Category Archives: Abuse

Are You Tired of Being A Vicitim?

Raging Bully
Raging Bully

I remember while growing up in the 60’s that I was a constant target of bullying. I was small and just wanted to be a kid like everyone else, but there were always those people who had to try to control and victimize. It was not something that I wanted, but the day I became frustrated enough about being bullied and decided that I was not going to be pushed anymore, that was the day that I began to quit being a victim. Unfortunately, that was not the last bully that I faced, I have discovered that they are there everywhere that you go. The tragedy is that people in the workplace, in families, churches, and social relationships are being bullied everyday: they have accepted that as a way of life that they feel no escape from. The best thing that you can arm yourself with is not a gun or knife, not even a body-guard, but with understanding about the behaviors of bullies and how people are trapped into victimization.

They Are Abusers

The violence (not only physical) committed by a serial bully is almost entirely psychological, for psychological violence leaves no scars and no physical evidence. Most commonly, the violence takes the form of verbal abuse and emotional abuse including trivial nit-picking criticism, constant fault-finding combined with simultaneous refusal to recognize, value, acknowledge and praise. Manipulation, isolation and exclusion are other favorite tactics, as is feigning victim-hood or persecution, especially when held accountable.

They Are Controllers

The objectives of serial bullies are Power, Control, Domination and Subjugation.  These are achieved by a number of means including emotional dis-empowerment, stimulating excessive levels of fear, shame, embarrassment and guilt, manipulation (especially of emotions and perception), ritual humiliation, and constant denial. When you live with someone who is constantly denying what they said or did a day ago, or an hour ago, or even a minute ago, it drives you crazy. When the symptoms of injury to health start to become apparent, the bully will tell others you have a “mental health problem” and try to make you feel guilt about your response. However, you may be mad, but this is not mad-insane, this is mad angry.

Control is a common indicator of the serial bully.  Control of finances, control of movements, control over choice of friends, control of the right to work, control over what to think, and so on is the central motivation of bullies. Consequently,  all efforts to control are designed to dis-empower the victim and empower the bully.

They Are Dividers

A favorite tactic of the bully in the family is to set people against each other. The benefits to the bully are that:

  • The bully gains a great deal of gratification (a perverse form of satisfaction) from encouraging and provoking argument, quarreling and hostility, and then from watching others engage in adversarial interaction and destructive conflict.
  • The ensuing conflict ensures that people’s attention is distracted and diverted away from the cause of the conflict.

Bullies within the family, especially female bullies, are masters (mistresses) of manipulation and are fond of manipulating people through their emotions (e.g. guilt) and through their beliefsattitudes and perceptions. Bullies see any form of vulnerability as an opportunity for manipulation, and are especially prone to exploiting those who are most emotionally needy. Elderly relatives, those with infirmity, illness, those with the greatest vulnerability, or those who are emotionally needy or behaviorally immature family members are likely to be favorite targets for exploitation.

The family bully encourages and manipulates family members and others to lie, act dishonorably and dishonestly, withhold information, spread misinformation, and to punish the target for alleged infractions, i.e., the family members become the bully’s unwitting (and sometimes witting) instruments of harassment.

They Are Manipulators

Bullies are adept at distorting peoples’ perceptions with intent to engender a negative view of their target in the minds of family members, neighbors, friends and people in positions of leadership and authority; this is achieved through undermining, the creation of doubts and suspicions, and the sharing of false concerns, etc. This intentional poisoning of people’s minds is difficult to counter; however, explaining the game in a calm articulate manner helps people to see through the mask of deceit and to understand how and why they are being used as pawns.

They Are Deceivers Who Want To Be Your Confidant

The bully may try to establish an exclusive relationship (based on apparent trust and confidence) with one family member, such that, they (the bully) are seen as the sole reliable source of information. This may be achieved by portraying the target (and certain other family members) as irresponsible, unstable, undependable, uncaring, unreliable, and untrustworthy.  Perhaps by the constant highlighting, using distortion and fabrication, reminders of alleged failures, breaches of trust, and lack of reliability, etc. This process is reinforced by inclusion of the occasional piece of juicy gossip about the target’s alleged misdemeanors or untrustworthiness in respect of relationships and communication with people. Mostly, this is psychological projection of the bullies failures and inadequecies.

