Emotional Child Abuse
I think the term “emotional child abuse” is kind of under-stated. It sounds like the distant also-ran to “physical” and “sexual” child abuse but there is research suggesting that the scars created by emotional abuse may be deeper and longer lasting than the physical ones.
It is the abuse of cowards,
…those who are intent on wreaking psychic havoc on another human being but afraid to leave evidence of their abusive ways. They are clever enough to carry on their subterfuge while maintaining a façade of propriety in front of their friends and neighbors.
The emotional abuser secretly, systematically and deliberately disembowels the victim’s most cherished possession-his self image.
Over the years it is stripped to a loincloth, scourged, presented with a crown of thorns and crucified. What remains when the abuser is finished is a victim consumed by guilt and anger; self confidence and feelings of worthiness have vanished.
Emotional child abuse is the lingering legacy of all forms of child abuse.
Bruises, cuts and broken bones eventually heal. One who has been abused sexually or suffered neglect will, in most cases, surmount to some degree those cruelties and grow up to be a functional adult with kids, a job and a mortgage they can’t afford. But despite these appearances of normality there lurks something sinister and debilitating in the deepest recesses of the abused child’s psyche. When the physical damage has disappeared the emotional carnage remains, affecting each decision and coloring every aspect of the victim’s life.
It is the least understood type of abuse and as such its effects are often trivialized, both by society and the victim herself. “My mommy was mean to me,” is not reason enough to explain her feelings of incompetence and unworthiness. She can only surmise that her inability to cope is her own fault; “Why can’t I just get over this!?” But she can’t; the wounds are too deep.
Here are some “souvenirs” the abused child may carry into adulthood.
- Unable to define healthy behavior for themselves.
- Feelings of being different from others, often inferior.
- Unable to love wholly.
- Unable to feel loved wholly.
- Difficulty enjoying themselves.
- Brutally self judgmental.
- Take themselves terribly seriously or not seriously at all.
- Have difficulty with relationships.
- Constantly seek approval or acknowledgment from others.
- Sabotages success.
- Problems with authority.
- Lives life as a victim.
- Addictive personality.
- Tend to be “loners.”
And there are plenty more. The one legacy that accompanies all victims into adulthood is low self esteem, defined as feelings of “competence” and “worthiness”. To feel unable to cope with the daily challenges of life or unworthy to savor the rewards of our efforts is like a brick wall between us and our happiness. We victims go through life knowing there is a bountiful table set and that we are invited to feast from it. But we reject the invitation for fear that we embarrass ourselves by displaying bad table manners or spilling soup on our shirts; we’ve learned the truth of self-fulfilling prophesies.
Go to Emotional Child Abuse Part II, the story of my personal recovery
Return to Child Abuse Home