The Many Faces of an Emotional Abuser Part 2

Often things are as bad as they seem. Sheldon Kopp

Emotional abusers typically do not use physical force to trample their victims. They do not have to when they have so much more effective tools of destruction in hand. A good abuser can use words of humiliation, shame, and hatred coupled with the silent treatment and threats to far greater advantage. Bruises heal in a matter of days but devastation of the soul can take a lifetime to heal; the best abusers trample their victim's soul to the ground and then yell, "What is wrong with you? Get up and get a life. You are so pathetic!"

Emotional abuse is used to weaken the victim's resolve and to increase the abuser's power. If your partner attempts to publicly humiliate you, gives you the silent treatment, or intimidate you then s/he is an emotional abuser! His goal is to destroy your soul for his own benefit.

These are common forms of emotional abuse:

Public Humiliation

Do you often feel shame or like you are not good enough for your partner because of the public humiliation he heaps on you? Does he publicly insult you in such a way that if you did muster the courage to defend yourself then you would look petty or weak?

Artfully used ridicule is almost always public and makes fun of the inner soul; it cuts straight to the victim's soft spots. It is cutting and dehumanizing and is often followed by the words, "I was just kidding."

I remember my abusers favorite form of public humiliation. Imagine sitting in a formal restaurant with your abuser, his co-workers and their wives. He artfully leads the conversation to sex and then outlines his sexual woes. It begins with, "I never get any, " and goes downhill from there. How to defend? Should the victim respond sweetly? "Remember dear? We enjoyed one another every night this week?"

Should she respond with equal venom? "Why would I bother with the 2 minute wonder?"

His defense at the end of the evening? "I was only kidding. Lighten up."

Public humiliation is all about shame. With each incident of shame the victim feels less significant and more isolated from the people who do care about her.

The best abuser will set up situations in which there is no gracious recourse. Humiliation is best carried out in public, over time, and is tremendously damaging.

The Silent Treatment

The silent treatment is another highly effective form of emotional abuse. It is a punishment used by abusers to make their victims feel unimportant and completely unloved. It is a means of avoiding discussing feelings, resolving conflicts or creating intimacy within the relationship. The silent treatment speaks as loudly as words and is one of the most effective forms of emotional abuse. It is used to keep the victim at bay so that no thoughts, feelings, or opinions are shared.

Sometimes the silent treatment is implemented to punish the victim. Instead of resolving conflict the abuser chooses to withhold all conversation from the victim. He might justify this act by saying that he needed some space, he was feeling depressed and did not want to drag you down with him, or that he did not want to fight.

The first significant silent treatment I endured was invoked in response to a haircut. It lasted 5 days and was absolutely impenetrable. It was not the only silent treatment I endured but it was the most painful. I keenly felt the humiliation of pleading for words and acceptance. When the abuser chooses to speak again he expects his victim to respond with warmth and to pretend that nothing happened.

The silent treatment is more often used as a long term pattern of withholding. Some words are spoken but the abuser is careful that the words remain at the "exchange of information" level of communication. He is careful to avoid connecting with his partner at a deeper level. This creates feelings of isolation and profound loneliness within the relationship.


Threats are also used by the emotional abuser to exert control over his victim. The goal of intimidation is to make the victim feel unsafe, vulnerable, and insecure. Some threats are overt while other threats are veiled.

I cringed at the words, "I ought to smack you," or "Shut up before I turn you over my knee." but my real terror was the result of more veiled threats. The menacing glances, the threats of taking my children from me, and flaunting of weapons.

The emotional abuser rarely needs to carry out his threats. The control he wields through his partner's terror is far stronger than a physical assault. My abuser's threats resulted in terrifying nightmares, anxieties, and fear of stepping outside of the bounds he set for me. He rarely lifted a hand against me. His threats were enough to keep me in line.

The emotional abuser has a whole arsenal of tools in his bag designed to tear your soul. More tools will be discussed in Emotional Abuse Part 3.

