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Emotional Abuse In Action

On March 15th EatingDisorderHope.com is giving away 10 copies of my book Healing the Scars of Emotional Abuse. (To enter the drawing, click here.)  For a preview of what to expect, here’s an excerpt from chapter 5, “Emotional Abuse Through Actions”….

Emotional abuse can come not only through words but also through the actions that accompany those words, such as physical intimidation, manipulation, and physical threats. Emotional abusers who use actions as well as words increase their arsenal of ways to manipulate and control. They attempt to control not only behavior but circumstances as well.

Tragically, emotional abuse through actions can result in domestic violence or physical abuse. But this is not always the case, and severe emotional abuse can occur without the abuser ever laying a hand on the abused. The abuser may lash out at objects or smash possession out of rage. The abuser may withhold needed items or resources dispassionately out of cold calculation. In every incident of physical or sexual abuse, emotional abuse is present. Emotional abuse, however, can be present without overt physical harm. Yet danger lies in the escalating nature of emotional abuse. If someone is accustomed to abusing you emotionally, physical abuse is never far away.

When emotionally abusive words and actions are combined, they reinforce each other, crushing one’s sense of self. That is why it is so important to counter this abuse with affirming words and actions. In our relationships with others and ourselves, our words and actions are meant to build us up, not tear us down.

Watch out for these patterns among emotional abusers:

The commander in chief, seeking to control all aspects of the relationship through an unhealthy use of authority (or perceived authority)

The ventaholic, constantly viewing actions by others as a threat, in turn responding with bouts of rage

The intimidator, attempting to control the behavior of others through use of verbal or nonverbal threats

The roller coaster, with up-and-down mood swings decimating any sense of consistency and security

The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, putting on a false face in public and an abusive one in private

The illusionist, maintaining an illusion of self in order to deny his or her true nature

The person who plays favorites, failing to provide a level playing field in regard to love of others

The role reverser, whose own sense of need causes basic relationships to be turned upside down

The empty promiser, taking advantage of the needs of others by giving a promise her or she never really intends to keep

The wrath-of-God abuser, using the Bible to hit other people over the head

As you look over this list, are you able to identify people in your past or present who manifest these characteristics? If so…

  • Which characteristics have had the most impact on your life? H0w have they impacted you?
  • What did each one of these types teach you about the world and how it works?
  • What truths do you still find hard to believe today because of the abusive words and actions of others?
  • What negative messages do you still carry around today because of the abusive words and actions of others?

Seeing through the double blind of negative words and actions can be difficult. While you mourn the truth of yesterday, don’t forget to acknowledge the hope that lies in today and tomorrow.

Take out a sheet of paper and write down three strong affirmations about yourself.  These can be something about who you are as a person, or they can be affirmations about your commitment to move beyond your abuse. Every time you feel burdened to experience or relive the abuse you have endured, take out these words and remember your commitment to hope. By repeating them to yourself daily, you can begin to rewrite those negative messages from your past.

SOURCE: Chapter 5, “Emotional Abuse Through Actions,” in Healing the Scars of Emotional Abuse by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources, Inc.

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