When we talk about abuse, you might immediately think of physical or psychological violence that an abuser exerts over their victim. But there are other more subtle forms of abuse that you might not always be aware of, and little by little it can destroy a person from within.
What we’re talking about are the covert or passive attacks that don’t usually provoke a reaction, because the aggression isn’t direct or it doesn’t seem to hurt too much at the time. But over the long-term, it can destroy your self-esteem and the confidence you have in yourself. And watch out – we’re not just referring to the damage that a romantic partner can inflict. Sometimes this comes from your own family members.
Today we’ll teach you how to recognize this form of abuse and defend yourself from it.
How do you recognize subtle forms of abuse?
To understand what subtle abuse really is, we’ll give you some examples that will be easily recognizable. Think of a child who, from a very young age, has always been clumsy or awkward. They have a tendency to drop things and every time they do, their parents called it to their attention; if they accidentally broke something, it was because of their inherent “clumsiness.”
As this kid grows up, this supposed clumsiness begins to apply to tests that they don’t pass, or their inability to make friends easily…their parents love them, of course, and they don’t mistreat their child. But throughout their entire life they’ve been led to believe that they’re inherently a clumsy person with lower abilities than others. This is a subtle form of abuse that causes enormous insecurities and low self-esteem over time.
Here’s another example. Take the case of a couple who uses a lot of irony in their day to day lives. They’re known for making people laugh at another’s expense, unaware that it’s hurtful to that person. They never seem to take things seriously and they make fun of anything: the things you do, how you dress, the way you express yourself…little things that don’t have any evil intent behind them. But they do cause pain, making them a kind of hidden abuse.
Everyone knows that these kinds of behavior are common in our world, and sometimes it’s not worth responding to them. They’re small things, but when they’re persistent they can end up hurting someone beyond repair. That’s why it’s important to learn to recognize them.
How should you defend yourself against “subtle” abuse?
- Be aware that words can be as damaging as a physical blow – the emotional injuries are just as painful.
- No matter how harmless the comment may have been, or how innocent it may seem, don’t let it slide. State your feelings clearly, and don’t be afraid to say that something hurts you and shouldn’t be repeated.
- Learn to set better boundaries for your life, and create barriers that people shouldn’t cross. If something someone says bothers you, don’t let it – and if they say something that’s untrue, defend yourself. There are people out there who are always ready to make unkind or untrue comments, and maybe you should ask yourself why you still spend any time with them. Toxic people only cause more suffering because they themselves are living with insecurities and unhappiness. It’s not worth keeping them around.
- The biggest problem with “subtle” abuse is that the abuser doesn’t see any harm in their words or actions. They simply don’t recognize what they’re doing. What for them is just a joke, to you is clearly hurtful. If you don’t tell them this, and let them continue day after day, eventually the abuse will become greater.
- Your parents, siblings, partners, and even coworkers are capable of perpetrating this kind of abuse. People may say that they love you and respect you, but don’t doubt your instincts. You have to defend your own integrity and self-esteem, and you know fully well what’s respectful and what’s offensive to you. Some people think that they’re empowered or entitled to make jokes at another’s expense and even be disrespectful toward them. Don’t let anyone treat you this way. When something bothers you, remember it. This can prevent you from getting hurt in the future, and if that person takes your response badly, don’t worry. If they can’t understand that they’ve hurt you, it shows that they lack empathy and don’t have the emotional maturity to establish and maintain healthy relationships.