Many people think abuse is something loud & cruel, such as screaming obscenities at another person. This certainly is one type of verbal abuse, but for the most part, it is much quieter & more subtle.
Ignoring someone is abusive. It can create anxiety or avoidance when it happens enough, especially when it happens to children. It makes someone feel insignificant or even invisible to be ignored, especially by someone important such as by a parent or spouse.
Normalizing abuse is also abusive. Everyone needs to know that abuse is NOT ok. When someone doesn’t know that, they tolerate abuse because they don’t know it’s wrong. This is one reason abusers try to make their victims think the victims are the problem, rather than the abuse being the problem.
Constant criticism is abusive. While everyone needs constructive criticism from time to time, no one needs abusive criticism, in particular when it is non stop. The difference is constructive criticism is meant to help a person be better, while abusive criticism is meant to manipulate, control & destroy a person’s self esteem.
Failure to give someone praise & support is abusive. While people are drastically affected by constant criticism, they also can be affected by a lack of praise & support even without the constant criticism. My mother used to brag to me about how one time in my entire childhood, she told me she thought I was “kinda pretty.” That along with her constant criticisms made me incredibly insecure about my looks for my entire life.
Shaming someone is abusive. To make someone feel shame doesn’t always have to involve saying things like, “What is your problem?!” “You need some therapy!” It also can involve laughing at someone, rolling your eyes at them or making them the butt of jokes. Toxic shame makes a person feel there is something wrong with every single thing about them, which destroys self esteem & makes a person easy to control.
Criticizing someone harshly claiming that it was done, “for your own good” is abusive. My mother was hyper critical of every single thing about me when I was growing up. Whenever I would say something about how critical she was, she told me it was for my own good. I needed to know my faults so I could change them. I couldn’t argue with that logic as a child. As an adult however, although I do agree that everyone needs to be aware of their faults, they also need to be equally aware of their good qualities too. Only being aware of their faults can destroy one’s self esteem.
Similarly, saying or doing cruel & saying it’s “tough love” is abusive. When my mother’s abuse hit its peak, she said everything she was doing to me was tough love, because I wouldn’t learn any other way. This made me feel like something was wrong with me, I was the problem in our relationship & I made her abuse me. A victim in such a situation usually believes the way I did.
Last but not least, gaslighting is extremely abusive. Gaslighting is when an abuser subtly makes a victim doubt their perceptions of reality. It isn’t hard to gaslight children in particular, but anyone can be a victim. An abuser doesn’t have to raise their voice to accomplish it. All they have to do is convince their victim that what happened didn’t happen the way the victim believes it did or didn’t happen at all. That can be accomplished easily by instilling doubt in a victim & stating the lies with extreme confidence. An abuser may even feign concern for a victim for being so confused as to think things happened the way they did instead of the way the abuser says things happened.
Abuse comes in many different forms. Many of those forms can be hard to recognize at first. I hope this post will help you to be very aware of them so you don’t fall prey to an abusive person who behaves this way!