1. Neglecting Your Partner(ignoring, workaholism, addictions):
A primary function of a relationship is to provide companionship and to meet each other’s needs. When other activities, interests or preoccupations interfere with our availability, we can wind up short-changing our partner. This can be thought of as absenteeism or being MIA. Taking an inventory and making adjustments in how we spend our time is the first step in correcting this problem. Treat your partner as the important person they are by spending enough quality time together to satisfy each of your requirements in this area and to maintain your connection.
2. Depriving Your Partner(not being attentive, expressive, affectionate, supportive, caring, loving, withholding compliments - affection - intimacy):
Being there physically is not enough. We cannot expect our relationship to thrive if we withdraw emotionally for extended periods of time. In order to be fully present, we must be aware of our partner and be willing to show how we feel both verbally and non-verbally. Expressing love though affection and caring behaviors are crucial to keeping a relationship strong and vibrant. Small regular doses of intimacy will usually suffice, and the most important times of day to communicate positively are upon waking, upon reuniting after a long day, and before going to sleep.
3. Dishonesty & Betrayal(infidelity, lying):
Most people are aware that the foundation of any relationship is T-R-U-S-T. In no relationship is trust more important than in a relationship between mates, except for a parent and dependent child relationship. Cheating and lying breaks down the basis for a relationship, and often results in its demise. A problem of this nature is serious, and resolving it must be a top priority if the relationship is to survive. Couples counseling is highly recommended in order to facilitate the changes that are needed.
4. Attacking Your Partner(blaming, abuse – physical, emotional, sexual):
Aggressive communication is simply unacceptable, especially if the abuse is getting physical. Physical or sexual abuse are deal-breakers in a marriage, and should prompt a permanent separation. The abusive partner needs to get professional help to learn skills in anger management, in order to gain and consistently demonstrate better control over his or her emotions and behavior. Even if the help is sought and progress is made, the risk of recurrence remains high, so in most cases, the abused partner should not return to the relationship. Returning serves to reinforce the abusive behavior, leading to increased severity and frequency of subsequent abuse. Instead, the abused partner should also seek help, and work through issues that have potential to lead one into another abusive relationship. Verbally blaming, accusing, and insulting your partner are less extreme forms of destructiveness, but are not OK either, and assertiveness training can provide the essential skills for healthy communication.
5. Scapegoating(taking your anger or frustration out on you partner):
We all know that it’s not right to kick the dog after a hard day at work, so why do it to your partner? Being held responsible for things that are out of our control is the most stressful of conditions, and that is what we do to our partner when we scapegoat them. Rather than hurt the ones you love, do what it takes to meet the real problem head-on, as effectively as you can. If you are unsure of how to address a problem, the strong and mature thing to do is to ask for help and support from trusted sources (i.e., a friend, relative, or therapist).
6. Negativism(nitpicking, nagging, criticizing):
In order to have a good relationship, the positives must outweigh the negatives by a large percentage. If negativity is creeping into your relationship, it is like water seeping into walls, eventually weakening the structure. People usually feel good around others who are upbeat and positive, as well as those who help them to feel good about themselves. Bringing a negative spirit into your relationship crowds out the positive. However, pushing aside or neglecting to address real problems is not the answer either, and can be just as harmful to relationship health as dwelling on the negative. So pick your battles wisely, strive to communicate effectively, and practice cooperative negotiation.
7. Gossiping(telling family or friends about your problems but not addressing them with your partner):
That’s right, if you are talking about the problems in your relationship with friends or relatives but not working on improving the situation, that amounts to gossip. Gossip is not a productive way to handle problems, and can result in additional problems. For instance, your partner may feel betrayed that you revealed sensitive material to others that cause him or her to be embarrassed or uncomfortable around them. Also, if you promote a negative side of your partner or your relationship, others may get a distorted view, and changes in their attitudes and behavior may follow. Others may remember your conflicts long after you and your partner have gotten past them. Instead, work on improving your communication skills. Turn toward your partner, not away. If you need help, seek out the assistance of an objective third party such as a therapist who works with couples. When it comes to your needs, stop complaining and start asking!
8. Controlling Your Partner(“my way” or else, perfectionism, trying to change your partner, possessiveness):
Wanting things to be a certain way and having preferences are completely natural and even healthy. However, when this tendency becomes extreme and starts to encroach on the rights, needs and desires of others, it can cause major havoc. Freedom of will and self-determination are basic needs, and when these are being threatened, negative reactions may include anger, resentment, and/or rebellion. If the need to control is a problem in your relationship, identify the motivations behind it and work towards dealing with those issues rather than acting them out with your partner.
It’s not “all about me,” folks. Letting one’s self interests take priority in an unbalanced way can be toxic to a partnership. The other person usually winds up feeling deprived, resentful, and unimportant. Furthermore, the more self-involved you are, the more you take your relationship for granted, the less you appreciate your partner, and the more alone you actually are. So if your relationship is slanted in this way, you also lose out, because you experience less of the joy that a true connection brings. You and you partner both get more from the relationship through reciprocity in giving and receiving.
Martyrs are seldom happy. More often, they are angry, bitter, resentful, depressed and burned out. This is not to say that you should not consider others and be thoughtful in meeting their needs. But having a healthy relationship involves factoring your own needs and desires into the equation. You teach people how to treat you, and if you act like a doormat, you can’t completely blame someone if they wipe their feet on you. Learn how to stand up for yourself, practice assertive communication, ask and allow others to meet your needs, and take care of yourself as much as you take care of your loved ones.
The following is a composite profile of an Online Predator.
The Online Predator Definition : The Online Predator is one who uses the mechanisms of cyber space to hunt human beings with the intent to exploit, rob, plunder and pillage their body, mind, heart and soul.
Characteristics of a Predator: 1. Liar: (Self explanatory)
2. Deceiver: His self situation is presented as other than what it is.
3. Betrayer: He is likely to break trust.
4. Insecure: He is worried that others will be faithless.
5. Inconsistent: He will say one thing while doing another or his stories aren't consistent over time.
6. Lacking Honor: Usually while protesting that he has honor.
7. Lack of Respect: He will tend to denigrate others.
8. Transient: He is unlikely to have many long term friends.
9. Manipulator: He calculates and contrives for his own benefit to the detriment of his partner.
10. Secretive: He will tend to cloak himself and his activities. (blocking you online for days or weeks at a time with no real reason why or being online and not chatting with you)
11. Charming: If he could not steal your breath away, he would not be a successful hunter.
12. Selective: He will pick victims carefully, looking for weaknesses and filling those voids completely.
13. Chameleon: He will appear to fit any need perfectly and adapt to fill any desire.
14. Lacking in Self Control: At times, he may have extraordinary self control and discipline, a predator probably exhibits these characteristics in all aspects of his life. Impulsive.
