Examples of emotional abuse involve patterns of behavior that include:
1. Ridiculing another person about when and how they express their emotions
People who do this are threatened in that they cannot control your behavior. When you’re “emotional” the fact of their lack of control over you is more than they can bear. Where it’s safe to do so, kindly resist the ridicule by saying that it is inappropriate, rude, and disrespectful.
2. Judging someone as being weak or inferior for being “too emotional”
This highlights a faulty belief system in the person doing the judging. They probably won’t be or can’t be talked around. People like this, especially in leadership, are dangerous. If they’re a family member or marriage partner they’re saying they’re superior to you. Nothing could be further from the truth.
3. Accusing someone of being in denial when they “don’t show enough emotion”
This is an opposite kind of emotional abuse. It requires a person to be emotional when many people are more cognitive about situations, and that’s not fair, because there are many people who are just more cerebral about conflict. It could actually be considered a strength.
4. Manipulating situations to cause an emotional reaction in someone
This is a really dark kind of behavioral pattern. This is the effect that gaslighters are trying to achieve. It is covert and deviant. People who do this as a pattern are beyond help. When this is done, the person needs to be called to account for their behavior, but then watch them wriggle out of it or attack you.
5. Talking in ways or creating a culture that discourages the expression of emotion
The word dictatorship comes to mind. Stifling emotional expression will always backfire on a leader, but it will burn a lot of people first. Marriage partners who cannot express their emotions may quickly develop anxiety disorders as a result. Their bodies act out what is going on within them.
6. Refusing to listen to someone when they’re emotional
This is either a safety measure or a control measure. When it’s done for safety, there’s a genuine fear for harm, and that’s not abusive. But when it’s done to control someone, saying they’re “emotional” is one way to deny them a hearing.
7. Calling someone names when they get emotional, especially names linked with the emotion they’re showing
This is flat-out cruel. It shows not only cruelty in the abuser, but it shows their lack of regard for empathy and may reveal their acute lack of ability to transact with their own feelings. At best, this is a lack of control and a lack of ability to control. At worst, again, it’s just plain cruel.
8. Telling someone they’re not allowed to show their emotions, or worse, punishing them when they do
This is remarkably common in families and it is possibly the most visible emotional abuse. Fathers and mothers do this, as do spouses, mainly husbands (but rarely a wife will oppress a husband in this).
9. Punishing a person by withdrawing emotional support when they need it, and they could reasonably expect it (parent and child, for instance)
This is emotional abuse through neglect, which is a cruel form of abuse. It is the withdrawal of all care and compassion. It says, “You’re invisible to me!”When this happens to you, know that you do matter and that you do deserve regard.
10. Making people feel guilty that they’re not enough or not doing enough
This abuse is a mirror! What someone is really saying when they say someone is not enough is, they themselves feel they’re not enough. It’s a boomerang effect. It’s horrid when you know that no matter what you do it won’t be enough.
11. Telling people they’re wrong for making “everything about your emotions”
This is a polarisation that pushes people to extremes. It’s another control technique, probably brought out when the perpetrator feels least adequate and most out of control. It is said to exasperate the victim.
12. Making people feel guilty or ashamed for feeling the way they feel
This can both be subtle or overt, and the subtler they do it, the more malevolent their purpose. This is a way of blackmailing someone into doing what they want them to do. It is emotional and mind control. It is an erosion of the soul of a person.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Tribework