Abuse is traumatizing and changes how we approach the world around us. When we hear the word “abuse,” we often think about physical abuse and violence. However, emotional abuse is very harmful and more likely to fly under the radar, since it isn’t as easily spotted as physical abuse.
Some studies have found that emotional abuse is higher in younger people (specifically men). The CDC reported in 2019 that nearly half of men and women experience psychological abuse from their partners.
That study, titled National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, broke psychological aggression down into two groups: expressive aggression and coercive control. Men were slightly more likely to experience Coercive Control, while women were slightly more likely to experience Expressive Aggression, but the numbers were very similar between both groups.
I want you to read through these bullets points from the study to see if you are experiencing emotional abuse in your relationships.
Top responses indicating Expressive Aggression:
- Acted angry in a way that seemed dangerous
- Told they were a loser, failure or not good enough
- Called names (like fat, ugly, crazy or stupid)
- Insulted, humiliated, made fun of
- Told no one else would want them
Top responses indicating Coercive Control:
- Tried to keep you from seeing/talking to family or friends
- Made decisions for you
- Demanded to know where you were/what you were doing
- Made threats to harm you or themselves or even a pet
- Threatened (or hurt) someone you love
- Threatened to take children away from you
- Stopped you from leaving the house when you wanted to go
- Stopped you from having your own money to use
- Destroyed something important to you
- Said things like, “if I can’t have you, no one can”
If you are feeling insulted and wounded on a regular basis, struggling to find your self-worth or feel as if you are walking on eggshells, then you are likely in an emotionally abusive relationship. Whether it is your significant other, a parent, or a friend, the relationship is abusive when there is a consistent pattern of abusive words, manipulation or bullying. This will wear you down over time and hurt your mental health.
While we all make mistakes in how we treat others, ongoing abuse isn’t a normal part of relationships.
Your feelings in dealing with emotional abuse are very normal. There is no right way to feel about something abnormal like abuse. It hurts us when those we love treat us badly over and over. It can cause us to question our value, feel as if we aren’t measuring up, and cause responses of post-traumatic stress disorder. These are signs of your energy centers trying to protect you.
I want you to experience complete healing and establish the healthy boundaries you need to end this abuse. It’s possible and something I personally had to go through in my own life. Let me tell you how you can experience this healing as I have.
How to Tell if You’re in an Emotionally Abusive Relationship
If you identified with the above section, then you probably already recognize there are abusers in your life. It is most common in dating and marriage relationships, but it can include any unhealthy relationships with friends, family members, coworkers, bosses, teachers, and more. It can be difficult to identify because the abuser will likely deny it is really abuse. Without the physical aspect, you may be made to feel like you just aren’t being strong enough or you are not understanding their personality. Signs of emotional abuse include:
- Gaslighting (making you question your sanity)
- Insulting or ridiculing you
- Continually critiquing you in an unsupportive (and unsolicited) way
- Punishments for not doing what they want
- Changing up the rules to keep you off balance
- Invading/denying personal privacy (monitoring your interactions or tracking your whereabouts)
- Keeping you from loved ones (especially if they are calling out the issues)
- Threatening you (even subtly)
- Treating you like you are crazy or a child and cannot make decisions
- Placating you, but not respecting your perspective
- Dictating how you should feel
- Occasionally making a big show of “repentance” for taking things too far, but not really changing (and often blaming you in their apologies)
- Invalidating your feelings (calling you “too emotional” or saying you “blow things out of proportion”)
- Expecting you to put things important to you aside so you can meet their needs
- Requiring you to complete tasks, but also demanding they meet their standards
How Can You Heal from Emotional Abuse?
You can start to measure your healing by looking at affluence in your life. Unaddressed abuse over your lifetime will lead to dysfunction. If you are struggling with relationships, self-esteem finances, or gratefulness, then you likely still have trauma you haven’t healed from. Allowing that natural state of affluence to come to life within you is a sign of full healing. And that isn’t something we acquire, it’s something we awaken to when healing and balance occur deep within.
1. Recognize and Acknowledge Abuse
If you are here identifying specific points of abuse in your life, then you have already the healing process my friend! You cannot take control of your life and start to heal if you aren’t aware of what is affecting you. You won’t be able to establish boundaries or identify future abuse if you don’t know exactly how to spot it. And, perhaps most importantly, you won’t be able to break the cycle and help others avoid abuse if you don’t recognize emotional abuse for what it is. That CDC study from above noted that one of the most successful ways to stop future abusers starts when they are young:
Prevention efforts should start early by promoting healthy, respectful relationships in families by fostering healthy parent-child relationships and developing positive family dynamics and emotionally supportive environments.
