I glanced down from the top of the stairs to my coach training conference room and my eyes immediately went to a tall, nice looking woman who had fear written all over her. You know what I mean? Her eyes were not sparkling. For a younger, tall woman she was hunched over in a way to hide her 5’10” height. She would walk around the fringe of the room. I could see her smile - a rather fake smile – and divert questions back to the asker.
So, I walked down the stairs directly to the woman. I said my name and held out my arm for a handshake. She mumbled her name, where she was from and barely shook my hand. We talked for a few moments. I knew SOMETHING was OFF…but, had no idea what.
After the conference we stayed in touch and she asked if I would do a 2-day intensive coaching life purpose plan for her. I hesitated a bit, but then agreed to meet her in St. Louis and work with her for 2 days where she shared stories of her life and experiences. It didn’t take me very long to figure out that she was completely beat-up emotionally by a husband who constantly berated her, made her feel less than, laughed at her in front of their children and isolated her from family and friends.
The hard part for me - she didn’t recognize it as wrong. She had no idea she was emotionally abused. She made excuses for her husband. She belittled herself. It was the most difficult, but eye opening 2-day coaching experience of my life. I walked with her as a coach, confidant and accountability partner for several years. It was brutal for her, but a great learning experience for both of us.
We have both had the honor and privilege of coaching many women as they learn about EA and begin to grow a positive self image and piece their life together again. We work with women to understand and believe It is wrong to treat anyone like their life does not matter and they have no purpose. EA is all about lies. It’s often about narcissism. It’s about bullying and belittling. And it is wrong. Very wrong.
Here are 3 of several tell-tale signs to look for that can be signals that you or someone you love is being Emotionally Abused:
There is typically little or no direct eye contact from the victim of EA. I coached a woman who is now a good friend and I remember the first moment she allowed me to look into her soul through her eyes. Oh, there were times she would look at me directly early in our coaching relationship, but there was a barrier up. I saw much fear in that barrier: Fear I would see her the way her abuser did. Fear I might judge or not believe her. Fear of letting someone see her deep hurts and fears. That moment of trust was paramount. We could actually start talking and setting goals for a promising future as she learned that she was beautiful, it was not her fault and that her life and purpose in life mattered.
Isolation. Do you have a friend that never is available for a girls’ night out, a dinner, a glass of wine or even a quick cup of coffee? It seems she wants to go and is excited, but at the last minute starts to make an excuse and then cancels? I have coached women who have had a husband or significant other hide her car keys. Threated to leave her if she went out with women. Or made her feel that her friends just wanted to gossip or pry about their marriage/relationship. I’ve had women tell me they were not allowed to go to a family party (usually her family) because her husband didn’t feel comfortable and forbid her from going. I’ve had a woman client actually would eat lunch in her car at her workplace because her husband told her she ate like a pig and she was embarrassing herself if she ate in front of anyone.
She is a master at deflection. What’s that? Never telling you anything beyond surface level chit chat and asking you a question before you can dig any deeper. This one is almost universal to the women I have coached or friends who were victims of emotional abuse. It is a good way to feel “safe” and protect herself or the abuser from being found out. Yes…. she thinks emotional abuse is her fault and she truly is not good enough, smart enough…any of those “enoughs”.
The bottom line: Emotional abuse is wrong. No one has the right to treat us like we don’t matter. Every life matters.
If you or a friend are in emotional abuse yourself, please take the time to visit a short video by Coach Cindy at the link below for more information on the self-study course How to Empower an Emotionally Abused Woman.