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You are NOT Crazy

Clarity: The First Healing Agent of Emotional Abuse

When a person has been emotionally abused for a significant period of time, there develops a distrust in one’s own perceptions, one’s own discernments, one’s own thoughts and one’s own emotions. Typically, this is because every perception, discernment, thought or emotion has been discounted as invalid over and over again. You’ve been told that you didn’t see what you saw; you didn’t hear what you heard; you didn’t interpret correctly; your thoughts are stupid, ridiculous, downright crazy; and you are waaaaay too sensitive. Not only have you been told these things over and over again, but you have now introjected or absorbed them into your own image of yourself. You have come to believe that you can’t really perceive reality correctly. You’ve come to believe that your own thoughts are stupid and/or ridiculous; you’ve come to believe that you might even be “crazy.” You find it easy to believe that you’ve misinterpreted, and you criticize yourself for being too sensitive.

Andrea Mathews
Source: Andrea Mathews

So, let’s look at what’s really happening. First, “too sensitive.” It is not possible to be too sensitive. (Yes, yes, you can misunderstand and get your feelings hurt unnecessarily, but that is not the same as being too sensitive). Sensitivity is a part of a personality. It comes with the package. It means you have a capacity for empathy, for feeling other people’s feelings, and for picking up on what people are communicating nonverbally. It means that you care deeply about self and others. It’s a part of your hardware. Emotional abusers often tell their victims that they are too sensitive as a way of both denying the impact of their emotional abuse and making sure that they are not caught emotionally or otherwise abusing.

For example, the emotional abuser refuses to take you to the ER when you are having severe stomach pain and extreme vomiting. He tells you that you are just being silly, that there’s nothing really wrong with you, and besides he has a very busy schedule. So, you drive yourself to the hospital, learn that you have an ulcerative condition, return home and later try to tell him how you needed his support, you needed him to be there for you. He just waves you off and says you are being way to sensitive. “Grow up!” He says, “I can’t always be there to baby you!” Now you feel like maybe you are asking too much of him, maybe he’s right. Maybe you do need to grow up. Maybe you are too sensitive.

But for the most part, what the emotional abuse does is make the abused question her own internal messaging system. What comes out of you is skeptically received, but what comes out of your abuser is believed. Did you see him raise his hand as if he were going to hit you, then pretend that it never happened? Yes, you did. But he will deny it with such vehemence and such convincing manipulation, that you will think that he is right.

Did you hear him tell your child that you were just “crazy?” Yes, you did. But if you bring it up, he will deny it outright, telling you that you just thought that’s what you heard, because that’s just what you wanted to hear. “You’ve never trusted me! You just want to believe the worst about me!”

Furthermore, you are afraid of upsetting him, so much so in fact, that you are constantly walking on eggshells to make sure that one of his fuses doesn’t get lit. You feel as if you and you alone are responsible for his mood swings, his anger, his accusations and his disrespect of you. So, you bargain with it: IF I can tip-toe around him, THEN he will be in a good mood and everything will go smoothly. These IF/THENs are evidence that we are bargaining with reality instead of accepting it. Unfortunately, these bargains can go on for years without our ever knowing that we are only prolonging our agony.

The truth is that your perceptions are not wrong, your discernments are correct, your intuition is right on, and you are not too sensitive. You are NOT crazy. Your abuser just wants you to think that, so that you will stay and continue to tolerate his abuse.

(NOTE: I have genderized this story, but I do not want to give the impression that emotional abuse is only perpetrated by men, and only women are emotionally abused. Emotional abuse knows no gender. It can be perpetrated by anyone of any gender on anyone of any gender.)