The #Metoo campaign has become a veritable movement against sexual assault and harassment of women. But that’s not the only thing that’s causing harm. Unfortunately, psychological abuse or violence is just as common today in the everyday lives of women as well as men, who are 10% affected. Although not physical, psychological violence leaves traces that are not visible, but which also shape those affected. In this way, it not only influences private life, but also affects how those affected treat their fellow human beings. Psychological violence often presents itself as a harbinger of physical violence. Both for the perpetrators and for the victims.
A dangerous pattern emerges in which both develop a familiarity with psychological violence that blurs the boundaries of right or wrong behaviour.
But what is psychological violence and where does it begin?
Everyone has experienced this kind of violence, some have even grown up with it and learned it through their own parents. Others are still living with it or are bearing the consequences of it for the long haul.
Mental violence is a form of violence in which one person tries to mentally weaken another, often close person, solely with words or manipulative strategies. This works completely without physical violence — usually only with the threat of it. The goal is always to weaken, unsettle, destabilise the other person and thereby try to become dependent.
Mental violence can occur in a variety of forms, such as e.g. through fearful acts, coercion, threats, harassment of any kind, terror, insult, devaluation, defamation and humiliation. In the case of children, this can also be done by deprivation of love, rejection, abuse to satisfy the narcissistic needs of parents (ex: the child is supposed to fulfil wishes and ideals or is used as a partner substitute), guilt creation, neglect or even bullying among peers in the school environment or on the Internet.
Those affected are usually unaware that they are victims of psychological violence. Even if this is not necessarily tied to a specific environment, these are often very familiar circumstances with intimate partners. In love relationships, parent-child relationships or very emotionally connected relationships, in which there is a lot of trust, love and in which the persons concerned do not question the culprit (the perpetrator), they become the perfect victim.
This usually leads to an isolation of the persons concerned from the people who could help them and puts them in a dangerous relationship of dependence with the perpetrator.
Psychological violence usually begins particularly creeping, because the perpetrator has to weaken his victim first. This is done discreetly and unnoticed. A little insult here, another humiliation there and slowly the attacks are piling up. Those affected subconsciously get used to it and do not defend themselves after a certain period of time, as the feeling of shame has already set in.
The goal is that the perpetrator can live out a sense of control, power and dominance in order to strengthen his own self-esteem.
And therein lies the problem: the perpetrators are very often people who suffer from a weak self-esteem and only feel strong and good if they can suppress and degrade their environment.
Thus, in reality, the object of violence (the person(s) concerned) is the stronger person and the perpetrator tries to conceal his own feeling of weakness by using force. For every person he can make docile serves as proof of his power and superiority and soothes his unstable mind. The explanation often lies in childhood, where he himself was deprived of power, generally by his own parents. For example, by forcing the child into actions to realise the goals of one or both parents, and love was used as an instrument of manipulation and was not unconditionally provided.
These parents show a manipulativen narcissistic behaviour, which they then pass on as a behavioural structure to their own children, who then feel, perceive and then reproduce such behaviour as normal. The difficulty lies in the fact that the child can’t help but feel what he or she is experiencing as normal — even if it is more like a perversion. This means you have to build up the experience of another, better normality in the child. And it must convey a better sense of security than what was previously known.
Otherwise, the children learn from the beginning that strength can only be gained by exercising control and power over others. The smallest transfer of power makes them feel invincible. However, this is only secretly, because the actions of the perpetrator are usually not directly addressed by the persons concerned. If one were aware of the use of force by the partner as a person concerned and went on a course of confrontation, the perpetrator would already loose power.
But how can those affected escape this situation?
To do so, those affected must regain the relation to normality and a strengthening of their own self-esteem. Only then, can they see that the violence used is not normal and deserved and that they are capable of escaping the maelstrom of manipulation.
The emptiness felt, which causes an increased feeling of fear in the affected persons and at the same time creates and strengthens an artificial need for the perpetrator, must be replaced by another nursing and soothing feeling. This is completely individual and has to be found first. Unfortunately, there is no miracle cure and the “fight against addiction” is particularly difficult in the first few days.
This can be done with the help of the family (insofar as they are not the problem) or by intervening and supporting close and familiar friends, but preferably with professional help. This is now also possible anonymously, even in complicated situations and in order to protect the person seeking help.
Most importantly, the victims are not lost, they just have to regain their power by not tacitly accepting psychological violence, but talking about what is being done to them and asking for help.
To all those who think that they can no longer get out of such a situation and no longer know: Don’t be ashamed of the fact that you have allowed it. It’s not your fault. You may be loved. You may be treated with respect. You are strong. You are beautiful and you can get along without the other person. Let NO ONE humiliate you! No one has the right or the power to do so unless you give it away.
Take it back now, dare to talk about it and reverse the situation.
Building on the #Metoo campaign and to testify to support against psychological violence, I encourage people to join #psychologicalviolenceawareness!