The objective is to manipulate the family member’s perceptions and create a dependency, so that the family member comes to rely exclusively on the bully and see, the bully, as the sole source of reliable information whilst distrusting everyone else. Any person who is capable of exposing and breaking the dependency is targeted with venom and will find their name blackened at every opportunity.

They Are Attention Seekers and You Are Their Audience

When close to being outwitted and exposed, the bully feigns victim hood and turns the focus on themselves.  This is another example of manipulating people through their emotion by invoking guilt, i.e., sympathy, feeling sorry, etc. Female serial bullies are especially partial to making themselves the center of attention by claiming to be the injured party whilst portraying their target as the villain of the alleged event. When the target tries to explain the game, they are immediately labeled “paranoid”.   Therefore, attention-seeking behavior is common with emotionally immature people trying to control others to feed their low sense of self worth by controlling their audience.

They Are Easy To Spot, but Usually Missed

The serial bully is easy to spot once you know what you are looking for: a Jekyll and Hyde nature, compulsive lying, manipulation (of emotions, perceptions, beliefs, etc), unpredictability, deception, denial, arrogance, narcissism, attention-seeking, etc., whilst always charming and plausible, especially when impressionable witnesses are present.

Serial bullies can be male or female –the main difference is that female bullies are more devious, more manipulative, more cunning, more sly, more psychological, more subtle, leave less evidence and will often bully with a smile. Female bullies will often manipulate a male into committing their violence for them. Male bullies tend to be less subtle, have a tendency towards physical aggression, and are generally less clever than female bullies.

The best response to a bully is to avoid conflict if you can, but arm yourself with information and then you can take your life back and quit living like a victim.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Invalidation, Control, and Bullying: Who Wins?

Nacicisstic InvalidationDo you recognize the picture? Better yet, can you identify with the feeling of repeatedly experiencing the sting of emotional abuse coming from invalidating words, attitudes, and actions?

Invalidation is the tool that abusers, bullies, and manipulators use to attack the emotional self-confidence of the object of their destructive actions. The recipient of invalidation unwittingly is marked by the abuse as a victim who can be emotionally controlled by taking away their virility, or power to create a meaningful life apart from the abuser.

What is invalidation and how does it affect what happens in life? Some ways that invalidation is expressed comes through rejection, being ignored, mocked, teased, judged, or having your feelings diminished. It is an attempt for one person to control how another person feels, thinks and behaves. As a result, invalidation is an attempt to gain control of the emotions, what is felt, to tell you what you should think, but most of all to control what you do. The goal of invalidation is to gain an advantage over you resulting in control over what you do, think, and feel, so as to benefit the abuser personally, i.e., meet their emotional need and validate a feeling of control.

How does invalidation affect emotional development?

The effect of constant invalidation in families and relationships unfolds systemic patterns of interaction that inhibit a secure sense of self in the world. Invalidation may be one of the most significant reasons a person with high innate emotional intelligence suffers from the effects of unmet emotional needs later in life. The crisis point for many people who have been invalidated or feeling dis-empowered comes in the middle years, or at times characterized by significant developmental changes. While growing up, a sensitive child, repeatedly invalidated becomes emotionally confused and begins to distrust his feeling and intuition. The impact of invalidating emotional abuse is that the developing child fails to develop confidence– a sense of the self and healthy use of the emotional brain. What occurs is that the child adapts to adapt to life an unhealthy and dysfunctional environment that creates an image of the social world characterized by the experience of invalidation. The child adapts to a way of understanding life resulting in a working relationship between thoughts and feelings built upon faulty beliefs about self, others, and life. As a result, emotional responses, emotional management, and emotional development will likely be seriously, as well as, permanently affected by the results of abusive relationships. The results understood by a victim of invalidation reveal that the emotional processes, which worked for the person as a child; begin to work in opposition to an effective adult life. Indeed, invalidation links, in effect, too many of the mental health challenges and disabling relationship problems that adults face in the family system.

