top of page
  • Michaela Patel


Updated: Jun 2

covert emotional abuse

covert aggression audio 2.m4a
Download ZIP • 2.09MB

What makes us prone to enmeshment with covertly aggressive, controlling partners?

Growing up around unpredictable, emotionally immature people our survival depended on we had to resort to ‘reading’ them in order to feel safer. The part of our brain housing the mirror neurons have grown, with it our empathy, together with our capacity to withstand drama. When experiencing conflicts with our carers we had to decide who they are. Looking up to our templates for love, to mentally survive the cognitive dissonance of ‘they are being good to me AND they are being bad to me’ we learned to excuse their behaviour. We made it acceptable and made ourselves the wrong ones. It simply wasn’t possible for us to perceive our protectors as the villains, which is why we have become the masters at caring for those who continue to confuse and intermittently hurt us today.

signs of emotional abuse

Sadly, most victims of emotional abuse will skim through the list above, not recognising the behaviours they are in fact experiencing daily because they are somewhat familiar with them from their childhood. They will downplay them or attempt to explain them but they will not allow themselves to feel the weight of that realisation. Because if they have surrendered to the truth their entire reality would start to slide, and eventually collapse. We may think ‘What kind of person would stay with such monster?’ whilst we conclude 'He does sweet things for me sometimes.', 'She isn’t THAT bad’. Right? Being in a typically, practically and financially, comfortable set up prevents us looking closely and honestly evaluating ALL instances, particularly the downright shitty times (and there really is a lot to choose from!). If only we haven’t cultivated our selective memory and practiced making excuses as a reaction to our many, early emotional traumas...

What are the traumatic experiences that shaped us to be the perfect fit for a controlling, critical, and punishing partners?

  1. We were required to wear a mask: To act and behave in line with the family code, unable to be ourselves, adhering to representing others and their identity (their culture/religion). Deviations were punished by extensive criticism in a long winded, one sided discussions we were terrified contributing to because our opinion wasn't welcome.

  2. We were not granted our own choices in life: Important choices were made for us, without our input because we weren’t deemed old or intellingent enough to understand. Any deviation was punished by withholding affection and the withdrawal of perks.

  3. We were being shamed for saying NO: For not doing the ‘necessary’ or expected for the support that our careers had showed us. Catering to the preferences of others was our only option in order to avoid feeling bad about ourselves, uncaring, selfish.

Unfortunately, the hooks of abusive relationships (that aren’t isolated to our partners alone but exercised by the endless supply of enablers in the form of friends and extended family!) are lodged deep inside of our soul that can never be free until we stop trusting in the goodness of others and start believing in our own. Without idealising others, we have to evaluate all aspects of their behaviour - not just the good bits! We must bravely examine and address all our concerns and feelings that make us feel uncomfortable, confused and questioning, which are very likely pointing to the dissonance that is NOT a normal part of a truly safe environment. I have realised how unsafe was my home environment which made it all more likely for me to seek safety and security in the arms of those who used my insecurities against me.

I want you to know that you are not at fault that your were abused. Abusive homes are the breeding grounds of shame leading to pain that rolls over generations. You hold the key to unlocking a safer future for yourself and anyone who is lucky enough to see you for who you truly are. Every minute of every day will give you the necessary cues - the pieces of your puzzle about who the other person truly is and if they are capable to consider your feelings and needs. Don't discard any! Evaluate each individually without masking the frequent misery with infrequent highs - exactly what covert aggressors and manipulators need you to do, or else it would not be possible for them to continue with the abuse. Because if it cannot be excused, nor shifted onto you, they would have to admit to it which they have no intention in doing! Without your caring, empathetic, self-reflective attitude they would have to face the music of their own making. You were groomed and tested to fit their narrative without questioning them. You were sold the perception of a charming romantic that will provide safety and security. Yet, in the process you find yourself walking on eggshells, insecure, unsure about who you are and confused about what is real. People you know just love your CA! They find them funny, generous, attentive and delightful. They make a fun boss and a great father to the outsiders that spend only a fraction of time in their company in comparison with you. ‘There must be something wrong with me if I don’t feel the same’ you think. 'Perhaps I have gone mad?' at times crosses your mind. It’s honestly the loneliest place when you are surrounded by all these people but feel out of place - the party pooper who is constantly tired like there is something wrong with you...

Covert aggressors are master manipulators. On one hand the sweetest, most romantic, thoughtful and generous, capable of creating the most memorable moments. On the other hand the most critical, jealous, vindictive and punishing, inconsiderate and self-serving people that thrive on attention and admiration. Their cunning way with words [read lies] enables them to mentally and emotionally destabilise you: You put all your trust into what they say and discard your energy radar, your gut feelings and your intuition, in order to stop being torn by the constant cognitive dissonance. If you feel like you are dragged along life, depressed, anxious, not having your needs respectfully considered (without being made fun of) and not having your emotions fully expressed (without made to feel difficult), you truly have NO. LIFE. OF. YOUR. OWN.

Busy building their castles you don’t even know what you want anymore...

Manipulative people are extremely good at delegating work [read offloading it onto others], pretending to be busy at the same time, for which they then shamelessly take the credit. They seem generous but they really are greedy. They want grand households, more kids, successful careers for which they find the most capable, intelligent, hardworking partners who run it all - and very successfully!

It isn’t by chance that you feel exhausted from the never ending string of duties they keep coming up after being sold yet another grand idea of ‘how to better our life together’.

In my humble view, the single biggest sign that you are subjected to abuse and covert control is how a person consistently handles your refusal to go along with their plan. NO is complete sentence for starters. It needs no further explanation and must be respected. Unless others are trying to make you feel bad for it. Controlling, aggressive personality will turn the tables on your 'no' in a spectacular way by either attacking you for not providing a good enough explanation [because you always owe them - this is how big headed and delusional they are] or withdrawing their affection as a way to punish you for daring to rebel. Believe what you see when the mask starts to slip! Double standards are another big fat red flag. Test your partner by doing what they carry on doing without batting an eye lid! If you become the ‘out of order, disrespectful, bizarre, inconsiderate' [fill with ‘the bad you’ label] when replicating what they plough through with every day, you are being ABUSED. and taken advantage of.

Infrequent abuse is still an abuse. Period. To cut the strings off, to stop jumping to the abuser’s whims frozen in shame, study coercive control. Don’t sell yourself short! The greatest luxury you can afford yourself is the freedom to choose, honouring your values and needs. Be faithful to you! When your life looks great but feels terrible the chances are you are being manipulated into thinking you are the problem. To find out who you are, learn about who they may be, and perhaps who your primary caregivers could be, in the process of healing your emotional wounds. My in depth self-education on the topic has accelerated my healing and made me see I am not the lazy, weird, selfish, deceitful, bad mother but a loving, considerate, courageous, capable parent who has upheld the illusion of a well functioning family far too long for someone who wasn’t at all worth it.

Thank you for reading. If my article contributed to understanding yourself, please be generous and share it with others.

Copyright © 2023 Michaela Patel


bottom of page