Do Not Miss the Emotional Abuse Warning Signs
Although emotional abusers are often caught up in other addictions, some are not. We recognize and understand that abusive behavior will take place if there is alcohol/drug addiction, sexual addiction, or physical abuse. But what if there are no outward signs to any of the aforementioned addictions? Can emotional abuse exist without other addictions? The sounding response is YES.
The abuser is normally highly intelligent, perhaps emotionally wounded in the past, cunning and deliberate. The driving force is to totally control the other individual, break down their self-esteem, and thus build up their own perceived self-worth. The emotional abuser plans the cycle of praise vs. verbal abuse. The victim is normally one who is not able to accept that anyone could be so evil. Rejecting the behavior as deliberate, the victim becomes caught in the abuser s web.
Below are a few pages discussing abuse warning signs from my novel, The Artist’s Paradise. Angie Rhodes, unfulfilled in her marriage, leaves home to participate in a nine week intensive study of watercolor painting. Her plan is to return to her art career and re-define herself. The professor, promising her success in her dreams, slowly begins the process of emotional abuse by controlling her time, her thoughts, and her life. Angie becomes concerned with the professor’s behavior and contacts her best friend, Vicki, for advice.
Finally alone, Angie paced the interior perimeters of the small cottage. What was happening to her? She responded like a robot. His demands had moved from quaint to unreasonable. She had become a recluse. No calls. No contact with anyone outside of the professor. He frightened her with his continued explosive tantrums. Fearful of being exposed to the wrath of the professor, she debated the risk of calling Vicki. What if he called or came back again? She needed help and she trusted her friend.
Stepping as far from the front door as possible, she picked up her cell phone and punched in Vicki’s number. Please answer, Vicki.
“Thank goodness you called. What’s going on? Are you all right?” Vicki said.
Angie hesitated, was she all right? Maybe she was, but it didn’t feel like it. “I need a sensible friend. One who’ll listen and not judge me.”
“Judge you, never. But I have my opinions. Will you listen, too?”
Angie swallowed, as if she had eaten an oyster on the half shell. She flopped onto the bed. Vicki had never steered her wrong. “Yes, I’ll listen to you, but let me talk first.”
“Fair enough, talk.”
As she re-created the past few weeks, it took on a bizarre story, even for Angie’s own ears. She shared the ups and downs, the criticism and the praise, the gifts and the demands, even the dramatic kiss in the moonlight. Finally, Angie dared to ask, “What do you think? Am I crazy?”
Vicki remained silent for a few seconds, and then her response flooded through the phone. “Oh my God, honey, no you aren’t crazy, but the professor might be. I know you aren’t one to exaggerate. He sounds like a Jekyll and Hyde to me. Has he physically hurt you?”
“No, not really.” She contemplated telling her about the bruises the night of the banquet. “At times he gets extremely impatient. His words are cutting. He runs hot and cold. And when he’s upset, the cold is worse than being locked up in a meat locker.”
“Look, I’m no expert but my experience with watching Doctor Phil tells me you may be dealing with either a mentally ill person, or an emotional abuser. I think the latter fits him right down to his yo-yo interactions with you.”
“I don’t believe he’s an emotional abuser. He’s never actually threatened me, or hit me.”
“You said you’d listen. Please consider the idea.”
Angie paused. “What about him makes you think he is an abusive man?”
“Hold on. Let me Google the symptoms.”
Within a couple of minutes, Vicki continued, “Here are the signs of an emotional abuser. You make a list of any that apply.”
“Go. I’m ready.”
“The first symptom is extreme jealousy.”
“I’m not sure, but he seems to be jealous of my time with you and Jonathan.”
“Listen to this one, controlling behavior.”
“Yes, he controls my time, day and night. He provides all my meals. He even controls my ability to have any outside contact. I met the neighbor today, and he accused me of….who knows what. He’s never wrong.”
“What about unpredictable behavior, or unreasonable expectations?”
“Oh, for sure.”
“Isolating your time?”
“Check,” she replied and shifted her weight on the bed.
“Blaming others and minimizing or denying his abuse?”
“Well, he’s quick to blame others. We’ve never spoken of abuse.”
“Verbally abusive and sudden mood swings?
“He’s pretty mean-spirited when he’s upset, and he has started to be moody.” Angie leaned forward and stared at the list. “Is there more?”
“Yes, but these may not apply. Is he cruel to children or animals?”
“Nope, but he’s allergic to Mister Tubbs. What else is on the list of symptoms?”
“The last four markers are more severe—use of force during sex, threats of violence, breaking or striking objects? And we can’t miss the ever-present symptom on every list, past history of abuse.”
“Forget those last four, I’ve never had sex with him and the others are too far out to even think about.”
“Okay, but that still leaves the rest. What do you think?”
“Geez, Vicki, I’ve seen a lot of these behaviors. Don’t most people act out in some weird ways and are still fine?”
“One or two of these symptoms are normal if they occur occasionally. From what you’re telling me, he demonstrated several Remember, you’ve only been there a few weeks. That’s a short period of time to be exposed to five—controlling, blaming others, moody and unpredictable, isolating you from others, and verbally abusive.”
“I think you’re jumping to a diagnosis without even really knowing him. Emotional abusers are sick people. He’s just artistic and difficult to deal with.”
“You told me you’d listen. You called me. Now listen to yourself—total denial.”
Angie heard exasperation in Vicki’s tone. “I understand what you are saying. Thanks for listening. Promise, I’ll consider what you’ve told me. I only have a little over a month left to be here. So it really doesn’t matter what he is, nuts or not.”
“You’re probably right. Please be careful. If he is an abuser, he will try to get you to extend your stay. No matter what he says, you must come home on schedule.”
“I’m not changing my plans. But if Jonathan and I can’t work things out, I may need to stay with you for a while.”
“You know you can always stay with me. But from the conversations I’ve had with Jonathan, he wants you home as soon as possible.”
As Angie hung up, she couldn’t help looking at that list again. Could he be an abuser? Vicki might be right.
Okay, you have a friend or family member who may be suffering emotional abuse. What can you do? Or are you the one being abused? In my next post, I will offer ideas and suggestions. See you