Tag Archives: Emotional Abuse

Childhood Trauma – Signs and Effects of Psychological Abuse

childhood_trauma_questionnaire

The effects of having been psychologically/emotionally abused when we were children can be devastating, and, without therapy, can last a life-time.

Indeed, we may find, as a result of our adverse early life experiences, that we have significant difficulties managing all the important aspects of our lives, including our social life, our work/career, our intimate relationships and our relationship with our wider family.

Because emotional abuse has no one, clear-cut, simple definition, in this article I want to look at some examples of psychological / emotional abuse. After I have done that, I will then list some of the main effects of this kind of abuse.

EXAMPLES OF BEHAVIOURS BY PARENTS/PRIMARY CARE-GIVERS TOWARDS THE CHILD THAT CAN QUALIFY AS PSYCHOLOGICAL/EMOTIONAL ABUSE :

having significant feelings dismissed as of no importance

frequently being on the receiving end of rage and intense anger

– being made to feel worthless

being humiliated and derided

– being treated with hostility

– being threatened with physical abuse / assault

– constantly being criticized

being ignored

– not being treated as an individual with own unique thoughts, opinions and feelings

– being treated sarcastically

– being treated with contempt

– being devalued and demeaned

– being treated very inconsistently

being on the receiving end of unpredictable and wildly fluctuating changes in mood

– being on the receiving end of passive-aggressive behaviour

– being treated with indifference

– being manipulated by being made to feel guilty or ashamed

– being scapegoated for the mistakes of others (click here to read my article about BEING MADE A FAMILY SCAPEGOAT).

As I said at the beginning of this article, being treated in ways such as those outlined above can lead to the individual suffering very serious and long-lasting effects if therapeutic interventions (such as cognitive-behavioural therapy, or CBT, as it is abbreviated to) are not sought out.

Indeed, the earlier therapy is sought for an individual damaged by psychological / emotional abuse, the less serious and less long-lasting its effects are likely to be.

Tragically, some people go through their whole lives without seeking therapy or gaining insight into the cause of their psychological problems, making their lives far more painful and difficult than they needed to be.

So let’s now turn to the possible effects of having suffered psychological / emotional abuse as a child:

 emotional-abuse

THE POSSIBLE EFFECTS OF HAVING SUFFERED CHILDHOOD PSYCHOLOGICAL/EMOTIONAL ABUSE :

diminished capacity to love (because those we loved hurt us, we view love as risky and as something that will make us vulnerable to further emotional pain)

a pervasive sense of insecurity (as we have learned that even those with a duty to care for us can be utterly undependable)

frequent feelings of anxiety and fear with no obvious origin

hypersensitivity / hypervigilance (always looking out for signs that others are a threat to us or might do us harm, often to the point of seeing threat that only exists in our imaginations – this is linked to our difficulties with trusting others)

– we may start to behave in the very ways those who emotionally harmed us did e.g. flying into rages, being aggressive etc.

find forming and maintaining relationships with others highly problematic

– we may become preoccupied with the notion of obtaining ‘justice’ for the wrongs perpetrated against us

– we may develop various addictions to cope with our inner pain (this is a psychological defence mechanism known as DISSOCIATION.

– periods of intense anger followed by periods of apathy and depression

– irrational feelings of guilt and shame (sometimes because we have been scapegoated by our family – see above)

– a view of the world as being hostile, threatening, dangerous and unpredictable

RESOURCES :

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ESCAPE EMOTIONAL ABUSE – SELF HYPNOSIS DOWNLOADS (other titles available).

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

The Effects of Emotionally Distant Parents on the Child.

childhood-trauma-fact-sheet

Clearly, the child has both physical and emotional needs that the parents have a responsibility to meet. Both are obviously of vital importance. Often, however, a child may be well provided for in a material sense, but utterly deprived of emotional nurturance; this can be regarded as a form of child abuse.

This places the child in a state of psychological conflict, even turmoil.  He may be grateful on the one hand (for having his material needs met), but angry and hurt on the other (due to emotional deprivation).

So what are the effects on the child that result from him not having his emotional needs met, or, as occurred in my own particular case, not having one’s emotional needs met AND being expected to meet the emotional needs of the parent (i.e, the child is compelled to act as his parent’s  parent) ?

First, let’s look at some of the child’s most important emotional needs :

THE CHILD’S EMOTIONAL NEEDS :

needs to receive love/affection and attention

– needs to have personal feelings and emotions respected

– needs to be free of burdensome adult responsibilities / spontaneously enjoy self / play in care-free manner

– needs to be encouraged and helped to develop a sense of self-worth

– needs behaviour to be guided by compassionate discipline which does not cause physical or emotional damage

– needs to be protected, as far as is reasonably possible and desirable (some knocks in childhood are clearly unavoidable and can provide valuable learning experiences)

This is not a definitive list, but, I think, covers the main areas.

