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.

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4 thoughts on “Hidden Abuse: Recognizing Psychological Trauma

  1. Powerful concept about how those close to abusers are frequently confused about the nature of the abuser. The idea hat s/he is not necessarily insecure, but has built a personality around power, control, and sadism can free the victims​, who are frequently relatives. Thanks, Ros!

  2. DEAR ROS,
    I am glad I have bumped into your website… reading some of your articles about the detachment, abuse… completely fits my life and all you write so far, I completely agree with and relate to… though I have experienced much of abuse ( physical as well as psychological ) in my life, I refuse to see myself as a victim, I try to detach as much as I possibly can from the anger, disgust, but that sort of makes me detached from the one way love if you know what I mean, I cannot really feel love or romantic love anymore just sort of a kindness, emphaty… I realize I truly didn’t have the boundaries… so on some level I have allowed THEM to abuse me, thinking that it is just temporary…. and that their condition will pass…

    however, after several years I do not see their condition to pass, and to avoid a complete hatred, what really Works for me is to keep distance… l have studied many books on self help, NLP, etc over 150 books, I do yoga daily for last 10 years and meditation, and it may seem to THEM that I am abandoning THEM ( THEM MEANS THE ABUSERS, AS THERE ARE MORE OF THEM AND I WISH TO KEEP THEM ANONYMOUS)…BUT TO ME it seems as I am returning to MYSELF… I hope you know what I mean, I am aware too of the revenge thoughts, worked hard on removing the immediately after they appear, and they haven’t actually appeared for a long long time, for I know these people really do not know what they are doing, mostly they are just boosting their ego, no matter if they have or do not have insecurities…. even if they don’t have the insecurities, they have the need to control and that kind of need to me is already a sign of weekness, I truly do not have that type of need and NEVER HAD whatsoever, that need is firmly linked with the size of their ego, they need to be boosting over and over and over again, feeding it, for their ego has taken the control over their soul…. I TRY TO FUNCTION FROM THE POINT OF SOUL, I
    just observe, for that state of mind takes a while to obtain, it is a process, I love solitude, PEACE,
    it is hard for me to believe though that people seem to have no idea about a simple psychology, I see daily around me these animal – mind-set people …. not caring about the consequences of their actions ….even before I educated myself about all this that you write here and other spiritual truths and moral wisdom, I INTUITIVELY FELT ALL THIS LONG TIME BEFORE I have read about it, so how come I KNEW and many of THEM look at me as if I am crazy when attempting to explain to them all of this ….
    Well I could write all night here, and Thank s AGAIN ROS, TO ME THIS PAGE IS A SIGN FROM AN ANGEL

  3. Dear Ros,

    I have recently been divorced from a person who is the very definition of a narcissist. I have been able to detatch from her, but we have children. I see my children as much as possible and I see the oldest falling into the footsteps of her mother. I am worried that my children are going to end up being just like her. I am also still trying to figure out what happened in the almost 13 years that we were married. It has been almost 3 years since we divorced. It is very frustrating to deal with her, when I must, and I see a lot of that frustration in some of the children while others are following suit. What can be done to keep the kids from being this way. I am completely at a loss for words as to how I feel. Please help.

    • Such a tough situation to be in! I would first refer you to a recent post on this blog about high-conflict divorce which addresses some of your issues, I believe, and also provides links to resources. Second, because I can’t advise via this site for legal and ethical reasons, I suggest you speak with a therapist who can be available to you in your area so that you can sort out your feelings and find solutions. Best wishes, Ros

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