Emotional Abuse - A Conversation for R U OK Day
Emotionally abusive relationships, sadly there are many different types but all of them are insidious, often going undetected by family members, friends and even the victims themselves. Every single one of them can be damaging to a persons' mental and physical health.
Series one of Emotional Abuse - A Conversation discusses emotionally abusive romantic relationships with firsthand accounts from brave individuals who have overcome their abuser and professionals who work in the psychology field. Series two delves into emotionally abusive parents, with firsthand accounts from children of narcissistic mothers who grappled with the pressures from society to constantly make excuses for them because they are family and also professionals who specialise in the mental health and well being of children.
What emotional abuse that looks like, and understanding of the terms such as malignant narcissist, gaslighting, reactive abuse, enabler and scapegoat are covered in these two series, as well as some of the signs to look out for, what tools you need to help yourself or others and how to reconcile the damage caused by narcissistic abuse, overcome a debilitating history and reclaim your life.
SERIES ONE - EMOTIONAL ABUSE WITHIN ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
I feel that everyone who enters into a relationship should know the signs of Emotional Abuse. I'd love to see it taught in schools and be given the same type of weight sex education receives due to the detrimental and long lasting effects it can have on a person's mental and physical health and in turn, their happiness. I feel this way as I was once unaware I was in an emotionally abusive relationship. I was too busy completely consumed with pleasing a person who ultimately was happy being unhappy to even have the time to reflect. Anytime I went to probe or seek help they shut me down quickly by saying they wanted to keep their private life private or by threatening to leave, all in hindsight to frighten me into submission.
The spell they cast is strong. As time passed and it became increasingly clear that this person was never going to treat me (or themselves) with respect let alone the way I deserved and I couldn't make excuses for their behaviour anymore, I was still so drawn in by any crumbs that they would carefully throw me as I left town, I wanted them to come with me, thinking that a fresh start would get them out of their what I thought was just a rut. By taking charge of my life, listening to my head and not my heart and demanding to be treated with respect I had inadvertently broken free from their grasp. It would be too much of an inconvenience to lure me back in so that was the end of their game.
I had no idea at the time that if I had just googled ‘Emotional Abuse’ I would see so many uncanny similarities to my what I thought was a unique relationship. I had no idea all this behaviour was a common pattern of abuse rather than an isolated situation. I also had no idea how much of a tragic situation it is to be in for both parties. The truth that my story was not unique, rather a common occurrence of abuse that many people are too afraid to speak out about through fear of being judged or not believed was absolutely shattering. I wouldn't wish the suffering I endured while in it and then after breaking away knowing the truth of their behaviour, on anyone.
Knowing the signs can help save you from being unwittingly sucked into the perpetrator's trap, from being made to suffer due to their conscious or even subconscious need to punish you for their own unhappiness as they cannot (or will not) figure out how to heal or fix their own brokenness. Series one of this podcast hopes to shed light on how these people gain control and develop a power over a person to the point that you lose any self worth and independence, feel you cannot leave and if you do speak up, will never be believed.
Designed to bring awareness to this more silent form of abuse, this podcast will also give an insight into the long asked question "Why do people stay/put up with this for so long?"
Episode 1 is with Kerrie Atherton, founder of Empower Life Solutions and Stories Of Hope Australia, she's also an Inspirational Speaker and Addictions Recovery/MentalHealth Coach Counsellor. In our conversation Kerrie tells her harrowing yet positive story of overcoming addiction while developing the strength to remove herself from a dysfunctional, emotionally abusive relationship with a malignant narcissist. She shares her thoughts in hindsight and how she got herself to a happy, peaceful place where she can help people with her story.
Episode 2 is with Rhonda Jansen, an Author, Trainer and Presenter penning 'Narcissism - The Evil Behind the Mask' and her follow up book 'Reclaim Your Soul'. Rhonda speaks about her experience of being married to and running a business with a malignant narcissist and how she managed to escape with her sanity and two children. She discusses how she reclaimed her life and offers perspective to others who need to free themselves from a similar situation. Rhonda also shares her thoughts in hindsight and offers suggestions for changing your mindset to gather yourself to leave these situations.
Episode 3 is with 1800 RESPECT Program Specialist Inez Carey. Inez gives a general overview of what Emotional Abuse/Violence is, an understanding of terms such as Gaslighting and Trauma Bonding as well as advice and suggestions for people who may find themselves in this horrible situation or are watching on the sidelines as a concerned friend or family member.
SERIES TWO - EMOTIONALLY ABUSIVE FAMILY MEMBERS
Children of narcissistic parents, particularly mothers, commonly grapple with pressure from society to constantly make excuses for them, because they are family. Most people never even think of the possibility of narcissistic mothers because society elevates them as everyday heroes, even demi gods, yet staying in these relationships only leads to a life of unhappiness at best - they can never be pleased.
As an adult, there is that ability to walk away from the relationship or create distance but what about those first 18 years where your guardian's abusiveness is part of a lifelong campaign of control and the only "normal" that child knows is being repeatedly treated in a manner that makes them feel scared, worthless or alone?
Episode 1 is with Jan Marsh, a clinical psychologist for over 40 years who is the author of 'Dealing with Depression'. Jan talks about her experience speaking with children of narcissistic mothers and gives insight into what that family dynamic might look like; malignant narcissists are masters of manipulation who want to control, divide and conquer. Jan gives her perspective into the long held fear by some child victims that by speaking their truth and seeking help, be it from sharing how they are feeling with friends or other family, to even speaking with a psychologist maybe not as attuned to the signs of emotional abuse, they run the risk of further reinforcing their sense of isolation and helplessness by assuming that the parent is well meaning.
Years of abuse can lead to depression. Narcissistic mothers teach their daughters that love is not unconditional, that it is given only when they behave in accordance with their insatiable needs and whims. As adults, these daughters have difficulty overcoming feelings of inadequacy, disappointment, emotional emptiness, and sadness. Jan offers some sage advice for healing yourself.
Episode 2 is with Author Danu Morrigan who runs the brilliant website Daughters Of Narcissistic Mothers and has penned the best seller "You're Not Crazy - It's Your Mother." Danu gives insight into the behaviour patterns of a narcissistic mother and enabling father and firsthand accounts of what it is like growing up in this kind of toxic environment. Passionate about putting into the public domain that it is OK not to have a relationship with your parents, Danu explains that it was to her detriment that she "bought into society's lies that you have to keep in touch with parents no matter how horrible they are to you" and that people don't have to pay the price of that with a lifetime of trauma and suffering.
Danu examines how some people's idea of narcissism is simply outwardly vain attention seeking individuals but there are various types including vulnerable narcissism, where the narcissistic parent sense of grandiose is much more inverted; they think they deserve greatness, but are easily angered when they don't get it. Their need for control, to divide and conquer in their small bubble they have created can be subtle and calculated - they don't want to be caught out for the person they really are.
Episode 3 is with Belinda Beaumont, a counsellor at Kids Helpline, a free private and confidential 24/7 phone and online counselling service who has been helping Aussie kids for nearly 30 years now with over 8 million contacts... and one of them was me.
Children often lack the perspective to be able to identify the abusive elements of their emotional relationship with their parents, it's only in adulthood that they're more able to detect them. You can't go back in time and change the way your parent behaved, but if you have a strained relationship with your parents and think it may be a result of their actions, you may find yourself working backwards to find out why.
Belinda talks about if there are some signs which a child might be able to identify that may give them the right "word tools" to go see their school counsellor to make them understand what is happening at home and not automatically take the parents side, as it is a fear of many children that if the parent finds out they told their truth the abuse then may escalate at home. Even for an adult worried about a child they know, Belinda explains what sort of questions they could ask to open the communication lines to ultimately get the child in contact with professionals like Kids Helpline.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au In an emergency, call 000. Lifeline is also available 24/7 for crisis support on 13 11 14.