Every now and then someone you care about makes a mistake and says or does something to make you feel bad. These one-offs are forgivable. They could be having a bad day or perhaps they just had a lot of pent up energy they needed to release and you were just an unlucky target.
But what about when bad behaviors are repeated over and over again? You could be looking at an emotionally abusive relationship and it might be time to take a stand for your own worth and well-being.
(The following podcast transcript has been modified for easier readability and to benefit the Deaf and hard of hearing)
This is the show where I tell you all about controlling behavior, manipulative behavior, emotionally abusive behavior, and other terms that I don’t often use, like psychological abuse, and verbal abuse. Emotional abuse is even considered a form of domestic violence.
All these terms come into play when you’re in any type of dynamic where there are at least two or more people. You could have more people in a family or a group of people, that are being disrespectful, hurtful, and causing you to feel bad after your interactions.
I try to cover a lot of this in this show. Mainly, I talk about emotional abuse and control and manipulation because those are the main things that a lot of people deal with in relationships.
It doesn’t have to be a romantic relationship either. It can be any type of relationship that you’re in. Family is a good example. You might have family members that are just hurtful to you. Or maybe they’re doing something covert to you, like being covertly manipulative or deceptive. This is when they know their words hurt but they say them anyway.
It’s like backhanded or underhanded comments or passive-aggressive comments. We can all do this to a certain extent at one time or another. Well, maybe not all of us. I can’t speak for everyone, but I think a lot of us have said something to someone where we wanted them to feel a little sting when we said it.
We might do that because we felt hurt by them, or we feel like they’re not listening to us. Or we have some other reason or ulterior motive. We are all capable of doing the type of behavior that I talk about in this show.
However, what is different about certain people that I talk about on this show, especially when it comes to emotional abuse, is that a pattern of that type of behavior has to exist in order for it to be considered emotionally abusive.
I’m not talking about the one-offs. If you come to this show looking for the one-offs – I mean, yes, you’ll gain a lot of insight and a lot of helpful information – but I wouldn’t consider the “one-offs” emotional abuse necessarily. If someone says something hurtful to you once in a while, like once every six months or once every year because they had a bad day or they don’t know how to process something, or they have an emotional trigger that they haven’t healed from yet or worked on, it might not be emotional abuse at all. Rare occurrences don’t often count.
I think we can allow for stuff like that. That’s usually what relationships are built on: they allow for things like that.
What is not allowable, in my opinion, is a pattern of that behavior. Regardless if you are the person doing the behavior or receiving it, if there’s a pattern, it needs to be addressed. You’ll be able to tell if you’re doing it because you’ll realize that you’ve done it before.
And of course, you’ll be able to tell if you’re receiving a pattern of bad behavior because you’ll remember it happening to you multiple times.
Before I get into what we’re talking about today, remember that everything I talk about on Love and Abuse is meant for educational purposes only. Always seek a professional for your mental health and well being.
If you listened to my last episode, you heard me emphasize that because of a letter that somebody wrote to me and said that I wasn’t a professional. If you want to hear that, that’s an interesting episode.
But just to wrap up what I was talking about earlier, about the type of bad behavior that you might experience in a relationship, let us be more forgiving about the one-offs and less forgiving about the patterns.
You’ll know there’s a pattern because of how you feel. So let’s talk about the recipient of emotional abuse. The recipient of emotional abuse knows there’s a pattern, or if you don’t know (if you’re experiencing it), then I’m here to tell you what to look for.
Here’s how I like to define emotional abuse
Emotional abuse is when someone does or says something that not only makes you feel bad, but makes you feel bad about yourself.
This can happen in seemingly normal situations of course. You can go to work and your boss or a co-worker can make you feel bad: “Hey, this report isn’t done yet! Why not?” That can make you feel bad.
If you feel bad about yourself because of that, that’s pretty much something you’re going through, that’s something you’re processing like you might say to yourself, “Oh, geez, I feel so bad that I didn’t get that report done. I wish I had done it. Stupid me!”
