The name of this article might sound a bit extreme and over the top, however I thought it was important to create awareness around this often overlooked area.
This is a general description of Emotional Abuse, which is based on my current awareness and observations.
Very often the most recognised form of abuse is the physical side; the type of abuse that is visible to the eye and can be easily observed. When the body is hurt it is clear to see, unlike when we are emotionally hurt.
The emotional side is usually hard to recognise; it usually goes under the radar and is often overlooked. This could be the result of the general ignorance around emotions and not realising the effect emotions have not only on our life, but also on our bodies. It is also very easy to put on a happy face to the people close to us and the world, when deep down we can feel the complete opposite.
Suffering In Silence
After looking at the physical and emotions sides; it is clear to see that there is a big difference between the two.
Someone could be suffering in silence for many years without anyone knowing this to be the case. And yet when someone displays a physical symptom or problem, attention soon arrives. We all know to go to the doctors when we have a physical problem, but who do we go to when we have emotional problems?
So does this mean that there is a possibility that physical illnesses can be the result of emotional abuse or emotional suffering? And that the time delay of their physical manifestations is what makes it hard to see?
Could physical symptoms be our body’s way of crying out for attention? A way for our own suffering to be heard? Our body’s way of express what we fear to express vocally?
When we were children we might have felt ignored or abandoned or perhaps we didn’t want to go to school. So what did we do? We might have created a situation that would give us attention; we become ill for a short time to receive what we were not currently receiving from the people around us.
This of course is a very basic example, however what it does gives us is an idea about how our body can react to how we feel and that if it can react in such a way after only a short while; how might it react after months and even years of pain?
The Old Saying
We are all familiar with the saying ‘sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me’. This has got to be one of the most dangerous saying ever told. This can lead one to deny their own feelings and to ignore their own emotional feedback.
Positive And Negative Growth
And like anything in life that grows and develops, the consequences are one of two things, depending on it being a positive or a negative outcome. The positive side is that the longer it goes on for the more evolved and developed it can become and the negative side is that through time entropy and regression usually occur.
The First Stage
In the beginning it could start of as light criticism, judgment or even sarcasm. This at first can be unpleasant, but at first site it can seem to be one of or an isolated occurrence, which makes it tolerable.
So with this being the case it is normal to carry on as if nothing has happened. After a short while our lives and emotional state will usually return back to normal.
The fact this has happened could spring doubt and confusion in our mind, as to why this has happened. The following questions might arise: Am I over reacting? Have they had a bad day? Have I done something wrong?
Old childhood pain and trauma could be triggered at this point. With Our personal history returning, so that it can be processed.
This criticism can come from: family members, friends, spouses, and colleagues amongst other relationships.
The Second Stage
This might not be a one off and what continues is more criticism and more put downs. It might now take the form of passive aggressive behaviour or more overt abuse.
At first there was the opportunity to readjust ones emotional state and come back into equilibrium. However as the abuse becomes more consistent; one then starts to question themselves. Their own wellbeing and tolerance starts to diminish rapidly.
What could be handled and dealt with at first now becomes too much, too overwhelming for one to deal with.
This behaviour could be displayed out in the open; however it can be carried out when only certain people are around and behind the scenes.
Such people often have a well developed ability to come across as the antithesis of such behaviour, with them appearing to be warm and maybe even affectionate in public or at certain moments.
One response the abused could have after being constantly exposed to such behaviour is that they start to believe what they are being told by the perpetrators. There is a saying ‘if we are told something enough we start to believe it’. And after weeks, months or even years of abuse one’s self worth and emotional health will be extremely eroded.
This can leave one feeling hopeless and that there is nothing they can do, but accept that this is how life is going to be for them.
Safety Instead Of Happiness
This is where the ego mind comes into the discussion. The ego's priority is safety and what is safe is what is familiar to the ego. So if one has experienced this abuse as a child or something similar and is now experiencing it later in life for a considerable amount of time the ego starts to equate it with what is safe.
Whether it will harm or even kill one in the long run is irrelevant. All that matters is that it is familiar to the ego. This sounds completely illogical, as does staying in a situation that harms us. It might be harmful, but at least the harm is familiar to the ego mind.
These people can be classed as perpetrators, who look to pray upon the vulnerable and weak. However, they are just as weak, it is just that their behaviour has taken on a different form.
My understanding is that the perpetrators were abused in their younger years. They were made to feel powerless and shameful about who they are.
It is said that the abused become the abusers later in life. Of course some continue to be abused and become the victim. The reason the abused become the abusers is that as a way to feel empowered the abused identify with their abusers. This gives them a sense of power, power that they have never felt in a functional way or believe they can feel in a functional way.
They came to understand power as something that is achieved by controlling others and not as true power being self control and how much control we have over our own actions.
So now that we have looked at the perpetrator lets take a look at the victim.