How does invalidation occur?

Do people set out to be invalidated or are people just born to be abusive, making it their life’s mission to invalidate and control? The answer may be yes, and it may be no. People are the product of their parents, are born in a certain order and are predisposed to a certain genetic makeup, but what happens in the process of life is largely because of experiences through life. Abusive people may have certain characteristics of behavior, but they learn very early in life that they can get results through abusing someone else. Abusers learn to control by abusing and victims learn victimization through abuse. An older child tells a younger child that they are going to be held back in school because they are stupid or not smart enough by an older child. What impact does that have on self-esteem? When a mother who tells a child that they are mentally ill, they are stupid or retarded. What impact does it have on a developing child? The answer is that it depends on the child and the way that particular child will emotionally process what is being said to them. Attach those remarks to an emotionally sensitive child or place it in the family system characterized by insecurity and self-esteem problems and invalidation takes on meaning not felt to someone who has a different life experience.

What does yesterday have to do with today?

People may not set out to be an abuser, but what happens is that the pattern of relating so ingrained in behavior is automatic. Invalidators and abusers have difficulty stopping the behavior because responses are from a learned pattern in a system of behaviors, which have worked throughout the life experience and reinforced by getting by with abusive behavior. What can be observed is that abusive people have patterns of relating that are evident, which like a scarlet thread run through working relationships, professional and business affairs, family interaction, and marriage, and children.

A personal experience reinforced the lengths that abusive people will go to in when someone resists their control. I remember one night after a business meeting that one of the persons who had always been in control exploded after things did not go his way. Anger led to accusing words, words to physical aggression until physical restraint had to be used to calm him down. In the exchange, there was heated verbal abuse, invalidation, physical aggression, and an effort to control through intimidation. What I knew about this person was that there was a history riddled with abusive behavior against others over a period of 25 years. The same efforts had been exhibited in a life-long pattern abusive behavior used to demoralize and exert control over people perceived to be weak. The outcome was not what the bully hoped for, and he was introduced to someone who would not be bullied. Something learned from the story is that when people who are constantly being invalidated make an effort to assert independence, the abuser feels threatened and will mostlikely trigger a drama. Unfortunately, in this case, the bully became verbally and physically abusive found himself in a position where he became the victim of his own destructive behavior. The connection between childhood patterns and the lived-experience of an adult is the systematic ways of relating formed in the early years affects the way relationships are acted out through life. For the abused person, until there is enough strength of character discovered to stop the bullying, invalidating, and abuse, the pattern continues in relationships.

Boundaries and outcome

Some people rationalize the behaviors of bullies and abusers by saying, “It is what it is”, but, in reality, it is what you allow it to be.

The unfortunate result for people feel trapped inside a social or family-system characterized by invalidation, abuse, and dependence is a loss of essential hope felt. It is a loss of a fundamental belief that life cannot be any different. One of the reasons for hopelessness is that every person in the system is intertwined in a maze of assumptions behaviors, rules, mores’, and perceptions that are connected to self-esteem and value in the social construct. The pressure of social acceptance felt in family, groups, systems, or sub-systems have a direct impact upon efficacy in life. When life is characterized by emotional abuse, physical abuse, invalidation, and self-esteem problems, it will normally go on until a crisis occurs that requires-forces a change to take place.

An important matter that every person needs to understand is that, even while life is lived in a community, the potential quality of life comes through an individual choice –a personal journey toward wholeness. Every person must individually take responsibility for what they will do and what life will become. The hard truth is that people who have invalidated you will continue to do so until you take responsibility for life, draw a line in the sand, and not allow others to determine your happiness nor outcome in life. A popular saying states, “When you choose a behavior, you choose a response.” How people live can be a personal choice when it is empowered by clear boundaries.

