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Warning Signs of an Emotionally Abusive Relationship

Warning Signs of an Emotionally Abusive Relationship

According to noted Psychotherapist Esther Perel, in relationship, we require two things: stability and desire.[1] We want to know that our partner has our back and that we can depend on them.

So what happens if your partner doesn’t show up in this way? What if your partner’s words and actions even seem a little mean or hostile?

There are many forms of abuse and sometimes, one can experience more than one of these by an abuser. The first thing that comes to mind usually is physical abuse or domestic violence; however, there are other forms of abuse that can go overlooked and not addressed because they don’t bear the same physical marks. This can result in the emotional abuse going on for years undetected.

There is no discrimination in abuse with regards to age, gender, socioeconomic status, education or ethnicity, anyone can become a victim of abuse. Awareness of the forms of abuse can allow you to spot them and stop the abuse as soon as possible.

What Is an Emotionally Abusive Relationship?

Psychological abuse, often called emotional abuse, is also a form of abuse. Emotional abuse can result in trauma, anxiety or depression. This form of abuse is likely more common than physical abuse and consists of any behavior designed to hurt another person emotionally.

Why is emotional abuse so harmful? It has negative and long-lasting effects on an individual’s self-esteem.

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Verbal abuse can be used to manipulate and degrade someone that can leave them feeling powerless and confused. Victims of emotional abuse actually start to believe their abuser resulting in feeling shame and doubtful about themselves and their self-worth.

Financial abuse is also a form of emotional abuse. Have you heard the saying “He who holds the money holds the power”? When someone uses financial means to control another person, this is also a form of abuse. Signs of financial abuse include things like restricting access to money, credit cards and bank accounts.

Emotional abuse will usually start out small so that the abuser can determine how far the victim will allow them to go. Over time, the abuse can build until it becomes very frightening and debilitating for the victim. The cycle perpetuates itself and only continues to worsen, ultimately leading to further abuse and heightened fears. This ultimately paralyzes the victim, making it very difficult to share the abuse with friends or loved ones.

Signs of Emotional Abuse

If you find yourself or anyone you love having the signs below, it’s time to muster your courage and face the issue:

  • Humiliation, criticizing and yelling – When someone frequently humiliates you, either publicly or privately, this can be a sign of abuse. Do you always feel that you’re wrong or that you can’t do anything right because of comments your partner makes?
  • Threatening – If someone threatens you and you fear for your safety even if they never act on it, this can be a sign of abuse.
  • Imitating or making fun of – There is a difference between poking fun at and joking at someone else’s expense. This is usually done by the abuser to make them feel better about themselves and more superior.
  • Ignoring or isolating – This can be used as a form of punishment. Being ignored by someone you love is painful.
  • Gaslighting – Manipulating someone so much that they think they are going insane.
  • Controlling and lecturing – Treating someone as though they are child and preventing them from doing things they desire, and lecturing them for having these desires.
  • Accusations and blame – The abuser doesn’t take any responsibility, and blames his victim for anything and everything that goes wrong.

My Personal Experience with Abuse

Unfortunately, I’ve experienced emotional abuse myself in the form of financial abuse. I was married for 13 years to a man who controlled me with money.

The sad thing is that I didn’t even realize it until I was out of the marriage. I found myself doubting my worth and was so beaten down that I justified his actions all while feeling unfulfilled in my relationship.

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Here are some examples from my abusive relationship. I wasn’t allowed to touch the thermostat in my home as I didn’t pay the mortgage or phone bill (Controlling). While grocery shopping, my personal hygiene items like deodorant or tampons were separated from the family groceries so that I could pay for them myself (Humiliation). He never wanted to combine our finances so, on occasion, I would have to borrow money from my husband. He would then require me to postdate checks to him and place them on the mirror in our bedroom as a reminder until I paid him back (Humiliation).

I must point out that my ex-husband did not exhibit these behaviors toward me at the beginning of our relationship. There were no “red flags” that alerted me to the forthcoming abuse that I was to confront. It was a gradual progression that occurred after our first son was born and continued to escalate 4 years later after our second son was born.

I was ultimately controlled by my ex-husband and made to feel inadequate and wrong until it was simply unbearable for me.

Although I attempted to seek help through counseling, my ex-husband was simply not willing to change. It was only at the very end when I asked him for a divorce that he was even remotely interested in discussing his behavior. By that point, I simply had too much respect for myself to succumb to any false promises from him.

In the end, it was a very long struggle to find my voice and the strength to stand up for myself and say, enough is enough.

How to Move Beyond an Emotionally Abusive Relationship

If you feel that you’re being emotionally abused, trust your instincts.

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Realize that you’re not responsible. You can’t control what someone else does. But now that you’re aware of the situation, it’s time to take your power back. Take control of your life and find help if you need it.

1. Set Boundaries

First, identify what your boundaries are. What are you willing to accept for your emotional and physical limits? And what makes you feel stressed or uncomfortable?

The only way to set good boundaries is to know where you stand. Your partner isn’t a mind reader, so you need to communicate your feelings and boundaries in a direct straightforward way.

Setting boundaries is a sign of a healthy relationship and you should each be willing to honor them.

2. Remove Yourself from the Situation

The ease of doing this will depend on your situation. Before you leave, be sure to have an exit strategy in place. If you feel that you could be in danger, this will keep you safe while you prepare to get everything in order so you can leave for good.

Speak with friends and family that you trust about your plan to leave and seek assistance. Always remember… You’re not alone!

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There are many organizations available to help you. If you’re worried about how you will financially support yourself or where you will go, don’t worry, there are shelters available to assist you with all of this every step of the way.

3. Seek Assistance from Friends, Family and Professional Counselors If Needed

A few places to seek assistance include your church, a counselor, or you can find a therapist at GoodTherapy.org.

If your relationship is very abusive, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at TheHotline.org.

Final Thoughts

Not only is it possible to survive an abusive relationship, but also you can thrive and be healthy and happy.

Be sure you have the support you need and make yourself a priority. Realize your self-worth. Self-care is very important in the healing process.

When you set boundaries to eliminate the abuse or choose to leave, you’re in control of your life better. You’re also empowering yourself and practicing self-love at the same time.

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Always remember that you are in charge of your life and have the power of choice on your side. Don’t let others diminish your light or power. You’re stronger than you know!

Featured photo credit: Max Rovensky via unsplash.com

Reference

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Dana Lam

Dana is a busy mom of two boys, author and co-founder of the Surprise Date Challenge.

How to Overcome Trust Issues in a Relationship (And Learn to Love Again) How to Build Loyalty in Your Relationship Why Your Relationship Has Become Boring (And How to Fix It) Warning Signs of an Emotionally Abusive Relationship

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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