How Emotional Abuse and Neglect Affect Your Sense of Self

How Emotional Abuse and Neglect Affect Your Sense of Self

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Children or individuals who have been subjected to any kind of emotional abuse may continue to feel its effects into adulthood. These effects could include extremely low self-esteem, seeking bad relationships, and other physical or mental effects. There are resources available for people who experience emotional abuse to seek help.

Let’s take a look at those resources in this article. This article guides readers on what to do next and how to fully heal from emotional abuse to find love and acceptance for the self and others.

Also Read: 22 Peace Quotes to Inspire Love and Tranquillity

Define Abuse

Abuse is the improper usage or treatment of a thing, often to unfairly or improperly gain benefit. Abuse can come in many forms, such as emotional, physical, or verbal maltreatment, injury, assault, violation, rape, unjust practices, crimes, or other types of aggression. (Source: Wikipedia)

Definition of Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse involves doing and saying things to make someone feel bad about herself or himself. It often results in low self-esteem, fear, helplessness, and guilt.

5 Signs of Emotional Abuse

  1. They are Hyper-Critical or Judgmental Towards You.
  2. They Ignore Boundaries or Invade Your Privacy.
  3. And, they are Possessive and/or Controlling.
  4. They are Manipulative.
  5. They Often Dismiss You and Your Feelings.

Verbal Abuse Signs

When someone is being verbally abused, the person attacking them may use overt forms of abuse like engaging in name-calling and making threats, but also more insidious methods like gaslighting or constantly correcting, interrupting, putting down, and demeaning them.

Verbal abuse, also known as emotional abuse, is a range of words or behaviors used to manipulate, intimidate, and maintain power and control over someone. These include insults, humiliation and ridicule, silent treatment, and attempts to scare, isolate, and control.

#ActAgainstAbuse: Domestic Violence and Emotional Abuse Helplines For Women Across India:

  1. Andhra Pradesh

Bhumika Women Collective – 040-27660173

Andhra Pradesh Women Protective Cell – 040-23320539

Aranyika (Aid) Ngo –

  1. Arunachal Pradesh 

Arunachal Pradesh Women Commission ‘C’ Sector, Ita Nagar – 0360-2214567, 0360-2290544

  1. Assam

Women helpline – 181

  1. Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Human Rights Council Of India- Andaman And Nicobar Islands – 9594441314

  1. Bihar

Sahyogi – +91-9835083482

Oxfam – +91 (0) 1146538000

Mahila Jagran Kendra – 0612 220 7912

  1. Chhattisgarh

Samya Bhoomi Foundation – 9455805453

Samchay Samaj Seva Sanstha – 07759-216516

  1. Dadra and Nagar Haveli

Jan Shikshan Sanstha – 0260-2630014

  1. Daman & Diu

Human Rights Council Of India (Daman And Diu) – 9594441314

  1. Delhi

Jagori Women’s Safety Centre – 011 2669 1219

Breakthrough Trust – +91-11-41666101-06

Azad Foundation – 011 4905 3796

National Commission For Women – 011 2694 4805

  1. Goa

Arz India – +91-9422438109

Panchayat Mahila Shakti Abhiyan – 9822486765

  1. Gujarat

Awag – 079 2644 1214

Manav Kartavya – +919277008800

SSKK & Hariraj – +91 02792 223525

  1. Himachal Pradesh

Jagori Rural Charitable Trust – + 91-1892-234974

  1. Jharkhand

Jharkhand Gramin Vikas Trust – 8789575890

  1. Jammu & Kashmir

Peace Insight – +44 (0)20 3422 5549

  1. Karnataka

Planet Mars Foundation – +91 8202583307

  1. Kerala

Bodhini – 889 132 0005

Vanitha helpline Number of Kerala Police – 9995399953

  1. Maharashtra

Mumbai Railway Police – 9833331111

Mumbai Police Women Helpline No. – 022-22633333, 22620111

Maharashtra Women Commission ( – 07477722424, 022-26592707

Maharashtra Women Helpline – 022-26111103, 1298, 103

Majlis – Maharashtra – 022-26661252 / 26662394

Navi Mumbai Police Station – 022-2758025

  1. Manipur

Women Helpline – 181

  1. Meghalaya

Women Helpline – 1090, 1091

  1. Mizoram

Women Helpline – 181

Signs of Domestic Violence

They’re not always as obvious as you might think. That’s because domestic abuse is about controlling someone’s mind and emotions as much as hurting their body. Being abused can leave you scared and confused. It can be hard for you to see your partner’s actions for what they are.