Creating healthy boundaries for relationships is a way of choosing what will happen in life through relationships. Unfortunately, constant invalidation eats away the energy of life that enables creativity, well-being, security and healthy boundariesthe ability to live in an effective manner. The truth is that the only person that can change your life is you. So, what are waiting for?

Related Articles


Looking Through an Abused Child’s Eyes

Cover of "Adult Children of Alcoholics"
Cover of Adult Children of Alcoholics

Intelligent people, through their ability to analyze, often realize things which are disconcerting, which others would not see. They also are often capable of feeling more deeply, both pain and joy.

This list is from the work of Janet Geringer Woititz. She did her original work on adult children of alcoholics, but I believe her findings can be generalized to people who were emotionally abused in general. Certainly all children of alcoholics were emotionally abused.

Perception is Altered and Internalized Abuse Produces Self-Defeating Behavior

  • Can only guess at what healthy behavior is.
  • Have trouble completing things
  • Lie when they don’t need to. Lying might have been a survival tactic in the home. (She explains that perhaps the child learned from parents who lied to cover up problems or avoid conflict. Or simply to avoid harsh punishment, or to get needed attention. But as an adult, that tactic is no longer appropriate.)
  • Judge themselves without mercy.
  • Have trouble accepting compliments.
  • Often take responsibility for problems, but not successes.
  • Or they go to the other extreme and refuse to take any responsibility for mistakes while trying to take credit for the work of others.
  • Have trouble having fun since their childhoods were lost, stolen, repressed.
  • Take themselves very seriously or not seriously at all.
  • Have difficulty with intimate relationships.
  • Expect others to just “know what they want.” (They can’t express it because they were so often disappointed as children that they learned to stop asking for things.)
  • Over-react to things beyond their control.
  • Constantly seek approval & affirmation.
  • Feel different from others.
  • Are extremely loyal, even when facing overwhelming evidence that their loyalty is undeserved.
  • Are either super responsible or super irresponsible.
  • Tend to lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious consideration to alternative behaviors or possible consequences. (This impulsiveness leads to confusion, self-loathing, and loss of control over their environment. The result is they spend much energy blaming others, feeling victimized and cleaning up messes.)

Parroting The Behaviors of An Abuser

  • We perpetuate these parental messages by judging ourselves and others harshly. We try to cover up our poor opinions of ourselves by being perfectionistic, controlling, contemptuous and gossipy.
  • We tend to isolate ourselves out of fear and we feel often uneasy around other people, especially authority figures.
  • We are desperate for love and approval and will do anything to make people like us. Not wanting to hurt others, we remain “loyal” in situations and relationships even when evidence indicates our loyalty is undeserved. (I would say not wanting to lose them, having an extremely hard time “letting go.”)
  • We are intimidated by angry people and personal criticism. This causes us to feel inadequate and insecure. (I would say it further adds to our feelings of inadequacy and insecurity.)
  • We continue to attract emotionally unavailable people with addictive personalities.
  • We live life as victims, blaming others for our circumstances, and are attracted to other victims (and people with power) as friends and lovers. We confuse love with pity and tend to “love” people we can pity and rescue. (And we confuse love with need)
  • We are either super-responsible or super-irresponsible. We take responsibility for solving others’ problems or expect others to be responsible for solving ours. This enables us to avoid being responsible for our own lives and choices.
  • We feel guilty when we stand up for ourselves or act in our own best interests. We give in to others’ needs and opinions instead of taking care of ourselves.
  • We deny, minimize or repress our feelings as a result of our traumatic childhoods. We are unaware of the impact that our inability to identify and express our feelings has had on our adult lives.
  • We are dependent personalities who are so terrified of rejection or abandonment that we tend to stay in situations or relationships that are harmful to us. Our fears and dependency stop us form ending unfulfilling relationships and prevent us from entering into fulfilling ones. (I would add because we feel so unlovable it is difficult or impossible to believe anyone can really love us, and won’t eventually leave us once they see how “bad” we are.)
  • Denial, isolation, control, shame, and inappropriate guilt are legacies from our family of origin. As a result of these symptoms, we feel hopeless and helpless.
  • We have difficulty with intimacy, security, trust, and commitment in our relationships. Lacking clearly defined personal limits and boundaries, we become enmeshed in our partner’s needs and emotions. (i.e. become codependent)
  • We tend to procrastinate and have difficulty following project through from beginning to end.
  • We have a strong need to be in control. We overreact to change things over which we have no control.

