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During our first pastorate in Perryville, Missouri, we had so many great experiences. One of those experiences was meeting a young man at t...

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Friday, April 10, 2015

Emotional Abuse...Step Out and Be BRAVE

Emotional Abuse: Identifying the Signs, Breaking the Cycle

I am hearing a common thread in pastors wives today. It's really sad to hear so many stories concerning pastors who can not separate his wife from his emotional fears. This does not stop at the pew but it is in the pulpits as well.


The Breakdown

Emotional abuse is difficult to detect with the untrained eye.  The wounds are deep and continually reopened.  The abuser usually knows all of your deepest secrets, fears, and passions.  He knows your strengths, your weaknesses, and your heart’s desire.  He desperately needs you to need him!  No matter what you ask of the abuser, those requests will positively remain unanswered.  Emotional abusers are both men and women!  Regardless, if you think you are in an abusive relationship, the first thing you must do is identify the signs.
17073_wpm_hires (1)Typically, the abused will endure the pain over a long period of time, and may often try unsuccessfully, to put an end to the vicious cycle. My memoir, Broken Glasstells the story of little girl (me), trying to find her purpose in life a midst abuse, bereavement, and heartbreak.  After my mother died of pneumonia when I was just ten years old, my journey began! Along the way, there were numerous accounts of emotional, verbal, and physical abuse and the anger that came along with it. Naturally, after reaching a breaking point, I’d erupt and wind up landing myself in more trouble than before! The truth is, I still struggle with it today. Adults however, express anger on varying levels.  It may arise due to marital problems, quarrelsome family members, trouble at work, or a even an erratic driver who pushes you to the brink of extreme road rage!  Most often, the roots of anger and aggression lie within the baggage accumulated during the childhood years.  Abused children may grow up to become passive aggressive adults. The question is, how can one unpack that baggage and learn to handle life’s curve balls without having a full-fledged meltdown? 
The one thing we all must understand is that in children, the ability to reason and make rational decisions in the face of anger is controlled by the prefrontal cortex.  This is the region of the brain located just behind the forehead.  In teens, as research suggests, the frontal lobes of the brain are not fully developed until about age 25.  This would explain why adolescents can ingest a the slightest conflict and irrationally incite a riot in the school cafeteria!  In many cases, they simply cannot deescalate confrontation and minor disputes among peers. Therefore, adolescents are notorious for acting before thinking.  A teen who is a victim of emotional abuse is a prime candidate for such behavior.
Abused children may develop a sense of learned helplessness, a psychological condition in which a person or animal has been exposed to a harmful stimulus for so long with no relief, that eventually the victim stops trying to escape. He believes that there is nothing he can do to make his situation better. Left untreated, this can follow children into their  adult lives.  As a result, the self esteem of abused person is usually low. Knowing no other way of life, victims of childhood abuse continue to find themselves involved in unhealthy, marriages, friendships, and employer/employee relationships.  They may even grow up to abuse others in ways that mirror their own experiences.
Here’s my advice on how to identify an emotional abuser.  Evaluate your relationships and determine whether the following signs of emotional abuse apply to you or someone you love.
  • stockvault-angry-man138616Demeaning – The abuser attacks the victim’s character and humiliates the other in front of family and friends as well as in private. The abuser makes the victim believe that his/her thoughts and feelings are invalid, and that she is not authorized to make any decisions unless she consults him first.
  • Gaslighting – The abuser provides false information or denies accounts of previous abuse in an attempt to make the victim doubt her own memory.  Thy will say "You accuse me of abuse one more time you will regret it!!!This crazy-making usually takes the form of a violent argument one night, and a harmonious relationship the next day. The abuser attempts to make the victim believe that things are not happening the way she truly perceives. Life with him is an emotional roller coaster. You never know what kind of mood he will be in from one time to the other. He expects you to be sucked into his drama. There is this thing about him you just can not trust. You do not feel totally safe. But when he is finished with his abuse, he will turn on the charm and hit all the right buttons. He will speak your language. You tell yourself well...maybe it is not as bad as It seems. Maybe I am being over emotional. The cycle will soon start again. He will question your every move but do not dare question his. He will explode or result into making you feel like a real bad person.