You might have some negative inner dialogue there or maybe say it out loud, “Stupid me! I’m so stupid. Why didn’t I get this done?” And that’s okay. We’re going to do this to ourselves every now and then. We’re going to tell ourselves that we’re stupid, or we should have done better, or we shouldn’t have done something. This happens.
Hopefully, that’s just a one-off as well. If you say, “Oh, I’m so stupid!” or “Why did I do that? I shouldn’t have done that…” If it’s a one-off, it’s okay. We can go through that and do that kind of one-off to ourselves every now and then. It helps to release a little pressure inside of us. It gets out the words that we want to say. We do feel stupid, so let’s just express that we feel stupid.
But if it’s a habit, that’s the pattern is what we have to watch out for. Someone may not necessarily be trying to make you feel bad, it may not be intentional but you could feel bad regardless.
It really does come down to how you feel about what they’re saying, and how you acknowledge it and process it, and if you can get through it and release it, if it affects you at all. Some people doesn’t affect. Some people will just say, “Well, look, I was busy because you assigned these 13 other things to me and I didn’t have time to do that report. So that’s not on me, that’s on you.”
Some people have the mental strength to do that. My hope is to have everyone have that kind of mental strength and to be able to look inward and realize that the real truth behind something not getting done or something that wasn’t right to someone else, if you know that truth, to be able to speak that truth confidently, without hesitation, without self-doubt.
That’s a strong place to be. That’s a good place to be. Because even if you’re wrong, the times that you’re right are going to be so reinforcing. Let me explain what I just said there. Even if you’re wrong, yes, somebody says, “You should have gotten this report done” and you realize they’re right. Okay, so you might have to “eat crow” and just admit that they’re right, “Hey, I’m sorry. You’re right. I’ll get to it. And I should have had this done. I apologize.”
This helps you build resilience when you’re wrong. Even if you’re wrong, you learn how to apologize, own up to it, eat crow, and make up for it. So this is kind of like falling down and getting back up.
This is what happens when you speak up confidently, without doubt in yourself, and just be mentally strong, while you’re,”defending yourself”. And you’re not really defending yourself, you’re just standing up for yourself. You’re honoring yourself.
So this is why I say speak up confidently without a doubt when you realize that they don’t have all the facts, or they’re just plain wrong. Speak up confidently and say, “No, this is really how it is. You gave me all this work, and I couldn’t get to that report. So that’s on you, not me. If you want me to eliminate one of these other projects, I’ll be happy to do that so I can get to your report.”
This is just an example of course. I’m not saying it’s going to go perfectly, but the idea is to build your confidence level so you can speak like this from a place of surety and self-confidence, and mental strength, so that when you do speak up for yourself, it’s not hesitant. It’s not like a “Oh my god, did I mess up again? Oh, maybe he’s right.” or “Maybe she’s right.”
That’s a different place. That’s like crawling into a hole and hoping that you say the right words so that they let you out of the hole. I don’t like when you’re in that hole, I don’t want you to be in that hole! You probably don’t like being in that hole either.
I’m not saying you have to do this for every single thing in your life. I’m saying that it takes practice to speak confidently with the mental strength and surety that you might need to build yourself up, to build trust in yourself, to rebuild your emotional and mental strength so that you can carry yourself through any situation that comes up. This is part of the practice.
What I was saying is that let’s just say that you speak up and you’re wrong. Then, you own it, “Oh my god. You’re right. I’m sorry, I will take care of that. No problem. I will stay late,” you know, using this example. “And I will make sure it’s on your desk first thing in the morning.”
That’s how you pick yourself up. It’s the recovery process. My girlfriend says recovery is a sign of a good musician. Sure, they could play it perfectly and not have to recover anything, and I think that’s a great musician, but if you can make a mistake, which a lot of musicians do, we all make mistakes (I’m a musician too), if we can recover, so that the listener doesn’t really notice it, or they think it’s actually part of the song, then it’s a sign of a good musician.