How Abuse Defines Self-Concept

Silhouette of a woman in a cave looking at her...
What Life Looks Like After Being Abused

How to Understand the Effect of Abusive Relationships

No one plans to be in an abusive relationship, but, unfortunately many people find themselves growing up or living in or victimized by abusive people.  A relevant fact that is well supported by studies is that individuals who were verbally abused, emotionally, physically, or sexually by people who victimize them during the developmental process of childhood are at risk for finding themselves in the role of an abuser as an adult.  What needs to understood about the cycle of abuse is that abusive people define, destroy, and distort what normality looks like in life.  Therefore, instead of developing normal pathways of experience that provides a healthy baseline of self concept, self- esteem, and healthy patterns of social identification in relation to others your experiences, emotions, and judgement becomes skewed, distorted, and blurred by victimization that confuses how one sees themselves and predicts behavior that will be tainted and skewed by the lived-experience of life.

As a result children and adults who are abused in life may not know how to set standards –boundaries and develop a healthy view of  self, others, life experiences and balance feelings and perceptions about what is really happening in life.  Consequently, the controlling and defining perception created by abusive life events may feel familiar when similar experiences occur in later life because abusive experience enculturates life with distorted values and expectations.

For many people, normal can become the abnormal or even comfortable, while at the same time being very destructive to any healthy view of self.  Individuals who are abused come to expect it and sometimes cannot find a feeling of normalcy because an expectation of self and how “the self” relates to others in the social world has been defined by the expectation that abuse is normal.  As a result, many people who are abused find themselves drawn to abusers, like a moth to a flame and experience a repeated cycle of abuse throughout life.

Powerlessness Hurt, Anger, and Confused Feelings from Abuse Distorts Self Understanding.

The abused person often struggles with feelings of powerlessness, hurt, fear, anger, and guilt about what has happened to them.  Guilt internalized sends a message to the abused that they are to blame, they are at fault, which scars understanding of personal value.  Ironically, abusers tend to struggle with the same feelings –worthlessness, and devaluation that stems from distorted self perception.  In addition,  abusers are also likely to have been raised in emotionally abusive conditions where they learn to be abusive as a method to cope with their own feelings of powerlessness, hurt , fear, and anger.

Consequently, abusers are drawn to others who see themselves as helpless, appear to be naive, a victim, or who do not have a strong sense of identity and self image. The benefit to the abuser is that identification of the “Mark” allows the abuser to feel more secure and in control, which take the focus off dealing with their own feelings, and self-perceptions.  Therefore, emotional abuse victims can become so convinced that they are worthless and believe that no one else could want them, which ties them and their self worth to the abuser and the abuse. Unfortunately, many people remain locked in abusive situations because they believe they have nowhere else to go and no one else would want them.  An ultimate fear for the abuse is being all alone.

Relationships Have Predictable and Systematic Patterns which Govern How Behaviors Occur.

All human behaviors have have underlying response drivers that work in concert within a social, cultural system in a family unit.  Developing a reflective process of thinking about behavior, triggers, responses, and outcome will tell us a lot about why things work the way they do with others.  A beginning step is in understanding the pattern of your own relationships, especially those with family members and other significant people, is a first step toward change.   Many people who have been abused in life will have distinguishable patterns of the kind of people that they are drawn to, but fail to understand why they continually wind up with abusive partners and unhealthy functioning in relationships.  As a result, a lack of clarity about who you are in relationship to significant others may manifest itself in different ways.  For example, “switch hitting” is when you may act as an “abuser” in some situations and as a “recipient”of abuse in others.

