It is the most prevalent type of terrorism. It isn’t coming from some foreign country or radical militia group, it comes from the very people we call friends, boss, co-workers and family, and often times by those we can’t help but love.
I have had the pleasure in my life thus far, to be the recipient of this type of abuse, on many occasions from multiple persons. It is in some ways the most nefarious of abuses as the bruises are on the inside. There is no one staring at you awkwardly trying to figure out how to tell you to go to the hospital for that black eye you most certainly did not get falling down the stairs. No. There are no physical signs, save for anxiety and depression but they are often times overlooked as part of a different issue.
I sat on the phone with my psychic Gina in tears about the latest assault from my biological father. While he could be a really charming, fun and generous person (as most good sociopaths are) there was a dark side that was hidden to the public but very real to me. He had a way of trapping you into his contrived dramas, humiliating you, in an attempt to control you, and it was done all under the guise of “generosity.”
“People like your father try to create doubt. This doubt in yourself, in your talent, in your relationships, in what you believe is real or farce is what allows them to control you. They trap you into thinking that you can’t live without them when in reality, you’ll never really start living until you’re without them.”
Emotional abusers thrive on making you feel as though you are always wrong. They set you up to fail in every situation and it truly doesn’t matter what you do, you can’t do anything right.
An example of this was when my father called and asked me if his then girlfriends ex-husband could come to Thanksgiving dinner which I was hosting at my house.
“Of course.” I said trying to be accommodating no matter how strange the whole thing was.
“You don’t have to if you don’t want to, but do you have room?”
“Yes, of course! That is not a problem at all.” I said.
“Thank you sweetheart, I really appreciate it.” He said sounding somewhat relieved.
I got off the phone feeling good. I was happy to accommodate my fathers friend and I am a huge fan of unconventional relationships, so what the hell. It was the respectful thing to do.
Thanksgiving came and went with the dinner turning out to be a disaster. This ex-husband tried to humiliate my fathers girlfriend and flirted shamelessly with my friend who was twenty five years his junior. The night ended with my fathers inebriated date munching on my centerpiece mistaking it for dessert, and my father rushing her out the door in embarrassment.
A few days later I got the call.
“I can’t believe you invited him to your house for dinner.” said my dad.
“What? I asked incredulous. “You asked me to invite him!”
“Yes, but I did so thinking that you wouldn’t actually say yes.”
“What?” I repeated.
“If you had just said no goddammit then I wouldn’t have been humiliated like that. This is all your fault.”
The next five minutes turned into a wild rollercoaster of rage ending with me and silence at the other end of my phone.
If you have ever found yourself at the other end of one of these conversations, then congratulations! You have been with an emotional terrorist.
Since most of us are so deep into these relationships we rarely recognize it as abuse. Here are some common tricks the emotional abusers will use in order to trap you into their endless games of emotional torture.
- Denial: “I never said that” is a hallmark of the emotional terrorist. “You’re crazy.” is another classic. They swear on anything and everything they pretend to believe in to convince their audience that it is in fact YOU that is the problem and NOT them.
- Cruel Words: We have all been guilty of making a joke that might not be very nice. While they can be hurtful, most jokes are relatively harmless. The emotional abuser however, will consistently crack jokes at the expense of others. These are often cruel and demeaning intended to humiliate and shame their victim. It is the frequency and level of cruelty that makes these kinds of “jokes” abusive.
- Punishing: When you do not behave in the manner that they believe you should, you get punished. Punishing can range from ignoring to snide comments, to obvious attempts at excluding you from group activities and blatant disrespect. The abuser believes that if they punish you, somehow you will be so upset by the loss of them in your life, you will acquiesce to their unrealistic demands.
- You’re Always Wrong: The emotional abuser will always make you wrong. They will twist and spin, bob and weave, do almost anything to avoid having to admit any wrong doing on their part. They might be wrong but you started it. You’re the problem. They will tell you all about yourself in detailed explanations that to the sane individual can only be projection, but to the victim can be dangerously harmful. Emotional abusers cannot have constructive conversations, they are juvenile at best and consist of mostly insults to your character.
- Anything You Say Can and Will Be Used Against You: This is my favorite. You must watch every word that leaves your lips when in the company of an emotional abuser because as sure as the day you were born it will all come back to haunt you. Remember that thing you did in 1992? When you were 12? Well it’s coming back at ya and full speed ahead so you’d better be prepared for it.
- Lecturing: Emotional abusers love an audience, and to hear themselves talk so lecturing is number one on their list of loves. They can lecture you about anything. They will tell you all about life and how to live it, what you should believe in, how you should act, dress, speak, blah, blah, blah. Again, more projecting. In most cases, their lives are total wrecks, and they feel very out of control so telling you how to live yours is a way of dominating you. They feel a sense of control where they otherwise have none.
- Habitual Line Steppers: Emotional terrorists know no boundaries. They feel very free to say and do whatever they want to you and in front of anyone. My father had no problem shit talking me to my husband which made my husband very uncomfortable. While my husband fantasized about punching my father in the face numerous times, he always found witty ways to navigate out of the conversation without conflict. Now if you said anything about my father’s girlfriend? Whoa baby you’d better watch out. This leads me to the next point…
- Do As I Say Not As I Do: This is the ultimate sign of an abuser. An emotional abuser can say anything to you, and behave any way they want BUT if you repeat that behavior towards THEM…you might as well have started world war three. They will absolutely lose their minds. Emotional abusers can dish it but they can’t take it. This is usually the first sign that something is off. Banter is a back and forth exchange but remember, an abuser wants to control and dominate you with the intent to belittle and humiliate, so you can NEVER do to them what they do to you or they will flip the fuck out and you will be wrong, wrong wrong, wrong. See number 4.
- It’s All About Me: Abusers think your whole world revolves around them the way theirs does. They are deluded into thinking that you are always talking about them, thinking about them, or creating sorties about them. This is due once again to projection and an overinflated sense of self. They have a hard time understanding that the world does not revolve around them.
- Looking For The Fight: Abusers love to trap their victims into a damed if you do damned if you don’t scenario. This ensures that no matter what you do, YOU NEVER WIN. They will just keep lying, manipulating and twisting the truth to serve their purpose. When confronted with this behavior a victim might lash out in defense of themselves, which is EXACTLY what the abuser wants. They want the fight, a reason to verbally, physically or otherwise assault you. Whatever you do, do not give it to them. This is where they thrive. It makes them feel powerful, vindicated, and self righteous, and will leave you feel frustrated and defeated.
After many years of therapy I have come to the conclusion that the best way to deal with these people is to cut ties and walk away. This is especially true if they are family. After my father abandoned me for the second time in my life, rather than try to reach out, beg, and cry which is what he was looking for, I never contacted him again. For the first time in fifteen years I felt RELIEVED. My heart was heavy but my soul was free. I would now be able to heal.
It’s taken me a really long time to understand that I do not have to win the approval of those who are not worth my time. Those of us that have been abused seem to attract these types into our world over and over again, until we finally learn the lesson. Don’t be afraid to get help if you need it. Don’t be afraid to break the cycle of abuse.
“If you only had one day left on earth who would you spend your time with?” asked Gina
That one question changed my entire perspective. Whether we are reincarnated or not, you only have this life in this body with these circumstances and these people. Don’t spend it wasting away at the hands of scared, small people. Cut the ties that bond and move on. Always remember, you’re stronger, braver and smarter than you think.