By Cheri DeMoss
The key to understanding & recognizing abuse is to notice the behaviors. Emotionally abusive people are typically harder to recognize than physcially abuisive people.The more you can see their behaviors clearly the more ineffective abusive behaviors become. When we’re dealing with abusive behaviors, especially emotioanl abuse, most of us don't realize we will never “get it right”.
Abusive people convey the message, both overtly an covertly, that if you make them comfortable by doing what they want you to do - you will get it right.. They will like you; tthey will love you; they will think you're a good person; they lead you to believe that when you “get it right” they will stop being abusive. In reality, the more you try ot get it right the mor ethey will not stop being abusive.
If you start to objectively observe their behaviors you soon start to see all the things they do to make it impossible for anyone to get it right. Examples:
They change the rules and give double messages. For example: They yell at you for letting the alarm wake them in the morning. They tell you that if you woke them softly and gently instead, they wouldn’t yell at you. The next morning, when you try to wake them as per their request; they yell at you for being too gentle.
They don’t say what they mean or mean what they say. Your mother tells you to go put on a blue shirt. You go upstairs, pick out your favorite blue shirt & put it on. You come downstairs with every expectation that you’re going to be praised. But instead she disapprovingly says, "That is the wrong color blue shirt. Why didn’t you pick the powder blue shirt! What is the matter with you? Don’t you have any fashion sense?”
The goal of abusive behavior is to make you feel bad about yourself; about who you are , what you feel or what you do. For the abuser, it is intolerable for them to see you feeling good about yourself. Your feeling good underlines how bad they feel about themselves. By trying to get you to feel bad, the abuser feels powerful - feels a temporary raise in their self-esteem.
People who act abusive, emotionally or physically, have no stable connection between themselves & the child/adult they abuse. They only react. Their reactions are based solely on what they feel at the moment. There is little to no thought involved. The inconsistent connection between the abuser & the child/adult is fed by the abuser’s belief that this is normal & they are right. When the abuser feels scared, threatened or sad they become angry. Striking out at anyone, in any way they can; especially those most powerless - like a child. The unconscious goal is to make everyone else more frightened than they are. They will make themselves feel powerful at the expense of a child...or adult.
Abusive people walk around feeling bad and wrong. If they can make you feel bad and wrong about yourself then they feel a false sense of elevation in their self-esteem. Because this raise in esteem is artificial and temporary, they need to keep repeating the abusive behavior in order to not feel bad about themselves. Much the same way an alcoholic needs more alcoholic to numb how bad they feel.
Once we stop trying to get it right & recognize the double messages; crazy-making behaviors and intimidation slowly starts to loose it’s hold on us. Recogizing that someone is not letting you get it right and seeing their behaviors for the abusiveness they are – not you have options. No wyou can simply stop trying ot get it right and watch what they do. Typically what they do is pretty predictable.