The warning Signs of Hidden Emotional, Psychological, and Narcissistic Abuse
This blog may trigger you. And I am okay with that, because my main intention in writing this is in hopes it reaches the women who need this wake up call. Please share this blog on your social media channels, with other therapists, even your therapist, or with any friends or family you are concerned about. This information needs to be spread.
You can also find the accompanying podcasts Episode 100 & 102 here.
I have been working with women in my counselling and coaching practice for over 6 years, and some of that work has been helping them identify emotionally unhealthy, even abusive behavior happening behind closed doors with their intimate partners.
Some women come to me telling me they are depressed, exhausted with Adrenal Fatigue, feeling low in motivation, and have a long list of other mystery health symptoms that nothing they are doing nutritionally, with supplements, or naturopathic care will touch.
As we get into the therapeutic process, she says things about certain behaviors, dynamics or interactions with her partner, or explains her feelings toward how he behaves that lead to warning bells going off.
Even more unbelievable, I can intuit this on an unseen level before we even meet for the first time. This has happened so many times, that I can no longer deny it.
If this is part of what is identified as her root cause issue, I then recommended resources, books, and websites for her to research herself, hoping I am wrong, always hoping I am wrong.
Sadly there are nowhere near enough mental health professionals out there who are even somewhat aware of the twisted dynamics that are happening in covert, psychologically, and emotionally abusive relationships THEIR clients are in.
Often it’s the ones who have lived through such experiences themselves that are able to sniff it out early in the process, and have the insight into what is really going on for their clients.
This is one of the reasons why couples therapy can be more damaging than healing with the wrong counsellor. In fact, couples counselling is not recommended if there is any type of abuse going on, unless it is with a very skilled practitioner that knows how to facilitate this type of work.
Even then, I recommend both partners get their own individual help from a therapist that knows these dynamics well.
If you are the woman, you need to get empowered and crystal clear on what you have been living with, and what your part of the dynamic is, and have support in place for your own emotional needs through the process.
And if your partner recognizes his behavior is wrong, and wants to change he will need to commit to at least 1-2 years of intensive therapy with a specialized professional that helps him deal with his own inner wounds and change his thoughts, feelings and behaviors, and then a life time commitment to growth.
If there is emotionally abusive behavior going on in a woman’s relationship, and an unaware therapist recommends interventions that might work for those in non-abusive relationships, this allows the abusive behavior to continue since the therapist isn’t treating the real root cause of the issues.
The woman may even spend years in therapy, believing she is the broken one. The depressed f*cked up one, that isn’t responding to treatment!
This is what the emotionally abusive partner has planted in her head, and she has come to believe it. Meanwhile, the damage continues, and the pain carries on.
It is similar to the work I do with women who have Adrenal Fatigue. They go to their doctor because they are feeling depressed, and are put on medications to suppress the symptoms, meanwhile the root cause (chronic emotional stress from their relationship and adrenal dysfunction) are still growing underneath.
This is why I have decided to start sharing and writing more about this topic, because I am all about treating the root cause of illness. I am also passionate about empowering women.
I also don’t want one woman who is feeling alone to not know what is happening to her.
The effects of living with a toxic, dysfunctional partner on a woman’s health is too massive to overlook. I have an Instagram account dedicated to spreading awareness and education around all of this, in an effort to wake women up to the truth that is making them sick. You can find me on both of my accounts @leanne.oaten and @awakeningwomensupport
It has been said that all people who are physically abusive are narcissists, but not all narcissists are physically abusive. If you recognize any of these 10 signposts, I urge you to do your research online about narcissistic abuse. These signs I am covering are a cluster of common behaviors and patterns present in covert narcissistic abuse.
Note: while I am not one to label things, some of the wording that I use may trigger you. I intertwine abuse, toxic, manipulative, narcissistic, and emotional abuse in my writing. In this case, In order for you to be able to make sense of this in your mind, it is important to label what is going on. I am more concerned that you get the seriousness of the situation than using nice words. You can choose to replace anything you don’t align with as far as wording with a word that feels right to you, being aware of possibly being in denial of the truth. Also I write for women, but of course these dynamics can happen with any gender. So again, take what fits for your situation.
There is a spectrum, and many nuances and levels of narcissism, from having a few traits to full blown narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), so don’t rule this out based on some of what you may have already heard about this disorder. Get the whole picture. A word of caution: If you are in immediate physical danger, your priority is to get yourself (and any children) away to safety immediately. If you are not, then take this time to educate yourself and identify the problem, from there form a plan moving forward.
10 Warning Signs of an Abusive Relationship
- Gas lighting, Blame Shifting, Stonewalling: You share your feelings about something he said, did, or how he behaved or hurt you, and why it’s a problem for you, and he throws the blame on to you saying things like: “why do you always have to make a big deal out of little things”? or “What about last month when you _______”? or worse yet, “stop fighting with me”, “you’re crazy, that didn’t happen”, or “I lied so that you wouldn’t get mad at me” (when you catch him in a lie). You continue to try and get closure or understanding about the incident, and he suddenly shuts down the conversation, refusing to speak to you anymore.
- Chronic Anxiety and Fear: You feel like you have to walk on egg shells. You can predict something your partner is going say about a particular thing (a criticism) and it is almost always exactly how he responds. You worry about if he will complain about the dishes in the sink, or the mess the kids left around or some other thing. You feel a sense of dread when you know he is coming home. Perhaps you get a racing heart when he is in reactive mode, or you get a stomach or back ache when he’s in your energy space. Pay attention to your body signals. Your body is the barometer!