As I have stated above about people who were abused later becoming the abusers; the other consequence is to become a victim. This can also alternate with someone taking on the role of a victim or a perpetrator.
The victim could be classed as the more passive of the two, an individual that holds their pain internally, where as the perpetrator displays there pain externally.
If you are reading his and have experienced this kind of abuse and have emerged from this silent destroyer – Well done to you, it takes great courage and strength to overcome. And if we look deep enough we will find it.
However, if you are currently in this situation, don’t suffer in silence. There is help out there. This could be through a book, a close friend or a mentor; it ultimately doesn’t matter what it is. What matters is that you don’t give up. It might be hard to expose ourselves and to be vulnerable, but that will only be short term pain and will seem insignificant when compared with the freedom that will be experienced upon the closure of such abuse.
I would firstly like to point out that the love I am talking about here is not narcissistic or egotistic. What I am referring to is an acceptance of who we are; our true nature, free from the ideas and perceptions of who we are or should be.
This is of course one of the hardest things in life; since there are so many influences; both externally and internally, that can stop us from even beginning this process let alone achieving it.
An Important Story
This reminds me of what a friend once told me that relates to this perfectly. He had heard that it was impossible to dislike ourselves, as we don’t know ourselves all we know about ourselves are the images and perceptions we have gained from others. And upon this creation we then begin to dislike the images we have formed and not our true self. However, very often we are unaware that they are not who we are and see them as the truth. I thought this was not only profound, but also very true.
We come to form an identity about who we are; sometimes this is to our liking sometimes it is not. This is typically constructed out of what other people have said to us about who we are or who we should be. And this of course comes from what has been passed onto them about what is right and wrong. This could be from family, friends, partners and even our society.
So it becomes clear that it is extremely difficult to get in touch with who we really are, as a result of all the pressure we experience from our early childhood and the society we live in, that is constantly influencing us.
Why Is It So Hard To Accept Ourselves?
I believe it is because we are born into an environment that is based on the need for approval, this then leads to a society that’s primary focus is approval and not self acceptance.
This need for approval starts in our early childhood, where it is a matter of survival and life or death. This is something that is of the upmost importance; when we are young and powerless, without the care of another we would die. The problems arise when this need for approval still carries the same associations for us as we get older. We then unconsciously see approval in the same way as we did when we were younger.
This can lead us to see that there are only two options; either compromise ourselves and become accepted or to follow our own truth or way and end up being rejected.
Self Acceptance or Acceptance From Others
So as we start from a place of having to please others it can be a struggle to begin to accept ourselves.
As the opinions of our caregivers were so important to our own survival we naturally begin to trust them more than we trust ourselves. We then learn to give more importance to the opinions and views of others, than we give to ourselves.
Constantly looking outside of ourselves to see if we match up to the ideas people have about us. There is also the other side of all this; after being conditioned and influenced by others for many years we will then begin to externalize this form of control and end up controlling our self
This will cause us to constantly judge and criticise ourselves because we don’t match up to what is classed as the ‘right way’. But what is the right way? And is there a right way?
The Blind Leading The Blind
The question is if we are looking outside of ourselves for acceptance from people that don’t accept themselves either; what are we really going to achieve? What can happens is that an inauthentic society is created; where out of ones own inability to accept themselves, causes them to assist in co creating a society that is superficial and lacks authenticity.
We end up trying to please something or someone that doesn’t exist, all coming from the ideas and perceptions that have been conditioned into us during our early years and from the outside world.
Perfection Or Imperfection?
So after being brought up and still having the same behaviour that causes us to rely on the approval and acceptance of others to determine whether we are good enough or not, the mind then goes to extremes.
As the mind works in polarities it will either cause us to pursue perfection at all costs; with this being whatever will get us the most approval and acceptance from others. Or we will feel completely imperfect and give up all together.
However each of these examples comes from a place of believing that we are not good enough as we are; that there is something inherently wrong with us.
We have all heard the saying ‘were only human after all’. This shows perfectly that we are only human; we are not perfect and we make mistakes. This doesn’t mean we are failures or unworthy of life or what life has to offer.
If we feel that we are unworthy because of how we were treated during our younger years or by others, it is only because they carried the same pain and were not aware enough to let go of this pain and change their behaviour.
We are all familiar with the need to be compassionate to others and to treat others with respect. I don’t believe we can ever be truly compassionate or respectful to others unless we have compassion and respect for ourselves.
And this is something that can’t be achieved if we are identifying with the often dysfunctional ideas and views that others have given us about who we are, who we should be and what we are capable of.
Seeing Ourselves For Who We Truly Are
The process of seeing ourselves for who we truly are or seeing ourselves in a functional way is incredibly important for our own psychological wellbeing. It will also help us to get in touch with our real dreams and inner calling in life.
It is clear to see that in the world we live in, what is often classed as love is anything but love and could be classed as dysfunctional and in some cases abusive.
