Emotional Abuse

Emotional Abuse may be verbal or nonverbal.

Verbal abuse includes defensive anger, which is used to threaten, intimidate or distance another. It may include name calling, cursing, criticism, continual blame-shifting, threats and the use of "zingers" as well as being argumentative, changing the subject, withholding support, humiliating, shaming, dominating, controlling, forgetting, denying and rewriting the past.

Nonverbal abuse occurs through emotional abandonment. It may be experienced in degrading gestures such as "flipping the bird", the silent treatment, looking down and shaking one's head, refusing to acknowledge someone when he/she enters the room, turning one's back to another when support is needed and/or appropriate. Economic unfairness may also be a form of nonverbal abuse as well as the unspoken use of "male privilege."

Emotional abuse may be active or passive. Active emotional abuse (of the type listed above) damages because of its presence. Passive emotional abuse damages because of its absence. The following are examples:

  • Not being cherished and celebrated by one's parents simply by virtue of one's existence.
  • Not having the experience of being a delight.
  • Not having a parent take the time to understand who you are - encouraging you to share who you are, what you think and what you feel.
  • Not receiving large amounts of non-sexual physical nurturing - laps to sit on, arms to hold, and a willingness to let you go when you have had enough.
  • Not receiving age-appropriate limits and having those limits enforced in ways that do not call your value into question.
  • Not being given adequate food, clothing, shelter, or medical and dental care.
  • Not being taught how to do hard things - to problem solve, and to develop persistence.
  • Not being given opportunities to develop personal resources and talents.