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Mind Control: The Devastating Effects of Emotional Abuse

by Jessica Taylor, via Multibriefs

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Some of you may be doing this, while others are probably just ignoring it. But if I was Kilgrave, the villain in the Marvel Netflix series "Jessica Jones," you would do anything I say.

Mind control. Is it fact or fiction? Whether you want to believe it or not, mind control is a real thing in nature. But I'm not here to talk about nature. I'm here to discuss another form of mind control that you may not see every day: emotional abuse.

This psychological or mental abuse aims to control, belittle, isolate and shame, destroying the victim's sense of self-worth and self-confidence — ultimately forming isolation. The abusers consider themselves to be teaching, advising or guiding the victim in the right direction little by little, ultimately becoming in control for years.

In the Netflix series, Jones states that "Kilgrave leaves a trail of broken people behind" and, unfortunately, so does emotional abuse.

Unlike physical or sexual abuse, emotional abuse can be easily overlooked, blending into the background of life. It does not limit itself to any one race, age group, gender or socioeconomic group. It is normally seen in women and children, but has also been seen in men. And while statistics are indefinable, researchers agree this abuse has reached epidemic proportions.

Emotional abuse is commonly used with the words "I love you, but ..." This creates a sense of happiness for the victim at first, but it's ultimately a threat in disguise. Why? Because it indicates the abuser loves you now, but if you don't do a specific thing, then his/her love will be taken away.

As a relative, friend or even physician, you may notice little things about someone and know something isn't quite right, but you aren't able to put your finger on it. So how do you know the signs of emotional abuse?

First, we must know how emotional abuse works. Tending to flow in a cycle, emotional abuse flows in the pattern of abuse, guilt, excuses, normal behavior, fantasy/planning, setup, loving gestures, and back around to the beginning.

Psych Central states that some signs of emotional abuse include:

  • Stonewalling: Where all communication is cut off — often known as the silent treatment — until the victim does what the abuser wants him/her to do.
  • Emotional withholding: Where affection is withheld in order to communicate anger, which often leaves the victim with anxiety in fear of rejection, abandonment and loss of love.
  • Twisting: Where the abuser pushes the attention off themselves and twists it back to the victim, making him/her at fault and to blame. This then causes the abuser to demand an apology in order to avoid all responsibility.
  • Irrational and intense rage: Where the abuser may have rage and fury, randomly, in order to create fear and uncertainty in the victim.
  • Trivializing accomplishments: Where the abuser will find ways of sabotage in order for the victim to not achieve accomplishments. This is often done by ignoring, belittling and mockery.

Though the signs are written out right in front of you, they may be hard to actually diagnose, but Social Work Today explains that victims can be helped in three stages:

  • The victim is in denial, passive-aggressive and walks on eggshells around the abuser.
  • The victim purposely tries to ignore the abuser and/or engages in arguments
  • The victim notices there isn't a sufficient reduction of the abusiveness and ends the relationship.

In the Netflix series, Jones — spoiler alert! — ended up being immune to Kilgrave's mind control, which led her to not be a victim of his abuse and ultimately take him down.

Though one event ultimately resulted in Jones breaking free, emotional abuse can be more difficult to overcome. Often, the victims will have to realize what is going on, on their own, which could take days, months or years.

"Laying out a framework of recovery stages for clients in abusive partner relationships shows them a tried-and-true path to follow, while recognizing the life skills they already possess and those they need to learn gives them a clear focus in therapy that moves them from one stage to the next and, finally, out of abuse," Karen R. Koenig writes for Social Work Today.

Jessica Taylor is the medical editor for MultiBriefs and has been a journalist and writer for more than 10 years. Jessica received her bachelor's degree in communications with a dual concentration in media studies and journalism from Virginia Wesleyan College. She’s been awarded first place in headline writing from the Virginia Press Association and an honorable mention for design and content from the Society of Collegiate Journalists.

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