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Emotional Abuse: 5 Specific Ways to Take Back your Power

emotional abuseEmotional abusers are in the habit of treating others in relationships as less than. Often, those who are being emotionally abused feel like objects, not people. It doesn’t seem like the emotional abuser is seeing your humanity.

Emotional abuse may involve behaviors such as: harsh verbal criticism and rejection, exercising undue control in decision-making, placing extreme limitations on another’s time and movement, manipulating someone to do things they don’t want to do, and so forth.

Those being emotionally abused are in desperate need of resources.

They lack power in the relationship and therefore need to empower themselves. This is easier said than done, as the abuser may be the one who makes the money and even controls the transportation and household communication with the outside world.

Still, a victim of emotional abuse needs to find strength, as an emotional abuser typically does not want to empower others to be their own person or speak freely.

A First Step Toward Empowerment in the Face of Emotional Abuse

A first step toward empowerment may be to increase your confidence and communication skills. Assuming you are not in physical danger, there are things you can say to begin to process what is going on in your relationship.

The book, Emotional Abuse Breakthrough: How to Speak Up, Set Boundaries, and Break the Cycle of Manipulation and Control with Your Abusive Partner, by Barrie Davenport, is an excellent resource in this regard.  The author demonstrates she understands the pain, isolation and fear you may be experiencing, and how manipulative it feels when your abusive partner manages to turn the tables on you, making it all your fault.

For now, here are some scripts that provide words which may not have occurred to you. Read the examples, think it through, and consider (if it is physically safe to do so) speaking up for yourself.

Five Things You Can Say to an Emotional Abuser

1. When someone is making decisions for you.

Are you aware that you’re making this decision for me and without asking me what I want to do? I have my own desires and needs. When you assume what is best for me without asking, I feel controlled, which is upsetting. I’d like to play an active and independent role in our decisions. I am my own person and deserve that respect.

2. When someone criticizes you harshly.

When you talk to me in that tone of voice and say mean words, I feel less than. It hurts in ways I don’t think you understand. Do you mean to hurt my feelings? If you really want me to be sad and hurt, then you’ll keep talking to me that way, but I am asking you to stop.

3. When someone ignores you needs or refuses to help.

My needs are legitimate. When you ignore them by refusing to help me, I feel rejected, like you simply don’t care about me. Do you care about me? If you do, then please be responsive when I need something from you. I care about you and expect the same commitment from you in return.

4. When you are being bullied by an emotional abuser.

You’re bullying me right now. Did you know that? I don’t know how you define bullying, but what you’re doing now is an example of bullying to me. And I’m scared. It’s hard to live with someone you’re scared of and I’d like you to understand that. Will you please stop bullying so that I can feel safe around you?

5. When an emotional abuser is berating children.

How you’re communicating to our child is mean. Do you see the look on his face? I don’t know what kind of relationship you want with your kids, but the path you’re on will ultimately lead to no relationship at all. One day, your son will reject you wholeheartedly and you may never hear from him again – and this is directly related to how you are treating him now. Is that what you want?

It’s a start. These aren’t magic spells and so are likely to be met with resistance. Still, you need to start somewhere. You need mature and thoughtful words, consistently, in order to set your boundaries and possibly break through to the abuser.

Practice. If you think these scripts help (worded in your style) then use them. Words are powerful tools that can change the world. Not all emotional abusers will change, but some do have that capacity and may ultimately turn a corner.

Only you can decide how much to put up with, if and when you will leave the situation for good. In the meantime, learn the right words to use to empower yourself.

Emotional Abuse: 5 Specific Ways to Take Back your Power

Mike Bundrant

Mike Bundrant is the author of Your Achilles Eel: Discover and Overcome the Hidden Cause of Negative Emotions, Bad Decisions and Self-Sabotage and co-founder at The iNLP Center which offers online certification in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and life coaching.

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APA Reference
Bundrant, M. (2016). Emotional Abuse: 5 Specific Ways to Take Back your Power. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 20, 2020, from


Last updated: 28 Oct 2016
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