Emotional Abuse….Let’s Talk About It

Emotional abuse. Does that phrase even have meaning in the Indian culture? 

Emotional abuse is a form of assault that is deliberate and manipulative and used as a method of control.” We know what this one means. It means that someone is abusive through their words or how they say something. 

I got the following list from this link: http://www.goodtherapy.org/therapy-for-emotional-abuse.html

“A few indicators of emotional abuse might include the following:

  • The behavior in question doesn’t stop or even pause when the recipient begins crying or asks for time to cool down. In fact, abuse may escalate as the abused person becomes more and more vulnerable, demeaned, afraid, and upset
  • The behavior is frequent – several times a week or month, as opposed to very rare (once every few years, for instance.)
  • Vulgar language, completely baseless accusations
  • Insulting or demeaning words in front of other people
  • “Arguments” are very one-sided; one person does all the talking, never listening, and is not kind to the other.
  • Threats of violence
  • Blatant cruelty
  • The abuser does not apologize
  • The abuser will not recognize the validity of anything his or her victim says”

I want to talk about this last one. This is the one that really affected my life. Obviously, there are many forms of emotional abuse as mentioned above but I think this last one is one that is so subtle sometimes that it’s not recognized as emotional abuse as often as it should be. 

Have you ever said something to someone about how you’re feeling only to have them tell you that it’s your fault for feeling that way? Or they will tell you that what you’re feeling is wrong and you should feel this way instead?

Our feelings are our own. No one has the right to tell us that what we are feeling is wrong. No one has the right to make us feel bad about what we feel. No one has the right to make themselves more important than your feelings. 

I’ve noticed two types of people (I’m sure there are more but these are the two that I have come across). The first type believes that what they think or say or feel is right and there really isn’t any other way. There is only a right way and a wrong way. The second type understands that there are many types of people in the world and every single one of them is going to have their own thoughts and own opinions and sometimes, we have to be able to see something from someone else’s point of view. 

I’ve found the first type of person to be the type that tends to disregard something someone else says if it doesn’t agree with their own view. This is the person that will ignore the feelings of someone else if it doesn’t align with what they think. 

Invalidation of feelings leads to other issues. You start questioning yourself and your thoughts. You start thinking that maybe your feelings are wrong and that you should be reacting a different way. You lose trust in yourself and who you are as a person. You become a victim. 

That sounds like emotional abuse to me. 

I think this is an issue in the Indian culture that has been left unaddressed so far. We are just starting to understand that there are ideas beyond duty and responsibility. We’ve stumbled on freedom and happiness. I think it’ll be a while before we fully get to giving the problems of emotional abuse the attention they deserve. 

If you or someone you know is dealing with emotional abuse, please ask someone for help. Most people are ready to help you. Most people will help you get into a better situation than the one you are in. Just take the first step and ask. 

Who wants to play the victim?

I want you to be really honest with yourself. How many times have you played the victim on something just to get attention or empathy? 

I think most of us do from time to time, especially when we don’t feel like we get the acknowledgment for our efforts. We shout out the things we do. We play up how bad we feel about something. On any given day, these are things that we might not say or do but today, something made us feel like no one was paying attention to the effort we put into life, our jobs, our relationships. 

Playing the victim isn’t something that has to be extreme. It could be as simple as saying “I had so much to do today”. Translation: “My life is busier than yours so please appreciate that I made the time to see/talk/listen to you.” I know that this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, saying that you had a lot to do today is really just that. You had a lot to do today. But sometimes, maybe it’s not the case. Maybe it’s really a way to seek some acknowledgement for your effort in whatever it is you’re doing. 

Think about it this way as well. There is one day where you get to go do something you’ve always wanted to do and you’re really excited. There is another day where you have to fulfill some obligation that isn’t the top of your priority list. What are the chances the same exact cold will make you feel worse the day you have to do something you don’t want to do whereas you’ll survive fine the day you get to do something fun?

Another way I’ve watched people play the victim (or done it myself) is where they silently martyr through something they don’t want to do so they can resent someone for having to do it and then later, throw it back at them. That sounds healthy, doesn’t it? Especially when you add in years of being friends or living together. I see this a lot in marriages in our Indian culture. Why be unhappy when we can find a way to make ourselves happy? Maybe we should one day explore that idea of it’s easier to be unhappy than to be happy. But we’ll save that for another day.  

And then comes the day where playing the victim doesn’t sound like much fun. There are 2 ways to get attention: play the victim or just be interesting while living your own life. That’s when I decide that I’d rather find a way to be happy in my own life and not worry about attention at all. There have been a few months recently where playing the victim was all I could do. Then, recently, I decided that this way wasn’t going to work for me. I am now working on ways to enjoy myself regardless of everyone else. 

This doesn’t mean I don’t fall back into a pattern that I’ve seen so much throughout my life. I do. But awareness is the first step to solving a problem. And one of the goals of life is to be happy throughout the journey as well as at the destination. So I will take that first step.