There are many types of abuse and all of them are horrific but emotional abuse is quite possibly the worst of all due to its insidious nature. Many victims of emotional abuse don’t even realize that they are being abused until quite a bit of damage has already been done. Likewise, many people who are emotionally abusive do not realize that they are causing serious harm to their loved ones until it is pointed out to them. Emotional abuse leaves lasting scars that no bandaid, cast, or ointment can heal. It often causes the destruction of a person’s self-esteem, motivation, trust, trustworthiness, and often leaves the victim questioning every detail about themselves. Emotional abuse has been shown to cause depression, PTSD, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and anxiety disorder1.
SecondLife (SL) is an extremely fertile environment for emotional abusers to find victims. Many people who “play” SL do so because they want to be able to cultivate relationships with others that they may not be able to cultivate in the offline world. Perhaps they have physical limitations, maybe that have psychological, emotional, or mental impediments, or perhaps they are just longing for a connection that is simply not available to them offline. Whatever the reason, many people come to SL actively seeking and desirous of connections. That desire can leave people open to the manipulation and abuse of other SL residents who do not have good intentions.
Another element that makes abuse in SecondLife incredibly dangerous is the false but extremely widely held perception that the online world isn’t “real” and therefore anything that occurs in a virtual context can’t have any real lasting effects on the people who choose to participate. Anyone who has spent any measurable amount of time in a virtual environment should know that this is completely FALSE. Damage is damage, abuse is abuse no matter when, where, or how it is inflicted. The belief that it isn’t real can cause abused individuals to shy away from seeking help or telling their friends and family what is happening because they feel they will be not be taken seriously or ridiculed.
It is extremely important that we know abuse when we see it so that we can avoid it or help to put an end to it. Below are a few methods used by emotional abusers. If you can relate to any of these methods, I encourage you to reevaluate your relationship with the individual/group that uses it/them and seek help if necessary. If you find yourself using any of the below, I encourage you to please stop and also seek help to find out why.
Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or a group covertly sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgment, often evoking in them cognitive dissonance (the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change) and other changes, including low self-esteem. This type of Psychological Abuse often leaves survivors questioning every memory they have. Gaslighting is an effective way abusers attempt to gain power and control in a relationship. Explained more simply: Gaslighting is when a person or group attempts to make another person or group believe that something they know to be true is false.
Abused: You told me that you were single, now I find out that you are still seeing your “ex”.
Abuser: I never said that! I would never have said that! I told you we were taking a break. I never said we weren’t still together.
Abused: But I remember you said “I am single now.” I remember it like it was yesterday!
Abuser: You’re crazy! You heard want you wanted to hear!
- Criticizing, Negating, and Dismissing
People who love you will and should point out when you are wrong or need to make improvements in an area; however, emotional abusers will critique in excess, negate your feelings and dismiss your qualities and contributions to undermine your self-esteem.
Abused: Babe, guess what?! I was asked to speak and am being recognized for my achievements at an industry event next month! I am so excited.
Abuser: That’s great, babe. I’m happy for you …but… why would they want you to speak? I mean, didn’t we agree the other day that you haven’t done as much as you should be doing and could be working harder? Do you really think you deserve this?
An abuser will want to try to keep the abused as much under their control as possible. They will encourage the abused to distance themselves from friends and family. They will use guilt or shame to cause the abused to question/change their behavior, dress, activities, and anything else that they can.
Abuser: It makes me uncomfortable that you spend so much time online when I am not online with you. Do you have to be online so much? It makes me wonder what you are doing and who you are doing it with and you know trust is a huge thing with me. I don’t want you online unless I can be online too.
Also used to undermine your self-esteem, the abuser may belittle, publicly embarrass/shame, insult, patronize or call you names. These will often come in the form of jokes, pet names, or sarcasm to discourage protest or backlash from the abused or their friends/family.
Abuser: Aww, look at my sweet lil piggy eat! LOL Eating like that is why you had to keep changing outfits before we got here! None of your clothes fit anymore. LOL
The above are just a few methods and signs of emotional abuse but there are others and I encourage you to research them. Please see the references area below for links to more information and resources for help!
Have you ever experienced emotional abuse? Do you have any advice that you can share with others? Comment below!
1. Healthline: What Are the Short- and Long-Term Effects of Emotional Abuse?
2. Healthline: How to Recognize the Signs of Mental and Emotional Abuse
3. National Institute of Mental Health
4. National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
5. National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)