When we experience emotional abuse in our childhood it can lead to cycle of toxic and unhealthy relationships. One reason for this is that we repressed what we went through as a way of coping. By noticing and understanding the signs of how it might still be affecting you to this day, you can begin to move on.
So first, let us look at the definition of emotional abuse: it uses verbal and emotional manipulation in an effort to control another person, some examples of this may include: humiliation, manipulation, verbal aggression, belittling, and intimidation.
Repression of negative emotions is a very natural response because we either need to minimise the effects of the emotional abuse. It is important, however to recognise the impact it might have had.
Signs you might be repressing emotional abuse from past relationships:
1. You Aren’t Good at Making Decisions for Yourself
If you struggle to know what to do with your free time and often rely on others to make decisions for you it may be a sign of repressed emotional abuse.
This is often the case for people who are highly-focused on the needs of others, (people pleasing – see next point) which is often the case in emotionally abusive relationships. Over time, such expectations can cause you to lose touch with who you are, what you want and need.
2. You Are a People Pleaser
Do you want to be seen as a person that helps and have to get it right or perfect for others? You might believe that you need to be “perfect” in every way, for your relationship to work or to be accepted and loved by their partner.
It’s important to remember, though, that toxic people are going to be toxic regardless as their behaviour is about them, and being a people pleaser will never change that.
On the other side to this, being a people pleaser is all about you and what you are trying to achieve, and these needs can come form a past toxic relationship.
3. You Minimise Toxic Moments
Many people who have been in emotionally abusive relationships develop the habit of minimising bad behaviour by excusing it or looking the other way.
You could be thinking that it could always be worse, as you have experienced worse before, or you could be denying that it is actually that bad, that they don’t mean it. But bad behaviour is just bad, it isn’t something you need to laugh off or explain away even if you feel the need to do so!
It can be hard to stop as you are so used to it. But this is not “normal,” and you can learn to stop accepting it as so.
4. You Get Angry or Frustrated Easily
Because you’re doing a certain thing, like people pleasing, as reaction to the toxic situation you were in and not because you want to resentment will catch up with you. You will eventually ask ‘what about me?’ and this can lead to frustrations and anger.
You are unlikely to aim this at the true source of your issue though and small unrelated things will trigger you instead.
5. You Often Feel Defensive
People who have experienced emotional abuse, especially those who have experienced continued exposure to abuse, tend to have low self-esteem and self-worth. It is not uncommon for someone to become defensive when they receive any feedback that can seem attacking. In a toxic relationship you probably found that you couldn’t sustain doing the right thing either because it didn’t fit with the neds of the other person. You can do ninety-nine good things and number one hundred is the only one noticed if it isn’t right!
6. You Tend to View Yourself Negatively
As I just mentioned, low self-esteem and self-worth can cause you to thinking negative thoughts? If you were with a toxic person, they were likely ‘chipping away’ at your self-esteem and implanting negative messages by telling you things that led you to believe you are not good enough or need to do better, for them.
Emotionally abusive people do this on purpose to get into your head, and make you feel bad about yourself, as a way of meeting their own needs.
7. You Find it Hard to Cope When People Are Upset
While nobody really enjoys an argument (even though people may seem to as they engage with them all of the time), if you find yourself feeling particularly tense whenever they erupt, it may be because you used to deal with that a lot in the past.
Emotional abuse can make an individual susceptible to triggers, such as changes in tone of voice, slight behavioural or emotional differences.
8. You Keep Choosing Toxic Partners
What! I hear you say; I don’t choose them on purpose!
And no, you are right, you don’t, consciously. But, many people who have been in emotionally abusive relationships find themselves gravitating towards the same types of toxic partners, over and over again.
This can be because you are looking for ‘closure’ from the original relationship or because you have learnt to have relationships on this way and they have become familiar and ‘safe.’
9. You Constantly Question Whether You Are Loved
Even if you’ve moved on to a new and healthier relationship, you may still catch yourself wondering if your partner loves you, or if they’ll end up treating you just like your ex(es).
This is likely because you believe you are unlovable, which probably comes from childhood.
10. You Have Trouble Accepting Affection
You may find that you struggle to accept love or even simple compliments from new partners or even your friends and colleagues. This indicates an attachment issue, which results from abuse, again, likely learned in childhood as a coping mechanism.
11. You Have Nightmares About Relationships
If you have bad dreams around a family member or an ex, this can be a sign you are repressing emotions. Nightmares are a symptom of PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, and a way your subconscious is trying to process your emotions. If there are repressed negatives that you don’t consciously allow yourself to think about, then your subconscious will do it for you whilst you sleep.
These are just some signs that you could be harbouring issues from emotional or even physical abuse from your past that you have not processed and allowed yourself to move on from. It is perfectly understandable why as it caused you immense pain in the past, and who wants to re-visit or acknowledge pain!
Until you do however, you will find that your experiences continue to loop back into your life, time and time again.