The unforeseen onset of emotional abuse

Photo by Afif Ramdhasuma on Unsplash

With the intent of distancing from memories of a difficult marriage and an even more difficult divorce, Christie moved to a new town to start fresh. She was eager to put the past behind her and form uplifting connections with quality peers.

Meeting Louisa at a local coffee shop seemed auspicious. Christie was grateful to come across another who seemed just as eager to cultivate friendship. They shared meaningful rapport and enjoyed each other's company. Routine texting, replete with cheesy emoticons and consistent get-togethers proffered steadfast camaraderie.

So, when months into their friendship Louisa suggested setting up a weekend away at a spa resort Christie enthusiastically agreed. It was then that suddenly, without warning a disturbing shift in their dynamic occurred.

Inconsistent with her typical presentation, Louisa became cavalier and aloof. Arriving hours late, she deliberately ignored Christie while conspicuously chatting up the hotel guests throughout the weekend. Confused, wounded, and stunned, Christie was blindsided by this unforeseen turn of events.

Ironically, having left a marriage beset by emotional abuse she was instinctively familiar with psychological games and subtle tactics. As a result, when the initial shock wore off Christie pulled herself together and called a close friend and her therapist for a reality check. With their validation of her feelings and perceptions, she was able to recognize Louisa’s behavior as a strategic attempt to manipulate and control their relationship.

As expected, a barrage of saccharine overtures coupled with feigning innocence and disparaging gaslighting jabs ensued when Christie went no contact. Christie’s refusal to cave in caused Louisa to escalate her efforts to reinstate supply. Pulling out all the stops, including a feeble attempt to play the victim by touting deep-seated personal torment, only further confirmed for Christie that she read the signs clearly.

Emotional aka psychological abuse is a coercive non-physical form of mistreatment in which manipulative methods are employed to instill power, enforce control, create confusion and induce fear. It begins unexpectedly for the target, and it is often nuanced and even…



Rev. Sheri Heller, LCSW, RSW
Invisible Illness

Therapist, Coach & Author. Complex Trauma & Addiction. Dual citizen. Survivor, World traveler, love art and nature. I appreciate the absurd.