It may be that the only place the predator seems to have honor and value "Truth" is in the "Relationship" he is developing with his victim.
CAUTION When developing a new relationship, make a conscious effort to observe your partner's interaction with others, not just how he interacts with you. The predator may well reveal his true self through his interactions. But, you may only see this revelation if your are committed to taking every precaution for your own safety.
Predator Warning Signals: While any of these phrases or actions may be acceptable in a given context, pay close attention when seeing or hearing them:
Phrases: 1. Do not tell ____________ . 2. (_______) is crazy! (or psycho, sick, a liar, or out to get me) 3. It would be best if you no longer spoke to _________. 4. I do not need to defend myself against lies. 5. They are just jealous (of me, of us, of what we have, that you have me). 6. I have never done this before. I am not that sort of person. 7. I wouldn't lie to you. I would never hurt you.
Actions: 1. Operates from inocuous web areas or chat rooms. (parents chats, music chats, classmates chats)
2. Has personal information which is incomplete or not verifiable.
3. Becomes defensive or angry when questioned.
4. Questions your sincerity when questioned.
5. He will usually discourage or forbid personal information checks.
6. He will usually discourage, schedule for certain times only or forbid the use of his home, work or cell phone number by you.
7. He's badmouthing his current partner, wife, girlfriend or significant other ("they don't understand me, etc.")
Personal Warning Signals: These are items that, even if JUST ONE, anyone should pay attention to:
1. I feel he is just too good to be true. 2. You are hearing consistent warnings from more that one person. 3. Your instincts are whispering " something is not right about this person".
Summary: Th final best defense against an Online Predator is your own common sense and judgment. Always remember that desires, needs, and the heat of the moment can combine to drown that judgment. Always take a moment to step back, take a deep breath and look at a potential partner with common sense and not with neediness.
One Mom's Battle is an AWESOME resource for women & men battling thru divorce and child custody with a Narcissist, Sociopath, Psychopath or BPD person. I can't recommend strongly enough for anyone having these issues to join their Facebook group or Twitter and to follow their website. - Barbara
This battle started as “One Mom’s Battle” but it has become a village. Together, this village will make changes in the Family Court System and will
bring awareness to Narcissistic Personality Disorder. What started as a
lonely journey has turned into a family of men and women who are “in
the trenches” and working to ensure that the Family Court System starts
to do what it was designed to do: act in the best interest of the
In 2008, a heard three words that would forever change my life. As quickly as my therapist said the words, “Narcissistic Personality Disorder,”
I wanted her to take them back. I didn’t want to hear that my marriage
was irreparable. I didn’t want to hear that there was no hope for my
husband. I was in a lonely, empty and verbally abusive marriage yet I
was still not ready to throw in the towel. I left my therapist’s office
that day and I did not return to see her for over four years.
I spent the remainder of 2008 trying to salvage my marriage. As the victim of gas lighting,
a stealth form of emotional abuse which is generally delivered by
individuals with personality disorders, I was a shell of the person I
had been prior to meeting Seth. I was no longer a bright, bubbly,
free-spirit – I was insecure and filled with self-doubt. During that
year, I began to discover that my marriage was fraught with lies and
deception. In the beginning of 2009, a second therapist (our marital
counselor) suggested that Seth undergo a psychological evaluation and
that day, he walked out of therapy and proclaimed that our marriage was
I quickly discovered that there is only one thing worse than being
married to a narcissist and that is divorcing a narcissist. I also
discovered that the Family Court System is not equipped or educated on
Cluster B personality disorders. Individuals (male and females) who
suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) are generally
charming and charismatic. They are also pathological liars who are
skilled at deceiving those around them whether it be in the business
world, political arena or sadly, in the courtroom. Because perjury is
not punishable in Family Court, this venue becomes a playground for the
narcissist and winning becomes their driving force.
My battle began in 2009 when I went from a 4,000 foot home in a gated
community to my local women’s shelter – this was the very shelter that I
had volunteered my time for many years. To be on the “other side” was
the most humbling experience of my life. I lost everything in one short
year: my business, my home, my cars and my marriage. I then spent the
next four years entangled in one of the worst custody battles to enter
the San Luis Obispo Family Court System. During this time, I acted as my
own attorney and had to dig deep for inner strength. I found God and
learned what “faith” really means.
My battle came to an end in July of 2013 when I was awarded full
legal and physical custody of my daughters, ages 6 and 8. Not only did
my battle come to an end but I received validation when the courts
handed down final custody orders consisting of professionally supervised
visits. After four long and exhausting years, my daughters are finally
safe. This is a story about not giving up. This is a lesson about
believing in yourself and what you can accomplish when the odds are
This is about my experience in the Family
Court System and the frustrations that came as a result of this broken
system. This isn’t about mother’s rights or father’s rights. It’s about
a child’s right to be happy, safe and loved.
Seeking a private forum for advice, inspiration and support? Join Tina and the Lemonade Warriors in The Lemonade Club! For information, please email Tina@onemomsbattle.com. Seeking insight, encouragement and advice while divorcing a narcissist? Tina Swithin’s book, “Divorcing a Narcissist- One Mom’s Battle”
is available on Amazon or through Barnes & Noble. Learn how to set
boundaries and see the narcissist for who he/she really is. You will
learn to forgive yourself and you will begin to heal.
This situation is true of far TOO MANY places in North America... not just Seattle.
By SCOTT GUTIERREZ
Victims of domestic violence often turn to a neighbor instead of the police, and even if they sought court protection they often weren't given help to stay safe, according to a recent study of domestic violence homicides in Washington.
In addition, women of color were two or three times more likely than Caucasian women to be killed by an intimate partner, according to the report, and often faced cultural and language barriers to escaping an abusive relationship. The same trend was apparent with 43 men who have been killed since the biennial Domestic Violence Fatality Review began in 1997, according to the report.
The report, which was presented Monday by the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, looks at trends in domestic violence homicides in an effort to improve the criminal justice system and community response to better protect victims.
Sixty-eight people were killed as the result of domestic violence in the latest two-year period examined, between July 2006 and June 2008. Of those cases, 11 were chosen for an in-depth look.
In six of those cases, victims went to a neighbor or community member instead of calling the police. Private citizens often didn't know what to do and weren't aware of organizations that they could call for advice about how to help a victim of abuse.
In the past, the fatality review mostly focused on improving how police and courts handle domestic violence. This year, the focus shifted more toward how community members could better prepare if someone sought help from them, including how to help without jeopardizing their own safety, she said.