Reflection may lead you may discover that there is a tendency for you to be abused in your romantic relationships, allowing your partners to define and control you.  While at the same time, in friendships, you may play the role of abuser by manipulating, trying to use guilt to create conformity through controlling behaviors while professing that you are only trying to be a  “help”. Consequently, the process of entering into a reflective way of knowing yourself and understanding your past can prevent abuse from being recreated in your life experience.

Self Concept is a Predictor of How the Abused Behave Toward Themselves: Are You Abusive to Yourself?

Often we allow people into our lives that treat badly because we expect to be treated badly.  The unfortunate truth is that if we feel contempt for ourselves or think very little of ourselves, we may pick partners or significant others who, like a mirror,  reflect this image back to us.  It is true that if we are willing to tolerate negative treatment from others, or treat others in negative ways, it is possible that we also treat ourselves similarly?  If you are an abuser or a recipient of abuse, you may want to consider how you think about yourself and treat yourself. In your private thoughts, what sort of things characterize your inner dialogue?  Do thoughts such as “I’m stupid” or “I never do anything right” dominate your thinking?  The art of Learning to love and care for ourselves increases self-esteem and makes it more likely that we will have healthy, intimate relationships.

Emotional Abuse May be as Simple as Having Your Needs Denied

One way of looking at emotional abuse is being denied the thing you need when you need it the most. John Bradshaw says something similar to this. He said, “we were most shamed at the times when we were most in need.”

Emotional Abuse Invalidates, Rejects, Ignores, Mocks, Teases, Judges, or Diminishes Someone’s Feelings as Unimportant.     

Constant invalidation may be one of the most significant reasons a person with high innate emotional intelligence suffers from unmet emotional needs later in life.(1)  An emotionally sensitive child who is repeatedly invalidated becomes confused and begins to distrust his own emotions.  He/she  fails to develop confidence in and healthy use of his emotional brain –one of nature’s most basic survival tools.

To adapt to this unhealthy environment, the working relationship between thoughts and feelings becomes twisted.   The emotional responses, emotional management, and emotional development will likely be seriously, and perhaps permanently, impaired when there is constant invalidation.  The emotional processes which worked for him as a child may begin to work against him as an adult creating psychosocial or personality problems.  In fact, one definition of the so-called “borderline personality disorder” is “the normal response of a sensitive person to an invalidating environment” (2)  Psychiatrist R.D. Laing said that when we invalidate people or deny their perceptions and personal experiences, we make mental invalids of them.  He found that when one’s feelings are denied a person can be made to feel crazy even they are perfectly mentally healthy which is the pattern of a Borderlines relationships toward their unwitting victims who resist their control.

Recent research by Thomas R. Lynch, Ph.D. of Duke University supports the idea that invalidation leads to mental health problems.   He writes “… a history of emotional invalidation (i.e., a history of childhood psychological abuse and parental punishment, minimization, and distress in response to negative emotion) was significantly associated with emotion inhibition (i.e., ambivalence over emotional expression, thought suppression, and avoidant stress responses).  Further, emotional inhibition significantly predicted psychological distress, including depression and anxiety symptoms.)  Invalidation goes beyond mere rejection by implying not only that our feelings are disapproved of, but that we are fundamentally abnormal.  This implies that there is something wrong with us because we aren’t like everyone else; we are strange; we are different; we are weird.

None of this feels good, and all of it damages us in our development of pro-social feelings and relationships.  The more different from the “mass norm” a person is — the more intelligent or more sensitive; the more he/she is likely to be invalidated by abusive behavior directed toward what is seen as different.   When we are invalidated by having our feelings repudiated over and over and we are attacked at the deepest level of our personhood creativity is stifled, problem solving ability is diminished and self concept is damaged.  What may not be understood in this abuse is that our feelings are the innermost expression of our individual identities and denial of the feelings is a repudiation of personhood.  What should be clearly understood is that psychological invalidation is one of the most lethal forms of emotional abuse.  It kills confidence, creativity and individuality.

