In the stepmom role, I’ve encountered a significant increase in dealing with emotionally abusive people. Researching these types of people has helped me to step back and see these people for who they truly are, without getting emotionally sucked into their hell. I am able to see their cycle of abuse and therefore keep a healthy distance from it.
Defining Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse, “involves a regular pattern of verbal offense, threatening, bullying, and constant criticism, as well as more subtle tactics like intimidation, shaming and manipulation. Emotional abuse is used to control and subjugate the other person, and quite often it occurs because the abuser has childhood wounds and insecurities they haven’t dealt with”.
Emotional abuse is also known as psychological abuse or as “chronic verbal aggression” by researchers (healthyplace.com).
Chronic verbal aggression was the phrase that hit home for me. I’ve had to deal with chronic verbal aggression in communicating with an emotionally abusive person in my life.
Emotionally abusive people tend to suffer from low self-esteem, and they tend to lack healthy coping strategies. These people may also suffer from a personality disorder.
Examples of Emotionally Abusive Behavior:
- Unpredictable explosions
- Acts in hostile manner
- Disrespects your boundaries
- Threatens with intimidation
How to Handle Someone that is Emotionally Abusive?
1. Educate Yourself
Educate yourself on emotionally abusive people and their cycle of abuse. Once you are able to identify these behaviors in people, you will be much more aware and knowledgeable about how to handle these people in your life. As Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon”.
2. Set Boundaries
You have the right to protect yourself and set boundaries, teaching people what you will accept and what you will not tolerate. Boundaries are meant to protect you and help you honor your needs. Example: “If you criticize me or my spouse, I will hang up the phone”.
3. No Contact/Don’t Engage
Emotionally abusive people seek control. They are bullies attempting to push your buttons until you finally snap and react. They want you to be at their level, and they will attempt many methods until they find one that works. Your best defense is no contact. Going no contact and completely disengaging from an emotional abuser will help you heal from their abuse. You can also utilize the blocking feature of your phone and social media, if possible.
4. Get Support
Seek professional coaching, therapy, or counseling if you’d think it would help. Professional help and support groups are important in helping you deal with the emotional abuse you’ve endured. You can find healthy ways to heal.
Emotional abusers tend to be suffering, which causes them to act out and emotionally abuse others. However, you do not have to deal with their emotional abuse.
Many second families encounter emotionally abusive individuals. Finding ways to arm yourself against their abuse will allow you to protect yourself, your marriage and your family.