"In general, who do you turn to when in a crisis? I think most go to the people who are closest to us before we go to a stranger," said Kelly Starr, a coalition spokeswoman. "We can't rely on all of these systems as the answer."
The report recommended that block watches and crime-prevention groups learn more about domestic violence resources and share information. It also suggested that the media give contact information about advocacy services when reporting on domestic violence.
"I think the next piece is building the community's capacity to respond to this. We all have to build ourselves up so we're ready," Starr said.
Still, the report found areas where the court system needed improvement. For instance, victims often had no help from advocates when petitioning for court protection orders against their abusers. Without someone helping them make that decision, they could increase their risk in some cases, according to the report. An advocate can help plan where to go or what to do if the abuser retaliates or with deciding whether obtaining an order is the safest option.
One woman was killed last year in Federal Way just three hours after her boyfriend was served with an anti-harassment order.
In King County, the Prosecutor's Office provides a protection order advocacy program that victims have used in 73,000 cases since it was established 20 years ago. Generally, advocates serve about 5,000 cases each year, in addition to 2,500 walk-ins seeking advice, said David Martin, who supervises the domestic violence unit.
"For some folks, these are very difficult decisions to make -- life-altering decisions. There could be children involved, or a long-term relationship," Martin said. "We want people to understand what's going on and to make a good, informed decision." Most Washington courts that provide protection orders, however, don't offer advocacy services, according to the report.
In those cases, court clerks' offices could consider referring victims to community-based organizations, which wouldn't cost extra money, Starr said.
Characteristics of the Targets of Harassers & Adult Bullies
Adult bullies target their victims in many of the same way children who bully do. While many people think that bullying only occurs amongst children, it can also happen in the workplace among adults. No matter what the age of a bully, they are opportunistic and tend to prey on people they perceive as a threat or that they dislike because of differences. Adult bullies almost always bully others continuously and when one target leaves, quickly pick another.
The following traits are common in adult bullying victims and usually make the bully feel insecure or threatened. Adult bullying can be more of a challenge to handle because it is harder to recognize and not as widely accepted as the bullying that occurs with children.
Adult bullies target people who are good at their job and excel beyond them. Bullies want to eliminate their competition and make their work seem better than it is. While bullying is not acceptable no matter the age of the person doing it, adults will still bully others if they see it as the only way to solve their problems. Adult bullies target people who put them in danger of looking bad in an attempt to sabotage their work.
Adult bullies target people who are popular and well liked as well, especially if they are not too popular them selves. The more well liked and competent a person is, the bigger the threat they are to an adult bully. If an adult bully is seeking attention, they will target people who receive the most attention and try to make them seem less valuable.
Adult bullies target people with differences from themselves, especially those who have high morals and integrity. Adult bullies usually have problems coping with their own problems and are desperately trying to find ways to make themselves look better by targeting other adults who they perceive will not fight back. Adult bullies seek out these people because they are less likely to retaliate against them. Adult bullies target people with vulnerabilities as well, such as inexperienced employees or older employees. If a new employee refuses to join an established clique or act a certain way, adult bullies target them. If new employees do not conform or have new and independent ideas, they also may be targeted.
Adult bullies target employees who have talents, strong friendships, or who are excelling because of jealousy and inadequacy issues. Adult bullies feel as though they have to victimize others because they are envious of their talents. Even though it would be easier to just work harder at developing their own talents, adult bullies seek to damage other people instead of working harder themselves.
Many adult bullies have had problems forming their own friendships their entire lives. Adult bullying is often overlooked and misunderstood in the workplace. While bullying among children is more common, adult bullying does take place.
(I started this file a couple of year ago and never posted it because I never finished it to my satisfaction, but I've decided it has enough helpful information on it to post as is. Steve Hein, March 2005)
I started noticing how mothers treated their children and teens around 1994 when I began to make mental notes on a mother in the neighborhood where I grew up. She had a daughter named Zoey. (1) The last time I saw Zoey she was 14 or 15. As a teen she was already more mature than her mother. Zoey and I had long talks about her mother, a single parent. Zoey could see how she acted hypocritically, inconsistently, irresponsibly and irrationally. Among other things, Zoey felt critical of her for the way she drank and acted with men. When Zoey told her mother what she thought of her behavior, the mother only got more defensive. In my 1996 book Zoey's mother was the subject in the following observation:
One day I heard a mother hurling imperatives at the family dog. "Get back here! Get over here! Get inside the house!" A few moments later her teenage daughter came outside and the mother began ordering her around in exactly the same tone of voice she had just used on the dog. EQ for Everybody, S. Hein, p 125
Since the creation of the EQI website in 1996 I have documented many examples of emotional abuse by mothers. While the organization of these examples is not yet complete, I've decided to publish a summary of what I have so far because I feel a responsibility to share it with the public. In particular, I was motivated by a book titled "Saving Jessie." This is a mother's account of her trying to "save" her daughter from a multi-year heroin addiction which began as a teen. Throughout the book the mother fails to take any responsibility for causing the pain which led Jesse directly to use the drug to try to numb this pain. By the mother's own words we see example after example of emotional abuse. It is the same kind of abuse I have seen in the homes of the suicidal and self-harming teens. But never before have I seen such a detailed account, written by a mother herself, of emotional abuse. The most troubling thing to me is that not only did this mother fail to see what she was doing, but I believe she is representative of most mothers who are convinced their teenagers are growing up in "loving, supportive" families.
I personally believe society has failed to see what is really going on in so many seemingly "good" homes -- homes where the material needs are met, but the emotional needs are not. I further believe society has vastly underestimated the damage done through emotional abuse. My conviction is that only when the prevalence of emotional abuse is recognized and addressed will teen suicide, self-harm and drug addiction be prevented. Till then the teens will simply be in too much emotional pain, pain which comes when their emotional needs are not being met over long periods of time.
It is my hope that my work will make a serious contribution to the body of knowledge on emotionally abusive mothers.
I've chosen to focus on mothers, rather than fathers, for several reasons.
First, most of the suicidal teens I talk to are being raised by mothers, so I have been able to collect more data on them. Second, more and more children and teens are being raised in single parent homes, where the mother is likely to have primary custody. Third, if there is abuse in the home, the fathers tend to be more physically (and sexually) abusive, while the mothers, though often physically abusive as well, tend to use verbal and non-verbal communication, such as silence, frowns and hate-filled faces, to do the damage. Also, women seem to have a special gift for vicious and toxic emotional attacks. As Shakespeare said, "Hell hath no fury like a women scorned."
What is an "Emotionally Abusive Mother"?