2. Make Your Mental Health a Priority
Don’t feel guilty. Forgive yourself because the abuse isn’t your fault and start looking forward. Now that you recognize this as a problem, you can stop accepting it in your life.
- Stop being a people pleaser towards your abuser or any others and shift your focus to yourself
- Watch out for harmful forms of coping (overspending, overeating, inactivity)
- Do something that will affirm you
- Practice self-care: Eat healthily, get exercise and rest
3. Establish Boundaries
Hold the people around you accountable by setting up compassionate, but consistent boundaries. You may need to physically distance yourself from people who continue to cause distress during this process of healing. The power is in your hands. You need to activate your power chakra to empower your throat chakra through the energy in your heart chakra. Right now, those energy centers are out of balance and it is important you get your voice back. You are no longer manipulated—your power lies in seeing the abuse for what it is.
4. Reach out for Support
Turning to a trusted friend or family member can help you get the support system you need. You want to talk to someone who isn’t going to judge you, gives helpful (not inflammatory) advice, and isn’t going to talk about your situation to others. If you don’t have someone like this in your life, you can join a support group or get into therapy (I would really recommend this even if you do have someone to talk to). Getting professional help is not a failure on your part! It’s like going to the doctor when you realize you have an infection that needs healing. Please join my Healing Center as a helpful resource for support.
Do not socially isolate yourself. Now, more than ever, you need to be in the company of people who care about you. While it may seem daunting and unnecessary, take a step right now to reach out and find someone to spend time with this week:
- Call an old friend you haven’t spoken to in a long time just to chat
- Invite a friend to the movies or out for a bite to eat (give a handful of specific dates/times and don’t fall for the “we should get together sometime!” phrase that rarely takes place)
- Accept a recent invitation (and fight your instinct is to stay home alone)
- Reach out to someone you may have cut contact with because of the abuser
- Join a class or club to meet new people
- Strike up a short and friendly conversation with a stranger at the store, the gym or while out on a walk
You may experience certain people aren’t as open to receiving you right now, but don’t let this get you down. Don’t put all your weight on one interaction. Keep reaching out and you will find those who value you as you should be valued.
5. Volunteer in Your Community
You can ease your feelings of stress, anger, anxiety, and depression by helping others. We are wired to connect with those around us. You can empower your heart chakra by drawing from the power of things you care about. Find a local cause you care about and support it with your time, talents, and effort.
6. Forgive Yourself and Your Abuser
I want to be very clear here: forgiveness does not mean forgetfulness.
You aren’t excusing or denying damage done. By forgiving, you let go of the need to seek vengeance. Until your abuser recognizes their problem and truly changes, you are not going to trust them. And, if they do change, the trust is built slowly over time with proof of true change.
We forgive because God forgave us. Forgiving allows God to heal us because we aren’t holding on to hate and anger. Part of that hate and anger is typically directed towards ourselves, so we have to forgive ourselves for having an abusive partner or staying in an unhealthy relationship (even though it wasn’t our fault!). Let God deal with everything else. It doesn’t mean you stay in your abusive situation or you turn a blind eye to the abuse of any kind. God is very clear that abuse is wrong. It simply means you let God handle it and you don’t hold on to your anger or desire for vengeance.
In some cases, you may need to get the law involved (like with physical, sexual, or financial abuse). This does not need to come from a place of vengeance, but ensuring the abuser isn’t able to keep abusing others.
7. Work on an Exit Plan
Start by fueling your throat chakra and speaking out against the abuse you notice. Refuse to accept abuse quietly. However, if you feel threatened by a violent reaction from your emotional abuser, do not engage—get out and create space first. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
If your abuser does not see the issue or has no intention of changing, you will need to create space and boundaries. You cannot stay in an abusive relationship forever without hurting yourself. You may need to take steps to break up or end your relationships. Turn to your trusted friend, family member, or counselor to discuss steps, since every relationship and situation is different.
8. Become a Model for Others
You are a survivor and you can use this to better the world around you. Recognize your worth by replacing every toxic relationship with a healthy relationship. Empower people who struggle in similar ways as you once did. I survived abuse and have worked hard to share my healing journey with others. I also have done my best to make sure that abuse is not passed to my children or the ones I influence. God can use this situation and growth for great good!
This is a healing journey that won’t happen overnight. Abuse is not your truth—it is an old energy. You have not given up and I am so proud of you. You can end this cycle of abuse and the effects of emotional abuse impacting your life. As you pinpoint abuse and cleanse your thoughts, emotions, and body of its effects, you become free. Your affluence is waiting to be awakened as you heal completely.