And the more you do that, and the more you feel good about your playing, even about the mistakes because you can recover from them, then you can continue moving forward. You’re not held back mentally or emotionally in any way. You just keep moving forward.
I like to look at that in our everyday communications as well. Sometimes you’re gonna be faced with an opposition of some sort, and your recovery is vital. When you’re able to own it, and make up for it, and continue so you can move forward, it strengthens you.
If you’re wrong, it’s still okay. This process helps you build your resilience, recovery, your mental and emotional strength so that you can move forward to really start helping you trust yourself, rebuilding your self-worth and self-esteem, and showing everyone that even though you made a mistake, it doesn’t define who you are.
Mental abusers will try to make you think that’s who you are. “You’re always messing up. You’re always making mistakes. You always say that. They use generalizations like, “You’re always doing this” or “You never care. You never say this. You never say that.”
They’ll do stuff like that. They’ll constantly try to remind you how unworthy you are, how unimportant you are, how unlovable you are, and how much you deserve this treatment, which you don’t, so this is why it’s important to start building yourself up and start owning your answers, even though somebody might say, “Hey, you’re wrong.” Then you can just say, “Oh, you’re right. I’m sorry, I’m wrong.”
When you own what you’re saying, and you’re right, this is even better. Using that example, again, “Look, you gave me that report, when I had 14 things on my plate. You knew I had those 14 other things. And there was just no way I was going to get to it. And I told you that I wasn’t going to be able to get to it and here we are, and I’m reminding you that I couldn’t get to it. What more do you want? This is not my fault. You knew I didn’t have the resources or the time. So this isn’t on me.”
Imagine being able to say that to anyone, or at least having that courage to just stand up and say “No, this isn’t how it is. This is how it is.”
That’s a great feeling. And when you know you’re right, and you’re able to speak up for yourself and own it and speak confidently, knowing that somebody could still point something out that makes you look bad (they’re trying to), you still say, “No, that’s not me. That’s you. This is what happened. I know this is true.”
When you do this, and you are right, then it reinforces your ability to make decisions, your ability to trust yourself, and your ability to stand up for yourself. It always reinforces every time you show up this way, making you feel better about yourself. This is the opposite of emotional abuse where somebody is trying to make you feel bad about yourself.
We don’t want that we want to feel good about ourselves. So how do we do it? We show up in a way that makes us feel good about ourselves and then when somebody calls us out, we can apologize and say, “You know what? You’re right. I didn’t do that. And I should have. I’m sorry.” We own it, and then we move forward.
It’s a place of strength. It’s a place of empowerment. And I think that’s like the strongest place you can be, it’s is to feel empowered, in yourself: “I feel powerful. I feel good about me.”
That’s an empowering place to say something like that. “I feel good about me. And I’m not gonna let anybody knock me down a notch because I feel good about me. I know I’m worthy. I know I’m important. I know I’m valuable, so I’m not gonna let you knock me down. Now we can work together for a solution, but don’t become all high and mighty on me.” I’m embellishing a little bit. I realize this may not work in an office environment, but you know what I’m saying. I’m looking at relationships in general and I was using the office environment as an example.
I hope that helps you kind of understand how to start rebuilding yourself. If you’re in that lowered emotional state that emotional abuse can put people in. you can feel shame and guilt, inferior, stupid… you can feel like you’re a bad decision-maker. You won’t trust your instincts.
These are all signs that you might be in an emotionally abusive relationship. So it’s vital to just know that if you didn’t feel this way before you had conversations with this person, before you met this person even (if they’re not family), before you met this person in a romantic relationship, if you felt good about yourself, if you felt confident, if you weren’t worried, if you knew you were a good decision-maker and suddenly you don’t feel that way anymore, it’s not because they’re pointing out all the flaws that you’ve always had, it’s because they want you to believe these things so that you’re in a lowered emotional state.
That way you’ll look to them to raise your emotional state. That’s when we talk about traumatic or trauma bonding, where they love you, and it feels good, and they support you, and it feels good, and they do things for you, and that feels good, then they abuse you. They’re doing bad behavior, and they’re talking down to you. Now it feels bad.