Generally, I don't like to use labels, but in this case the subject is important enough to try to define the term and create a profile of those who might fairly be called "emotionally abusive mothers". There are many degrees of abuse, so it may sometimes be difficult to say someone definitely "is" or "isn't" an emotionally abusive mother. Can a "good" mother sometimes be emotionally abusive? Yes, I believe so. What matters is the overall nature of the relationship with her children/teens. Though it may be difficult to achieve consensus on exactly what qualifies someone as an "emotionally abusive mother," we can at least try to arrive at some common characteristics.
In broad terms I would say an emotionally abusive mother is a mother who uses her son or daughter in an attempt to fill her own unmet emotional needs. This is similar to defining sexual abuse as someone who uses another person in order to fill their own sexual needs.
An emotionally abusive mother is a mother who uses her son or daughter in an attempt to fill her own unmet emotional needs.
By nature, women generally have instinctive needs to raise and nurture children. The fulfillment of these needs is natural and healthy. Emotional abuse occurs only when the mother attempts to use the child or teen to fulfill needs which are not consistent with those of an emotionally healthy adult. Emotional abuse occurs, in other words, when the mother tries to fill those needs of hers which normally would have already been filled during a healthy childhood and adolescence.
It might help to consider the distinction between the emotional needs of a child, of an adolescent and of an adult.
A child has a need to feel loved. A child has a need to feel secure. A child has a need to feel protected. A child has a need to feel approved of.
A teen has a need to feel independent and in control of himself and over his environment.
Both children and teens have a need to feel accepted and respected. Both children and teens have a need to feel appreciated and valued.
For the species to survive, the emotional needs of the adults must compliment those of the children. For example, while the child needs to feel loved, safe, secure, and protected, the adults must need to feel loving, non-threatening, secure, and protective. While the child needs to feel respected and accepted, the adults needs to feel respectful and accepting. While the child needs to feel appreciated, the adult needs to feel appreciative for the gift of nature that is called "their child."
If the mother did not feel adequately loved, safe, secure, protected, appreciated, valued, accepted and respected before giving birth, she will, in all likelihood, attempt to use the child (and later the teen) to fill these needs. If she did not feel adequately in control of her own life as a child and teen, she can be expected to try to control her son or daughter as compensation. This is the recipe for emotional abuse.
To fill her unmet need for respect, a mother might try to demand that her daughter "respect" her. To fill her unmet need to feel loved, the mother might try to manipulate the son into performing what she perceives as acts of love. To fill her unmet need to feel appreciated, the mother might try to spoil her daughter or she might constantly remind the daughter of all the things she does for her and all the sacrifices she makes for her.
Mothers are particularly adept at emotional manipulation. They are skilled in setting up their sons and daughters to fill their unmet emotional needs left over from childhood and adolescence. Ultimately, though, this arrangement fails. It is impossible for a son or daughter to fully meet the unmet childhood and adolescent emotional needs of the parent. A child or teen can not be the filler of someone else's needs when they have their own needs. This is a clear case of role reversal, the consequences of which are very serious.
A child in this situation feels overwhelmed, facing an impossible burden yet still trying his or her best to do the impossible. The child will necessarily feel inadequate as he fails to do the impossible. By the time the child is a teen, he will feel not only inadequate, but drained and empty. He will feel insecure and afraid of failure, disapproval, rejection and abandonment. The implicit, if not explicit, message has always been "if you don't fill Mother's needs, she will reject or abandon you."
The teenager will have also learned that it is is impossible to make mother happy. No matter what the teen has done to try to make her happy it is never enough. So the teenager starts to feel like a failure, or "failful" as opposed to successful. This shatters his or her self-esteem.
This, briefly, is the danger of the emotionally needy, and therefore, emotionally abusive mother.
One clear sign of an emotionally abusive mother is slapping the son or daughter in the face. I call slapping is emotional abuse because it is intended to intimidate more than to physically hurt. It leaves an emotional scar, not a physical one. It is usually designed to oppress unwanted opposition. It is, therefore, oppressive. Typically, a mother slaps her son/daughter in the face in response to their spoken words. Here is one example:
"Sally" "Sally" told me her mother slapped her around age 17. They were arguing about religion. "Sally" was questioning things too strongly and her mother could no longer give answers, so she slapped "Sally" in order to stop the pain of her questions. Perhaps the pain came from the fear that the her whole belief system might be based on myths and lies rather than science and truth. Whatever the case, "Sally"s mother did not want "Sally" to continue using her mind to question things and to search for real answers.
"Sally" is an intelligent woman and has a large need for understanding and to have her own voice and opinions heard. The mother, though, was too insecure with her belief system to help "Sally" fill those needs. Had the mother been more secure, she could have listened to "Sally" without feeling threatened. More than that, she could have helped her in her search for understanding. She also could have helped fill her needs to feel admired and approved of with a simple statement such as, "I don't know the answers to your questions. And honestly, I feel a little threatened by them and a little defensive. But they are good questions and I admire you for asking them. Keep asking questions, honey. It is the best way to learn, and to find out who feels secure enough to either give you real answers or admit that they don't know."
When we are insecure we feel a need to be in control. "Sally"'s mother felt out of control. She wanted the questions to stop. She needed them to stop. She felt desperate that they stop. And they did... once she slapped her daughter across the face. Clearly, it was her needs, not "Sally"'s, that took priority.
In this incident, we see how the mother's need to feel in control (and safe in terms of her religious beliefs) was not yet filled. The mother was using "Sally" to try to fill her own unmet childhood/adolescent emotional needs at the expense of her "Sally"'s need for understanding and need to be heard. This is what makes this slap in the face emotional abuse.
"Sally" is a pseudonym
Some abusive mothers will call slapping "discipline" or "correcting wrong behavior." Here is an actual story from my travels.
Does Slapping Teach Respect?
I just talked to a mother and father from Ireland. I said, "Since you are parents, I have a question for you about raising children. I just got this email from a friend of mine who is 18. She said her mother slapped her last week. She asked me what gives her mother the right to do this. She said that if she were not happy with someone at the store, she would not be able to reach out and slap the sales clerk. She said this would be illegal. It would be assault. What do you think about this?"
The mother answered by saying, "Well, you need to be able to correct your children." I then said, "I agree, but it seems to me that 18 is a bit old to still be slapping your child. What do you think?"
She said, "Well, yes, I suppose it is. If you haven't been able to teach your child respect by that age then there is probably something wrong."