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Comments 13 comments

Mary Stuart profile image

Mary Stuart 4 years ago from Washington Author

Hi Kathi,

I am so happy my experiences might help someone else avoid the pain of living with a narcissist. It can be pretty devastating. My own narcissist employed the silent treatment strategy routinely. One time he went 11 days without speaking to me because I cut my bangs. The first silent treatment hurt the most; I think I became rather numb to them over time. I do not personally know your situation but from what you described you will likely be better off if you move on. No one deserves to be treated so poorly. I wish you well.

Kathi 4 years ago

I am in my third silent treatment since a few days and finally found this page and realized what happens to me since a year!! Thank you , I am so relieved!

It started so slowly and nicely, he can be the most charming man in this world (women fall for him one after another) but after some while he started to control me and I realized he is a real narcissist. Difficult to come out of it, as we have been close friends, partners and working together on several projects. But I am a strong woman and wont let him use me like this anymore. He will not change so I have to change and move on in terms of not letting this behavior control my life and feelings anymore and finally close our relationship which is more a kind of an affair anyhow.

Every example that is given here, that's him!! Silent treatment over and over again, even after a haircut he did not agree with there was silent and only the sentence "I hope you don´t look terrible with the new hair." Making jokes about me; one day kind next day cruel; confuses me in my morals; acting as if he is the only person in this world who can help me in my carrer; and of course talks about himself most of the time. And the funniest: he is very fast in commiting, was asking me after a few months if I want to marry him and that he wants children. I don´t want, but he can't accept that and has this goal in his mind to make me his wife. No chance, I will never be and move on. Thank you so so so much for sharing, that safed my life in the long term as I have still all my close friends and family members left, which he tried to make me feel bad about!!! ....he has no real friend by the way, what a wonder. Only woman after woman it seems.

Mary Stuart profile image

Mary Stuart 4 years ago from Washington Author

Oh my! How embarrassing! My ex used to say outlandish things like that, too. He loved making outrageous comments concerning our sex life to his boss or to church groups. He would not make comments very often in large groups but would begin talking about my inadequacies in small group settings. he would do it in such a way as to wine sympathies of sweet older ladies who would then privately chastise me for not taking care of my husband. Little did they know that the sweet man who gained their sympathies was so cruel behind closed doors. I think a bonus of what you went through with your abuser is that he truly made himself out to be a fool with that comment! I hope you know that the entire group viewed him as the fool. His comments are not a reflection of you; they are a reflection of his bad character.

I hope you find your way free of him in the next few months. You deserve much, much better!

jaffini 4 years ago

Wow....your example hit home. I worked for a recording studio and we were up for an award for a radio commercial we produced. The boss bought a table at the formal banquet for the entire staff and spouses/significant others. Before our entry was shown there was a slide show and one of the pictures was of the back end of an elephant knee-deep in a pond. My husband say, "Hey look! There's Jan!" Dead silence at the table. I was mortified and upset and whispered that I didn't appreciate that. He loudly replied that I should know that he didn't really feel that way about me, then he pushed away from the table and stormed out of the room. I didn't know how I was going to get home because he had the car keys. Eventually he returned. It was always my fault I got my feelings hurt.

Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina

I was in a relationship with a guy once who gave me the silent treatment when he was mad. I thought that was so childish. Needless to say, the relationship soon ended. He was a recovering alcoholic filled with unresolved anger which he liked to displace on those around him.

Mary Stuart profile image

Mary Stuart 4 years ago from Washington Author

I, too, have narrowed my relationships down to the positive ones. Life is too short to volunteer for pain. Truly there are many wonderful people in the world. Be friends with encouraging, kind people. They will fill your life with plenty of love and scads of happiness.

Gareth Pritchard profile image

Gareth Pritchard 4 years ago from North Wales

Hi Mary,

You are welcome to my comments and when I say hardly any relationships it just means I have narrowed them down to a very small group of the best friends in the world, apart from my family. All that was yesterday, I took a bit of a nose dive down memory lane but went to bed and its gone back into the past. On a more positive note I could not be happier than I am at the present and as for hanging in there I have been doing it for the past 51 years so worries on that one.