If you feel like you’re being abused, there’s a good chance you may be, and it’s worth getting help. Keep that in mind as you think about these signs:

Your partner bullies threaten, or controls you:

  1. Accuses you of having an affair
  2. Blames you for abuse
  3. Criticizes you
  4. Tells you what to wear and how you should look
  5. Threatens to kill you or someone close to you
  6. Throws things or punches walls when angry
  7. Yells at you and makes you feel small

Your partner controls your money:

  1. Keeps cash and credit cards from you
  2. Puts you on an allowance and makes you explain every dollar you spend
  3. Keeps you from working whatever job you want
  4. Steals money from you or your friends
  5. Won’t let you have money for basic needs like food and clothes

Your partner cuts you off from family and friends:

  1. Keeps close tabs on where you go and whom you go with
  2. Makes you ask for an OK to see friends and family
  3. Embarrasses you in front of others, and it makes you want to avoid people

Your partner physically abuses you:

  1. Abandons you in a place you don’t know
  2. Attacks you with weapons
  3. Keeps you from eating, sleeping, or getting medical care
  4. Locks you in or out of your house
  5. Punches pushes, kicks, bites, pulls hair

Your partner sexually abuses you:

  1. Forces you to have sex
  2. Makes you dress in a sexual way
  3. Makes you feel like you owe them sex
  4. Tries to give you an STD
  5. Won’t use condoms or other birth control

What Are the Signs of Mental Abuse?

Humiliation, negating and criticizing

Someone abusing you may use different tactics to undermine your self-esteem.

Examples include:

  1. Name-calling and derogatory nicknames. They’ll blatantly call you “stupid,” “a loser,” or use other insults. Maybe they use terms of “endearment” that highlight things you’re sensitive about — “my little nail biter” or “my chubby pumpkin” — and ignore your requests to stop.
  2. Character assassination. This usually involves the word “always.” You’re always late, wrong, screwing up, disagreeable, and so on. They might say these things to you, or use them to describe your behavior to others.
  3. Yelling. Screaming, yelling, and swearing can intimidate you and make you feel small and inconsequential. Maybe they never hit you, but they do pound their fist, throw things, or damage property.
  4. Patronizing. They belittle you by saying things like, “I know you try, but this is just beyond the scope of your brain.”
  5. Public embarrassment. They pick fights, share your secrets, or make fun of your shortcomings in public.
  6. Dismissiveness. You share something important to you and they reply with, “What? Who cares about that?” Body language like eye-rolling, smirking, head shaking, and sighing help conveys the same message.
  7. “Joking.” When you express discomfort with something they’ve said, they snap back, “Can’t you take a joke? Grow up.” You’re left feeling foolish and wondering whether you are, in fact, too sensitive.
  8. Insulting your appearance. As you head out, they stop you at the door. “You’re wearing that ridiculous outfit? No wonder you can’t get a date.” Or they constantly say you’re lucky they chose you since they could find someone so much more attractive.
  9. Belittling your accomplishments. They brush off your achievements, saying they don’t matter, or claim responsibility for your successes.
  10. Putting down your interests. They suggest your hobby is a waste of time. “You’ll never be any good at the piano, so why do you keep trying?” They’d rather you not participate in activities without them.
  11. Pushing your buttons. Once they find something that annoys you or makes you uncomfortable, they begin to mention it every chance they get, ignoring your requests that they stop.