I then said, "But is it really respect you are teaching, or fear? For example, if you respect me and I ask you to pass me the sugar, you probably will. But if I have been treating you disrespectfully, without respect for your feelings or needs, then you might tell me to get lost. You might even pull the sugar away from me so I can't reach it. On the other hand if I point a gun at you and say, "Will you please pass me the sugar?" you will probably pass me the sugar. But is this because you respect me or because you are afraid of me?"
She seemed to see my point, but said "I suppose you think it is never necessary to slap a child." I said, "I don't know. I don't have children myself." She then said, "Well, you have to teach them right from wrong."
Her teenage daughter was sitting there in silence the entire time. The look on her face told me she was too afraid to even look up from her meal. I suspected that she one of the things she had been "taught" by the mother, was never to voice her own opinion. To do so would be "wrong" and deserving of a slap to the face. In this way the daughter had indeed learned right from wrong, at least according to her mother.
- You understand their feelings, but they never attempt to understand yours;
- They dismiss your difficulties or issues as unimportant or an overreaction;
- They do not listen to you;
- They always put their needs before yours;
- They expect you to perform tasks that you find unpleasant or humiliating;
- You "walk on eggshells" in an effort not to upset them;
- They ignore logic and prefer amateur theatrics in order to remain the centre of attention;
- Instead manipulate you into feeling guilty for things that have nothing to do with you;
- They attempt to destroy any outside support you receive by belittling the people/ service/ practice in an attempt to retain exclusive control over your emotions;
- They never take responsibility for hurting others;
- They blame everyone and everything else for any unfortunate events in their lives;
- They perceive themselves as martyrs or victims and constantly expect preferential treatment.
Copyright 2002 Abuse List.
************************* WHAT IS EMOTIONAL ABUSE?
There is no universally accepted definition of emotional abuse. Like other forms of violence in relationships, emotional abuse is based on power and control. The following are widely recognized as forms of emotional abuse:
- refusing to acknowledge a person's presence, value or worth; communicating to a person that she or he is useless or inferior; devaluing her/his thoughts and feelings. Example: repeatedly treating a child differently from siblings in a way that suggests resentment, rejection or dislike for the child.
- insulting, ridiculing, name calling, imitating and infantilizing; behaviour which diminishes the identity, dignity and self-worth of the person. Examples: yelling, swearing, publicly humiliating or labelling a person as stupid; mimicking a person's disability; treating a senior as if she or he cannot make decisions.
- inducing terror or extreme fear in a person; coercing by intimidation; placing or threatening to place a person in an unfit or dangerous environment. Examples: forcing a child to watch violent acts toward other family members or pets; threatening to leave, physically hurt or kill a person, pets or people she / he cares about; threatening to destroy a person's possessions; threatening to have a person deported or put in an institution; stalking.
- physical confinement; restricting normal contact with others; limiting freedom within a person's own environment. Examples: excluding a senior from participating in decisions about her or his own life; locking a child in a closet or room alone; refusing a female partner or senior access to her or his own money and financial affairs; withholding contact with grandchildren; depriving a person of mobility aids or transportation.
- socializing a person into accepting ideas or behaviour which oppose legal standards; using a person for advantage or profit; training a child to serve the interests of the abuser and not of the child. Examples: child sexual abuse; permitting a child to use alcohol or drugs or see pornography; enticing a person into the sex trade.
denying emotional responsiveness
- failing to provide care in a sensitive and responsive manner; being detached and uninvolved; interacting only when necessary; ignoring a person's mental health needs. Examples: ignoring a child's attempt to interact; failing to show affection, caring and / or love for a child; treating a senior who lives in an institution as though she / he is an object or "a job to be done."
- Emotional abuse accompanies other forms of abuse, but also may occur on its own;
- No abuse - neglect, physical, sexual or financial - can occur without psychological consequences. Therefore all abuse contains elements of emotional abuse;
- Emotional abuse follows a pattern; it is repeated and sustained. If left unchecked, abuse does not get better over time. It only gets worse;
- Like other forms of violence in relationships, those who hold the least power and resources in society, for example, women and children, are most often emotionally abused;
- Emotional abuse can severely damage a person's sense of self-worth and perception;
- In children, emotional abuse can impair psychological development, including: intelligence, memory, recognition, perception, attention, imagination and moral development; and
- Emotional abuse can also affect a child's social development and may result in an impaired ability to perceive, feel, understand and express emotions.
HOW WIDESPREAD IS EMOTIONAL ABUSE?
Only a few studies provide insight about the prevalence of emotional abuse. Emotional abuse is difficult to research because:
- Its effects have only recently been recognized;
- There are no consistent definitions and it is hard to define;
- It is difficult to detect, assess and substantiate; and
- Many cases of emotional abuse go unreported.
- Chronic verbal aggression ranked as the second most prevalent form of mistreatment following material abuse.
FACTS TO CONSIDER
Emotional abuse of children can result in serious emotional and/or behavioural problems, including depression, lack of attachment or emotional bond to a parent or guardian, low cognitive ability and educational achievement, and poor social skills.
One study which looked at emotionally abused children in infancy and then again during their preschool years consistently found them to be angry, uncooperative and unattached to their primary caregiver. The children also lacked creativity, persistence and enthusiasm.
Children who experience rejection are more likely than accepted children to exhibit hostility, aggressive or passive-aggressive behaviour, to be extremely dependent, to have negative opinions of themselves and their abilities, to be emotionally unstable or unresponsive, and to have a negative perception of the world around them.
Parental verbal aggression (e.g., yelling, insulting) or symbolic aggression (e.g., slamming a door, giving the silent treatment) toward children can have serious consequences. Children who experience these forms of abuse demonstrate higher rates of physical aggressiveness, delinquency and interpersonal problems than other children. Children whose parents are additionally physically abusive are even more likely to experience such difficulties.
Children who see or hear their mothers being abused are victims of emotional abuse.
Growing up in such an environment is terrifying and severely affects a child's psychological and social development. Male children may learn to model violent behaviour while female children may learn that being abused is a normal part of relationships. This contributes to the intergenerational cycle of violence.
Many women in physically abusive relationships feel that the emotional abuse is more severely debilitating than the physical abuse in the relationship.
Repeated verbal abuse such as blaming, ridiculing, insulting, swearing, yelling and humiliation has long-term negative effects on a woman's self-esteem and contributes to feelings of uselessness, worthlessness and self-blame.
Threatening to kill or physically harm a female partner, her children, other family members or pets establishes dominance and coercive power on the part of the abuser. The female partner feels extreme terror, vulnerability and powerlessness within the relationship. This type of emotional abuse can make an abused woman feel helpless and isolated.
Jealousy, possessiveness and interrogation about whereabouts and activities are controlling behaviours which can severely restrict a female partner's independence and freedom. Social and financial isolation may leave her dependent upon the abuser for social contact money and the necessities of life.