So you get into this lowered emotional state. And because you have bonded with them, and you’ve had time together, and you know that there’s a good person underneath that bad behavior, you seek their approval, their confirmation, and their validation.
When you don’t get it, you try harder. What happens in the emotionally abusive relationship is that the victim of the abuse will try harder and harder to gain validation, support, love, and attention to show the abuser that they (the victim) is really not a bad person. They’re really not intending to hurt the abusive person.
But the abuser makes them think they’re intending to hurt the abuser. I mean, I talk about a lot of this stuff on different episodes, but traumatic bonding takes place when you go through cycles of feeling loved and then feeling abused. The up and down of that really has an effect on you and makes you feel, like I said, in a lower emotional state. When you’re in that state, you just don’t feel good, you feel bad.
All of that is wrapped up in the emotionally abusive relationship. And it all comes back to patterns. We have to look for patterns in anything going on in our relationship.
For example, if my wife were to tell you what patterns existed in our relationship when we were married, she would say that I had a tendency to judge her a lot. And it was a pattern because it happened over and over again.
I might have judged my girlfriend in the relationship I’m in now, out of the five or six years that we’ve been together, maybe twice. And she called me out on them both times! She recognized an old pattern in me that I had shared with her. I’m glad she caught it so I didn’t get away with it. It caused me to put my focus on where it really needed to be: myself.
I will say this, when I feel old judgments creeping up in me, it usually happens when I’m tired. It’s like that inner watchdog wasn’t there paying attention to my old patterns that might show their ugly faces. I probably still need to work on those things because they’re still in there. But they have certainly, definitely, decreased tenfold.
It’s just that when I’m tired and irritable, and things are a little stressful for me, I might come out with a judgment or two. It’s interesting because when I’m awake again, when I’m not tired, I remember the judgment I had and I think, “Geez! Why did I say that? I don’t feel that way now.”
For me, I become more vulnerable and closer to the things I haven’t healed from yet when I’m tired. That’s what happens to a lot of us. When we’re stressed, when we’re tired, what we haven’t really fully healed from yet can have a tendency to come out because our inner emotional watchdog isn’t paying attention. It isn’t saying, “Hey back off. Don’t go in that direction. You don’t want to hurt their feelings. You don’t want to say that. And you gotta refocus your attention and work on yourself.”
So that can happen. Anyway, we have to look for patterns, we have to look for these things. And just like what my wife saw in me, this pattern of me being judgemental, what do you see as the patterns that keep repeating themselves?
I’ll come back to what I said earlier, at the beginning of this episode. If you find yourself being emotionally abusive, or doing bad behavior, or saying maybe awful or manipulative or controlling things, is it something that you do often? Is it something that you repeat?
Do you do it once a week? Do you do it once a day? This is very important because if you catch yourself doing this, those patterns need to be addressed in you. This isn’t something that you can just blame on someone else like, “Oh, it’s their fault. And that’s why I do it all the time.”
No you have to look at that and go, “Wait, why do I keep doing this? What is my situation here? What is the issue that I need to deal with?” And, again, I’m talking to the person that might be doing behaviors that perhaps need to change, perhaps they need to heal from. If you are doing behaviors that hurt another person, and you think it’s okay to do these behaviors because they need to hear what you have to say, or they need to experience what it’s like because there’s a punishment in there or something?
If so, you have to be aware that by continuing to do that behavior to someone else, you are probably perpetuating abusive behavior and you need to look at yourself. I have a feeling only maybe a small percentage of abusers listen to this show. I wish it was a very large percentage because there is a lot to learn if you are the abuser.
There are people that listen to this show that want to get better and want to heal and stop their patterns. So every now and then I’ll talk to those people that want to listen. Hopefully, they are gaining something when I talk about this stuff
And of course, I want to talk to you if you are receiving the type of behavior where you’re seeing patterns. I have a feeling a lot of people listening are like, “Oh, yeah, there are a lot of patterns in my relationship! He or she does this all the time. He or she does this every day! He or she says this and hurts me in many ways, and makes me feel guilty and ashamed. He or she makes me doubt myself and makes me not trust my own decisions. They decrease my self-worth and make me believe I’m a loser. They make me feel small.”
