Unlike physical and sexual abuse, emotional abuse can be much harder to recognize due to its inconsistent nature. At its core, it plays on fears of rejection, abandonment, unworthiness, shame and lovability.
Among the more common tactics is projection, which shifts responsibility and blame to someone else. Others then internalize these feelings, mistaking them for their own. Another tactic, gas-lighting, aims to create confusion and self-doubt, causing victims to question their own feelings, memories, instincts and sense of reality. In the namesake play Gas Light, a husband repeatedly dims the lights but denies doing so, in an attempt to drive his wife crazy.
Here are five more subtle warning signs:
1. Stonewalling. Cutting off all communication, refusingâ€¨to see another’s perspective by minimization or disengagement.
2. Emotional withholding. When love and affection are withheld to communicate anger.
3. Twisting. Changing the facts to place blame on the victim. An abuser may then demand an apology to further deflect responsibility.
4. Irrational and intense rage. Bouts of rage without obvious or rational causes create fear and uncertainty, often forcing others to comply. â€¨
5. Trivializing accomplishments. To cope with their own feelings ofâ€¨inferiority, shame and envy, abusers will strive for dominance and superiority through mockery, belittling goals, ignoring accomplishments andâ€¨sabotaging achievements. â€¨