You might have heard the words Coercive Control, Narcissistic Abuse or Gaslighting and not be too sure what they mean, or you might think that they don't apply to you and your situation. They are all forms of emotional abuse. Not all emotional abuse is narcissistic abuse, but some is, and these things don't just happen in romantic relationships. They can happen in family relationships, friendships and in the work environment.
Abuse isn't always physical. It can be emotional, and if someone were to ask what was wrong, you might not be able to put your finger on one single thing... But you know what something isn't right. You might even start to wonder if you're going mad.
At first, everything seems fine and they seem like the perfect partner - interested, attentive, perhaps even a soul-mate. But then things change and you start to notice the patterns. The love-bombing that sweeps you off your feet, then the silence that makes you wonder what you said or did wrong. The drip-feed of negativity, humiliation or intimidation, the constant need to know where you are or who you are with, the undermining of your mental health, telling you there's something wrong with you, or labelling you as too sensitive or crazy, the eruptions of jealous rage and then the silent treatment... Sound familiar?
Perhaps everyone around you sees them as the perfect partner, and to the outside world, everything looks rosy... they appear to be kind, generous, gregarious... but you see a different side. Or perhaps your friends and family took an instant dislike to them, yet you find yourself defending them and their behaviours. The little digs about how you're clumsy or overweight. Accusatory comments if you want to go out with friends... so you stop going out, because it's easier, and you stop contacting your friends. You change your behaviour or your wardrobe or your physical appearance to try and please them. All of these things that gradually chip away at you until you are a shell of your former-self and until you no longer know who you are. You are constantly walking on eggshells and have become afraid of your own shadow, not wanting to say or do the wrong thing and never knowing what will trigger an eruption, yet if you argue back, you are the crazy one, so you stop standing up for yourself, it's too tiring. Sometimes, they threaten you, or shout and scream at you, or push you, or actually hit you. Then they apologise and tell you that they love you but you made them do it, or that they did it because they love you so much. You might even believe that.
You're exhausted from constantly explaining yourself or constantly trying to do the right thing. You hide it from your friends and family, and you begin to distance yourself from people you used to be close to.
These are some examples of emotional abuse. You are not alone and you are certainly not going crazy.
Therapy can help you understand what has been happening to you and begin to see a way forwards as you recover, regain your confidence and begin to find yourself again.
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