Emotional Abuse 3: Spotting Abusers

It is very difficult to spot the people who involve in emotional abuse. Most of the time, the abusers live a dual life—an abuser in private and a charmer in public. The abusive personality is characterized by:

  • The wish to control and dominate others.
  • The tendency to blame others for their own problems and to release their frustrations on other people
  • Verbal abuse and silent treatment.
  • An overwhelming need to take revenge and to make the others suffer for imaginary insults.
  • Always demanding respect but not respecting anyone.
  • Insisting that their needs are very important but are blind to other people’s needs. 

Apart from these, there are a few few characters you can observe and then decide to yourself:

  • Charmers in public: Many people live with resentful, angry, or abusive spouses who are charmers to the rest of the world as they have a totally different personality in front of the public. So much so that if their spouses complain, people often conclude that they are unreasonable, hysterical, liars, or even abusive. Such people have no trouble at all playing the sensitive, caring person when in public. But in the privacy of their homes they are the most difficult person to live with.

If your spouse is a charmer in public, his/her resentment, anger, or abuse at home is designed to keep you from getting close enough to see how inadequate and unlovable (s)he really is. Such people use their charm and social skills to avoid and cover up their flaws. But unfortunately, this masquerade falls flat in an intimate relationship.

In fooling the public, they make a fool of you, but in the end, make an even bigger fool of themselves. Hence, when someone get to see the real them, they distance themselves from them.

  • Liars: Usually emotional abusers are compulsive liars. They say one thing to their spouse or force them to do something and say just the opposite to the others, especially to show their spouse in a bad light.Example: Staying in a nuclear family, Rani wanted to celebrate all the festivals and follow religious rituals so that the children understand them. Rani was looking forward to celebrate Diwali. She prepared a list of what needs to be purchased—clothes, diyas, groceries, etc. Rajesh, her husband refused to purchase saying that things are expensive and they should not spend money unnecessarily.

Ranji was hurt by this. She could have walked out and bought the things. But she kept quite because she did not want to have an argument and spoil the environment at home. On Diwali, when friends and relatives called to wish them, Rajesh told very one, “Aree, So nice that babhi prepared all that. We are not celebrating Diwali. We have not prepared anything at home and so I ordered food and sweets from out. I envy you guys” Relatives felt sorry for him and the kids and blamed Rani for not organizing things and being lazy. Not once did Rajesh say that it was his idea and not Rani’s.

Here, Rajesh forced the idea of not celebrating Diwali, but showed the outsiders that he was envious about them that they did. It also showcased Rani in a bad light which is what he actually wanted to do. It also showed the other how inefficient Rani is. According to Rajesh, he did not lie to his family or friends. He just told them about the condition at home. What Rajesh refuses to understand is that not telling the facts is lying.

  • Inferiority complex: In general, spouses who are abusive often have a profound sense of inferiority. They feel worthless and unsuccessful. Hence to prove themselves, they greatly desire the approval of their peers and others around. They strongly feel that they have a right to have their own way. They are hypersensitive to the words and actions of their own spouses and interpret their actions and words as disrespectful.

Since they may not be able to earn praise for their abilities form the others, they usually will try to show to the others how useless and worthless the spouse is. This is the only way they can “show” that they are better. When people close to them slowly see through goodness in the spouse and praise the spouse, these people tends to pull them down even more.

Example: Sunita came from a close knit family—her parents were strict, but showered love and affection on her and her brother. When Sunita got married, she wanted to do all the house hold work along with the career which managed very well. She cooked, cleaned the house, spend some time every week dusting and cleaning up the house, did the laundry, ironed the clothes, helped the children with their studies, spend quality time with them, etc.

Since Sunita did all the activities in the house, she wanted Anmol, her husband to help out with the groceries. All he had to do was buy them. Sunita prepared the list, and when Anmol got the stuff, she sorted and stored them. All their friends admired Sunita—the way she ran the house, looked after the kids, encouraged their hobbies, and managed her career.

Anmol could not digest the praises Sunita earned. So whenever they had company and someone praised Sunita, Anmol would talk about how inefficient she is as she never stepped out even to buy grocery for the house and ho he had to struggle with this duty.

  • Demands respect: People who emotionally abuse their spouse demand respect and feel no need to earn it. In turn, their behavior conditions their family to fear, despise, and disrespect them. But unfortunately, they refuse to understand the reality that their own behavior is not right because of which they are losing the respect of their spouse, kids, or friends.

Example: David, Mary’s husband used to publically criticize, humiliate, and intimidate her. He never left a single opportunity to insult her in public. Infact even when friends had a few of appreciation for her, David used to turn the talk in a negative direction. According to him, he tries to create a good environment by making a joke. What he refused to understand is that he was making joke of his wife.

Apart from this, he used disrespectful language with the kids, made fun of them in public, praised their friends instead, shooed them away if they wanted to talk to him, etc. Because of his behavior towards them and their mother, and the embarrassment he deliberately caused them, the kids did not respect him as they should respect a father.

Unfortunately it is difficult to make such people understand that to gain respect from others, they need to change their attitude and respect the others too. If they make this little change, respect will come to them on their own. After all, respect and love is mutual—give and take.

Like other forms of violence in relationships, emotional abuse rests on the premise of power and control. It eventually brainwashes the victim and wears away their self-confidence, self-worth and trust.

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2 Responses

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