- Repeated Frequent Boundary Violations: You set a boundary, say that it hurts or upsets you, and the behavior keeps happening. You think he gets it, and yet he continues with those exact behaviors. You are starting to question yourself, and your ability to get your point across. Asking yourself if he got it wrong, or you weren’t clear enough. Perhaps he even taunts or makes fun of you when you try to assert yourself. This is a HUGE red flag. A healthy person that respects you will NEVER make fun of your boundaries. They will honor them and feel true remorse for having hurt you.
- Projecting: They behave abusively toward you, and when you bring it up, they tell you that you are the abusive one, because of how you react to their abusive behavior.
- Crazy-making, Brain Washing (also known as Gas lighting as above): Your partner says or does something that is upsetting, you bring it to their attention, and they deny your reality and perceptions of situations, and make you doubt yourself, feel confused, or like you must be going crazy. You did see what you saw, and heard what you heard…didn’t you?
- You feel confused…a lot. And find yourself wondering if your partner actually loves and cares for you. One minute they’re the man you fell in love with in the beginning, and the next they are mean, cutting, critical and cruel. This is the mean/nice cycle of behavior that leaves you wondering if it must be you with the problem.
- You Feel like the Broken One: You are the one reading all the (relationship and personal growth) books, taking courses, seeing therapists and working on self healing and self growth – and he is not. Often, this is because the dysfunctional person doesn’t see anything wrong with themselves, or that they need to change, yet the partner on the receiving end of the abusive behavior is trying to feel better, thinking it must be them that is the broken one. But in fact, they are more than aware, emotionally self aware and intelligent women! They are working to heal the wounds inflicted by their partner.
- Mood Ups and Downs: You’re depressed, having panic attacks, and isolate yourself from the outside world.
- Your Health is Suffering: You are experiencing unrelenting health issues. Some of the most common ones related to these emotionally stressful dynamics are Adrenal Fatigue, hormone imbalances, period problems, thyroid and autoimmune conditions, and breast issues. On the extreme end, even cancer of feminine organs or cysts can be related to being in a toxic, abusive relationship.
- You are always doubting yourself. “Is it really that bad”? “Am I just being ungrateful”? “Am I asking too much”? “Am I high maintenance”? “Am I just being difficult and hard to please”? (Just like he says you are). “Is it really me with the problem”? These are signs you have been brainwashed into believing YOU are the problem, and he isn’t. Remember: Psychopaths do not recognize they are dysfunctional, and have little awareness or insight into the harm they cause. If you are asking yourself “is it me”? you can rest assured, it probably isn’t. While none of us is perfect, it is quite possible any issues you are having, are a result of living in this dynamic!
Tips for what to do next if you identify with any of these patterns:
- Research, Research, Research. Read and listen to many different experts views to pick up a general common theme. Read blogs, go on forums of others who have overcome this themselves, search up videos on YouTube. Getting perspectives from many sources will help you make a well formed assessment of your situation, and get a big picture view of what is going on, versus just reading one article and ruling it out. I recommend finding whatever you can get your hands on to educate yourself about this. Take the time to do your research. Your life is the cost if you don’t. Awareness of the problem is the first step toward healing.
- Be gentle with yourself: You may feel ashamed, guilty, sad, angry, full of rage, even relieved to know it isn’t you, and you aren’t the crazy one! Allow yourself to feel it all. The process from the light bulb moment of awareness to healing isn’t linear. Be gentle with yourself if you identified with any of these 10 toxic dynamics. Don’t go back to sleep! Stay aware and awake. It is tempting to want to go back into denial and rationalize the truth. But stay vigil.
- Get Support: Prioritize your self care, emotional health, and well – being. Take lots of time to be quiet and reflective. You many not want to spend time with people who don’t understand, or know what you have been going through. Choose who you confide in very carefully. It is best to have a professional for this purpose to get perspective, and one trustworthy friend you can count on.
- Keep an evidence journal: Record events that seem and feel like any of the above I have covered. You will begin notice a predictable cycle emerge. (see image below).
- Learn the cycle of abuse. This is so important to helping you see that YOU aren’t the problem, and you aren’t crazy. Researching extensively this topic alone will give you all you need to see more clearly what is happening to you.
You are not a victim. You are a Warrior.
Let go of the idea you are a victim, this is not empowering to hold this vision of yourself and it will not serve you.
In truth, it is the smart, talented, intelligent, magnetic, sensitive, emphatic souls who attract such personalities. Because they want what they don’t have within themselves!
You might be reeling right now, and I assume if you clicked on this article, there is a part of you that needed this awakening.
Of course, one trait listed may be as simple as getting your partner on board to work on his end in therapy with a professional that understands these dynamics, that can work at the emotional- behavioral level. However, if you recognize many of these, be aware, you are more than likely in an emotionally /psychologically abusive relationship.
Do not fool yourself with rationalizations that he doesn’t know he’s doing it, or that he is just stressed, or is going through a hard time, or that he had a bad childhood.
Abuse is abuse. And, likely you have already tried to make him see what he is doing, and yet he is not willing to see it himself..or to do the work to change.
If you are ready to get empowered and start your healing journey, I invite you to book a consultation. Let’s get you in a place where you can take empowered action that is right for you.
Leanne Oaten, Holistic Therapist | Adrenal Fatigue Recovery Specialist for Women