What is hidden abuse?
We have to accept that evil does exist in our world. Even in churches. Even in our families. Pretending we do not see it does not make it go away. Actually, ignoring evil most times makes it worse, as we make excuses that enable the abusers to continue with their evil motives.
Hidden abuse is psychological abuse perpetrated by evil hearts. It is abuse that often goes unnoticed or easily excused away as care and concern. It is maliciousness, cruelty, abandonment, and evil mind games geared at damaging another person’s good heart.
I was recently given a pre-launch review copy of a book written by Shannon Thomas, LCSW (of Southlake Christian Counseling) called, Healing From Hidden Abuse: A Journey Through the Stages of Recovery from Psychological Abuse.
In the book, Shannon explains, “Psychological abuse doesn’t leave bruises. There are no broken bones. There are no holes in the walls. The bruises, brokenness, and holes are held tightly within the survivor. The abuser wants it exactly that way. Keeping their hands clean and being able to project perfect public personas are hallmarks of psychological abusers.”
She goes on to say, “Frequently the emotional homicide is happening while other people go on clamoring about what a great guy or gal the abuser is, and how lucky the survivor is to be connected to the abuser. For those who have been harmed in a partner relationship, you know quite well the ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ act these individuals have perfected. What is seen behind closed doors is radically different than the public persona he or she is selling to the world. Boy is the world buying it, too. Some of the worse hidden abusers not only have good public images but often it is stellar. Do not for a second think that is a coincidence. In order to discredit any claims of harm a survivor might make, the abuser uses a calculated strategy. No allegations will stick in this sort of environment. The survivor ends up looking like the ‘crazy one,’ and the abuse cycle continues to spin. People should never underestimate a psychological abuser’s ability to hide the truth. They are not even honest with themselves and truly believe their own lies.”
Later on, Shannon says, “Their ‘come close, then disappear’ act creates all sorts of internal discord for the survivor, and the abuser loves it. Yes, they abuse on purpose. These sorts of games kill any level of connection a couple may have ever experienced. The ability for the abuser to harm someone close to him or her fits perfectly into the lack of relational attachment that is present within all psychological abusers. Even while on their honeymoon, some married survivors have experienced a radical shift in a toxic person’s behavior.”
Lastly, she explains, “Sometimes people will try to justify toxic behaviors in a marriage or partnership by saying things such as, ‘All couples have problems.’ The issue with this sort of comparison between a normal and an abusive relationship is that conflict in normal relationships does not leave the survivor spouse chronically lonely, lacking in relational nurturing, worried about how the abuse will affect their children, and needing to find restoration in key areas of their life.” “Toxic people like to try and normalize their actions. A statement about all couples having problems is an attempt to make the survivor feel like she or he is overreacting and being too sensitive. It is a diversion tactic to get the focus off of them, as the abuser, and on to the survivor and their reactions to the abuse.”
In the book, Healing from Hidden Abuse, you will receive a lot more helpful information and examples, for several different environments in which psychological abuse can take place.
Because you need to name it before you can heal it. All too often calling what is going on, in your home or friendship or workplace, “abuse” is the hardest first step into healing.
Shannon’s example, of about going to a restaurant with the in-laws, and being blatantly ignored was one of those “YES! Ah ha! I get it.” moments for me.
The in-laws may even use crocodile tears to share their sadness about how their son has married a cold-hearted woman who has torn their son away from his loving family. Not exactly the truth, but with toxic people the truth is irrelevant to their agenda.”
Have you ever felt that way?
Healing from Hidden Abuse.
I’ve learned from my own experience that healing from psychological abuse has stages. As you move through the stages, you learn more, gain more footing, and feel more confident.
After her discussion on hidden abuse, Shannon gives an in-depth explanation of each stage of healing that a survivor goes through.
Phases of healing.
- Despair: Before you know to call it abuse. But feeling and recognizing that something is just not right in the relationship. Wondering if you might be crazy. Having little to no self-esteem. Feeling disvalued and discarded by the other person. Needing to put on a fake smile while wanting to fall apart. Feeling suicidal. Seeking a therapist and/or a domestic violence shelter, for help.
- Education: Understanding that we are dealing with “hidden abuse.” Learning about all of the psychological terms (“flying monkeys,” etc.) and methods (“triangulation,” “idealize, devalue, & discard – the backbone of the life cycle for psychologically abusive relationships” [IDD], etc.) used by a psychological abuser to intentionally hurt. Lots of victims have a very hard time with this phase because they realize that the person whom they thought loved them, never really did. It was all an act. Initial intense “feelings” were only manufactured to draw in a target (the next victim).
- Awakening: Part of the process of deprogramming from the abuse, and getting off that “IDD” roller coaster. This is usually when a victim feels empowered, and probably angry about the injustice that she/he had been through. A lot of old memories might be tainted, as abusive motives are learned. But the survivor is usually out of the fog that kept her/him trapped in the abuse.
- Boundaries: Implementing boundaries and/or going no contact (or “detached contact”) with the abuser. Some of us are/were drawn to toxic people because we were raised by toxic people. Learning to decipher the differences between healthy and toxic people is important the education of boundaries. Also, accepting who they really are and not what we had hoped they would be.
- Restoration: This is where the survivor works at restoring what was lost during the time with the abuser. This is also the “learning self-love stage” if you ask me. Jesus said, “… love your neighbor as you do yourself.” (Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31.) NOT less than yourself.
- Maintenance: This is where the survivor finds deeper healing while carrying with, and expanding upon, the learning experiences from the phases. We accept that we need to be our own gatekeeper, to protect from old, present, and future abuse.
Abusers usually move on very quickly after discarding (the last “D” in “IDD”) their victims, without so much as a tear. The survivor should, and usually, does take her/his time to heal. (It’s important to heal your heart before getting into another relationship. Please take your time and allow yourself to heal completely.)
Being a survivor, I know I have worked through each one of these phases, myself. It is a continual process where phases often overlap as you jump between them depending on the week/day/hour.
For a time, I would have to put away all my narcissist and abuse books, and unfollow all the recovery pages and groups on Facebook, because it was just too much for my brain and heart to handle. Like I shared in one of my last blog posts, I had to implement boundaries pretty early on in my recovery. But it really wasn’t until after my awakening that I understood why not having boundaries my whole life, shaped all of my relationships. I have much healthier relationships now.
One last important point that needs to be shared about boundaries and Shannon mentions in this book, is “Boundaries have nothing to do with forgiveness or resentment. They have everything to do with the quality of our interactions with the people in our lives.”
Whoa! Someone write that down! 😉
Tired of hiding the pain behind a fake smile, thinking it might be abuse?
Are you unsure if your relationship is abusive or not? Want some tools to find out… how to handle the next steps… and how to heal?
You are going to want to get this book! So much helpful information packed inside.
I just gifted one to a friend. You should too!
Order Your Copy TODAY!
Many days growing and learning in Him,