Emotional abuse can have serious physical and psychological consequences for women, including severe depression, anxiety, persistent headaches, back and limb problems, and stomach problems.
Women who are psychologically abused but not physically abused are five times more likely to misuse alcohol than women who have not experienced abuse.
Senior abuse is still a new issue and there is still little research in this field on emotional abuse.
We do know that senior emotional abuse and neglect can be personal or systemic and that it occurs in a variety of relationships and settings, including abuse by:
- a partner;
- adult children or other relatives;
- unrelated, formal or informal caregivers; or
- someone in a position of trust.
Seniors who are emotionally abused may experience feelings of extreme inadequacy, guilt, low self-esteem, symptoms of depression, fear of failure, powerlessness or hopelessness. These signs may be easily confused with loss of mental capability so that a senior may be labelled as "senile" or "incapable" when in fact she or he may be being emotionally abused.
Abusers may often outwardly display anger and resentment toward the senior in the company of others. They may also display a complete lack of respect or concern for the senior by repeatedly interrupting or publicly humiliating her or him. Not taking into account a senior's wishes concerning decisions about her or his own life is an outward sign of abuse.
DETECTING EMOTIONAL ABUSE
Emotional abuse may be difficult to detect. However, personal awareness and understanding of the issue is key to recognizing it. The following indicators may assist in detecting emotional abuse.
possible indicators of emotional abuse
- low self-esteem;
- severe anxiety;
- failure to thrive in infancy;
- emotional instability;
- sleep disturbances;
- physical complaints with no medical basis;
- inappropriate behaviour for age or development;
- overly passive/compliant;
- suicide attempts or discussion;
- extreme dependence;
- inability to trust;
- other forms of abuse present or suspected;
- feelings of shame and guilt;
- frequent crying;
- overly passive/compliant;
- delay or refusal of medical treatment;
- discomfort or nervousness around caregiver or relative;
- substance abuse; and
- avoidance of eye contact.
Legal intervention in cases of child emotional abuse and neglect is governed by provincial and territorial child protection legislation.
All jurisdictions require that alleged or suspected child emotional abuse or neglect be reported to child protection authorities or the police. In some jurisdictions, failure to report child emotional abuse or neglect may result in a fine or imprisonment.
Emotionally abusive behaviour such as repeatedly following the other person or someone known to her or him; repeatedly communicating, directly or indirectly, with the other person or someone known to her or him; harassing the other person with telephone calls; besetting or watching the other person's house or place of work; and / or engaging in threatening conduct directed at the other person or a member of her or his family is criminal harassment.
These behaviours must cause a person to fear for her or his safety or the safety of someone she or he knows.
Other forms of emotional abuse such as insulting, isolating, infantilizing, humiliating, and ignoring, although serious, are not criminal behaviours and cannot be prosecuted.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
If you are being abused, remember:
-You are not alone;
- It is not your fault;
- No one ever deserves to be abused; and
- Help is available.
if you suspect/know someone is being abused
- Let the person know about available support services; and
- Report suspected or known child abuse or neglect to a child welfare agency or the police.
if you are a service provider:
Work with other organizations to:
- Increase awareness of emotional abuse;
- Address the needs of those who have been or are being emotionally abused; and
- Keep informed of resources and materials relating to intervention and prevention of abuse.
- 24 hour help-line or distress line;
- transition house or shelter;
- social service agency;
- child welfare or family services agency;
- legal aid service;
- health professional (e.g., nurse, doctor, dentist);
- community health centre;
- public health department;
- community counselling centre;
- home support agency;
- seniors' centre;
- community living association;
- friendship centre;
- religious/spiritual organization.
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF ABUSIVE MEN
72% of American suicides are committed by white males; black men prefer homicide. (This suggests white men blame themselves and black men blame others: white neurotics, black psychotics.) Prisons overflow with men, and juvenile detention centers teem with boys; remedial readers are, in 90% of cases, male, as are those diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, substance abusers, and the violent. Rates of injury are three times as high for males. The lives of men are eroded by frustration inhibition perversion.
A white collar drug addict remarked: My work is so boring that it's really hard to do it if you're not hung-over in some way. My friend tried to not do drugs for a while and he was, like, "This is a nightmare! I have to sleep eight hours a day! I'm tired all the time! I wake up and it takes me three hours to get up, and then I'm tired in the afternoon."
Men are dying of loneliness, and no one knows.
- from The Eclipse: A Memoir of Suicide by Antonella Gambotto
Here is a map of the layering of defensive reactions to the underlying feelings of abandonment typically found in Complex PTSD. This territory is best viewed through unwinding the dynamics of emotional flashbacks.
Flashbacks are at the deepest level painful layers of reactions - physiological, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral - to the reemerging despair of the childhood abandonment depression. One very common flashback-scenario occurs as follows: Internal or external perceptions of possible abandonment trigger fear and shame, which then activates panicky Inner Critic cognitions, which in turn launches an adrenalized fight, flight, freeze or fawn trauma response (subsequently referred to as the 4F's). The 4F's correlate respectively with narcissistic, obsessive-compulsive, or dissociative defensive reactions.
Here is an example of the layered processes of an emotional flashback. A complex PTSD sufferer wakes up feeling depressed. Because childhood experience has conditioned her to believe that she is unworthy and unacceptable in this state, she quickly becomes anxious and ashamed. This in turn activates her Inner Critic to goad her with perfectionistic and endangering messages. The critic clamors: "No wonder no one likes you. Get your lazy, worthless ass going or you'll end up as a wretched bag lady on the street"! Retraumatized by her own inner voice, she then launches into her most habitual 4F behavior. She lashes out at the nearest person as she becomes irritable, controlling and pushy (Fight/ Narcissistic) - or she launches into busy productivity driven by negative, perfectionistic and catastrophic thinking (Flight/Obsessive-Compulsive)- or she flips on the TV and becomes dissociated, spaced out and sleepy (Freeze/ Dissociative)- or she focuses immediately on solving someone's else's problem and becomes servile, self-abnegating and ingratiating (Fawn/Dependent). Unfortunately this dynamic also commonly operates in reverse, creating perpetual motion cycles of internal trauma as 4F acting out also gives the critic endless material for self-hating criticism, which in turn amps up fear and shame and finally compounds the abandonment depression with a non-stop experience of self-abandonment.
Here is a diagram of these dynamics: Triggered ABANDONMENT DEPRESSION -- FEAR & SHAME -- INNER CRITIC Activation: (Perfectionism & Endangerment) -- 4F's: (Fight, Flight, Freeze or Fawn Response).
