home?
  3. How is your will, voice, and/or uniqueness being treated by your partner today?
  4. Can you see any patterns today in your relationship that took place in the family you grew up in?
  5. Who in your support system can you talk to about this that can offer a listening ear and treat you with non-judgement?

 

Kristin’s Encouragement to You:

I encourage you to not judge yourself and try to be aware of when your thoughts are criticizing or blaming you. You may be experiencing thoughts like:

“How could I have I let him/her treat me like this for so long, I must be _______!”

“I am such a ______ , because  I have been emotionally abusive too!”

Practice replacing these condemning thoughts with thoughts of wisdom and compassion. In my own experience, I have come to believe I did the best I knew how at the time.  Give yourself grace!  Judgement isn’t going to help -you it’s only going to drag you down and steal what motivation you have.

I believe you are capable and lovable and there is hope!  New awareness may be painful to face, but it is on the path to living the life you’ve been longing for!  If you are interested in counseling or recommendations for further resources you can contact me through my website: healingandrestorationcounseling.com or email me directly at Kristin@healingandrestorationcounseling.com I look forward to hearing from you.

Speak Your Mind

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Mill Creek Office
16300 Milll Creek Blvd Suite G-1 Mill Creek WA 98012
info@healingandrestorationcounseling.com
425-248-3990

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