Relationship Abuse Quotes

  • “YOUR ABUSIVE PARTNER DOESN’T HAVE A PROBLEM WITH HIS ANGER; HE HAS A PROBLEM WITH YOUR ANGER. One of the basic human rights he takes away from you is the right to be angry with him. No matter how badly he treats you, he believes that your voice shouldn’t rise and your blood shouldn’t boil. The privilege of rage is reserved for him alone. When your anger does jump out of you—as will happen to any abused woman from time to time—he is likely to try to jam it back down your throat as quickly as he can. Then he uses your anger against you to prove what an irrational person you are. Abuse can make you feel straitjacketed. You may develop physical or emotional reactions to swallowing your anger, such as depression, nightmares, emotional numbing, or eating and sleeping problems, which your partner may use as an excuse to belittle you further or make you feel crazy.” ― Lundy Bancroft, Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men
  • “The scars from mental cruelty can be as deep and long-lasting as wounds from punches or slaps but are often not as obvious. Even among women who have experienced violence from a partner, half or more report that the man’s emotional abuse is what is causing them the greatest harm.” ― Lundy Bancroft, Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men
  • “Most of us knew in our bones that things with the world weren’t right, long before it became a crisis.” ― Pernell Plath Meier, In Our Bones
  • “If you walked away from a toxic, negative, abusive, one-sided, dead-end low vibrational relationship or friendship — you won.” ― Lalah Delia
  • “She’d worn anxiety like a thick robe for so long that it was hard for her to take it off.”  ― Pernell Plath Meier, In Our Bones
  • “Embedded in their psyche was the story of what had happened to the world, and the boys felt glorious to be on the other side of the madness” ― Pernell Plath Meier, In Our Bones
  • “Playing the victim role: Manipulator portrays him- or herself as a victim of circumstance or someone else’s behavior to gain pity, sympathy, or evoke compassion and thereby get something from another. Caring and conscientious people cannot stand to see anyone suffering, and the manipulator often finds it easy to play on sympathy to get cooperation.” ― George K. Simon Jr., In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People
  • “I am done looking for love where it doesn’t exist. I am done coughing up dust in attempts to drink from dry wells.”  ― Maggie Young
  • “In a healthy relationship, vulnerability is wonderful. It leads to increased intimacy and closer bonds. When a healthy person realizes that he or she hurt you, they feel remorse and make amends. It’s safe, to be honest. In an abusive system, vulnerability is dangerous. It’s considered a weakness, which acts as an invitation for more mistreatment. Abusive people feel a surge of power when they discover a weakness. They exploit it, using it to gain more power. Crying or complaining confirms that they’ve poked you in the right spot.”  ― Christina Enevoldsen, The Rescued Soul: The Writing Journey for the Healing of Incest and Family Betrayal
  • “It is fine to commiserate with a man about his bad experience with a previous partner, but the instant he uses her as an excuse to mistreat you, stop believing anything he tells you about that relationship and instead recognize it as a sign that he has problems with relating to women.”  ― Lundy Bancroft, Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men

How Emotional Abuse and Neglect Affect Your Sense of Self

I’ve used lots of words so far to identify different aspects of the self, such as self-image, self-concept, and self-esteem, but as yet I haven’t defined the concept of self. There are many definitions, but for our purposes, we’ll define it as your inner core. It is the sense you have of yourself as a separate person—the sense of where your needs and feelings leave off and others begin.

There is another “self” phrase that needs defining: a sense of self. This is your internal awareness of who you are and how you fit into the world. The ideal is what is referred to as “a coherent sense of self,” which is having an internal feeling of solidarity. You experience yourself as a person who has a place in the world, who has a right to express yourself, and who has the power to affect and participate in what happens to you.

Unfortunately, people who were emotionally abused or neglected in childhood possess a sense of self that is often characterized by feelings that are anything but empowering.

Instead, they feel helpless, ashamed, enraged, terrified, and guilty, leading to feelings of insecurity. We are not necessarily in touch with our sense of self until something happens to make us pay attention to it. If someone dismisses your accomplishments or rejects you, your focus will turn inward. You will begin to question whether you are worthy or loveable. The reverse can also be true. If someone compliments you, you might turn inward to congratulate yourself.

