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Abuse masked as something else.

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I think it can be hard sometimes to recognise abuse because there are things like guilt trips which can be forms of abuse too and in those cases the person perpetrating the abuse genuinely thinks that they are the victim (it works better that way). In fact there are lots of types of abuse where the abuser genuinely thinks they are the victim and which work so much better because of it.

I lived for some years with a self-harmer, throughout the relationship I didnt regard myself as being abused by this but then I realised that I was walking on eggshells the whole time in case 'I' set her off. I do not believe that she intended to abuse me or manipulate me into doing what she wanted me to do but the effect of her self-harming was exactly that - I did whatever she wanted me to do. I learnt to anticipate what she wanted, I learnt to stay away from topics of discussion she didnt like discussing - her self-harming controlled me completely and yet on the face of it the harm was not being done to me but to her.

My ex-wife poisoned my relationships with my children by telling them a whole range of bogus stories about me but she had managed to convince herself that they were true so that she was not 'abusing me' she was only telling the truth albeit a completely new truth which was the exact opposite of everything she had said about me during 14 years of marriage.

I think these 'masked' forms of violence are so much more insidious than the obvious ones because as much as a beating or something like that hurts, you recognise it for what it is, very often these subtle and indirect forms are not recognised as abuse and so are not dealt with as such.


Well-Known Member
I completly agree with what you said there. While it is awful if you are being hit, or any other form of abuse that is obvious atleast you can tell it is abuse. Emotional abuse can b alot more tricky because (as the name suggests) it plays with your emotions. It gets into your head and changes the way u think and feel. Often making the victim feel like they are in the rong and the abuser is the victim. Also sometimes neither partner knows there is abuse happening. Even the abuser may not b aware that they are 'abusing'. Making it much harder to identify what is happenin as abuse.

I am sorry u had such a tough time with your ex. I hope things have sorted out for you now.
Take care


a very good post. having been "obviously abused" and psychologically abused the psychological aspect is easier for my mother to deny- she wasn't hit, we the children got the brunt of it, but the psychological aspect doesn't seem "too bad" to her, although she failed to protect her own children because of what she had to go through from my father and also her own denial.

from your post, you sound very aware of what you've been through and i think it's wonderful reading as being around a mother who invalidates not only herself but her own children is very painful. what you went through sounds very stressful and distressing and i hope you gather the support to help you heal and notice patterns in future relationships. take care. :smile:
letdown said:
what you went through sounds very stressful and distressing and i hope you gather the support to help you heal
If only it was just a question of healing oneself - for me it is the damage to my children that causes me my grief. My ex-wife took me to court for custody of the children. Even though her abuse of the children was acknowledged by the court I was blamed for it and she was given custody.

She continued to abuse the kids after I was removed from the house - eventually my son ran away from her and is now a homeless paranoid schizophrenic of whom I have not had word in over 4 years - my daughter did the polar opposite and allied herself with her mum. She became a hyperfunctional ice-queen, won the university medal for languages and disappeared the Switzerland and has not given anyone I know a forwarding address. I havent heard from her in over 3 years.

It is the damage to my children that haunts me most - I was an adult I can at least understand what happened but the kids were just completely disoriented and became lost souls.


Well-Known Member
I rarely check this section as it can be too upsetting for me at times but I try to keep an eye out here and there. Anyway I like this thread. it makes some really good points. Similar to my thread on Am I An Abuser. Sometimes abusers think thye are not even being abusive. Thanks for the thread. Really sorry for what the kids had to go through. I have nieces that are still being abused even after we reported it and we can't do anything now because of my brother who just sits there and won't say anything. :depressed



Hi thanks for the great thread it confirms my worst fear, that I was being abusive using emotional black mail to get my daughter to spend time with me and keep out of trouble. The area is so grey where does stoping them doing things that are going to cause them harm in the long run met abuse, I never hurt my daughter physically just liked having her around to make up for my lack of social life due to Sp, but it didn't feel like it at the time as she would love to be with me. But that could have been her way of comforting me to avoid my moods.

I don't know all I know is I have lost her and I hate myself for it, I need to change or die.
BehindClosedDoorsICry said:
I was being abusive ...and I hate myself for it, I need to change or die.
I originally posted this thread to draw attention to the fact that some behaviour is really hurtful and very damaging without people realizing, recognizing or acknowledging it. This is usually because that type of behaviour is not generally classed as abuse.

'Abuse' however is a loaded word that can only be properly used in certain contexts and this is not one of them. I spent a long time as a therapist and one thing that I found beyond all doubt is that people who behave badly were trying to act well but failed because of things beyond their control. (Note: just because things were not under control does not mean that they dont cause damage - people get killed by accident.)

Because these behaviors were 'things beyond control' no blame or guilt attachs to them. This does not however mean that once a person does recognize bad behavior, and so acquires some control, they should not try to repair any damage they have done or discontinue the behavior if it is still going on.

From what you have written it sounds like you have lost a loved one (I dont know whether through death or estrangement). If that person is dead - that is pain enough, you dont need guilt and blame on top of that. If that person is still alive you can try to repair the damage - the first step of which is letting them know that you recognize the previous bad behavior - all of it. It has to be everything because the things that you think were worst may not be the things that they found worst.

Good luck.


Well-Known Member
My mom was an expert at using this tactic when I was a kid (in other words, too small to fight back). After having yelled at me for something usually so trifling I couldn't expect any of you to understand, telling me why I'm the worst son anyone could have, and then often physically assaulting me via smacking, kicking, and/or ear pulling, she'd eventually just break down in tears and fall to the floor. Then she'd say something like, "I bet it would make you happy if I just killed myself." Well, yeah mom actually it would. Of course I couldn't say this. In fact, if I didn't sound downright magnanimous I'd just continue to get berated and beaten. My dad was an equally unqualified parent, but for different reasons. It's bewildering to me how emotionally unstable people can choose to have kids.
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Antiquitie's Friend
That is so true, your last sentence. I would love to write more...but need sleep. I have recently been thinking a lot about my parents, cuz they are deceased. It is my guess that when the children arrive, the stress, tension and other issues increase. If the dysfunction was on the edge or buried, something will occur to cause problems. Luckily or not we live thru the sh**.
Thanks for sharing, we all have those lost childhoods.


Account Closed
i am totally gettin this. as i share my story to a bud. ihear myself tellin how i made BAD choicesand when i say them i am just shocked that i made them myself. but back then i was lead to feel and believe if i loved him or cared i wouldn t hurt him like that. i am started to feel real mixed up by it all and really really dumb cause these choices led to no small consiquences. they changed the direction of my fate totally. in ways that are heavy heavy guess ....................well ya it hurts and still hurts
this thread touched me. i spent a couple of years with a man who was mentally ill... he would scream at me, and i mean scream so loud you could feel it in the air, but he would always make me believe it was my fault. Beofre that (during and after for that matter) there was the more subtle stuff you mentioned... learning to avoid the land mines... doing whatever it takes to avoid setting him off... or in my case, doing whatever it took to restore calm and to keep him from going over the edge...

but you know? for any of you living with a person with an illness... maybe going over the edge is what they should do... maybe it would mean ending up in the hospital and getting better help.

feeling responsible and guilty *is* a result of the pattern of abuse. The first step to breaking that pattern is talking about it... once i was able to tell people what was happening at home it got easier for me to see how it wasn't my fault at all.

don't hide it... talk about it.
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