When I work with clients in conflict, often we need to clarify what constitutes abusive behavior. Sometimes there is a reluctance to categorize non-physical abuse as abusive, but it can be no less harmful.
To label behavior ‘abuse’ can help someone make an informed choice about what they need to do next. Often this decision-making process is informed by someone’s values and the pros and cons involved. Once someone sees that the other person’s behavior is abusive, this can often tip the balance so that someone takes steps to keep them safe.
Psychologist Beverly Engel offers the following pointers to decide whether the behavior amounts to abuse -
1. Domination - A desire and will to control as much as possible; how you think, what you do, how you do it, and how you feel
2. Verbal assaults
3. Abusive expectations in the form of incessant demands
4. Emotional blackmail, usually in the form of silent treatment
5. Unpredictable responses, so that you never know what is going to be a good or bad day
6. Incessant criticism so that you lose faith in yourself
7. Character assassination, so that little mistakes feel like you are endlessly causing catastrophes
8. Gaslighting so that you tricked into believing that what is true isn’t really true
9. Constant chaos, so that even when it is calm you feel as if you have to walk on eggshells
10. Sexual harassment
11. Financial abuse
You do not need to struggle alone. If you are in an abusive relationship, seek help from a trained professional.
Chris Warren-Dickins LLB MA LPC