  • Isolating – The victim often feels guilty about spending time with friends and family, or doing any activity that does not include the abuser.  The abuser often convinces the victim that other people in her life don’t like or care for him/her the way the abuser does, even suggesting that they side with them about their mate’s flaws. Saying negative things about the people the victim cares about in an effort to deter him/her from nurturing other relationships is common.  Any display of emotion shown by the victim related to someone else, such as grieving after the death of a loved one, helping a friend in need, or being available during a family crisis infuriates the abuser.  Employers may pressure employees to shun or isolate other co workers simply because he/she does not like that person. Failure to comply could likely result in torment for the victim. Your dreams do not matter because it does not involve him controlling it. He expects all of your time and energy has to be directed to all his passions and dreams. He is often jealous and possessive. He wants all of your life's energy to suck up so he can have extra energy because of he constant negative angry outlook. You find out that he is secretly sabotaging your efforts to have your dreams fulfilled. So you and the family chase him around to fulfill all of HIS dreams. His becomes overly needy.
  • Criticizing – The victim just cannot do anything right in the eyes of the abuser.  No matter what good is done at home, in the workplace, or in the community, the abuser accentuates the negative.  The abuser may acknowledge accomplishments, only to follow up with a complete list of the victim’s shortcomings. He also can make you feel guilty for all of his personal failures. How he is not good enough as a father and a husband. Only expecting you to emotionally carry him, again using your positive energy. Eventually, the victim begins to devalue his/her own worth, growing accustomed to the negative picture the abuser has painted. You often feel like a puppet on a string. His string, His world, His goals, His weight loss, his project, his problems, his...him...him. He can say hurtful things like "Your a pathetic human being!" But when you call him on it, It all of a sudden becomes your fault that he called you that. You can do a million things right but all he can see and concentrate on is the things that are negative. Often abusers are sexist. Your job was to be put on earth but to help him. Because they secretly have a hatred toward women. When it comes to kids he leaves them with you all the time and if at any time he has to spend time with them or care for them then it's a big deal and ...You owe him for that. When your away from him, staying away, he calls non-stop and whines the whole time acting like your such a bad person for leaving and that you do not have a life outside of him.
  • Blaming – If the victim should strike up the nerve to confront the abuser about this behavior, he/she will go to great lengths to convince them that all of his outbursts are their fault.  For instance, he/she may say things like, “I would’t have to fuss if you would just do what I tell you to do!”  It might also be suggested that, “If you weren't such a sorry excuse for a wife/secretary/father (insert other titles here), I would spend more time with you!”  Thirty seconds into a conversation about the abuser’s behavior, the story is flipped, and the topic has shifted onto how the victim has caused it all.
  • Threatening – The abuser may threaten to leave the relationship. He will say well if I am the problem then I can easily go away. Meaning abandoning for you to fend for yourself and every one who depends on you. It is an attempt to keep the victim guessing about what the next move will be.  The victim “walks on eggshells” in fear of angering the abuser, and causing further conflict. His verbal words of anger are like slaps to your soul. Most everything is about him and his pride. If he can not control or feels out of control he uses guilt, anger, yelling, threatening, and whining. 
  • The Silent Treatment – The abuser punishes the victim for doing or saying something “wrong.” This type of psychological abuse may continue until the victim changes her behavior by apologizing to the abuser (even if one did not create the conflict), begging for forgiveness, or promising not to make the abuser angry again. Or he will make you feel manipulated by saying things like" Well, are you going to leave me now? Now is a good time if you are going to."  Life is so bad for him and your the only thing that is good...but wait he will turn it on you in a minute after you make up your mind that you will stick it out because after all...you do love 60% of him right? Only 40% is mean....

How To Stop It

stockvault-mending-a-broken-heart140143Love yourself!  Remember, the abuser knows you are emotionally spent.  He counts on your low self esteem, lack of self confidence, and reluctance to stand up for yourself to keep the cycle of abuse going.  The more you allow the abuser to manipulate you through these channels, the longer the abuse will persist.  Do not allow yourself to be isolated from friends and family members. Remember, you need support!
Know who you’re dealing with.  More than likely, the abuser chose you because he recognized your vulnerabilities and had his own insecurities.  The abuser needs to surround himself with people whom he feels are of equal or lesser value in order to feel important and respected.  Anyone who disagrees with his opinions, points out his weaknesses, or proves him wrong in front of others will surely feel his wrath.
Change you!  Don’t waste precious time hoping the abuser will wake up one morning and magically stop mistreating you.  IT’S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN (unless there’s a miracle)! What you can do however, is change the way you respond to the abuse.  This may take some time to master, but once you begin to love yourself, you will see a spike in your self esteem.  Seek counselling and educate yourself about emotional abuse.  In time, you’ll lose the need to have other’s approval to validate who you are.

Juggernaut