Feb 12

Hidden Abuse: Recognizing Psychological Trauma

Most people have no clue hidden abuse is taking place right under their noses. It is being perpetrated by individuals who would never be suspected of being abusers. The concealed nature of this harm is what leaves its targets devastated. Shannon Thomas, LCSW, Healing from Hidden Abuse

Herself a survivor of psychological abuse, therapist Shannon Thomas, LCSW, offers help for other victims in Healing from Hidden Abuse: A Journey Through the Stages of Recovery from Psychological Abuse (2016).

The following is a sampling of quotes from Healing from Hidden Abuse. Included are explanations of psychologically abusive dynamics as well as what lies beyond for those seeking healing:

The stereotype is that only men are narcissists, sociopaths, and psychopaths. That is completely incorrect. There are many women who are the cause of intense relational harm.

Abusers like to target people who have something they do not or cannot possess themselves. Narcissists, sociopaths, and psychopaths are notorious for picking targets that initially boost their egos. It could be the target’s appearance, age, intellect, reputation, religious convictions, career success, family, friends, or something else.

Facing the truth about those we have loved (e.g., our parents, siblings, a treasured friend, or a spiritual leader) is unbelievably hard, but there is no glory in clinging to a lie because the truth is too painful to accept.

Frequently, the emotional homicide is happening while other people go on clamoring about what a great guy or gal the abuser is and how lucky the survivor is to be connected to the abuser.

Psychologically abusive people can only maintain normalcy for short spurts of time. Being an authentically caring, decent person isn’t baseline for them. They must fake the behaviors that would show these positive character qualities. These fraudulent acts of kindness have brief shelf lives before they expire and the abusers return to their normal state of affairs.

I saw a post online where someone said, “An abuser doesn’t abuse every day.” That, my friend, is intermittent reinforcement in a nutshell.

Survivors are wise to not fall into the trap of second guessing all of their actions because it is likely they could never show enough agreement to please a truly toxic person.

A Narcissist will run you over and scold you for being in their way. They will endlessly complain about how you damaged their car. A Sociopath will run you over, scold you for being in their way, and have a smirk because secretly they get entertainment out of the chaos they’ve created. A Psychopath will go to great lengths and take calculated steps to ensure they run you over, laugh while doing it, and back up to make sure the most damage is done.

In therapy, we start to literally deprogram the conscious and subconscious lies the abusers have planted in the survivors.

Rarely does a toxic person give an authentic apology. To do so would be too much evidence that they are just like everyone else and flawed.

Realizing toxic people are not actually insecure is one of the hardest concepts for survivors because thinking toxic people struggle with insecurities is a form of justification for their bad behaviors.

Research shows it takes people many attempts to leave unhealthy relationships.

After a survivor of psychological abuse has identified their Despair (Stage One), Educated themselves on the specifics of psychological abuse (Stage Two), and had an Awakening that recovery is possible (Stage Three), the next stage is implementing Boundaries.

Unraveling the lies and replacing them with truth is at the heart of the recovery journey for survivors of psychological abuse.