Dealing with Emotional Abuse

Emotional Abuse is so subtle and so blatant at the same time that it is confusing and baffling to those who are its targets. What is the seduction of emotional abuse? How can anyone be treated so badly and still stay in a relationship that is replete with this type of treatment?

Emotional-abuseA few thoughts come to mind:

There is a pattern that we accept as normal when we have grown up with sarcasm and repeated “put downs”. We just think that this is the way it is supposed” to be.

Many children have seen their parent used as a whipping “boy”….”girl”….”post” and have taken this behavior to be the way  of romance and intimacy.

An additional twist on the “romance” side of abuse is that the abusing parent only speaks or deals with the one he/she abuses the most.  The silence of the abusing parent and the seeming attachment to the victim sets up another ambivalent atmosphere in the family about the significance of the verbal mistreatment of the abuser.

The victim is often deeply afraid of the abuser.  She/he is so intimidated that she/he will do anything to avoid confrontation in both private and public settings.

The victim will do anything to keep the veiled threats of escalation from becoming real. Abandonment, physical violence, public humiliation, and divorce seem to be avoidable if the abused person doesn’t aggravate the person who is abusing them.

To the observer, it seems hard to believe that the one being abused can’t just walk away.  The problem is that the abused is often “trauma bound” to the abuser.  Somehow the pattern is either acceptable or something the abused just got used to as the relationship continued.

An additional nuance that the abused will articulate is that the abuser isn’t always “that” way.  The victim often becomes the protector of the abuser when someone points out the unacceptable behavior to the abused.

There are many questions to consider in breaking the hold of someone who is an Emotional Abuser:

  • Who will support the person who decides to confront the abuser?
  • How will the abuser react?
  • Is it possible for the abuser to learn another way of acting?
  • Is the abuser willing to seriously address his/her behavior and put in the time it takes to learn to act differently?

The family may need to come in for sessions that help look at the damage being done by the abuser and whatever the family system is doing to enable the abuser to continue acting  the way he/she does.

The fact is that no one can act completely alone in a cycle of abuse.  The Karpman Triagle shows us that  if we are in a “conditional OKness” then we are either being a Victim,  Persecutor, or Rescuer.  

There is no need for the perpetuation of the cycle of abuse

Are you in a family or relationship that is typified by the elements of Emotional Abuse?

There is help for you and or your family. Call for an appointment so that the abuse can be brought to an end. 

Cinderella vs. Elsa – Child Ego State

How envy, jealousy and feelings of inadequacy come straight from the Child Ego state.

Could you imagine Cinderella and Elsa in a tug of war?

Think of it…dresses flying …shoes in the air and some cross between pumpkins, mice and frozen everything. Who do you think is the more beautiful…Cinderella or Elsa? They are both a type of victim that evoke pity and a general “this is just sad” reaction. They also have had plenty of press in terms of their stories. Cinderella is the story that is the older and Elsa, or Frozen, is the newer story, waiting to be replaced in the near future by some other Disney creation.   From an adult point of view these two young beauties are in a series of young girl triumphs with the help of some male hero story lines.

So let’s go into the world of a child and see if there are insights for us when looking at these two popular figures.

I recently went to a party for which I bought the 5 year old, at her mother’s direction, a Cinderella dress. The child was delighted. I really saw a joy that I had not seen in a while. She danced with abandon in the living room and held her hand at the hem of the dress with ballerina poise. So we were all thrilled that the present was so well received and the party went on to a festive finish.  

child_egoA couple of days later I was with this same 5 year old at her friend’s house for a play date. The children dressed in their Cinderella and Elsa dresses and a variety of other formals/ballerina dresses. At some point the girls exchanged dresses and then the drama began. My “Cinderella” became a jealous, envious, screaming, and crying “out of control” 5 year old. She was breathlessly, red faced and crying because the other little girl and her sister had more dresses, one was an Elsa dress, than she did and it was not FAIR! No amount of consoling and reasoning could change her demeanor. Her mother, who is a therapist, took her in her arms and tenderly explained that her Cinderella dress was still beautiful and that her friends’ dresses were also wonderful and not better than her dress. So the conversation went in circles and finally a cool wash rag and an ending to the play date calmed my Cinderella down. I know that the conversation went on the next couple of days with examples and lessons and that finally the subject waned from Cinderella’s feelings.

How does this apply to us?

Who are we in the matter of Cinderella and Elsa and other dresses of beauty? Is the dress we have good enough? Is the dress another has better? Who are we in the matter of our own self value? Of course it seems so clear that this is an analogy but doesn’t this little story hit at the struggles we have to feel ok about who we are, what we do and what we have?

So envy, jealousy and feelings of inadequacy come straight from the Child Ego state and into the heart of our being without much warning and without our ability to respond.

It is with counseling and some hard work that we can nurture the child within and come to a greater understanding and appreciation for the sometimes mysterious demands of the subconscious.


Holidays. The word either excites you or depresses you.

For some people the holidays are joyous occasions for which to hope and plan times of family and friends in the most idyllic of settings. For others the holidays are times of anxiety and depression over unmet expectations and desires for the all perfect mythological dream. 

Something must drive us to the desire for holiday bliss.

There are all those songs…
There are all those ads…
There are all those lights…
There are all those religious images…

There are all those children, who sing, and dance and pageant their way into our dreams of the perfect Christmas, if not for us, at least for them.

The child in most of us wants to have a “most wonderful time of the year” whether it is Christmas, Hanukah or another celebratory time with family and friends.

So what is in our way?

Well there are the expected gifts…
There is the expected time with one or the other family…
There are the children who are split between mother and father…
There are the households who are still mourning the loss of a loved one…
There are the families who are unable to provide food and gifts….
There are those who are empty of many things like love, friends, family even shelter…
There are those who have members in nursing homes with whom there is no way to express the holiday spirit…

So the word EXPECTATION overshadows our holidays in a profound way keeping many from enjoying the simple pleasures of being with others we love.

So what can one do? For starters give some thought to the deepest reason for the holidays. Think about the religious meaning for many of you. Think about the familial possibility of this time together. Think about what is ENOUGH for you and the joy you most want to experience at this time with those whom you love.

A child wants to be delighted by the surprise of presents and the deliciousness of cookies. We adults might take a clue from the children and let the “child within” out enough to experience the surprise and wonder of love that this time of year drives us to want and expect.

Set aside the kind of expectation that is rigid and so fixed that there is no room for surprise or wonder.

Yes, there are many potential disappointments during the holidays but we can adjust our expectations to a more sane and joyful result if we are prepared with openness and flexibility. Too many times we come into the holidays with a preconceived idea that leaves no wiggle room for the unexpected. If we choose to see the times we have for the holidays as times that are adorned with sparkling wonder rather than draped in unfulfilled expectations or demands then there may be greater than any presents awaiting us during this year’s holiday season.

Talking about and sorting through the myriad of disappointments and feelings of failure and frailty may be some things that a therapist can help you with. Knowing what is enough and bringing your expectations into balance with the possibility of joy and happiness during the holidays is always  hopeful.

And……Happy Holidays!