A Journey Toward Understanding Abusive Behavior

How Can Abuse Be Described


Abuse is any behavior that is designed to control and subjugate another human being through the use of fear, humiliation, intimidation, guilt, coercion, manipulation etc. Emotional abuse is any kind of abuse that is emotional rather than physical in nature. It can include anything from verbal abuse and constant criticism to more subtle tactics, such as repeated disapproval or even the refusal to ever be pleased.

Emotional abuse is like brain washing in that it systematically wears away at the victim’s self-confidence, sense of self-worth, trust in their own perceptions, and self-concept. Whether it is done by constant berating and belittling, by intimidation, or under the guise of “guidance,” “teaching”, or “advice,” the results are similar. Eventually, the recipient of the abuse loses all sense of self and remnants of personal value. Emotional abuse cuts to the very core of a person, creating scars that may be far deeper and more lasting that physical ones. In fact there is research to this effect. With emotional abuse, the insults, insinuations, criticism and accusations slowly eat away at the victim’s self-esteem until she is incapable of judging the situation realistically. She has become so beaten down emotionally that she blames herself for the abuse. Her self-esteem is so low that she clings to the abuser.

Emotional abuse victims can become so convinced that they are worthless that they believe that no one else could want them. They stay in abusive situations because they believe they have nowhere else to go. Their ultimate fear is being all alone.

Types of Emotional Abuse

Abusive Expectations

  • The other person places unreasonable demands on you and wants you to put everything else aside to tend to their needs.
  • It could be a demand for constant attention, or a requirement that you spend all your free time with the person.
  • But no matter how much you give, it’s never enough.
  • You are subjected to constant criticism, and you are constantly berated because you don’t fulfill all this person’s needs.


  • Aggressive forms of abuse include name-calling, accusing, blaming, threatening, and ordering. Aggressing behaviors are generally direct and obvious. The one-up position the abuser assumes by attempting to judge or invalidate the recipient undermines the equality and autonomy that are essential to healthy adult relationships. This parent-child pattern of communication (which is common to all forms of verbal abuse) is most obvious when the abuser takes an aggressive stance.
  • Aggressive abuse can also take a more indirect form and may even be disguised and “helping.” Criticizing, advising, offering solutions, analyzing, proving, and questioning another person may be a sincere attempt to help. In some instances however, these behaviors may be an attempt to belittle, control, or demean rather than help. The underlying judgmental “I know best” tone the abuser takes in these situations is inappropriate and creates unequal footing in peer relationships. This and other types of emotional abuse can lead to what is known as learned helplessness.

Constant Chaos

  • The other person may deliberately start arguments and be in constant conflict with others.
  • The person may be “addicted to drama” since it creates excitement.


  • Denying a person’s emotional needs, especially when they feel that need the most, and done with the intent of hurting, punishing or humiliating.
  • The other person may deny that certain events occurred or that certain things were said. confronts the abuser about an incident of name calling, the abuser may insist, “I never said that,” “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” etc. You know differently.
  • The other person may deny your perceptions, memory and very sanity.
  • Withholding is another form of denying. Withholding includes refusing to listen, refusing to communicate, and emotionally withdrawing as punishment. This is sometimes called the “silent treatment.”
  • When the abuser disallows and overrules any viewpoints, perceptions or feelings which differ from their own.
  • Denying can be particularly damaging. In addition to lowering self-esteem and creating conflict, the invalidation of reality, feelings, and experiences can eventually lead you to question and mistrust your own perceptions and emotional experience.
  • Denying and other forms of emotional abuse can cause you to lose confidence in your most valuable survival tool: your own mind.