Thank you for your time and thoughtful Hubs, Gareth.

Mary Stuart profile image

Mary Stuart 4 years ago from Washington Author

Hi Gareth,

Thank you for your comments. I certainly do understand about good abusers being witty and charming. I have repeatedly witnessed the victim lose her whole social structure when she leaves her abuser. The abuser puts on the puppy dog act and is surrounded by sympathetic souls. Go figure! It was very painful in the early years to have lost everyone and everything. I think it all works out eventually. You just have to claw your way out and create a new, safe life. Hang in there! There are great people in the world.

Gareth Pritchard profile image

Gareth Pritchard 4 years ago from North Wales

Hi Mary,

Am I out of my tough situation? Ha, ha, interesting question, is anybody who has had dealings with such mind benders, I wounder. I am not in any relationships with hardly anybody and now it is me who is very careful, so careful I will not be getting into another relationship with the opposite sex, ever and I have no incline for my own sex, so you could say I am a shelf-er for life. Although I wish mother nature would leave me alone especially as spring is in the air, ha, ha.

But the female 15% make up for their lack in number, of the known ones, I have developed a very acute awareness for these types of people and they are either on the increase or I have become hyper vigilant which might be true. I spent the bigger part of my life not knowing what it was, so now in hindsight I think I can see a great deal better, two I have lived with but have been around many more. In fact I would say I nearly had a breakdown because of two, male and female, playing together in career enhancement.

Try explaining to somebody else about something you have no idea about and do not know how to describe it, when they think your your mad because these people are so charming, quick, witty and lethal. Males make the mistake of using psychical as well as emotional tools so are more easily detectable, whereas females actually have great success in making the male seem like the abuser. Imagine being really, really, angry because its about the millionth time they have done it to you and trying to be calm, rational and composed. In the presence of other people knowing that they know what they are doing and anybody else around you don't but those around you with half a sense can see the steam coming out of your ears, who looks like the abuser.

That's all I got to say for the time being, I don't know if I should say thanks because 3 hours ago you put me in a nice place with a comment you made on a hub I made and now I feel like shit.

Thanks anyway because you didn't do this, Gareth did.

Mary Stuart profile image

Mary Stuart 4 years ago from Washington Author

Hi Gareth,

I am so sorry you had to live with a narcissist. That is very, very challenging. It robs you of your own soul over time. My experience with narcissism revealed that it is almost unheard for a narcissist to heal. The wounding is so deep that the only hope for the relationship to survive is for the partner to have the strength to battle her narcissist day and night. He can't give up; to do so would be his psychological death. I simply did not have the strength to remain in active combat. I was so worn out that I could barely out one foot in front of the other. It was tough! I understand, too, that the female narcissist is even worse than her male counterparts. Fully 85% of all narcissists are men but the female 15% make up for their lack in number by being absolutely impossible to deal with.

Are you out of your tough situation?

Gareth Pritchard profile image

Gareth Pritchard 4 years ago from North Wales

Hi Mary,

I fully understand the effect of emotional abuse having lived with at least two female narcissists not particularly clinical narcissists, trying to get the medical profession to even consider the challenge is near impossible. That's before you try to deal with the narcissist whilst being emotionally involved and hurting in every way you can emotionally. I also have to say that I think the female narcissist is far more deadly than the male in this department and chose there victims very carefully.

Thank for this and i look forward to the rest, Gareth.

Mary Stuart profile image

Mary Stuart 4 years ago from Washington Author

Thank you. I hope to increase awareness of emotional abuse and its devastating effects on a woman's soul. So many people think that getting hit is the worst that can happen. While being punched is bad it is not the worst. Bruises and broken bones heal; I am none too certain that destruction of the soul will ever completely heal.

louiseelcross profile image

louiseelcross 4 years ago from UK

Very good and explained well.

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