Emotional Abuse: the Umbrella of all Abuse

Emotional Abuse: the Umbrella of all Abuse

‘Emotional abuse’ is a term I resist. It makes me want to deny any knowledge of it. Which is a shame because emotional abuse is the umbrella of all abuse and is a subject that affects more of us than we realize.

To make lives significantly happier and to overcome it, I believe that we first have to accept emotional abuse and struggle with it. I will explain the term ‘the umbrella of all abuse’ below.

But first, the terms ‘victim’ and ‘abuser’ in and of themselves sound so serious? They sound as if they refer to a stranger, far away from me.  The words alone make me want to stick my fingers in my ears and shake my head violently.

Emotional abuse, especially of the quiet, invisible sort, is very common

It’s something that most of us have probably dished out at some time or another. When we’re stressed, it’s so easy to lash out and it happens almost automatically. Yet someone may have been scarred for life by our words. All emotional abuse can be serious.

Abuse has to start somewhere: abusers have to start somewhere. Isn’t it better to recognize it and snuff it out in it’s earliest stages, before it even really becomes abuse? I am not looking to police all language and sterilize our world of humour. However, I also don’t want to excuse abusive behaviour.

I am encouraging you to look at the reasons for it, rather than deny it or condemn it out of hand.  I believe understanding it will help to turn it around without having to hurt or persecute anyone.

Denied – or ignored – emotional abuse can escalate into something very ugly and unrecognizable. A person across the world can cause such unhappiness to another than they commit suicide. Emotional abuse either becomes physical or sexual or causes physical suffering in other ways.  

I dream of a time when we recognize abuse at it’s very beginning and turn it around while it’s still at it’s earliest stage.

Emotional Abuse is the ‘umbrella’ of all types of abuse

By the statement ’emotional abuse is the umbrella of all types of abuse’ I mean that all abuse, whether it be the worst kind of physical or sexual abuse or the mildest name-calling, it is the emotional part of the abuse that causes the real harm.

We can put two equals in a boxing ring. The soundest beating will not be abusive.

However, if someone older than you and whom you trust hurts you, the emotional abuse could be huge.

Emotional abuse is the umbrella of all types  of abuse. It is the motional part of all abuse that causes real and lasting harm.

We all, victims and abusers of all types, start life as beautiful babies, believing everyone will love us and give us what we need. Unfortunately life is not so kind and we have to adapt in order to survive in the environments we are born into. For a sensitive child, this can be very harsh.

Luckily for human survival we are born with the flexibility to survive even in the worst circumstances. We adapt – often by becoming abusers ourselves – to survive abuse in our own families.  That abuse could be very mild abuse indeed but undetected, that abuse can grow.

Emotional Abuse ruins lives: even ‘mild’ emotional abuse.

And even at the other end of the spectrum, once bones heal, it is the emotional effect of that abuse that will stay with us for years. Maybe forever.

Abuse in Sheep’s Clothing…

We never intend to hurt our children: we want the best for them and would give our lives for them. However… Somehow, sometimes, it happens. How?


  1. Most abusers were themselves abused in the past. FACT.
  2. Under stress, the past tends to repeat itself.
  3. Can we stop it? Yes! The simple act of accepting the possibility and talking about the abuse with a professional will cause the brain to start ‘re-programming’ itself. Magic!

The ‘mildest’ abuse can have devastating results over time, particularly because if it mild it is likely to go unnoticed for years.  The good news: happily even the most severe abuse, properly treated, can heal.

This website explores all abuse: from the mildest – to the most serious.

Knowlege is Power - never underestimate it!
Knowledge is Power – never underestimate it!

Once you know about abuse, you can never ‘not know’ again. Knowledge is power!

Mild abuse was never called ‘abuse’ in the past. Half a century ago, sayings like “she wore the trousers in their family”…  It was unfeminine to be assertive and not meant kindly: men – people in trousers – were supposed to run the home. Or “you wouldn’t dare upset him” was another common saying… The fact that ‘he’ was unkind or even cruel was acceptable.

Uncles,  aunts, cousins, siblings and friends all living in close proximity to one another share any hardship and recent research has shown that seems to make bearing it very much easier. Not only is there bound to be someone close to share such problems with but the growing child also learns that there are all kinds of people. Today, in our small ‘nuclear’ families, abuse seems can be more damaging because of the isolation.

Mild emotional abuse can be devastating, especially when there is no-one else around to offset the harm created by the unkindness – unfairness and ‘unreality’ – of the words.

What we think of as emotional abuse is often less obviously serious – i.e. there are no black eyes or broken limbs. But in fact the cost to enjoyment of life and the cost in terms of that abuse being handed down the generations and continuing for years,  affecting many people, can be a high cost indeed.

Emotional abuse is an insidious, often completely unnoticeable form of abuse that wreaks havoc – often because we don’t even realize it’s there. Most often it starts in the family and/or in our early childhood. The effects of even the very mildest abuse can be harsh.

The damage from all abuse, at any age, is emotional, whether it is child abuse, adult abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or any kind of abuse. Emotional abuse is the ‘mother’ of all abuse and includes:

  • infants expected not to cry
  • anger/disappointment when infant/child fails to meet a developmental stage
  • child expected to be ‘caregiver’ to the parent
  • young child expected to take care of younger siblings
  • blaming child or youth for misbehaviour of siblings
  • unreasonable responsibilities for jobs around the house
  • expecting youth to support family financially
  • encouraging participation in pornography or other illegal activity
  • sexually abusing child or youth
  • requiring child or youth to participate in sexual exploitation

Think of your words as potential weapons and treat them with the care you would take, driving a car or wielding a hammer.

The good news is that turning this confusion around is easy, for the victim and for the abuser – if you choose to turn it around, that is.

Knowledge and counselling are very effective.

The key is to accept responsibility for all of your behaviour.

If you suspect that there was abuse in your family, you can be fairly sure that it has affected you in some way. But don’t panic! Likely the effect won’t be easily visible but if you are open to it, you will find it.

If you feel sad and think you are being abused, feel welcome to email me your questions. But… Safety is very important. Please always, always remember that someone else may read your emails or find access to your email account or computer.