Fifty Shades of Abuse
When the general public thinks about domestic violence, they usually think in terms of physical assault that results in visible injuries to the victim. This is only one type of abuse.
The ignorance of other forms of abuse implies that physical violence is the defining factor of an unhealthy relationship. Even worse, it conveys the message that whatever else might be going on is just “not that bad.”
As a woman who was born and raised in the middle east, Emotional abuse was not a recognized concept amongst the society I lived in. Most people know what physical abuse is, but when it comes to emotional abuse, people tend to think there’s much more of a ‘grey area’, and while the scars of emotional abuse may not be visible to the eye, the effect it has on the victim can be traumatic. Those who have been emotionally abused may later experience anxiety, depression, chronic pain, PTSD ( Post stress syndrome disorder), and substance abuse issue, but somehow, many still think emotional pain is not comparable to the physical one, and when a person expresses about their emotional struggles they´re more likely to be called overdramatic or whiny.
I never realized I was being emotionally abused for 6 years until the relationship was over, I was later diagnosed by a professional and somehow, everything started to make sense.
I started to look back at the relationship, I noticed there were certain phases along the way, these phases where more like patterns a narcissist follow with each of their victims.
It all starts with the ever-charming personality. He showered me with shiny gifts and surprised me with flowers when I least expect it, he drowned me in compliments and warmed me with deep late-night conversations when we connected heart to heart, it was like a bomb of emotions, maybe that’s why it’s called the “Love Bombing Phase”.It is a phase where a narcissist seduces their victim. They tend to make killer first impressions and have an attractive character that draws attention most of the time, but it’s only a role they play as a mechanism to attract their victims and make sure they’re hooked so they can start manipulating them. Then comes the second phase, where at first it felt like teasing, but then it got mean or became constant.
Suddenly, everything I did, from what I wear to what I ate and who I hang out with was a big problem for him, He started to put me down, call me names and hit me with hurtful one-liners, make jokes that aren’t quite funny and give me “pet names” which had so much meaning to them. He used to even take credits for my accomplishments, considering himself to be the reason for my success.
. His goal is to lower my self-esteem so that he can increase his own because it makes him feel powerful. If I spoke up and about his disrespect, he will blame me for causing a fuss, call me crazy, and use it as a further reason not to commit fully to me. If I don’t say a word, [that also gives a] non-spoken message that I don’t deserve to be respected.
But, if he was so bad, why didn’t I just leave him?
The thing about emotional abuse is, The victims don’t realize they’re victims. By the time I reached that phase, I have already formed what’s called “Traumatic Bonding”.
Traumatic bonding is similar to Stockholm Syndrome, in which people held captive develop feelings of trust or even affection for the very people who captured and held them against their will. This type of survival strategy can also occur in a relationship when a person is in a relationship with a narcissist. It occurs as a result of the constant manipulative behavior of the abuser, or what’s known as gaslighting, once the victim of emotional abuse figures out what’s going on and starts thinking about leaving or seriously calls the abuser on his actions, the abuser will suddenly become very apologetic and romantic, trying to woo her back into the fold. He will buy flowers, cook suppers, tend to the children, or whatever else he has to do to make her believe that what she thinks she saw, what she believes to be true, is actually false.
No, he is a perfectly good partner, and there is absolutely no reason for her to be thinking about leaving. But as soon as she comes back around and begins to trust that he will no longer emotionally abuse her, he starts back up with the same abusive patterns. Now, it is harder for her to leave, because she has begun to believe in him again. In doing so, they win over the trust and confidence of their victims, which then makes the victims vulnerable to subsequent abuse.
Gaslighting will make the victim question their own sanity, it is the process of evaluating their victim’s entire belief system, and the reason it works is that it´s like a skill they´ve sharpened overtime.they will tell you something didn’t happen, even when you have proof that it did, they will tell you that you said something you didn’t or vice versa. They will establish their own thoughts in your subconscious brain slowly but constantly. The victim will solely start believing the abuser and take the blame for everything and apologize constantly even when they didn’t do anything wrong.
But, How to change a Narcissist?
The answer is simple: you don’t.
More accurately, you can’t.
People with narcissistic personality disorder aren’t empathetic and don’t have the ability, or the interest, to understand what another person is feeling or experiencing. Narcissists lack the skill to make you feel seen, validating, understood, or accepted because they don’t grasp the concept of feelings
Translation: They don’t do emotion that belongs to others. Does your partner care when you’ve had a bad day at work, fight with your best friend, or scuffle with your parents? Or do they get bored when you express the things making you mad and sad?
They’re usually referred to as the “Jekyll and Hyde Behaviour”, The Hyde side of them will come out more often via put-downs, insults, gaslighting, lacking emotional or physical intimacy, withdrawing affection, disappearing, or blaming their target for their own behavior, also known as projection.
As a target, you may blame yourself for their behavior because they’re so well practiced at shifting the focus onto you. However, it’s important to remember the kind, caring, romantic mask of Dr. Jekyll you fell for probably didn’t actually exist in the first place.
But, even when realizing that there is a kind of toxicity going on in the relationship, the realization alone is not enough to leave.
When I left my past abusive ex, the process always felt like a kind of addiction recovery.
even when he was not there to blame me, the long years of manipulating and gaslighting have already been infused inside my subconscious mind, and his approval was the drug.
and for the first few months at least, I was fully convinced that I was the reason for everything that happened and that he was the good side of the relationship and I ruined it with my destructive behaviors.
The process of recovery was not easy, and until this moment, even though I am over the person, I sometimes don´t feel that I am over the experience itself.
Leaving an emotionally abusive relationship is one of the hardest things a person could ever face in a lifetime, but I am a firm believer that we are not machines, it´s not healthy to be over such a terrorizing experience so quickly, it takes a long time to fully recover.
the important thing is to rebuild the ruins they left behind, rekindle with the inner child we lost along the way.
Noor ist Anwältin für Menschenrechte und Feministin und wurde in Baghdad/Irak geboren. Sie musste den Irak aufgrund von familiären und politischen Bedrohnungen verlassen. Seit 2018 lebt sie in der Schweiz und hat seither in verschiedenen Integrationsprojekten gearbeitet, u.a. für für das Projekt ‘voCHabular’.