Reflecting on Emotional Abuse

Reflecting on Emotional Abuse

Author’s note: This article discusses abuse.


“you treat them like they

have a heart like yours

but not everyone can be as

soft and as tender

you don’t see the

person they are

you see the person

they have the potential to be

you give and give till

they pull everything out of you

and leave you empty”

–Rupi Kaur, “milk and honey”


Emotional abuse is normally defined as an aggressor subjecting the victim to psychological trauma. Oftentimes mental abuse leads directly to physical abuse. I believe that such terrible damage can happen on a much smaller scale and without the physical violence. Maybe we could call it “emotional maltreatment” or “emotional injury” or, just call it what it is: cruelty. Lying is the seed of it all. Lying words lead to manipulative actions. Manipulative actions lead to more lying words and the cycle continues. Throw jealousy into the mix and you’ve got the perfect disaster.

It’s the subtler forms of emotional abuse that often hit the hardest. As I said before, lying is a dominant force in the whole situation, but other forces are also at play. There are dominators—those that seek to control the victim’s actions, thus robbing the victim of their own self-respect. This is a tragedy because when you cannot respect yourself, how can you expect anyone else to respect you? This way, the aggressor draws you in closer.

Emotional blackmail is another hard-hitter. The aggressor knows exactly what you like and what you don’t. He knows your past, your hopes, your dreams, your fears. Then, at the drop of a hat, such knowledge will be used against you and convoluted in such a way that it leads the victim gasping for air. He may threaten to leave you. He may actually leave you. All I can say is, the sooner he leaves the better off you’ll be.

Another poignant danger is the unpredictability. Unpredictable behavior forces the victim to constantly be on their feet, unsure of how their aggressor will react. Often he’s difficult to please because you really don’t know what they want or expect from you. The aggressor thrives on drama and on the thrill of the emotional roller coaster. Understand, we do not live in a perfect world where there are no emotional roller coasters, however there is a time when it becomes too much. It’s not so different from Disney World’s Splash Mountain: one minute you’re chugging along in peace and the next, you experience an abrupt drop. Then you chug along peacefully once again for just a little while, waiting for another drop to send your stomach up your esophagus. A relationship shouldn’t be this way—this is not normal, nor is it fair.

The tragic characteristic of emotional abuse is that the victims most often stay with their abusers. They feel so emotionally “connected” and compelled to never leave the situation that keeps causing them so much pain. The abusers know they have their victims wrapped around their little finger, ready to do whatever it takes to please them. It’s not often enough that these victims ask themselves, “Am I really happy here?” or “Do I deserve to be treated this way?”

So, step back. Take a deep breath. Analyze the relationship and see if you either treat someone this way, which means you need to rethink your past and present decisions, or maybe you’ve been treated like this, never even realizing it. If your first thought is that you aren’t good enough or if you’re afraid of simply being alone for a while, it’s time to regroup. To all the victims out there: this is a dangerous cycle that women must break away from to realize our full potential.

“Baby I got a plan, run away fast as you can.” Listen to Kanye West on this one.

Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.