Toxic Relationships Part 4: How to Combat Emotional Abuse

Written by: Emily Harrison, M.S.
Toxic Relationships Part 4: How to Combat Emotional Abuse

For the final part of this series, we will discuss responses and ways to combat emotional abuse and gaslighting. As stated previously, the best-case scenario would be to remove yourself from any situation or relationship where this is occurring. Because that is not always realistic, there are many ways you can respond to emotional abuse while actively working to attempt to cut ties with whoever may be emotionally abusive.

The first step in any process like this is to have the awareness that it is happening. Using this blog series to identify warning signs and make yourself aware of what is happening. Look for key words, trigger phrases, and uncover the intent behind statements that may look like gaslighting. Remember, common gaslighting statements aim to invalidate thoughts and feelings.

Next, trust yourself and know that your experience is true and valid despite what the abuser may say to make you think otherwise. It may be helpful to document experiences, words, conversations, etc in order to gather evidence to support your experiences. Maybe you chose to journal or write down exactly what happened. That way, you can look back and can validate the experience if you begin to second guess yourself.

Find someone that you trust to hold yourself accountable. Make sure this person is trustworthy and can help keep you safe if anything should happen.

There are many ways to respond to an abuser in the moment. The best advice would be to keep conversations simple. Do not attempt to outsmart, outplay, or change that person’s mind. You can respond with phrases like, “This is how I remember it”, “I am not going to argue with you when I know what is true”, “I am allowed to feel this way”, “You are not allowed to tell me what I feel”, and “If you continue to invalidate my experience, I can no longer have this conversation with you”.

Standing up someone who is actively emotionally abusing you can be challenging. Be sure to have a strong support system, stand your ground, and take steps to be prepared to leave any situation that may be abusive.