How to Counteract Mental Abuse: A Case Study

Here is the story of Laurie and Nate. [NOTE: I’m sure you realize that I do not use real people’s stories here. I know you’ve seen on TV and online all sorts of horrible “true life” stories, some even by therapists. This is unethical. It’s taking advantage of people when they’re down. I realize that many programs provide therapy in the background and that is excellent. But if you Google some of the people’s names you will find that they did not have good outcomes from all that self-revelation on national TV. In one or two cases, people even committed suicide. In any case, the ethics of my profession don’t permit it and I am in full agreement with them. So when I get real live testimonials, I don’t use a name at all. In my case studies, I make up composites of what I have heard over the years and then add my imagination.] Laurie was 26 when she married Nate. She was shy, yet people thought she was outgoing because she put on a front of friendliness. It’s not that she didn’t feel friendly; she genuinely liked people. It’s just that she never would be certain that they would like her in return. But she had discovered that if she showed her true feelings of liking people, they would usually like her back. So that worked. Nate was different. He didn’t care at all if people liked him, but this never came out in dating. In dating, he seemed very kind and considerate. He also donated money to charity which really impressed Laurie. She thought he was...

What To Do If You Are Being Gaslighted

In the previous post, Small Lies Are Emotional Abuse, I described the devastation to the psyche when someone twists around who you think you are. It is emotional abuse; it is mental abuse, and the fact that the process is subtle makes it more, not less, devastating. Why would someone need to do this? Why would someone be so attached to a distortion like this? I can think of two similar possibilities: Strong Belief In a False “Reality” Creates [False] Security 1. This individual grew up in a home where reality was distorted. He or she didn’t have outside sources of information to figure out how the world sees things. When I was researching my dissertation, someone said that he grew up in a home without a dining room table. The family watched TV at dinnertime, sitting on chairs facing the set. He thought that was how everyone did it. 2. This individual grew up in a home where there was very little conversation about feelings or perspectives of others so there was no way to get outside opinions on whether his perspectives were on target. In either case, the person must figure out how the world works without much help from those who’ve been there. That’s a scary place. Tiptoeing on a tightrope, the person feels very insecure. What can give him or her some sense of security? – clinging tenaciously to his ideas! The very act of shedding doubt creates the desired security. This, by the way, explains why people with paranoia cling to their mistaken realities; it also explains suicide bombers and other people on the...

Small Lies Are Emotional Abuse

There’s a subtle type of emotional abuse that it could take you years to uncover: Taking the truth and twisting it around. It’s not a bold-faced lie. It’s a little lie, a subtle and surprising twist — and that’s why it shakes the ground under your feet. It’s a small lie. Supposing in your lifetime that literally 456 people have told you that you are pretty. Yes, the first two were your parents. But there were 454 others that were less biased in your favor. In fact, to help defray the costs of college while you went for a degree in biochemistry, you did a little modeling. It was fun and you made a few dollars. Now, just supposing you happen to be married to someone who, in a moment of anger because of something you didn’t even do, decides to say to you: “And you’re not so good looking, either.” Small Lies Are Worse Than Out-and-Out Lying You’re devastated. Not because you care so much about looks but because the attack is so gratuitous—and so off the mark. It’s this last piece, the part about being off the mark that I’m classifying as the worst of the emotional abuse. You see, we know that the ground is under our feet and the sky is up because over years and years we have taken these two things as given. There are lots of givens in our lives, things we wouldn’t dream of questioning. After all, “everyone says so” and “that’s the way it is.” Things like mom is sweet and dad is distant or uncle Ned is outrageous and...

How The Victim Thinker Thinks and Why He Will Never Be Happy

What’s your reaction when someone tells you, “You hurt my feelings”?   There could be two possible reactions: You’re going to be either me-focused or other-focused. That is, if you’re me-focused, you’re going to feel irritated, offended, angry, insulted or—this is the famous one—“picked on.” If you’re other-focused, you’re going to feel compassion for the hurt you may have inflicted on the other person.   If you’re me-focused, several things will ensue:   1. You will never, ever make the person you’ve hurt happy. On the contrary, since you don’t want to hear and deal with the complaint, you’ve probably already forgotten what the complaint was even though you’ve been licking your wounds for having been told you did something wrong. You certainly haven’t fixed the problem.   2. You, yourself will not be happy. By focusing on the pain you’re imagining you’ve received, you have to feel unhappy. By fashioning yourself into a victim, you have compelled yourself to remain unhappy. You may try to escape from that awful victim feeling, but you can’t get too far away from it. Every time you get happy, the little voice inside of you that wants you to remain a victim will be sure to remind you.   There it is: Unhappiness for the person you hurt and unhappiness for yourself.   Now, you can legitimately ask: “But what if I did not hurt that other person? What if she/he is the one that’s playing victim? Why are you making it my fault?”   If you did that, I guarantee you that you are thinking like a victim. A compassionate person...

Two Examples Of Emotional Abuse

REPRINTED FROM NATURAL AWAKENINGS MAGAZINE, pp. 30-31 Abuse doesn’t have to be obvious. It isn’t that simple. There are some kinds of abuse that call for a really careful look to detect. But they hurt nevertheless. Example: Never praising. People Cannot Tolerate More Than One Negative Comment If Only Five Comments Are Positive Scientists have actually discovered the ratio of negative comments that a human being can tolerate before his heart breaks and something inside dies with it: 5 good: 1 bad. That’s right. People can not tolerate more than 1 negative comment or criticism in 5 positive ones or praises. So what about that kid who gets nothing but put-downs? What about that family where it isn’t obvious, where there is no foul language and no put-downs? Well, the ratio applies to any negative, any criticism, even well-meant, constructive criticism. If that’s all you hear, whether it’s from your parents or your spouse, you begin to feel like that’s all you are. And you begin to think that that’s all life is. Life is rotten. Because, for those people, it is. Let’s look at some of the ways this manifests itself in emotional abuse: 1. the Blame Game. So let me ask you something: Why do things always have to be someone’s fault? I mean, the dish broke, the car is smashed, the whatever is whatever. Can it be mended again if we just find out whose fault it is? Blame is the surest way to kill any feelings of self-worth in a child. Children who grow up always made to feel at fault suffer intolerably. When everything...
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