  • Someone wants to control your every action. They have to have their own way, and will resort to threats to get it.
  • When you allow someone else to dominate you, you can lose respect for yourself.

Emotional Blackmail

  • The other person plays on your fear, guilt, compassion, values, or other “hot buttons” to get what they want.
  • This could include threats to end the relationship, totally reject or abandon you, giving you the the “cold shoulder,” or using other fear tactics to control you.


  • The abuser seeks to distort or undermine the recipient’s perceptions of their world. Invalidating occurs when the abuser refuses or fails to acknowledge reality. For example, if the recipient tells the person they felt hurt by something the abuser did or said, the abuser might say “You are too sensitive. That shouldn’t hurt you.” Here is a much more complete description of invalidation


  • Minimizing is a less extreme form of denial. When minimizing, the abuser may not deny that a particular event occurred, but they question the recipient’s emotional experience or reaction to an event. Statements such as “You’re too sensitive,” “You’re exaggerating,” or “You’re blowing this out of proportion” all suggest that the recipient’s emotions and perceptions are faulty and not be trusted.
  • Trivializing, which occurs when the abuser suggests that what you have done or communicated is inconsequential or unimportant, is a more subtle form of minimizing.

Unpredictable Responses

  • Drastic mood changes or sudden emotional outbursts. Whenever someone in your life reacts very differently at different times to the same behavior from you, tells you one thing one day and the opposite the next, or likes something you do one day and hates it the next, you are being abused with unpredictable responses.
  • This behavior is damaging because it puts you always on edge. You’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop, and you can never know what’s expected of you. You must remain hyper vigilant, waiting for the other person’s next outburst or change of mood.
  • An alcoholic or drug abuser is likely to act this way. Living with someone like this is tremendously demanding and anxiety provoking, causing the abused person to feel constantly frightened, unsettled and off balance.

Verbal Assaults

  • Berating, belittling, criticizing, name calling, screaming, threatening
  • Excessive blaming, and using sarcasm and humiliation.
  • Blowing your flaws out of proportion and making fun of you in front of others. Over time, this type of abuse erodes your sense of self confidence and self-worth.

Choose Your Words Wisely

Angry Talk (Comic Style)

The Power of Words : When you speak, do your words build up or tear down?

I have found that one of the easiest ways to decide what a person is like to listen to what they say in a conversation. Words betray a person or instill confidence in the speaker.  People who are successful in life are people who choose the company they keep carefully. Words can be bad company if they are not chosen carefully. The Bible says that kind people speak kind words and the evil hearted people have words filled with harm. People who have learned this find that words spoken either can destroy people or can be used to build people up. If your words were a company, would it be a Company of Demolition or a Construction Firm?

Three Ways Our Words Can Tear Down

Speaking Untruthfully Are the words you speak true and honest? Or are you deceptive in your words and business practices? “The Lord hates every liar, but He is a friend of all who can be trusted.” Proverbs 12:22
Speaking with Anger You have heard it before, but often counting to ten before opening your mouth has helped many relationships. “A kind answer soothes angry feelings, but harsh words stir them up.” Proverbs 15:1

Speaking Gossip Would you say that about them if there were standing next to you? Would you want someone to say that about you “Gossip is no good! It causes hard feelings and comes between friends.” Proverbs 16:28

Ways Words Can Be Constructive

Speak Words of Encouragement . Any fool can tear something down, but it takes a wise man to build something or someone up. “Kind words are like honey they cheer you up and make you feel strong.” Proverbs 16:24

Speak About Others With Constructive Words. No matter how hard you have to look, find something good and talk about it! “If you can’t say anything good, then don’t say anything at all “Focus you attention on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly and proper. Don’t ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worth of praise.” Philippians 4:8

Speak Words that Elevate Others Well placed words at the right moment brings wholeness to others. “Sharp words cut like a sword, but words of wisdom heal.” Proverbs 12:18

Words are the building blocks of success in life. Are you in the business of construction or demolition?