stop emotional abuse

How To Stop Emotional Abuse Through Learning The Games Abusers Play

Part 3 of the Blog Series: Can We Stop Emotional Abuse?

In Part 1 and Part 2 of Can We Stop Emotional Abuse we learned that the reason so many people give up trying to stop emotional abuse is because they often lack the understanding of what drives an emotional abuser to hurt those around them.

We also took a guided tour through the mind of the emotional abuser and explored some important insights about why we experience so much pain when we are subjected to emotional abuse. We discovered that it was our natural fear of social rejection, expressed in its most extreme form, that drives the emotional abuser’s destructive behavior.

Emotional abusers are people that find themselves unable to trust others to accept them despite their flaws. Much like a dictator, they choose instead to enforce our loyalty through shows of dominance and aggression which seem like a safer bet to the abuser than trust.

This behavior is a defense mechanism that runs on a subconscious level to protect the abuser from humiliation of potential rejection. The defense mechanism that emotional abusers use is so unique and so specific that it can be easily tracked. As we look carefully at this defense mechanism, we find that the way emotional abusers get to us is through triggering our own subconscious fears around others’ negative judgment of us.

All the abuser needs to do to shake our sense of confidence is to get us to believe that we may not be good enough in some area to be accepted by our peers. They do this by ignoring a certain set of unspoken rules that almost all cultures share. These rules are in place to protect each one of us from our natural fear of rejection. The rules tell us that we must place a great deal of focus on convincing those who we engage with that we find them acceptable. We must convince them in our choice of words and our body language that we will not reject them.

If we look carefully at our behavior around others we will find that social interaction consists of continual reciprocal positive shows of assurance. We will find that each of us makes sure that our negative judgment of others is kept private so that we don’t upset each others’ delicate sensibility around this area. We use positive feedback in all of our responses as we play down anything that might be interpreted as negative judgment.

The emotional abuser need only withhold this extra assurance that we give each other to unnerve us and make us feel uncomfortable. To make us feel bad, the abuser can instead arouse our suspicions that we may not be acceptable to others. To instill a great deal of pain and discomfort they can simply disobey the rules of social etiquette altogether and say negative things about us. Because we are not aware that we need this extra assurance to make us feel safely accepted, we will not fully grasp how the abuser has hurt us. Because we are not sure what has hurt us, we are left helplessness to defend ourselves and without the clues necessary to show us how to stop emotional abuse.

The abuser soon finds that when they withdraw the assurance that we are used to giving each other to make sure we all feel accepted, they can shake the confidence of even the most assured person. This provides an easy way for the abuser to feel the sense of power over others which they need in order to keep their own extreme social fears of rejection at bay.

Moving Towards The Solution

In Part 3 of this series we will be addressing the specific tactics that an emotional abuser uses to make us feel like others might reject us. We will look at seven different qualities that an emotional abuser will try to make us feel we are deficient in.

These are the qualities that people tend to associate with high social ranking and social acceptance. The abuser’s goal will always be to make us question some aspect of our social attractiveness to others. They will always try to instill the same kind of fear into us which they are themselves trying to escape from. These are the qualities you will learn to identify in order to understand how to stop emotional abuse. They are the seven qualities of social attractiveness that the emotional abuser wants you to believe you are lacking:

The Seven Qualities of Social Attraction

Physical Attractiveness
Sexual attractiveness
Social skills

Although these seven traits tend to play an important role in our acceptance of others, we don’t actually need to excel in any of these areas in order to be socially accepted. They are only surface qualities that make us look more attractive from the outside. They don’t, however, have enough substance to make us more socially valuable to others.

The real social assets that define our true worth to others have to do with our ability to abide by the social rules of our society and include honesty, integrity and the ability to recognize others’ needs as being equally important as our own. To sum it up, our social worth is defined by how well we treat others, not on our outer social appearance.

We can easily demonstrate that the seven qualities that the emotional abuser tries to get us to believe are important do not actually define our social worth. All we need to do is take note of the many notorious cons who throughout history have finely honed these seven qualities in order to fool people into acceptance so they could take advantage of them.

Many of these famous cons were physically and sexually attractive, seemed smart and competent, had great social skills, and could fit into any social circles with ease. They used their ability to exhibit these qualities to get others to accept them under false premises.