Being self-conscious means that for whatever reason, you have become preoccupied with how you are doing or how you are coming across to other people. This self-evaluation can become obsessive and can cause you either to feel inhibited in the company of others or to put on a show for them. Either way, self-consciousness interferes with your ability to be your authentic self.

When we feel ignored or rejected by others (especially our parents), we often begin to worry about what we might have done to warrant this reaction. This begins early in life. Children are egocentric—meaning they assume everything centers around them and therefore they must be the cause of others’ reactions—and so they tend to blame themselves for the way others treat them.

As we grow older we become self-conscious, and we feed our self-consciousness with a lot of self-deprecating assumptions. To develop a strong sense of self you needed to be raised in an environment where positive psychological nourishment was available.

Positive psychological nourishment consists of the following:

• Empathetic responses.

When we say that someone can empathize, we generally mean she has the space inside to listen and respond to another person without getting caught up, or stuck, in her point of view. She can put herself in the other person’s place—to imagine how the other person feels. Unfortunately, many parents are so caught up in themselves that they have no room for anyone else’s needs or views—even their own children’s.

A typical nonempathetic response from a parent may take the form of getting impatient with a baby who soils his pants when the parent is busy trying to get ready for a party. An empathetic parent will take a deep breath, pick up her toddler lovingly, and remind herself that the baby can’t help it. She’ll talk sweetly to the child and caress him gently as she changes his diaper. A non-empathetic parent may blame the child for causing a delay, handle the child roughly, and communicate displeasure toward him.

• Having your perceptions validated.

One of the primary ways of encouraging a healthy sense of self is for parents to validate a child’s experience, such as when a parent agrees that something is sad when the child feels sad. This kind of validation usually causes the child to experience a feeling of being all right. She feels that she is “on target” with her feelings and probably also feels less alone in the world.

If, on the other hand, a parent tells the child that a sad thing is a happy thing, the child might suddenly feel off-balance or that something is wrong with her. She will also probably feel very alone.

• Having your uniqueness respected.

When a child’s uniqueness as an individual is respected, he learns to tolerate differences in himself and others. He learns that it is interesting to discover differences and to deal with them constructively.

Unfortunately, in many families, it isn’t considered normal for people in the same family to have different preferences. Instead, there is an assumption that when a child has a different preference or disagrees, he is trying to control his caretakers or is involved in a power struggle. Some are even punished or blamed for being different from other family members.

This is translated, in the child’s mind, to the message “I am bad.” When a child’s individual preferences are respected, on the other hand, he tends to feel, “I am all right.” This in turn promotes a sense of self characterized by feeling worthwhile and loved.

Exercise: Identifying the Ways You Were Neglected

Put a checkmark beside each item that describes how you were treated by your parents or other caregivers. My parent or parents:

1. Ignored me or did not respond to my needs when I was an infant or toddler, including leaving me in a crib or playpen too long or not changing my diapers.

2. Didn’t feed me or fed me food that was inadequate or inappropriate to a child’s nutritional needs. (This does not apply if your parents were impoverished.)

3. Forced me to feed myself before I was able to eat solid food, or before I was able to chew or digest properly.

4. Did not provide me with adequate clothing, such as a warm coat in the winter.

5. Did not bathe myself regularly or wash my clothes.

6. Ignored my physical needs; did not provide me with medical or dental care when needed.

7. Did not provide me physical nurturing, such as holding, or did not comfort me when I was upset.

8. Frequently left me alone for days or weeks in the care of others.

9. Left me alone with an irresponsible or abusive caretaker.

10. On more than one occasion forgot to pick myself up at the movies or after school.

11. Forced me to live in an uninhabitable place (drafty, unclean, unsafe).

12. Did not get out of bed to take care of my needs.

13. Did not allow me to leave my room or my home for long hours, days, or weeks.

14. Neglected me because they were alcohol abusers or drug users.

How to Heal Your Emotional Self?

Read here: Healing Your Emotional Self

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