Another common form of emotional abuse, one that is closely related to and often intertwined with verbal abuse, is that of the psychologically controlling household. A parent (usually one but sometimes both) pathologically uses an assortment of unhealthy methods to either control the child for discipline purposes, or more commonly because it exerts their authority and helps them feel better and more powerful themselves. Pathologically controlling households are very difficult to spot from the outside. Such abusers are often very manipulative, and play the part of model citizen in front of others. Their tactics can be so well honed that even those within the household can come to believe they are the source of discord, and even among those who recognize this behavior for what it is, it’s very difficult to express to others exactly what is going on.
In the pathologically controlling household, it’s less about specific actions than it is about a general psychological environment; one that leaves its members at the mercy of an insecure and manipulative adult whose sense of power is derived by frustrating others. Little incidents or events are strewn together in a way that throws the family balance out of whack. Rather than a healthy family based on love and respect, one that respects each other as individuals and works together to meet each other’s needs, it becomes a household that revolves around the abuser, where power and respect flow only one direction. It’s a dictatorship of the not-so-benevolent kind, where its members feel enslaved and controlled by the abuser. The impact that this type of emotional abuse has can be extensive:
- Such environments tend to make the household disproportionately revolve around the abuser’s whims and desires. It’s all about me, myself, and I. The abusive person is king and all others are pawns in his game. Children take on a second-class status.
- They are chaotic. Adults who practice different forms of psychological manipulation can be happy one minute, cold and distance the next. They can be sweet when they want something and cold-hearted an hour later. Emotional sincerity is lost, and basic emotions become little more than a charade, rendering the emotional environment extremely unhealthy.
- Since they are chaotic, they are also stressful. Members of the house feel like they are walking on eggshells in order to keep from disturbing the abusive adult.
- They model poor social skills, and the child often grows up believing that this abusive and manipulative behavior is simply how everyone behaves, and they’ll often copy the abusive behavior outright.
- In such environments, children’s emotional needs are suppressed, and their self-identity or personal preferences not allowed to be expressed.
- Children do not exist as persons in such an environment; they exist as tools to exploit or degrade so that the king feels powerful.