Especially noteworthy here is how the inner critic can interact with fear and shame in a particular vicious and escalating cycle.
This article describes a treatment approach that decreases retraumatizing reactivity to the internal affects of the abandonment depression. It guides the client to meet abandonment feelings equanimously by staying somatically present to the physical sensations of depression and fear. This in turn promotes the ability to feel through abandonment experiences without launching into inner critic drasticizing and 4F acting out. R.D. Laing once stated that: "The only pain that can be avoided is the pain that comes from trying to avoid unavoidable pain". In my experience resisting unavoidable encounters with depression and fear accounts for more than the lion's share of the PTSD client's pain.
The etiology of a self-abandoning response to depression. Chronic emotional abandonment is one of the worst things that can happen to a child. It naturally makes her feel and appear deadened and depressed. Functional parents respond to a child's depression with concern and comfort; abandoning parents respond to it with anger, disgust and further abandonment, which in turn create the fear, shame and despair that become characteristic of the abandonment depression. A child who is never comforted when she is depressed has no model for developing a self-comforting response to her own depression. Without a nurturing connection with a caretaker, she may flounder for long periods of time in a depression that can devolve into The Failure to Thrive Syndrome. In my experience failure to thrive is not an all-or-none phenomenon, but rather a continuum that begins with excessive depression and ends in the most severe cases with death. Many PTSD survivors "thrived" very poorly, and perhaps at times lingered near the end of the continuum where they were close to death, if not physically, then psychologically. When a child is consistently abandoned, her developing superego eventually assumes totalitarian control of her psyche and carcinogenically morphs into a toxic Inner Critic. She is then driven to desperately seek connection and acceptance through the numerous processes of perfectionism and endangerment described in my article "Shrinking The Inner Critic in Complex PTSD" (see link for this article: Shrinking the Inner Critic). Her inner critic also typically becomes emotional perfectionistic, as it imitates her parent's contempt of her emotional pain about abandonment. The child learns to judge her dysphoric feelings as the cause of her abandonment. Over time her affects are repressed, but not without contaminating her thinking processes. Unfelt fear, shame and depression are transmuted into thoughts and images so frightening, humiliating and despairing that they instantly trigger escapist 4F acting out. Eventually even the mildest hint of fear or depression, no matter how functional or appropriate, is automatically deemed as danger-ridden and overwhelming as the original abandonment. The capacity to self-nurturingly weather any experience of depression, no matter how mild, remains unrealized. The original experience of parental abandonment devolves into self-abandonment. The ability to stay supportively present to all of one's own inner experience gradually disappears.
We can gradually deconstruct the self-abandoning habit of reacting to depression with fear and shame, inner critic "freak out", and 4F acting out. The processes awaken the psyche's innate, developmentally arrested capacity to respond amelioratively to depression and the fear and shame that attaches to it. It is a long difficult journey however, for even without attachment trauma, feelings of fear and depression are difficult to accept and weather.
The normalcy of depression
We live in a culture that judges fear as despicable, and depression as an unpatriotic violation of the "pursuit of happiness". Taboos about depression even emanate from the psychological establishment, where some schools strip it of its status as a legitimate emotion - dismissing it simplistically as mere negative thinking, or as a dysfunctional state that results from the repression of less taboo emotions like sadness and anger. I believe we must learn to distinguish depressed thinking - which can be eliminated - from depressed feelings - which must sometimes be felt.
Occasional feelings of enervation and anhedonia are normal and existential - part of the admission price to life. Moreover, depression is sometimes an invaluable harbinger of the need to slow down, to drop interiorly into a place that at least allows us to restore and recharge, and at best unfolds into our deepest intuitiveness. One recurring gift that typically comes cloaked in depression is an invitation to grow that necessitates relinquishing a formerly treasured job or relationship that has now become obsolete or moribund. Overreaction to depression essentially reinforces learned toxic shame. It reinforces the individual's notion that, when depressed, he is unworthy, defective and unlovable. Sadly this typically drives him deeper into abandonment-exacerbating isolation. Deep level recovery from childhood trauma requires a normalization of depression, a renunciation of the habit of reflexively reacting to it. Central to this is the development of a capacity to stay in one's body, to stay fully present to all internal experience, to stay acceptingly open to one's emotional, visceral and somatic experiences without 4F acting out. Renouncing this kind of self-abandonment is a journey that often feels frustratingly Sisyphean. It is a labor of self-love and a self-nurturing process of the highest order, but it can feel like an ordeal replete with unspectacular redundancy - with countless, menial experiences of noticing, naming and disidentifying from the unhelpful internal overreactions that depression triggers in us.
A relational approach to healing abandonment
I am a relational therapist, because I believe this journey requires reparative relational experience. Healing Complex PTSD and the attachment disorder that typically accompanies it is an interpersonal journey which needs to be initiated and shepherded by a therapist, partner or trusted friend who has the capacity to stay unreactively present to their own depression and the various affects that attach to it. When a therapist has this level of emotional intelligence, she can guide the client to gradually release the learned habit of automatic affect-rejection and overreaction. A key operation here appears to depend on the eye and ear contact of a bi-hemispheric brain process Daniel Siegel calls "the co-regulation of affect". Safe and empathic eye and voice connection with an individual with "good enough" emotional intelligence provides a working model and a "limbic resonance" to help her stay unreactively present to her depression and the fear that attaches to it. This, in turn, promotes the integration of right and left brain functioning - helping the client to feel and think simultaneously and egosyntonically. Moreover, as Susan Vaughan's book: The Talking Cure avers, such work appears to promote the development of the inner neural circuitry necessary to healthily manage and integrate depression and its attenuated affects.
Guiding the client into somatic mindfulness
Therapists can teach clients the practice of "paying" non-reactive, self-accepting attention to their own affects. Behaviorally, this entails staying aware of, focused on and present to the somatic experience of the abandonment depression. Typically, this process is indirect at first because depression so commonly and instantly morphs into the hyperaroused sensations of fear. Early work then primarily involves staying present to the kinesthetic sensations of fear and noticing the psyche's penchant to dissociate or distract from them. Dissociation can be either the classical right brain distraction of spacing out into reverie, fantasy, TV/computer trance, fogginess or sleep - or it can be the left brain, cognitive dissociation of becoming distracted in obsessive thinking. Particularly nefarious here is the inner critic's penchant for dissociating from and reacting to depression and fear with toxic cognitions and reveries of endangerment and perfectionism. Over and over, the client needs to be guided to rescue himself from dissociation (left and/or right), and to gently bring his awareness back into fully feeling and experiencing the sensations of his fear and noticing his reactions to it. Sensations of fear may range from simple tension and muscular tightness anywhere in the body, especially the alimentary canal - to nauseous, jumpy, wired feelings and shocks of electrification - to shortness of breath, hyperventilation and diarrhea, when it is at its worst. Although these sensations typically feel unbearable at first, persistent focusing on them with non-judgmental, non-eschewing awareness eventually lessens and quiets them. Held non-reactively enough, they are seemingly dissolved, digested and integrated by awareness itself.
