This is from a conversation I was having with a friend on Facebook, who had posted a link to some information about emotional abuse.
Once upon a time “emotional abuse” was code for “abuse done by women,” because, evidently, someone thought women couldn’t throw punches. So, in some of the older literature, you might find it framed that way.
My position is that the payload of all abuse tactics is emotional in nature. Being hit (and worse) hurts physically, but that heals. What hurts, and keeps hurting, is that someone you trusted and cared about (and who said they loved you) wanted to cause you pain. That’s what undermines your sense of self — not the punch itself, nor the harm that brought to you physically.
I once had an abuse advocate refer to emotion abuse as a “secondary character flaw.” I told her that I had heard many women who had been physically abused (some quite seriously) say they would rather be hit than to experience verbal and emotional abuse. She didn’t like that.
When <generic> you first gain an understanding of what abuse is and what it looks like, you see it everywhere. Because it is everywhere. It comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes. And, when you drop the denial that it’s not really abuse when people you like or you do it, then it’s really everywhere.
A really helpful piece is when you recognize that it’s everywhere, that you can’t stop it, and it’s not your job to stop it. Then, you can let go of the need to crusade, and can be useful to people who are ready to accept help. You’re not going to save them. You’re not going to set their world on its ear. But you can be an ear that will listen, a shoulder to cry on, and someone to tell them “It’s not right,” and to support them when they decide they want to make some changes. And, then, to still be there when they give up and back-slide, and, then, when they want to try again.
There are no quick fixes with people. And nobody gets fixed all the way. We all bumble around, doing the best we can get ourselves to do, and, while we fail frequently, it still works out. Not the way we might have imagined. Not the way we really wanted. But better. Progress. Still good. Good enough for who’s getting it. And the world is better than it would otherwise be.