In this context, it is closely associated with issues that relate to aggression, suppression, deceit, maltreatment and, often, violence. The most common forms are physical maltreatment, child abuse, domestic violence, sexual abuse, people in power abusing their authority, and many others. But there is one other type of abuse that often goes undetected, mainly because of how often it is inflicted with subtlety and disguised as valid discourse or form of communication.
This is called Emotional Abuse. It has proven, however, to be quite a limiting word, considering how emotional abuse can also be inflicted even without verbalizing it.
Yes, a person can abuse someone emotionally without uttering a single syllable. There is a certain ambiguity in how emotional abuse is often described, and this made it difficult, even for psychologists, researchers and clinicians, to come up with a fixed definition for it. However, emotional abuse is loosely described as the ongoing emotional maltreatment or neglect inflicted by one person on another, seemingly weaker, person which often results in the latter developing psychological trauma, such as anxiety, depression, and other health-related disorders.
To gain a better understanding of this concept, let us break down the characteristics of emotional abuse. It involves non-physical behaviors, which may range from delivering threats and insults to openly doling out public humiliation and intimidation. It may even be in the form of wordless but constant monitoring bordering on stalking and deliberate neglect and isolation of the subject or recipient of the abuse.
A person damaging property by throwing or kicking things around violently will also fall under emotional abuse, despite the use of physical force, since it the acts of physical aggression are indirectly aimed at the other person, who may also be the owner of the damaged property. It is often brought on when there is an imbalance of power in the relationship.
One wields a higher authority or power over the other, and he uses this to manipulate, control, demean, or simply demonstrate this superiority over him.
The abuse is intentional, with the abuser deliberate in choosing the actions he will use to attack his intended victim.
He may be calculated in his approach, or he could use random and even reckless acts, but they are all meant to do one thing: The abuse occurs on a regular basis, with the repetitions taking place for extended or prolonged periods. As it goes on, the intensity of the aggression is escalating, with each attack worse than the previous one. Words can wound, and the abuser makes full use of this weapon by saying things or uttering words that he is fully aware will upset, annoy, or offend other people, particularly the person he is directing his verbal attack to.
It could be a thinly veiled insult, or it could be an all-out, full-on verbal lashing that involves swearing and cursing, and it could be done either in private or in public, with many eyes watching. The abuser asserts his dominance over the abused, making sure that the latter understands, in no uncertain terms, that he is the one calling the shots.
He could also employ tactics that will isolate the abused, such as preventing him from seeking help or assistance from others, or blocking other avenues for the abused to be able to make even a token resistance against his abuses. The green-eyed monster is usually seen at the root of most cases of emotional abuse, especially in relationships and, in some instances, in the workplace.
Jealousy plants seeds of suspicion which, in turn, drives people to want to control others. Their need to feel secure in their current position, especially when they feel threatened, makes them even more determined to stake their claim, so they become abusive.
However, emotional abuse can be just as harmful, and probably even more destructive, since the damage goes deeper within the psyche of the one on the receiving end. Instead of physical pain, he is left with the harder-to-ease emotional pain, and the scarring can be more permanent.
His vulnerability to emotionally abusive attacks is brought on by existing feelings of inferiority, self-doubt, and a general lack of confidence. By piling on the abuse, the person will feel even smaller, since his initial impressions of himself are, in a way, validated or confirmed. For example, a husband never misses pointing out how incompetent his wife is, and this eats away at the wife, who is already suffering from a low self-esteem because of her current unemployed state.
As a result, she tends to be sullen and quiet as she stays home to do housework. The repetition or constant exposure to the abuse is likely to have a hypnotic effect, so that the person will start to believe whatever abusive things he is told. Emotional abuse is likely to make the recipient shoulder all the blame. At some point, the abused may start looking around and questioning why she is going through these difficulties or subjected to that abuse.
But if the emotional abuse has done its job and has become deeply embedded in her psyche, she will find no one else to blame but herself. Thus, she will end up blaming herself for everything: In fact, she will even come to the point that she thinks she deserves being treated in that manner.
She had it coming; her husband would not have been verbally attacking her if she had been better and more competent. Emotional abuse can result to trauma, which can be permanent. Psychological trauma is a likely result in the worst cases of emotional abuse. The abused may end up suffering from anxiety and chronic depression, and even post-traumatic stress disorder.
Now, trauma is something that cannot be easily treated or cured, and it usually takes time before one can fully get over it. For many, they are never able to completely be free of their trauma, even if they are able to put it under control. This also has an overall effect on how the person will conduct himself onward. It will cause strains in his current relationships, and may also impair him from forming new ones in the future. The effects of the trauma will be so far-reaching that life, as he used to know it, will no longer be the same.
Emotional abuse can lead to other, more serious health problems. When their emotions can no longer deal with the blows, it is their body that will likely start reacting. The stress and trauma brought on by constant exposure to emotional abuse will take their toll on the human body, and various illnesses can come up.
We immediately picture couples and family members inflicting and receiving emotional abuse from one another. However, emotional abuse can also take place among professionals, in decidedly formal and business-like settings.
