Fort Refuge - Abuse Survivors Support Group

The Art Of Emotional Abuse

by Breeziiee

The Canvas
How do you become the victim of emotional abuse? Why don't you just get out? Many times, I've been asked "What did he do to you?"

Brush Strokes
There are no concrete answers to that question. No physical wounds to prove the damage. It's so subtle & pervasive, as not to be described by a few instances. It's so hidden, as not to be believed by others. The manipulation is so ingrained, as not to be fightable. It takes away choice. It uses your greatest fears to bind you. And most often, "it" is not even recognizable to the abuser because emotional abusers are damaged people. Damaged people who attract people with a strong (sometimes paralyzing) sense of empathy. And this is where it begins.

The Inspiration
The signs are there early but you ignore them because he loves you. When he is obsessive, you feel special. When he isolates you, you feel comforted because you know he protects you. When he insults you, you blame yourself. When he belittles & humiliates you, you downplay it. When he invokes emotional punishments, you make excuses. You cover. When he gives emotional rewards, you feel guilty & confused. When he becomes enraged, you rationalize. And above all, you hide it.

The Palette
Obsession, isolation, humiliation, manipulation, anger, fear, guilt & control become the colours of your life. They are the groundwork for the cycle of abuse. Periods of emotional rewards (the obsession & guilt); rising tension (the anger); passive aggression (the humiliation & manipulation); foresight (the fear & isolation). You know what is coming. So you worry. You placate. You avoid. (The control)

The Masterpiece
Emotional abuse is a complicated work of manipulation. It's a chain of continual, subtle (often unspoken) threats designed to modify your behavior; to control. It's emotional rewards & punishments that you begin to predict in time. But even when you come to realize you are being manipulated, and even when you can rationally discuss the abuse, you remain powerless because the targets are no longer just you. They are your kids.

And THAT is when you are totally without freedom of choice. The abuse itself then becomes his weapon. He uses what you fear. He knows you will hide it. It protects him from accountability. He gets to wear a mask. He gets to be the good guy. And worse, you WANT him to be seen as the good guy. Sometimes he even is that good guy. You want to be seen as strong. You want to believe that you ARE strong. You want to protect his image for your kids. So you help him hold the mask. That works right up until the moment he turns on them.

The Abstract
The art is in the intangible nature of the abuse. What on the surface appears to be something beautiful becomes exceedingly elusive & confusing. Not to be easily explained to others. Not to be clearly deciphered in your own mind. An emotional war zone that is like walking through a field of flowers & land mines. There is sometimes beauty but every step holds the threat of irreversible damage. You know that at any moment life might explode.

And people will say "I would never put up with that" or "I would have left" but what is not understood is that when you are standing in the middle of a mine field with your kids, there is no safe way to turn without sacrificing them. And you know that even if you could manage to get them out intact, you will be leading them to certain war. People have no way to see what only you can know - that you have already stepped on a mine.

So you stand still.

The Interpretation
  • Obsession (is not love)
  • Over-protection (is not respect)
  • Passive Aggression (is a tool for the cycle of abuse)
  • Victim Mentality Part I: Everybody owes him (is damaged behaviour)
  • Victim Mentality Part II: You are the only one who understands him (is manipulation)
  • Superiority Complex / Narcissism (equals control)
  • Periods of Emotional Rewards (does not equal peace of mind)

Courage is knowing what not to fear.
~ Plato
This page was last updated on April 28th, 2016
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