A few months ago, a person I’d respected called me ‘an apple that was merely painted so as to appear as a pure golden apple’. This insult to my worth stuck to my mind for a long time. Every time someone complimented me I’d think But I am only painted yellow.
Every time his words echoed in my mind, I’d feel my self-esteem crumble. I began to believe everything he’d told me-that I was unstable, unlovable and a horrifying creature altogether. It took me a long time to break from the vicious cycle, but ironically only because he himself provided the stage for my escape.
That’s why today I would like to discuss a very sensitive topic- Emotional abuse.
This is seldom discussed in many countries like my own, simply because of the fact that most people cannot seem to wrap their minds around the concept that yes, even if the scars are not visible, it is abuse. In India, emotional abuse by itself is not a punishable offense (but in case of mental injuries caused by abuse of husband or his family it can be covered under IPA section 498A and even then it is a bit of a stretch).
Lets begin at the basics. Emotional abuse (also known as Psychological abuse) is characterized by a person acting towards another in such a way as to induce the formation of psychological trauma. This form of power imbalance can be seen in romantic relationships, familial relationships, friendships or even workplace relations. Emotional abuse is not widely recognized, mostly because it leaves no physical evidence as physical abuse tends to. However it does not make it any less dangerous.
Here in India, where marriage is a business, emotional abuse is a way of life. It is often taken for granted that a shiny-eyed blushing bride would soon be ‘tamed’ by a husband’s ‘ministrations’. Women are brought up as beings ready to accept anything their men throw their way- be it kisses or blows. Men are also prone to becoming victims of emotional abuse, though the number is lesser. This phenomenon is changing, but the change is slow and subtle.
Why is emotional abuse such a huge deal? Because it has the power to change a person completely. The victim seems deceptively healthy on the surface, but every word uttered by the abuser chips away at his/her self-esteem, interpersonal relations, reasoning, judgement and efficiency. When the person you love and respect says you are worthless, you believe it without question. This kick-starts a downward spiral into anxiety, depression, crying spells etc. In extreme cases the person loses all sense of self-worth and takes his/her own life.
This is more common than we think, and it can happen to the best of us.
It is a fact that a relationship that seems utterly toxic from an outsider’s point of view wouldn’t appear so to the victim. He/she believes that the other person truly treasures them and reacts in a hostile manner to any insinuations that suggest the opposite. This in turn leads to them getting isolated, which makes them more dependent than ever on the abuser who is the ‘only person’ who can ‘love’ them.
Here are a few signs of an emotionally abusive relationship:-
1) Arguments which all have the same end result- that you are to blame.
2) Fear of the partner or avoiding bringing up certain topics because they annoy them
3) Inducing self-doubt.
4) Extreme jealousy or possessiveness of the partner, leading to your isolation
5) Heavy criticism from the partner, especially regarding things that you cannot change about yourself or relating to your physical appearance
6) Excessive control over your movement and your actions and always wanting to know your routine, even though they hide their’s from you
7) Justification of the pain they unleash on you by claiming that you ‘deserve’ it
8) Belittling you and your efforts
9) Forcing you to commits acts you do not want to, especially of a sexual nature
10) Your partner is harsh only to you and is a perfect gentleman/woman to those around you. This in turn leads to victim-shaming
11) Emotional blackmail
12) And of course, physical abuse
If you find yourself nodding to these words, run. Run far far away from the toxic whirlpool you have been trapped in. It is literally vital for your survival. Do not expect pity. People seldom understand. Accept that by leaving this relationship, you will lose more people than just your partner. But you will find yourself.
You deserve so much more. So prepare yourself to reach out and grab your own happiness. 🙂