Most of us know that an abundance of any of these seven qualities, although they may make us shine more brightly, do not enhance our worth to others. But for some reason we don’t seem to be able to shake the childhood fear that without these qualities, we will be the ones chosen last for the schoolyard team, or worse, that we will become the adult version of the unfortunate child who was socially rejected or ridiculed for lacking these qualities.

We often find ourselves worrying about whether our bodies look good enough, whether we are attractive enough to compete with others in our social circles, or whether others will think we are smart enough or competent enough. And although most of us would never judge another person based on these surface characteristics, we remain irrationally afraid that others will rely on these criteria to reject us.

The Cycle Of Emotional Abuse

The emotional abuser has an extra added helping of insecurity. They carry around the childhood fear of social ridicule. Although most of us can easily work through our natural fear of rejection and find a sense of faith that others will accept us, the emotional abuser cannot.

The extra helping of insecurity was often instilled in the abuser by a caretaker who themselves were too insecure to trust. This caretaker would have used control and fear, criticism and rejection to enforce instead of earn the child’s loyalty. This individual, if they do not consciously break the cycle, will often use the same tactics on others that were used on them in their adult life.

We are now going to explore these adult tactics which you will find mirror exactly the taunts of the schoolyard from your childhood. As we revisit these seven qualities let’s now take a look at the categories again, this time with the schoolyard taunt that corresponds to each quality so you can see for yourself that these tactics are still very much in play in our adult lives.

Physical Attractiveness (You are ugly)
Sexual attractiveness (No one will ever want you)
Intelligence (You are stupid)
Competence (You can’t do anything right)
Social skills (You are a social reject)
Bravery (You are a coward)
Cleanliness (You are disgusting)

You will find that all attempts at emotional abuse follow the same formula. The abuser will pick one of these seven qualities and find a way to make us feel like we are deficient. The abuser’s subconscious goal is to make us feel more insecure about our faults than they are about theirs. This tactic allows the abuser to get rid of their shame over their hidden weakness by projecting it onto us. When they imagine us as the subject of social ridicule, it relieves them of their fears that it will happen to them.

Finding The Flaw

Let’s now take a look at the glaring inconsistency in the tactic of using one of the seven qualities of social attraction to try to make us afraid that others will not accept us. It will be this flaw that we use in order to disable the abuser from being able to use this tactic against us. The flaw in the abuser’s attempt to make us feel ashamed is the fact that we don’t need to feel ashamed over not having an abundance of these qualities.

The abuser is simply preying on our hidden fears that if we don’t fit in pefectly we will be rejected. Although we all tend to feel ashamed at not being good enough in these areas, these are not actually shameful qualities. In other words, there is nothing shameful about not being highly attractive or highly sexually desirable, highly intelligent, more competent than most, a social butterfly, fearless in nature or squeaky clean.

Most of us fall somewhere in the mid range in these categories. If we are lacking in a few areas, we usually make up for it in another. Although these surface qualities may attract others to us, lacking in them really does not cause social rejection except in our insecure minds. So the glaring flaw in the abuser’s attack is that we should feel ashamed if we do not rank highly in these seven areas.

It is, however, important to note that simply being aware that you should not feel ashamed is not in itself enough to stop the abuser. You will need to take one very specific action around this knowledge in order to learn how to stop emotional abuse, which you will be shown how to do in Part 4 of this blog series.

Making You Feel That You Don’t Stack Up

Before you are shown how to use your knowledge that the abuser is trying to make you feel ashamed over something that is not shameful, let’s examine more closely this tactic. We will take a quick look at some examples of phrases often used by emotional abusers so you can see that all emotional abuse consists of is an attempt to get someone to feel bad about themselves because they lack one of seven qualities of social attraction:

“Why are you so stupid?” The abuser wants you to feel like you are not as intelligent as other people and that you are inferior because of it. The quality the abuser chose to make you feel ashamed is lack of intelligence.

“Clean up this mess! This place looks like a pigsty.” The abuser wants you to feel ashamed because you aren’t as clean as other people and that you deserve to have others think you are inferior. The quality the abuser chose was lack of cleanliness.

“Can’t you do anything right?” The abuser wants you to feel like you aren’t as capable as most people and that you are inferior because of it. The quality the abuser chose to make you feel deficient was incompetence.

“Can’t you act like a man?” The abuser wants you to feel like you aren’t as strong as others and that you should feel ashamed of yourself. The quality the abuser chose to make you question your social self-worth was bravery.

