Emotional abuse is one of the hardest forms of abuse to recognise.
Jean-Claude Chalmet, Founder and lead therapist at The Place Retreat centre in Bali gives an insightful interview on the subject.
In his explanation of the insidious nature of emotional abuse, he says, “You can’t take an x-ray or an MRI of emotional abuse.” There are no overt signs of damage for a very long time.
In his calm therapeutic tone, Chalmet shares a simple, but enlightening illustration:
“If you think about a drop of water falling down on marble. It will not do anything on the first day, or the first week or even the first month, perhaps not even the first year. But after 20 years it will have made holes in the marble.”
Emotional abuse comes in many forms from ‘name-calling’ to being humiliated or made to feel small. Types of behaviour include intimidation, criticism, undermining, being made to feel guilty, controlling behaviour and so on.
Whatever form of emotional abuse one is subjected to, it isn’t hard to see how it would chip away at self-esteem.
What are some examples of emotional abuse that you have seen as a therapist?
There is often a common thread in cases of emotional abuse. The main issue is that the other person never feels good enough and never seems to be able to get out of the system – the goalposts keep changing or moving.
Very often they are repeating behaviours that they experienced in their families of origin, which they then hand down like a toxic present to their children.
How do you know if you are being emotionally abused?
As a golden rule, you have to look at the people you are interacting with, in a relationship with, and work with. Are they capable of empathy?
The second question: are they able to take responsibility for their actions? They are the perpetrator, but somehow they manage in some way to portray themselves as the victim.
When you are in the midst of emotional abuse, it is difficult to see it, often for a very long time. It can be unrelenting.
How can you recover from emotional abuse?
Chalmet says, “Every person on this planet has a dark side. There is a way to become much more connected to yourself, where you realise the behaviour of other people does not suit the needs that you have, whatever those needs are.”
“We need to take a step back and ask ourselves – how am I going to fulfil my needs? What are my needs? Do I even know what my needs are?”
According to Chalmet, this is the point where it becomes helpful to work with someone. It can help you through a process of understanding and discover what your needs actually are.
He teaches, “Be where you are celebrated, not where you are tolerated.” There is a very big difference between these two places. “The work we do at The Place retreats in Bali is teaching people the adult version of themselves today, to become good parents to themselves.”
For us, Chalmet explains, people can do that at an individual level through therapy sessions with us twice a week in London or they can come to Bali for an intensive course of 50 to 60 hours of therapy to work very hard and very deeply on themselves and make a lot of progress.
The wise words of Jean-Claude Chalmet are worth repeating here: