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~by Amy Lynn Burch

Published on January 18, 2014 @ 11:40pm EST

“The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.” ~Maya Angelou

Emotional abusers never think they are. At least they never openly acknowledge that fact to anyone, not even themselves. Although emotional bullies may know it instinctively on a deeply intimate inner level, they predictably refuse to take an honest look at who they truly are and set about victimizing others for the purpose of personal validation and gratification. Hurting others isn’t merely entertaining for the emotional bully; it’s necessary to their very existence. Before you become wrapped around the axles, as it were, regarding my use of the word necessary let me clarify that necessary in this instance simply means “required behavior for the abuser to exist as such” and not “we need bullies in order to balance the universe” which is at the very least a ridiculous and nonsensical notion. Think of it in terms of the mythical vampire. Just as a vampire must drain life blood from their victims in order to exist, emotional bullies must drain their victim’s of energy, control, self-worth, autonomy, and personal validation in order to maintain dominant bully status. The word “boundary” isn’t in the bully vocabulary. Having a boundary is a foreign concept to the emotional abuser. They find the word offensive considering that having a boundary limits the activity of the abuser in terms of taking from their victims whatever they choose. Ahhh, there’s the rub!

An emotional bully is quite literally the definition of a pirate i.e. take everything of value, neither leave nor give anything in return. It isn’t so much that emotional bullies lack self worth as a motivation to drain their surroundings of any and all worth as it is that they tend to be the grandiose opposite of a selfless person with an inflated sense of importance and entitlement. In contrast, their carefully chosen prey unintentionally motivates the bully to obliterate those in his or her path who attempt to call them out and then stop them. Incredibly long sentence, I know, and accurate in description. Emotional abusers – bullies, if you will – work very, very hard at lying to everyone around them and to build a façade of narcissistic dominance, especially so to two persons in particular: first and foremost, their intended victims; and secondly, yet more importantly, themselves. Being of fragile ego, the emotional bully loathes him or herself as the case may be, to an inherently destructive degree which is what makes them such diabolically fierce predators.

As you continue to read you’ll notice that I use he/she and his/her interchangeably. The reason for this is simple. Although a large body of empirical data and professional writings regarding domestic violence and abusive behavior focuses largely on men as abusers and women as victims, the fact remains that not all victims are women and not all abusers are men. Women do, in fact, emotionally abuse others significantly so and very often their intended targets are their own children, spouses, and even friends whom they truly envy and wish to degrade thus the creation of the word “frenemy.” If your definition of abuser is synonymous with being male then I invite you to set aside that notion and consider that not all abusiveness follows traditional gender roles and most certainly is not limited to physical abuse. Neither is it relegated to overt methods of non-physical violence such as screaming, name calling, and verbal threats of possible physical violence in response to lack of compliance. Those forms of abuse are, indeed, reprehensible. However, there is a more insidious form of abuse that fails to leave physical marks which is often as elusive as vapor in terms of pinning it down that I contend is as much, if not more so in some ways, more deadly over time than some physical acts of violence: emotional, psychological, and spiritual abuses fall into this category. The abuse that leaves no tell-tale signs not only leaves the victim injured but also leaves the victim invalidated as the burden of proof rests entirely on their proverbial shoulders.  In reading this I hope that you gain insight into all of your relationships and not just the romantic ones. Truly, abusiveness can be found in the most unlikely of places leading us into even more abusive situations unless we learn to appropriately identify them wherever they might be found. Very many of them begin within a victim’s own family of origin with the abusive behaviors becoming normalized as accepted behavior.

To all of my readers regardless of age or gender it is my intention to offer you true hope and healthy guidelines in identifying then breaking fee of abusive relationships. The first step toward that end is in learning to appropriately identify them as such which is why I write on the subject so often. However, to my male readers in particular who find themselves in abusive relationships whether those relationships exist at work, at home, at church, or some combination thereof, I offer you this: there is hope and you are not alone. And to the abusers reading this article (because I know that many of you do for the specific purpose of gaining information to use against your victims) I say this: welcome to my spotlight of exposure. In case you’ve failed to notice, I’m something of an in-your-face advocate on behalf of the abused. I will not stay silent so that you can remain comfortable.

Emotional Terrorists 

Emotional bullies are abusers, ipso facto. Emotional bullies tend to be over-sensitized to their own feelings to the exclusion of others and also tend to confuse their wants for needs which they demand that others meet instantly and routinely or else. It is the “or else” threat which becomes the unseen knife in the hand of the emotional bully as waved in the face of the victim. To say that emotional bullies are impatient with their own discomfort is an understatement as they have no tolerance for not having their way at all times and very much at the expense of others. In that way, they are significantly infantile and emotionally immature. Like psychopaths – and many emotional bullies are, indeed, psychopathic – emotional bullies have malformed emotions often limited to proto-emotions which are nothing more than primitive responses to the most basic of human needs. As Dr. Robert Hare states in his groundbreaking book Without Conscience regarding the psychopathic personality,

paint-by-numbers emotions are all that exist for this type of abuser in terms of recognizing emotions in others as well as feeling anything personally in terms of legitimate human emotion.”

Guilt for perceived wrongs committed and empathy for someone else’s pain are non-existent to the emotional abuser. To the emotional bully/abuser, the victim only exists as an extension of the abuser for the direct purpose of meeting his or her wants which are confused for needs.

Emotional bullies are master manipulators who are highly adept at wearing down the will of their victims through shame (how could you let me down like this/I need someone to stand beside me and not run in fear), goading (I guess you just don’t have what it takes to be my friend/business partner/lover, etc.), needling (if you’re too scared to “xyz” then I’ll find someone else), guilt-tripping (someone who cares about me would [fill in the blank]; you always let me down when I need you the most), charm (you’re such a brave person, I know you wouldn’t disappoint me like so-and-so), bribes (do this and I’ll buy you [fill-in-the-blank item]), and tactics of public humiliation (in a public setting, “Tim told everyone that I’m a bad wife…” *sniff* *sniff*).

Emotional bullies are highly adept at conditioning their prey to excuse away abusive behavior and force compliance with their own abusiveness. Emotional bullies – and at this point, let’s just call them what they are: abusers and emotional terrorists– are inherently deceitful people who are highly skilled at turning the tables, as it were, on their prey. I insist on calling the victim “prey” because that is how the abuser sees their victim(s). Destroy and consume is the ultimate goal for this type of abuser.

Emotional bullies refuse to acknowledge any wrongdoing and instead project guilt onto others for not complying with their demands. An emotional abuser works very hard at manipulating the sensitivity and empathy of their intended victims as a means of making the abused feel responsible for the abusers infantile emotions. They refuse to move past their own primitive needs and wants, and routinely refuse to alter their desires while deliberately ignoring the very real needs of others. It is this behavior that makes emotional abusers exceptionally dangerous parents and intimate partners.

In the next six weeks I will breakdown for the reader the psychology of the emotional terrorist outlining specific tactics that they use against their targets, how they think, and the tools they use to gain control, their primary motivations, how they interact as parents and as intimate partners, and what their victims can do to stop the cycle of abuse. As always, I am here to answer questions and provide resources to those needing help.

Thank you for your readership. You are not alone.


© Amy Lynn Burch 2014
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