By focusing on one of these seven qualities, the abuser is attempting to make you feel afraid others will reject you because you are deficient in one of these areas. In order to do this the abuser must instill a sense of shame in you for having that negative quality. You will always find shame as the theme of each attack of an emotional abuser.

Clearing Away The Myths That Surround Emotional Abuse

In order to understand the process of dismantling the defense mechanism, it is important to take a look at some of the myths surrounding emotional abuse. Many people mistakenly believe that if we can simply learn how to stand up to the abuser it will stop the behavior. Some believe that if we use enough love and kindness, if we truly understand the pain of the abuser we can stop the abuse. Others seem to believe there is a way to make the abuser see reason that would stop the abuse.

Because emotional abuse is a defense mechanism that the subconscious mind puts into place to avoid uncomfortable feelings, none of these methods will work. Emotional abuse is a coping mechanism that functions in a similar way that drugs, alcohol, overeating, gambling or any of the common addictions do to help us avoid certain thoughts and feelings that may upset us. Because abuse is addictive in nature, the only thing we can do to stop the abuse is take away the ability for the abuser to use this coping mechanism.

how stop emotional abuse

What Makes Emotional Abuse Different

Emotional abuse is unique among other addictive behaviors in that the victim of the abuse directly supplies the emotional abuser with what they need for relief. The abuser cannot obtain this relief without the victim’s presence. Therefore, unlike many other addictive behaviors, with emotional abuse, the victims themselves hold the power to withhold the abuser’s relief from them. This means that anyone who has been attacked by an emotional abuser has the ability to force them to feel the uncomfortable feelings they are trying to avoid. Each of us is in a unique position of being able to stop the negative behavior through our own actions.

The method necessary to withhold relief from an emotional abuser is complex, but it can be done once you truly understand the nature of this common defense mechanism. Let’s now take a look at what it is that we unwittingly give to the abuser that gives them relief so we can then learn how to withhold it leaving the abuser unable to access the arsenal necessary to hurt us.

Emotional Abuse And Addiction

Most of us assume that how we feel is very important to the emotional abuser. You may find yourself surprised when you try different responses to abuse, including no reaction at all, that the abuser remains happy to continue abusing. We will see no difference in their behavior when we vary our response to emotional abuse. Our mistake is to assume that the abuser cares deeply about how we feel. Because it is so painful, we assume the abuser’s attack may seem very personal. We assume what gives the abuser pleasure or relief is, in fact, our suffering. The truth is a little more complex than that.

Let’s take a look at why changing our reaction to the emotional abuser is futile. Although they may not let you know this, most abusers are aware that their tactics don’t usually work on their victims. They are aware that most people do not really believe the lies an emotional abuser may tell them, although they may become worn down over time.

The abuser only cares about obtaining their relief, not about making us feel a certain way. And to obtain relief, the abuser need only imagine for a brief instant that we are ashamed and feeling inferior. This brief moment allows them to offload their feelings of shame and inferiority onto us. To achieve this momentary burst of emotion that clears the shame, the abuser’s subconscious will use virtually any response on their victim’s part as validation that their victim is feeling ashamed or inferior.

If we act like we don’t care, the abuser’s subconscious will say we are hiding our pain. If we stand up for ourselves, the abuser will conclude we are being defensive and that they got to us. If we use reason, the abuser will also conclude we are being defense by pretending we are not hurt.

Because the abuser does not actually care what we are really feeling, none of the tactics on our part such as reason, kindness and love or standing up for ourselves will stop the abuse. They will actually ensure that the abuse continues. In order to stop the abuse we must find a way to keep the abuser from in any way imagining that they got to us. This is the only way we can outsmart the defense mechanism.

In Part 4 you will be shown a specific method of communication with the emotional abuser that will ensure that the abuser cannot in any way interpret your reaction as shameful. This type of communication will allow you to put a stop to the abuse through denying the abuser relief from their uncomfortable feelings.

This easy strategy will stop emotional abuse on the spot and if used consistently will break this destructive habit once and for all. Emotional abuse is a habit, but like any bad habit, it can be broken. Although there is nothing you could have done to cause the abuse, you will soon find out there there are certainly things you can do that will stop it.

If you would like to learn the Nicola Method so you can put an end to the high conflict situations you may be experiencing, click on this link to the welcome page of this website where you will find the resources you need.

If you want to try out some of the basic techniques of this method for free to see if this method is right for your situation, you can learn them from an intro guide flip-book here or a PDF version of the intro guide here.

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