Getting Worn Down from Emotional Abuse

200362509-001Earlier this year, the French National Assembly passed a bill that criminalized psychological abuse within couples. Specifically, the bill makes any repetition of actions or words that could “damage the victim’s life conditions, affect his/her right and his/her dignity, or damage his/her physical or mental health” punishable by imprisonment and a monetary fine.

While I do not know the motivating factors behind this bill, it is clear that it takes a clear stance against psychological and emotional abuse by recognizing the severity of this mistreatment.

You might be wondering where the line lies between someone behaving in a mean-spirited or hostile manner and someone being psychologically or emotionally abusive. I’ve put together an analogy in order to make this dividing line visible: just as wind and rain break down and erode a rock, so do words and deeds of belittlement and denigration wear down a person’s sense of strength, agency, capability, and worth.

Sometimes the elements—wind and rain—are torrential, but most of the time their presence and influence is subtle, ever present but rarely noticed. Once again, the parallel holds. At times the emotional toxicity of another is clearly identifiable as abuse. However, most of the time wounds inflicted by another are gradual and almost below the radar. This toxicity is as damaging to the rock and to one’s personhood as gale force winds. However, often times the recipient of these emotional elements is labeled as “too sensitive,” “over reactive,” or worse.

In time corrosion will occur and one will become a weathered soul. How this is displayed varies from person to person. Some will retreat into a sort of depressive hibernation, others will become the powerless person they have been accused of being, and some will begin to check out from life—living in a fog-like daze, while others will grow in anger and rage. Ultimately, the variations of how people respond to such corrosion are as endless as the number of people who experience such psychological and emotional toxicity.

Unlike rocks, we become aware of our environments. We can choose to emotionally or physically move away from the source of the elements. By doing so, we allow ourselves to live, grow, heal, change, move on, thrive and come to fruition.

Reclaiming one’s power is this process of growth, which is one of the noblest paths a person can pursue.

If you are struggling with emotional abuse, know that you can reach out to a trained professional, who can and will help you heal and grow.

© Copyright 2010 by Susanne M. Dillmann, PsyD, therapist in Escondido, California. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Archie Andrews

    Archie Andrews

    June 8th, 2010 at 12:48 PM

    My brother often puts his wife through this kind of a torture and I have spoken to him about this.All of this was not taken very seriously by him until his wife actually decided to leave the house.He could not believe that she was ready to walk out on him.It was then that I, along with another brother of mine, stepped in to talk to them and took a promise from my brother that he would not abuse her emotionally in future.And thankfully the discussion helped and they are back together now:)

  • gina

    gina

    June 8th, 2010 at 11:56 PM

    although it is a good step forward to have introduced this kind of a law,it is open to abuse by a few people because there are no clear guidelines as to what actually constitutes emotional abuse…they need to get some experts on board and discuss this and define as to what is emotional abuse.

  • luke r

    luke r

    June 9th, 2010 at 2:18 AM

    in today’s society where physical abuse is seen as something criminal,it has become very common for a person to abuse his/her partner emotionally rather than in the physical manner.this is a good progressive ruling that will help keep a different kind of abusers under control.

  • Wayne

    Wayne

    June 9th, 2010 at 12:18 PM

    men are often prejudiced to have been abusive in a relationship and most people almost take it for granted that if its a case of abuse,then the person who is wrong is the man and that he has abused the woman physically.This is nothing but prejudice and has done nothing but actually made men the victims.
    There are plenty of cases wherein the man is emotionally abused by the woman and this is seen by most people as harmful complaining on part of the woman.They do not see how much impact this has on the man psychologically and mentally.I do not mean to be against women in general but would certainly like to see a law covering such issues in our own country.

  • Eliza

    Eliza

    June 9th, 2010 at 3:33 PM

    When is it emotional abuse? When it dominates your every move and makes you mindful of everything that you do and makes you wonder if your behavior is going to cause someone else to mistreat you. It makes you think poorly of yourself and takes away every shred of self esteem that you may have had at one time. It makes you feel small and insubstantial. These are the results of someone that you “love” and that you think “loves” you back making you feel like you are worthless and that you have nothing on earth to offer to anyone. This is emotional abuse. Does not sound like a whole lot of fun huh?

  • BRAD

    BRAD

    June 10th, 2010 at 1:38 AM

    I agree with what Wayne says here.For too long there has been a wrong perception in general that an abuser can only be a man and the victim is always the woman.This will all change with such progressive laws and more awareness on the issue of emotional abuse.

  • Luanne Stevenson

    Luanne Stevenson

    June 10th, 2010 at 11:36 AM

    This is a fantastic article on so many levels; well written, but informational, providing one with the choice to hopefully take action. Very powerful! Thank you!

    I know first hand about corrosion of a wind storm. Living numb is no way to live and EMDR was the “magic” that turned it around for me; curing my PTSD. (Although EMDR has mixed reviews, my therapist was highly skilled and I was lucky she used it properly and it’s also part of a cognitive therapy/ not used alone to treat). Anyway, if EMDR is used by someone skilled it is “magic” and helped me regain my life.

    Thank you for your work!
    Luanne Stevenson

  • Sally

    Sally

    June 10th, 2010 at 3:21 PM

    My brother was actually a victim of emotional abuse at the hands of bullies in school. There was never any physical abuse but I can’t tell you how damaging this verbal and emotional abuse was to his psyche. I don’t know that laws like this will prevent every case of abuse but it may deter someone and that is the best we can hope for sometimes.

  • Bell

    Bell

    March 7th, 2018 at 3:51 PM

    I am caring for a mother who is a narcissist, and is very manipulative,
    and psychologically abusive. She remains undiagnosed, and presents
    a different persona of kind, sweet and friendly in public. When I assert
    myself with her, she yells ‘abuse’ everytime she doesn’t get her way or
    is asked to compromise. I have spent a lifetime in therapy, and I am aware this isn’t an uncommon situation. On the most part, people in
    general do not seem to have much awareness outside their own experiences from what I’ve observed in my life.
    In an ideal world, such a law sounds wonderful, but in reality it may allow
    for intelligent manipulation over truth?! People are only often understood in relation to their ability to communicate well.

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