As a professional counselor treating eating disorders for over twenty-five years, I am very concerned about the often over-looked issue of emotional abuse. For many years I have noticed that the focus of abuse, even the concept of abuse, has centered around the physical beatings, outward neglect, and sexual invasion of children. The signs of emotional abuse, however, are easier to overlook. There is no scar tissue to stretch, no bruises to yellow and heal, no gaping wound to point to. In spite of their invisibility, emotional wounds comprise a very damaging form of abuse.
While emotional abuse always accompanies physical and sexual abuse, it can also be present on its own. Because its implications have been overlooked, it has been left to do its damage in silence. The abused have no recourse but to wonder why they just can’t seem to get their lives on track. Each will think back to his or her childhood and won’t be able to come up with a single time that Dad backhanded him across the room, or Mom left her alone for days at a time with no food, or a cousin wanted to do “naughty” things behind the house when the adults weren’t looking. These people conclude, therefore, that they were never abused and delve no further into their past to discover why their present doesn’t seem to be working.
Emotional abuse is harder to spot and easier to deny. But just as physical and sexual abuse have signposts to mark their presence, emotional abuse, being a systematic attack on one’s sense of self, has common traits. Just as physical and sexual abuse come in degrees of severity, emotional abuse runs the gamut of intensity and damage. It exists, apart from physical or sexual abuse, as incredibly destructive to an emerging sense of self.
All of us have, at one time or another, come under attack by people who just happen to be having a bad day. They take out their frustrations on us, and we feel battered by the winds of their emotions. We have all had it happen to us, and we have all probably been guilty of it a time or two. No one is perfect, and all of us slip up and occasionally say or do things we know we shouldn’t. That’s normal.
Emotional abuse isn’t normal. Emotional abuse is the consistent pattern of being treated unfairly and unjustly over a period of time, usually by the same person or people. It can also be a one-time traumatic event that is left unresolved. Emotional abuse is an intentional assault by one person on another to so distort the victim’s view of self that the victim allows the abuser to control him or her.
If you or someone you know has experienced any type of abuse in the past, it’s likely that they are still struggling with it in some form or another today. Our team at The Center • A Place of HOPE is skilled at addressing the symptoms today, but also unearthing and healing the root of the issues. For more information, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.