Signs of Emotional Abuse in Relationships

Have you ever acted maliciously to punish others or get revenge on them? Have you ever gotten so angry that you exploded in front of others? Did you embarrass yourself when you looked back at your actions? Perhaps, you still do not understand why you reacted this way? At the time, did you feel that you were the victim of mistreatment and only defending yourself? Perhaps, you were not going to let others boss you around or walk on you. Yet, somehow you lost control of yourself, and your rage and anger took over. You ended up going too far, and lost grip on your behaviour and lost control of yourself. Perhaps you lost your relationship, your boss warned you or your friends stopped talking to you. You went from feeling like the innocent victim to acting out the role of the abuser.

You might even ask yourself, “How can a someone kind like me react this way?” Perhaps you do not see your actions as abuse, because you are against violence. So, what caused you to act this way? Why do you act out of character and do things that you regret?

If you were verbally or physically abused in your childhood, then you can easily become triggered to feel this way and become aggressive in defending yourself by overpowering others to prevent yourself from being a victim. In this way, you act out the role of the abuser to defend yourself.

Are you surprised that your actions end up hurting loved ones, or even get back at them?  Do you seek revenge or punish those that you perceive as hurting you? Do you end up feeling better, when you act this way?

Do you recognize signs of emotional abuse?

A person can shut out past feelings of childhood abuse when they felt helpless. They learned to protect themselves so that no one can abuse them again, by getting revenge or punishing others, so that they do not feel powerless again.

When a person becomes triggered to feeling abused, they can relive the same experience and feel the same way again. It is easy to over react and misread loved ones as mistreating them in the same way. So, the person can easily take out their anger on loved ones, as if they were the person responsible for their pain. The partner gets blamed for causing them to feel this way, and all the original anger gets inflicted onto them. In this way, the person ends up acting out the same behaviour that was done to them, repeating the abuse to others.

By repeating the abusive behaviour done to them, they can relieve themselves of these feelings, momentarily, by treating loved ones like they were abusers in their past. Their stored anger gets taken out on their partner, friend, co-worker or boss.  They can often act out revenge or punish loved ones for past hurts.

Do you find yourself showing signs of emotional abuse?

  • Do you feel betrayed by people, so you look for a way to get back at them?
  • Did you want to punish your ex-partner for leaving by trying to make him suffer in some way?
  • Do you feel bullied or belittled by people, so you want to show them that you’re not a weak person and not to mess with you?
  • Do you get upset that a guy doesn’t call straight after a date, so you ignore his call, to punish him?
  • Do you feel angry that the waitress left you waiting, so you make a complaint about her?
  • Did you punish your partner when you felt abandoned, by cheating, using verbal abuse or the ignoring him to even the score?
  • Do you switch from being loving to hostile?
  • When you believe that a person is rejecting you, do you cut off from that person, to let them know how it feels?
  • Have you ever protected a friend in a physical fight, that you ended up becoming abusive?
  • Did you ever have an uncontrollable urge to physically assault your partner, but you had to restrain yourself? Did you smash something or scare them, so they backed down, to show them that you’re not going to be a victim anymore?
  • Did you feel put down growing up and learned to fight back?

If you can relate to any of these warning signs of emotional abuse then perhaps you feel the need to discharge the internal anger inside of you and act it out towards others, as a way to feel better. Perhaps you may recognize these signs of abuse in others.

James Masterson defined this behaviour as the Talionic Impulse used by some individuals, including those with Borderline Personality Disorder, as a way to inflict the same pain that was done to them, repeating the abusive behaviour by treating the other person as if they had originally hurt them. In this way, they take out revenge and punish those they perceive to have hurt them. In these instances, the person that triggers the pain is seen as being responsible and causing them to feel this way. This stored up anger is taken out on them. Therefore, they act out their anger on loved ones, as if they were abusers from their past, by taking vengeance. The partner suffers the payback for the harm caused by the original abusers.

Perhaps you misunderstood your partner as being abusive toward you, when they were trying to resolve issues in your marriage. So you took out your anger on them, feeling reprimanded and berated by them. Perhaps you felt jealous or insecure and controlled your partner. Whatever the case may be, resolving the earlier anger can provide a resolution.

Nancy Carbone at Counselling Melbourne provides Anger Management Counselling, Relationship Counselling for those with relational problems and Marriage Counselling.

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All content is copyright 2018 Nancy Carbone

Photo by Claudia Soraya on Unsplash