Emotional abuse in marriage is affecting a staggering number of couples and it’s time to bring this issue into the light. Dr. David Hawkins is bringing emotional abuse out of the shadows by talking about covert emotional abuse, and the importance of professionals and churches learning to recognize the signs of emotional abuse so that couples can begin to heal.
Bringing Emotional Abuse Out of the Shadows
In today’s world, we often think of progress and change in terms of advancements in technology, medicine, and science. However, there is an issue that has been plaguing our society for years, silently causing harm to countless individuals, especially women. This problem is known as covert emotional abuse.
What if I told you that therapists, professionals, pastors, and even well-meaning friends and family members were unintentionally perpetuating this harm every day? What if I told you that there is a growing number of women who are suffering in silence because we are ignoring this problem? It’s time to shed light on covert emotional abuse and take a stand against it.
The Silent Suffering: Covert Emotional Abuse
Covert emotional abuse is a hidden form of abuse that doesn’t leave physical scars but inflicts deep emotional wounds. It’s a pattern of behavior where one person in a relationship manipulates, controls, and undermines the other person’s self-esteem, worth, and sense of reality. This type of abuse often goes unnoticed because it lacks the obvious signs of physical abuse, making it harder to identify and address.
The number of women who are suffering from covert emotional abuse is staggering, and we must acknowledge this problem. By ignoring it, we are allowing it to fester and grow, perpetuating cycles of pain and suffering. As leaders in the church and as a society, it is our moral responsibility to step out of our comfort zones and speak out against this insidious issue.
The Role of the Church in Addressing Emotional Abuse
Hello, I’m Dr. David Hawkins, the director of the Marriage Recovery Center. With over 30 years of experience counseling hurting couples, I am passionate about helping couples find freedom from emotional abuse. This freedom is not just for the victims but also for the abusers themselves. The church has a vital role to play in bringing the problem of covert emotional abuse out of the shadows and into the light.
Breaking the Chains of Denial
One of the most challenging aspects of covert emotional abuse is that victims often deny the problem. They desperately hope and wish that their abuser will change, falling into a trap of what’s called “magical thinking.” The reality is that change rarely happens without intervention and support.
To help these victims, we must guide them out of their denial. It starts with providing a safe space where they can open up about their experiences and pain. By talking about these problems, victims can begin the process of rebuilding their lives, regaining their self-esteem, and finding the hope and healing they so desperately need and deserve.
Hope for Healing and Change
There is hope for ending these cycles of abuse, but it begins with us—church leaders, community members, and individuals alike. We need to listen, open our hearts, and open the doors to those who are struggling with emotional abuse. This is not an easy topic to address, but it is essential for the well-being of countless individuals and the sanctity of relationships.
Shining Light on Darkness
Psalm 9:9 offers us profound encouragement, stating, “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” As a community and as a church, let’s embody this refuge and stronghold for those who are oppressed by covert emotional abuse. Let’s shine a light on this darkness and offer hope and healing to deeply hurting couples.
Educating Ourselves and Others
To combat covert emotional abuse effectively, we must first educate ourselves and those around us about its signs and consequences. Awareness is the first step toward prevention and healing. Here are some key aspects of covert emotional abuse:
Gaslighting is a common tactic in covert emotional abuse where the abuser manipulates the victim into doubting their own reality. They may deny their actions, making the victim feel as though they are going crazy.
Abusers often isolate their victims from friends and family members, making them dependent on the abuser for emotional support. This isolation increases the victim’s vulnerability.
3. Control and Manipulation:
Abusers use control and manipulation to exert power over their victims. This can involve monitoring their every move, dictating their actions, and making them feel powerless.
4. Verbal and Emotional Attacks:
Covert emotional abuse includes verbal and emotional attacks, such as constant criticism, humiliation, and degradation. These attacks erode the victim’s self-esteem and self-worth.
5. Financial Abuse:
Some abusers control their victims by restricting their access to finances or using money as a means of control.
6. Intermittent Reinforcement:
Abusers often mix moments of affection or kindness with abusive behavior, creating confusion and keeping the victim emotionally invested in the relationship.
Support and Resources
If you or someone you know is experiencing covert emotional abuse, it’s crucial to seek help. Here are some steps you can take:
1. Reach Out to a Professional:
Consider contacting a therapist or counselor who specializes in abusive relationships. They can provide guidance, support, and strategies for healing.
2. Connect with Support Groups:
Support groups for survivors of emotional abuse can be incredibly helpful. They provide a safe space to share experiences and learn from others who have faced similar challenges.
3. Safety Planning:
If you are in immediate danger or fear for your safety, it’s essential to have a safety plan in place. This may involve seeking refuge at a domestic violence shelter or contacting law enforcement.
4. Educate Yourself:
Learn more about covert emotional abuse, its signs, and its impact. Knowledge is empowering, and understanding the dynamics of abuse can help you make informed decisions.
5. Seek Spiritual Guidance:
For those who are part of a faith community, spiritual leaders can offer guidance and support. Reach out to a pastor or religious leader you trust.
A Call to Action
As we bring covert emotional abuse out of the shadows, it’s crucial that we take action. Here are some steps we can collectively take to address this issue:
1. Education and Training:
Churches and religious organizations should prioritize education and training for leaders and members on recognizing and addressing emotional abuse.
2. Create Safe Spaces:
Establish safe spaces within the community where victims can share their experiences without fear of judgment or retribution.
3. Support and Counseling Services:
Offer support groups and counseling services specifically tailored to individuals who have experienced emotional abuse.
4. Raise Awareness:
Use your platform within the church to raise awareness about the prevalence of emotional abuse and its devastating effects.
5. Encourage Reporting:
Promote a culture where victims feel comfortable reporting abuse to church leaders, who should then take appropriate action.
Collaborate with local organizations and resources that specialize in domestic violence and abuse to ensure victims receive the help they need.
7. Advocate for Change:
Advocate for legal and policy changes that protect victims of emotional abuse and hold abusers accountable.
Covert emotional abuse is a pervasive issue that affects countless individuals, especially women. It thrives in the shadows of silence and denial. As leaders in the church and members of the community, it is our responsibility to step into the light and speak out against this form of abuse. By doing so, we can provide hope, healing, and support to those who are suffering and create a safer, more compassionate world for all. Psalm 9:9 reminds us that we can be a refuge for the oppressed and a stronghold in times of trouble. Let’s live up to this calling and be a source of comfort, support, and love for those who need it most.
About Dr. Hawkins:
The internet is inundated with hyperbole and misinformation about narcissism, leaving many people confused and hopeless. Get the facts on narcissism and emotional abuse from someone who has been researching, writing about and treating narcissism and emotional abuse for over a decade.
Dr. Hawkins is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience helping people break unhealthy patterns and build healthier relationships.
He is the founder and director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute which offers education, training and counseling for people who want to break free of, and heal from, emotional abuse. Whether the perpetrator of the abuse is your spouse, partner, parent, boss, friend or family member, we offer practical advice for anyone trapped in a toxic, destructive relationship.
In addition to narcissism & emotional abuse, you’ll learn about the lesser known forms of abuse, including covert abuse, reactive abuse, spiritual abuse, secondary abuse, relationship trauma and much more.