The Impact of Absence in Emotional Abuse

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So often we think of abuse as something that happens to us, but have you ever thought about what it means to a person who suffers from the abuse of omission?  Emotional abuse can be so deceptive, that most of the time, people who are victims have no idea they are being abused.  One way to analyze your situation to determine if you are being emotionally abused is to consider, rather than what the other person is doing, is what the effects are on you.  What may be hurting you may not be overt, but rather covert; you may not suffer from anything you can put your finger on because your abuser may be hurting you by what he’s not doing.

Here are some things to consider:  Do you find yourself being confused within this relationship?  Do you analyze yourself or an argument with this person to determine where you went wrong or what you could have done differently?  Do you find yourself blaming yourself for the things that go wrong?  Do you find yourself accepting fewer and fewer “crumbs”from this person as time goes on, being grateful for any small comment or gesture that feels validating?  Do you feel like an emotional wreck?  Do you feel desperate or in despair?  Do you read lots of articles, blogs, and books looking for ways to improve your relationship?  Have you lost trust in your own perceptions?  Other symptoms of emotional or covert abuse include feelings of rage, low self-esteem,  anxiety, preoccupation with the relationship, obsessive need to fix it, feelings of guilt and shame, despair and loss of hope, increased addictions, loss of  gain of weight. I know I felt all of those things, despair being the deepest of them all.

Not only does emotional abuse, neglect, and covert abuse cause all of the above, it also costs other losses to your sense of identity as well.  According to Bonnie Badenoch, Ph.D., the deepest and most consistent pain people tend to experience comes from disconnection.  Neurobiology teaches us that our most basic quest is for attuned relationships.  When considering that our most basic human need is for meaningful relationships with others, consider the effects of emotional neglect, abuse, and absence.

When in a relationship with someone who has a personality disorder or is emotionally abusive, there are many things that are missing.

When discussing the abuse of absence, it is important to realize that one of the biggest deficits in the relationship involves a lack of presence.  You don’t feel “seen and heard” by your partner because he cannot, will not, does not care to see or hear you.  This in turn leads to you not being truly known.  Without presence in your relationship you experience the sense of not really mattering that much, if at all.  You learn to numb your emotions and dissociate from your heart’s greatest needs.

Another loss from the abuse of absence is the loss of your dreams to have a relationship that is deep, meaningful, fulfilling, and satisfying.  All of these qualities are absent from an emotionally abusive relationship.  When you start counting the costs to your well-being and quality of life you start to realize the effects, and in turn, start opening your eyes to the fact that yes, indeed, you are being abused.  As you start looking at the costs, you can start validating yourself and start the healing process.

If your abuser is your spouse, consider all that has been stolen from you – your biggest dreams for lifelong love, a stable family for your children, a close, intimate best friend to share all your hopes with, a soul mate, a refuge in times of trouble.  So much is lost when your spouse is your abuser.  You’ve had to live in denial, overlook hurts and offenses for years.

All emotional abusers tend to be brain washers.  One of the best ways to ensure a bond is through inconsistent reinforcement.  These abusers in our lives do not only and always do things that are underhanded or hurtful.  If that were the case our problems would be easier to identify.  Instead, they periodically show up as Mr. Wonderful or Mrs. Loving and Kind.  When this happens we temporarily relax, feel relieved, and “forget” all the mean things they have done or neglects they have perpetrated.  We are “reinforced” to stay bonded to the person because this reprieve feels overly important since it is so desired and unpredictable.  It is similar to the hostage takers who were given credit by their hostages for not killing them (Stockholm syndrome).  In the end, with emotional abusers, the victims are willing to accept scraps because they seem so precious.  It’s akin to a person dying of thirst.  When water is available its value is overlooked, but when a person is almost dying from thirst, the smallest amount is worth more than its weight in gold.  When people are in a covertly abusive relationship, with little emotional validation, the smallest amount of positive reinforcement feels like a huge gift.  This is because abusers have trained their victims to feel desperate.

Shared in part from PsychCentral

Artist Andrew Davidson

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