Family is supposed to provide a safe space where we can be ourselves. Sadly, it isn’t always safe. You may have a family member/s who intentionally humiliates you in public, constantly corrects you, accuses you of being too sensitive or limits your freedom by restricting your access to money and transportation. Underneath these masks is EMOTIONAL ABUSE. So what do you do about it?
Let’s start with the hardest thing …
“Confront” may be a harsh word, but we could paint this in a cooler color: have an honest conversation. Either way, it is important that your family member, who you love and presumably loves you, knows that they are hurting you when they do or say X or Y. It’s possible they aren’t aware or they don’t think you mind since you never said anything about it – both options point at a flaw in that person’s character, not yours. Confronting the issue may be the only step towards ending it.
Withdraw yourself – physically or behaviorally
If you are an adult, you may want to step back or step away from the relationship – at least for a while. Leaving is not a solution, but it could create a vacuum between you and your abuser to encourage a direct dialogue about the problem. What is most important to realize is that you are not to blame for the abuse someone else pours on you, and you have the right to free yourself from it.
If you cannot literally leave, then virtually leave by disengaging from the abuser. Observe whatever triggers the abuse and avoid it. Sometimes a change in environment or interaction can prompt more changes – hopefully for the better.
Build your self-esteem
The abuse and attacks can cause long-term damage for your self-esteem. Make sure you have an outlet where you can feel good about yourself. Maybe that is a club or organization, your career or a hobby – surround yourself with anything or anyone who sees your value and helps you see it too. Having a circle of support (friends, lovers or other family members) helps to remind you that YOU are not the problem; THE ABUSER is the problem.
Go out into the world
Humans have a unique and remarkable ability to interact with their environment through speech. Talk and listen to others. When you begin to realize that the world is full of potential relationships and adventure, the problems at home can take on a whole new perspective. Again, this is not a solution for dealing with emotional abuse from your family, but it opens new opportunities for change or different points of view. This in turn empowers you, making that confrontation or honest conversation about the abuse possible.
Be open to therapy
Professionals can truly help you see your way through abuse. They may encourage you to employ some of the points we’ve discussed already, or help you find something else. What is most important though is that you learn that you are not the problem, and you develop mechanisms to cope with the other person who is the problem.