If you are targeted by a sociopath, you will endure emotional abuse.
Sociopaths — meaning people with antisocial, narcissistic, borderline, histrionic or psychopathic personality disorders — live their lives by manipulating and exploiting others. So if you have any kind of extensive or ongoing involvement with a sociopath, you will be manipulated, deceived and betrayed. It’s just a matter of how badly.
Manipulation, deceit and betrayal are all forms of emotional abuse.
Why? Because society runs on trust, and sociopaths violate trust. When the trust you place in someone is violated, you suffer an emotional wound.
But will emotional abuse become physical abuse? The answer is, maybe.
What is emotional abuse?
There is no official, concise definition of emotional abuse. Typically, emotional abuse is defined via specific examples of offensive behavior, such as:
- Manipulating your emotions
- Saying you are unattractive
- Flirting with others and cheating
- Silent treatment
- Changing what he/she wants
- Refusing to offer support when you need it
- Trying to convince others that you are crazy
- Humiliating you
- Shaming you
- Blaming you
- Making you feel guilty
- Minimizing hurtful behavior
- Revealing private information about you
- Threatening suicide
So essentially, emotional abuse is any ongoing, intentional behavior that makes you feel bad.
Keep in mind that emotional abuse doesn’t just happen in the context of romantic relationships:
- Sociopathic parents always emotionally abuse their children — they are incapable of providing appropriate love and concern for their children’s development.
- Sociopathic siblings torment their brothers and sisters. In fact, sociopaths typically take advantage of any family member who has something they want.
- Sociopathic bosses may shame, blame and rage at employees.
- Sociopathic employees may undermine co-workers and stab them in the back.
- Sociopathic neighbors may harass anyone in the community.
- Sociopathic friends may act more like parasites than friends.
Will emotional abuse become physical abuse?
Whether emotional abuse becomes physical abuse depends on the nature of the relationship and the particular sociopath. Typically, emotional abuse becomes physical abuse behind closed doors. So that means it happens most often in intimate relationships and families.
Some sociopaths do start out with emotional abuse and later escalate to physical abuse. Essentially they are exerting more and more power and control over you.
Often, they train you to accept the abuse. They do this by engaging in relatively mild abuse at first, and then gradually ramping up the negative behavior.
For emotional abuse, they may start out by making a critical remark, and when you take offense, say that they’re sorry, they didn’t mean it. The jabs may slowly become meaner, or the lies more blatant, until the behavior escalates to the silent treatment and threats.
Somewhere along the line, the abuse may become physical. Again, at first it may be a slight push, followed by an apology — it was an accident. Then the sociopath may hit you harder. If you stay and tolerate it, the next incident is more violent. It may continue to escalate, until you possibly end up in the hospital or dead.
Many sociopaths do not engage in physical abuse
Many sociopaths never lift a hand in physical abuse — all of their destructive behavior is emotional abuse (including psychological and verbal abuse). Some people will stay with someone who is tormenting them emotionally because, “at least he (or she) isn’t hitting me.”
Emotional abuse is never acceptable. In fact, it is often more damaging than physical abuse.
Why? One reason is because you can’t get any support. When people don’t see cuts and bruises, they often don’t take you seriously. This is especially true when the sociopath presents as charming and helpful in the community or workplace, so people cannot imagine that he or she is a monster at home.
Another reason is because you begin to doubt yourself. You wonder what you are doing wrong that makes the sociopath treat you so badly — not realizing that the answer is nothing.
If you feel that a partner or family member is becoming abusive, either emotionally or physically, do not allow it to escalate. The longer you accept the sociopath’s apologies and promises not to do it again, the more you will lose confidence, your belief in yourself and your ability to end the involvement.
Abuse wears you down. Don’t get so low that you can’t get out of the situation.
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