Despite efforts to promote a culture of teamwork and promoting harmonious working relationships in the workplace, companies and businesses still face issues on workplace conflicts, low worker productivity, high employee turnover, and overall low employee satisfaction — all because of emotional abuse being a pervasive presence in the workplace. The workplace is actually an ideal nesting place for emotional abuse, since it serves as a perfect breeding ground for various negative emotions such as jealousy, envy, competitiveness, and insecurity.
The hierarchy usually found in the workplace means that there are varying levels of authority; in that respect, a power imbalance is already in place. In fact, according to a study conducted by Pai and Lee on the risk factors for workplace violence among nurses in Taiwan, This clearly proves that, despite cultural differences, bullying and other forms of workplace abuse can happen — and are happening — everywhere.
Workplace bullying can arise in many instances, and it is not just restricted between a subordinate and his superior. In fact, many cases of emotional abuse in the workplace also take place between and among co-workers, who are supposedly colleagues and, in the hierarchy of the organizational structure, are equals.
But how can you definitively tell that there is, indeed, emotional abuse at work? Have a quick break and learn about the four bully types at work. Power and Control Wheel was developed in as a tool for the conduct of studies on domestic violence. Barnes of Abuser Goes To Work tweaked it to come up with the Workplace Power and Control Wheel , which describes all the indications that psychological abuse exists in the workplace.
Emotional Control This refers to the most straightforward forms of verbal and emotional aggression employed by abusers. Some may be sly about it, pretending to be civil and nice, their body language and facial expression in direct contradiction with the words coming out of their mouths. But some may opt to do it in an openly hostile manner, clearly leaving no room for doubt that they mean what they are saying. Name-calling is one of the most recognizable form of verbal abuse, with the abuser using offensive names and insulting language to one-up the target of his abuse.
He uses these to win an argument. He also resorts to name-calling to sway or persuade others to reject or condemn his target, or anything that has to do with him. This is also a favorite method when the abuser wants to establish his superiority over the target. Giving the silent treatment is a non-verbal way of toying with the emotions of the abused. In other instances, the silent treatment may be accompanied by glares and looks of open hostility.
The abused will initially be baffled at the reason why he is being given the cold shoulder, and this will eat away at him, until it affects his concentration and focus at work. Usually, the abuser will not make any attempt to explain why, since he enjoys the confusion and bewilderment being experienced by the target. The emotional abuser will revel in publicly humiliating his target, so he may choose to deliver his putdowns and barbed remarks when there are other people around.
He will deliver his attacks in front of the other employees and, worse, even in front of the bosses, especially when putting the other down may potentially benefit him. This is an oft-used action for co-worker sabotage. Stay calm and keep your cool. Maintain a decent and civil attitude even in the face of these emotional aggressions, even when the abuser starts to rant and rage at you. Losing your temper not only increases the likelihood of an ugly confrontation, it also puts you in a more vulnerable position.
Remember, the abuser will feed off your discomfort and misery. The moment he sees that he is able to provoke you and get a rise out of you, this will motivate him to continue with his abuses, and be more creative with them.
That is the only time you should walk back in to talk to him. Talk to the abuser with confidence and a rational attitude, looking them straight in the eye the whole time. If you can conduct the conversation in full view of the other employees that were witnesses to those abuses, that would be even better. Ask the abuser to stop what he is doing, and make it clear that you will not stand for it.
If, despite that, the aggression continues, then it is high time to report the matter to your supervisors or higher-ups, complete with documentation on the details of the acts of abuse you experienced, and your futile efforts to fix things. Do not hesitate to point out the error of his ways or, specifically, his attacks. If this is the case with you, go right ahead and let him know how unprofessional he is being by getting your personal life mixed up with things at the workplace.
This is also an excellent way to set boundaries and show the abuser — and other co-workers — that you are serious about separating your personal and professional lives. Isolation If getting the silent treatment is bad enough already, completely shutting down and out a person is bound to achieve the same results, making him feel rejected, isolated and alone. The target finds himself excluded from social events and gatherings involving co-workers.
Short of not being invited, he will be left alone and largely ignored. Important meetings and work-related planning events may be conducted, and the target will only find out about them when they are already over. This is no thanks to the abuser intercepting messages or memos providing notification of the meetings.
During meetings or important conversations about work, the abuser will refute everything the target says, and even shoots down some of his ideas, saying they are silly or not feasible, even when they have some potential. This also demonstrates how little respect the abuser has for the feelings of the target. If the target is already having a hard time dealing with being given a rude brush-off or subjected to silent treatment without him knowing the reason for it, it is doubly worse when he is treated as if he does not exist.
Emotional abusers have a knack for making someone feel out of place, as if he does not belong in the workplace. Fitting in is very important for employees in order to enable them to carry about their tasks effectively and productively, but if they find difficulty in fitting in for the simple reason that there is someone who makes them feel they are a wrong fit within the workplace or the company, then they will definitely have a difficult time.