Both verbal and tacit (non-verbal) messages from parents are absorbed by the child, as water into a sponge, both consciously and unconsciously, and have an enormous impact on his self-image and identity.

 

If, however, the child is essentially emotionally abandoned, family roles become confused and blurred ; indeed, if the child is expected to provide for the emotional needs of the parent,   role-reversal can occur. Not only does this place the child under immense psychological strain, it also deprives him of a parental role model. The child is then likely to develop a very shaky and uncertain self-image and low self-esteem as he has learned that his own psychological well-being is of no importance, or, at the very best, comes a poor second to that of the parent.

EFFECTS CARRIED INTO ADULTHOOD :

The adult who has experienced a childhood such as described above is likely to repress, or shut off from, his emotions as he has learned they will be dismissed as unimportant ( due to the fact that they were invalidated by the parent). There can be a sense of emotional numbness, or of being ’emotionally dead’.

Such people are likely to be very poor at expressing, or even identifying, their emotions as they were unable to assimilate an ’emotional language’ as they grew up. The loneliness and emotional deprivation they suffered in youth will frequently lead them to deny their own needs as adults.

If the child was expected to fulfil the parent’s emotional needs in youth,  at the expense of his own, he is also likely to carry a heavy weight of guilt into adulthood, as well as a deep sense of inadequacy. This is because he was given an impossible task which was thus impossible to succeed at : to be his / her  parent’s parent.

Psychological scars inflicted in such ways may be very severe, leading to much anger and pain in adulthood, in which case an appropriate form of therapy should be given serious consideration.

‘Avoidant’ Parenting And Its Possible Effects

We have seen from other posts that I have published on this site that we develop different kinds of attachment styles as we grow up which depend upon how stable and secure our early life relationship with our primary caretaker (usually the mother) was. In simplified terms, if this early life relationship WAS secure and stable we are likely to develop a SECURE ATTACHMENT STYLE as we get older and pass through adolescence to adulthood; however, if it WAS NOT, we are likely to develop an INSECURE ATTACHMENT STYLE which persists throughout our lives (in the absence of effective therapeutic intervention).

There exist three main types of insecure attachment style which are :

You can read more about insecure attachment and how to overcome it here ; however, in this article I want to concentrate on adult individuals who have developed an ‘avoidant attachment style’ and how this is likely to affect their interaction with their own offspring.

Those with an ‘avoidant attachment style’ tend not to regard emotional closeness within their relationships as being of an special kind of importance. They may well eschew close friendships and intimate relationships, and, in general, prefer not to be emotionally dependent on others.

Furthermore, they tend to be cut off from their emotions and mistrustful of others.

 

How Might An ‘Avoidant Attachment Style’ Affect The Individual’s Interactions With Their Child?

Despite the above considerations, some people who have an ‘avoidant attachment style’ do get married and have children. But how do they treat these children?

In general terms, they may keep their children ‘at arm’s length’, emotionally speaking. Indeed, I remember my own relationship with my father during adolescence and beyond – it was rather as if we were two magnets with similar poles : whenever I tried to get emotionally close to him he backed away and distanced himself, seemingly repelled by forces beyond his control.

Parents with an ‘avoidant attachment style’ may utilize various strategies (consciously or unconsciously) to keep a ‘safe emotional distance’ between themselves and their offspring. For example, they may constantly criticize their child over insignificant, trivial and trifling matters.

I recall such a perpetual torrent of such criticisms emanating from my father : I would, for example, be corrected, with tiresome regularity, for my ‘bad table manners’  (eating too fast, talking with mouth fall, failure to hold fork correctly, failure to hold knife correctly, failure to keep elbows off table, making too much noise swallowing…) ad infinitum. These criticisms represented my father’s only verbal interaction with me at the meal table; he was either criticizing me or there was a tense silence between us. Sometimes the stress of these mealtimes would induce in me the symptoms of mild hyperventilation which would, in turn, provoke the all but inevitable criticism from my father that I was ‘making rather a lot of unnecessary noise with my heavy and laboured breathing.’ (delivered in a witheringly condescending, and mildly disgusted, tone). Of course, there are myriad other petty, critical observations the creative, ‘avoidant’ parent can manufacture.

The ‘avoidant’ parent, too, will tend to express little or no affection towards the child, either physically or verbally. And, any such expressions that they do attempt are likely to come across as stilted, artificial and hollow.

Attachment Disorders Get Passed Down The Generations :

Just as ‘avoidant’ parents have developed their maladaptive attachment style as a result of their early life insecure attachments to their own parents, the children of ‘avoidant’ parents are at risk of themselves developing a maladaptive attachment style which, further down the line, will inevitably adversely affect their own children and so on and on…In this way, insecure / maladaptive attachment styles may be passed down through several generations unless this relentless cycle is broken by effective therapeutic intervention.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

Recommended Link : ABOUT EMOTIONAL NEGLECT : (drjonicewebb.com)