Emotional abuse is not like sexual or physical abuse. It is made up of a lot of incidents and things that happen over a period of time. It is so much more than what you may think - emotional abuse is more than just verbal insults!
Emotional abuse may be abuse in the form of: rejection, threats, criticisms, aggression, ignoring, isolation, teasing and so much more. It can also take place in a number of places, from the comfort of your own home to the workplace and even in a happy relationship.
-- THE EFFECTS OF EMOTIONAL ABUSE
Emotional abuse is not only under-reported, but it’s effects are minimized. The famous childhood verse, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me” is simply not true. In fact, many physical and sexual abuse survivors have said that the emotional abuse was often more devastating and had longer-term effects.
Emotional abuse cuts to the core of a person, attacking their very being. Emotional abuse, if frequent enough, is usually internalized by the victim, and leaves them feeling fearful, insignificant, unworthy, untrusting, emotionally needy, undeserving and unlovable, and as if they were bad, deserving of punishment, and to blame.
Survivors of emotional abuse often have a hard time understanding why they feel so bad. The abuse may not sound like much, and often people around them will minimize the experience, telling them it’s not so bad. But a climate of disregard for a person’s feelings, where one is subjected to constant or frequent criticisms, being yelled at, or being ignored – has a deep and profound effect, attacking the very self-image and confidence of a person.
-- IDENTIFYING EMOTIONAL ABUSE
How do you recognize emotional abuse? One thing that can help is to step back from your situation and examine the overall climate in your home or your workplace. Trust your instincts and feelings about people. Sometimes, a person can just look at you and you know that they are looking down at you. Other times, their words are okay but their tone is mean. Emotional abuse is insidious and can be very subtle, so trust your gut; it’s telling you something.
-- NAMING IT
Because it is harder to name emotional abuse as abuse, it can be harder to heal from as well. The first step is to name your experience as abuse. Trust how you feel. Many people can identify the abuse once they know what to look for because they change from being outgoing, self-confident, and care-free to feeling nervous, anxious, and fearful in the company of an emotionally abusive person. Just because you’re feeling those feelings doesn’t mean that you’re being emotionally abused; there could be something else going on. But, those feelings combined with abusive behavior is convincing evidence that you are being abused.
Try describing to other people how this person behaves. Be honest, and listen to the feedback you receive. If you don’t feel good about the feedback, try someone else. Remember that emotional abuse is frequently minimized.
No matter what you’ve been told or how you’ve been treated, you are worthy of love and respect. The more you know this, the less likely you will be to accept disrespectful or abusive behavior towards yourself or others. You should not have to take emotional abuse from anyone – no matter what the excuse. You deserve to be treated well.
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