And if that happens over and over again, yeah, it diminishes you. It deteriorates you. It’s an emotionally deteriorating state that you’re in, and it continues to wear you down and wear you out. And I hate to say it, but some people have that intention.
Some people are intentionally wearing you down so they can feel up. They wear you out so they can feel powerful, they can feel in control. If they’re in control, then they don’t have to be vulnerable, they don’t have to feel insecure about themselves. They can feel confident. They can ride on their ego wave and feel very good that they don’t have to change and other people do.
It’s a ride that they don’t want to get off of. A lot of people do not want to get off that ride. Often it’s because they have to admit something is going on inside themselves. To get off that ride, they would have to admit that there’s probably something they need to address in themselves.
But wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to address anything in ourselves and everyone in the world had to conform and change for us?
I mean, I know some people aren’t agreeing with that at all and I’m glad. You shouldn’t want to agree with that. But sometimes, it’s a nice thought to think, “You know what, I don’t want to have to change.”
And if you’re the victim of emotional abuse, I bet you don’t want to have to change. I don’t want you to change. A lot of victims of emotional abuse are compassionate, kind, caring, generous, supportive people. They’re empathetic. They really truly want to love the person they’re with.
So if you’re that type of person, I don’t want you to change. But if you’re a controlling, manipulative person, and you think that’s a good way to be, and you’re in a relationship or you know someone that you are trying to control and trying to make conform so that you don’t have to look inward and admit anything’s wrong with you, that needs to change.
The emotionally abusive person really has to look inward and realize that they are perpetuating their own demise. They are continually the common denominator for all their problems. And they need to realize that if they don’t make a change, they’re going to lose the people they love. The people they love are going to distance themselves. And being in control of people that don’t love you is no fun.
Being in control of anyone is not a good idea. But being in control of people that you make feel bad so that they will do what you want, that’s no fun because it ends up in heartache every time. And of course, it’s always the victim that suffers most. The abusers also suffer too, at their own hand, because they are perpetuating their own demise.
I want your relationship to work out. I want people to get along but there needs to be a realization inside the abuser so that they finally tell themselves that they need to do something or they’re going to not have anyone left.
Or if the person that they are doing bad behavior to leaves and they (the abuser) just gets another person, it’s such an energy drain to go through all these people. Because if they don’t change, then their life is miserable.
Life as an abusive person can be very miserable! Because a lot of them that have been through abusive situations themselves or neglectful situations in childhood. Or just had to deal with some really nasty stuff. But that doesn’t give them the right to treat you the way they treat you. They need to know that, as an adult, they have to treat you like an equal adult – as a partner, as a friend, as someone in your family, as someone that really should care and really should treat you with kindness and respect.
If they don’t then they get what they get in life. What’s that saying? You always catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Not the best visual, but there is a lot to that, that when you are kind, respectful, caring, compassionate, and even empathetic, that is the honey that keeps the relationships going. That is what people really want from other people.
I think all of us want that, even people doing bad behavior want that kind of behavior from other people. It’s just that we also have to give it. And most of the people listening to this show do give that. They do want that and they do give that.
But then we have the other side that doesn’t give that and uses vinegar and thinks that the nice people are going to stick around. And unfortunately, some do. Some people will stay in a relationship for way too long, without addressing the issues and without standing up for themselves and saying confidently, “Look, I’ve had enough. I don’t want any more of this behavior. I won’t take anymore. I’ve had enough” and really owning that feeling and what they’re saying. And making it known that they will not stand for any more of this behavior and they will put a stop to it. And if it doesn’t stop, they’re going to leave. Or there’s going to be some sort of accountability that the person doing the bad behavior won’t like.
This is a movement. Make this a movement in your life that you will not accept bad behavior anymore. You won’t accept mistreatment and disrespect. Because you deserve so much more than that.