So this is going to be my perspectives on some of the things that are not love. We come to understand what something is, by understanding firstly what it is not. This is what is known as negation.
So, let’s begin to look through each of the descriptions and behaviours that are often classed or said to be love in today’s world.
These are: Control and Need/Dependency.
The act of control in a relationship is common today. This varies in degree and in how destructive it is. It is the type of behaviour that is often oblivious to the public eye and goes on covertly.
With the perpetrator often displaying the facade or demeanour, which is the antithesis of such behaviour.
This could range from: controlling what the other person does; who they see and also what they wear. As time goes on this behaviour will usually increase and the partner will become more controlling as time goes by. With each moment that passes the victims resilience is gradually warn down, until they start to become dependent on the other person.
The perpetrator of this behaviour usually classes these actions as love and a sign of their care for the other person. They might also deny or dismiss their actions. Which not only causes anger and frustration, it can also cause the victim to invalidate their own feelings and emotions and start to believe that there is actually something wrong with them.
There is also the chance that the victim will resist the controlling behaviour and end the relationship. This will depend upon the self image of the individual and whether the level of abuse there are receiving is what they unconsciously believe they deserve or not.
There is a saying that goes something like this ‘we will only put up with what we feel we deserve’ and that if it’s any worse we will either reject it or regress to that level.
Need or Dependency
This type of relationship could be classed as the outlook that one can’t survive without the other person. And that they need them to feel like a whole human being.
Whether it is with someone who is truly right for them or whether it is just someone who fills their need to be needed is often unimportant.
This person will rarely be alone for very long, with their need to escape their own feelings of aloneness, attracting into their life someone to fill the emptiness that they feel.
As they are dependent on another for there wellbeing, they can end up enslaving themselves to the other person. Constantly negating there own true needs for the hope of getting the approval of the other person.
Their childhood wounds are being acted out, with the hope of getting these needs finally met. If the person that they have attracted is the same as the parental figure and is not conscious or willing to be conscious, the same patterns and dramas will be played out without any healing or growth taking place
This could be classed as our inner child’s needs that get confused with present day wants. This is because not only are these needs so powerful, they are also insatiable, and without the awareness of them, they have the power to control our life. Being able to acknowledge them in the present is vital for our own evolution.
What I have described above is the victim’s perspective, with the perpetrator or the individual being perceived as the opposite of needy or dependent. However this is often far from the truth, when in reality the perpetrators neediness/dependency just takes on another form and this enables them to appear the complete opposite.
Each of these examples displays somewhat individual behaviours; however it is clear to see that to some extent they all interrelate.
The typical perspective is that on one side there is victim and the other side there is a perpetrator. When it comes to simply observing what is going on, there is no denying this fact. However, as one becomes more aware, it starts to become clear that what is going on here is far greater in depth than meets the eye. And that there is actually a symbiotic relationship taking place.
Having awareness gives one the ability to shine the light on life, to see what is working and what is not. In the absence of awareness positive change is unlikely, with the result likely being anger, frustration and then hopelessness.
Having an understanding of what creates the relationships we have, will reveal to us that we are not bound by our past and that it is possible to have relationships that honour who we are.
I believe dysfunctional love or relationships occur when we are not relating as adults. And end up relating or reacting as wounded children; from past memories and experiences.
What I mean by this is that it is highly unlikely that we had the perfect childhood, where we had all of our needs met or that we were treated in a loving way all the time. This of course varies from person to person as to how sever this was. However, this creates an inner conflict/inner split or should I say an inner child that longs to be heard and healed.
Unconscious And Conscious Love
The unconscious meaning we have of love is likely to be completely different to the conscious meaning we have.
At an unconscious level we associate love to be how we were treated as a child and how our parents or the people around us as children, treated each other.
This is why we can look for one thing and attract something completely different.
This is where the inner child comes into the equation. The inner child longs for love and to be finally embraced. What adds to the complexity is that the inner child has a sense of safety around how things were. This creates the dichotomy of on one side: wanting to be loved and heard and on the other resisting all change.
Our inner child is understandably fearful and vulnerable; this is why awareness is so important.
As our awareness of ourselves improves we will begin to rise above our history and realise that our present moment is only a reflection of the past through our identification with the past.
The mind identifies with the past, and as the past is familiar is interprets it as what is safe. This is why it can be so hard to let go of what doesn’t work and begin to honour who we are and what is true for us.
It can be so easy to get caught up in the past, fighting and resisting any change. And our mind will hold on until the end if we try to go against it. This is a battle that cannot be won. It can only be achieved by rising above the mind and becoming the observer, which in turn begins to silence the mind.
Whether one believes in the inner child or whether one just sees it as conditioning that is cause of the conflict in their relationships and present day life, is not important.
What is important is that we attract relationships into our life that empower us. How we go about achieving that is down to individual preference.
Oliver JR Cooper
Author, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant - With Over 2,000,000 Article Views Online.
That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.