Subtle forms of psychological abuse are very dangerous because it is very difficult to identify them. These behaviors, which seem harmless, gradually undermine the victims, generating significant psychological consequences. What are these subtle forms of abuse and what do they consist of?
We will, throughout this article, explain 4 subtle forms of psychological abuse that can occur in family or romantic contexts. We will also talk about these signs that can help us identify them, with a special focus on their consequences for victims.
Subtle forms of psychological abuse
It is customary, when speaking of psychological abuse, to refer to the most obvious forms of identification. The subtle forms of abuse are characterized by their hidden, ambiguous character and their false generosity. So, from the outside, we might think that the latter even wants to help.
Research indicates that subtle forms of abuse are much more common than others that leave more obvious signals, such as physical abuse. However, the harm caused by these subtle forms can, in the long run, be deeper.
The difficulty in identifying the aggression, the repressed feelings and the silence they produce only delay the intervention and make it difficult to resolve or reverse the situation. Subtle forms of abuse can sound like seemingly harmless comments or behavior.
Some of the forms in which they appear are devaluation, humiliation, control or forms of blackmail. This type of aggression can occur in different contexts: within the couple, from parents to children, a friendly relationship, etc.
Moreover, these subtle forms of psychological abuse are characterized by very concrete feelings and sensations in the victim. In general, the latter feels as unworthy of being loved and guilty of all situations. She no longer has confidence in her capacity for autonomy.
1. The law of silence
The “law of silence” is one of the subtle forms of abuse. The actions taken are aimed at ignoring the victim, such as not speaking to them for a while or pretending not to hear or see them. It is a covert blackmail: the aggressor will not let go of his indifference before the other complies with his wishes.
The law of silence reflects the emotional immaturity of the abuser and a very poor management of communication. The consequences for the victim can be extremely harmful.
Being ignored causes fear, sadness, anger and, most importantly, a lot of anguish. The victim feels guilty about the situation because she does not understand why she is being treated in this way.
The gaslighting , a term that comes from Hollywood movies, is one of the most subtle forms of abuse. It is characterized by the aggressor’s efforts to make the victim doubt their own opinion, judgment or even perception or memory.
With this form of blackmail, during an argument, the victim will stop confronting the other, because she will doubt herself. A situation which, repeated over time, destroys the victim’s confidence, who finds himself in a situation of extreme vulnerability to the aggressor.
The consequences of these subtle forms of abuse include strong feelings of dependence, feelings of depersonalization and loss of control. Victims of gaslighting frequently report feeling as though they are going crazy or losing control of their life.
Overprotection has nothing to do with protecting – quite the opposite. In these subtle forms of abuse, the care offered has limiting effects on the victims. In other words, this protection comes at the expense of the victim’s autonomy and represents a negligent form of education.
Overprotection takes many forms: from difficulties in setting clear limits to the veto given to personal initiatives, through the avoidance of any type of frustration, at any cost. The consequences of these actions generate, in the victim, feelings of fear, dependence and a low tolerance for frustration which limits her in her daily life.
4. The conflict of loyalty
Conflict of loyalty is one of the subtle forms of psychological abuse. Although it can occur in different contexts, it is usually related to separation from children.
In the conflict of loyalty, separated parents fight for the child to unconditionally support one of the two. Without forgetting that loyalty to one of the parents presupposes disloyalty to the other.
It is usual to see parents belittling the other person in front of their children, placing the child in a role of judge or making him feel guilty because he feels good with the other. The consequences of this abuse in children are anxious symptoms and somatizations. They can seriously affect their emotional stability.
Subtle Forms of Psychological Abuse: Drip Injuries
Subtle forms of abuse are characterized by their ambiguity. However, they are more common than other more notorious types of abuse. They can also cause, in the long term, very harmful effects in the victims. These conditions can worsen the prognosis of victims in terms of their suffering.
The “law of silence” is based on behaviors intended to ignore the victim, to achieve a change in his behavior. Likewise, gaslighting directly attacks a person’s trust. These subtle forms of abuse, common in couple contexts, provoke fear, anger and anguish in victims.
Overprotection and conflict of loyalty are more common in family settings, from parent to child. Parents create protective behaviors that limit their children’s autonomy and make them feel helpless. In the loyalty conflict, both parents put pressure on their children to side with them.
The subtle forms of psychological abuse wear out like the drops that repeatedly fall on a stone. The reproduction of small actions which, in themselves, would not do any harm, end up, by dint of being maintained over time, by hurting the person.
These are corrosive formulas, the greatest danger of which is the difficulty in identifying them. Information is therefore one of the most important variables in prevention plans.