It is important to note here that this type of kinesthetic focusing often triggers memories and unworked through feelings of grief about the client's abuse and neglect in his original abandonment. This provides many invaluable opportunities to ameliorate PTSD by more fully grieving the losses of childhood. Therapists can also use the results of such explorations to foster the creation of an egosyntonic and self-compassionate narrative that deconstructs the shame and self-blame the PTSD client typically assigns to her suffering. I describe a safe, efficacious process for this type of grief work in my book: The Tao Of Fully Feeling: Harvesting Forgiveness Out of Blame. With considerable practice, the client eventually begins to exhume, from his fear, an awareness of the more elemental, underlying sensations of depression - sensations exceedingly subtle and barely perceptible at first. These sensations are initially as difficult to stay present to as they are to find. With guided ongoing practice however, focused attending also digests them as they are integrated into consciousness. As practice becomes more proficient, these feelings and sensations of depression sometimes morph into a sense of peace, relaxation and ease. Such relaxation can even, over time, open into a continuum of inner peace that may stretch from profound equanimity to that place of unsurpassable peace that various Eastern pundits describe as the Great Void or Sublime Nothingness.
Inner Somatic Work
Therapeutic gains in diminishing automatic self-abandonment in the face of fear or depression are augmented by individual introspective work. In my personal discovery of this skill, I spent over an hour a day in meditation with my awareness yo-yo vacillating between my body and my mind - between tense sensations of fear and the myriad disturbing mentations of my inner critic. These drasticizing thoughts and visualizations were my critic's outmoded historical interpretations that my feelings and sensations meant that I was in imminent danger of the abandonment of attack or neglect. My critic excoriated me incessantly to strive for safety through productivity and perfection. In the first year of this practice I frequently had to white-knuckle the handles on my chair to stay somatically present to my feelings - to break my adrenalin addiction, to stop myself from launching into my preferred 4F flight response. I had survived my childhood with ADHD-like busyness - with marathons of activity that kept me one step ahead of my fear- and shame-stained depression. Gradually as I used my focused awareness to digest my fear, I experientially discovered the rock bottom underlying core sensations of my abandonment depression itself. Over and over I focused on sensations of heaviness, swollenness, exhaustion, emptiness, hunger, longing, soreness, ache-iness, deadness. Sometimes these sensations were intense, but more often they were very subtle. With time I noticed how instantly my depression scared me and lead me to echo my parents' toxic shaming: "You're bad, worthless, useless, defective, ugly, despicable". Blessedly, with ongoing practice, I gradually learned to disidentify from the toxic vocabulary of the critic. I found myself more accurately naming these revisited childhood feelings: "Small, helpless, lonely, unsupported, unloved, needy" (as in profoundly unsuccessful in getting my needs for emotional comfort met).
Feelings of depression sometimes mimic gnawings of hunger, especially the emotions of abandonment which commonly masquerade as physiological sensations. Feeling very hungry a hour or two after a big meal is an almost certain signal of abandonment feelings and not real hunger. As much as this hunger appears to be about food, it is actually an emotional hunger - an emotional longing for safe, nurturing connection and for the satiation of abandonment. Even after a decade of practice, I still find it difficult to differentiate this type of attachment hunger from physical hunger. One, often, reliable clue is that the sensation of longing for the nourishment of attachment is usually in my small intestine, while physical hunger's locus is a little higher up in my stomach. (I believe the extreme longing for sex and/or love typical of sex and love addiction can similarly be an encounter with our abandonment depression, especially when no amount of affection or sexual attention from another seems to fill the void of longing).
On a parallel with false hunger, feeling tired is sometimes an emotional experience of the abandonment depression, and entirely unrelated to sleep deprivation - although over time the two can easily become confusingly intertwined. The emotional tiredness of not resting enough in the comfort of safe attachment and belonging, often masquerades as physiological tiredness. When our abandonment depression is unremediated, any kind of tiredness - emotional or physical - commonly triggers us into fear, which the inner critic translates into endangerment and imperfection, and the accompanying adrenalization launches us into one of the 4F responses.
It is a sad irony that reacting to emotional tiredness in this way can eventually exacerbate it into real physical exhaustion via a process I call the The Cyclothymic Two-Step. PTSD sufferers with a primary or secondary flight response frequently overreact to their tiredness with workaholic or busyholic action. They run so compulsively from their depression, that they eventually exhaust themselves physically, and at times become too depleted or sick to continue running. When this occurs, they collapse into an experience of abandonment so painful, that they re-launch desperately into "flight" speed at the first sign of replenished adrenalin. I have witnessed a number of such clients misdiagnose themselves as bipolar because of the extremes that ensue from desperately pursuing the adrenalin high and eschewing the abandonment low.
Adrenalization often becomes addictive because it self-medicates and counteracts the emotional tiredness that emanates from undigested and unworked through abandonment feelings. Especially noteworthy here is the endless and expensive journey that many survivors undergo trying to remedy emotional tiredness with physiologically-based medical treatments. Even worse, the short-lived (if any) improvements of such an approach increasingly augments the shame and self-hate of the sufferer over time: "What's wrong with me. I've changed everything in my diet and in my sleep and exercise schedule. I've seen every type of practitioner imaginable and I am still waking up feeling dead tired." It is a subtle, hard acquired skill, but learning to self-compassionately focus on the inexorable somatic experiences of sometimes feeling tired, bad, lonely, or depressed is the only way out of this cul-de-sac of self-destructive and unwarranted efforting. In this regard, the notable AA 12 Step acronym, HALT - Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired - can remind us to stop and pause introspectively to determine whether our abandonment depression has been triggered and needs the quiet, internal, self-compassionate attention described above.
We can sometimes gain motivation for this difficult work by seeing our depressed feelings as messages from our developmentally arrested child who is flashing back to his abandonment in hopes that his adult self will respond to him in a more comforting, compassionate and appropriate way.
Through such practice, clients can gradually achieve the healing that the Buddhists call separating necessary suffering (normal depression) from unnecessary suffering (the internal hopelessness, shame and fear, and the life-constricting acting out that ensues from unnecessary engagements with the critic and the 4F's).
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