A book caught my eye yesterday. Though most of it doesn’t pertain, one chapter, “Patterns of Abuse”, was very applicable to my experiences and some other experiences I’ve read. The book is The Emotionally Abusive Relationship by Beverly Engel.

In the book, Engel lists several types of emotional abuse, and gives an example of each. Some excerpts:

DOMINATION… Domineering behavior includes ordering a [person] around; monitoring time and activities; restricting resources (finances, telephone); restricting social activities…

The list continues from there.

VERBAL ASSAULTS… Verbal assault includes berating, belittling, criticizing, humiliating, name-calling, screaming, threatening, excessive blaming, shaming, using sarcasm in a cutting way, or expressing disgust toward the person….

ABUSIVE EXPECTATIONS… A [person] with abusive expectations can never be pleased because there is always something more you could have done.

EMOTIONAL BLACKMAIL… one of the most powerful forms of manipulation. It occurs when one [person] either consciously or unconsciously coerces the other into doing what he wants by playing on [the other person’s] fear, guilt, or compassion…these are often quite subtle.

Several spousal examples are mentioned. I’m rearranging them slightly for church: a pastor may jokingly suggest that a saint better start acting like he enjoys service more if he doesn’t want to get left out of activities. Someone may say it would be difficult to find a new church where the pastor is willing to accept a “move-in”. Or someone may remind a member of how dangerous it is out there in the world, with so much sin and all.

The following are warning signs that you are being emotionally blackmailed:
Your [church/pastor] asks you to:
choose between something you want to do and them/him.
make you feel like you are selfish or a bad person if you do something [they don’t] want you to do.
give up something or someone as a way of proving your love for [him/them].
threatens [to kick you out, stand you up, sit you out of church] if you don’t change.

Other things the book mentions are drastic mood swings, sudden emotional outbursts for no apparent reason, inconsistent responses, constant or continual conflict with others, a need for arguments (including deliberately starting arguments or creating chaos), using humiliation, criticism, gossiping or lying about someone in order to discredit them, or telling the person that their concerns are “all in their heads” or simply their imagination.

Above all that, a person who:
secretly hopes bad things will happen to the other person
gets satisfaction from knowing something bad happened to the other person
attempts to MAKE bad things happen to the other person
or causes the other person to doubt themselves or question their perceptions
could be malevolently abusive or lethally abusive. People in these situations either need to get counseling or leave the situation, according to the book.

If parallels are drawn from this to spiritual abuse, then telling a person they can’t come if they don’t conform, blaming, standing them up in front of the church, accusing them of things publicly or alluding to things that will start gossip- especially over the pulpit, blaming them for things they didn’t do, labeling, saying they’ll go to hell, have a bad accident, lose their job or whatever if they leave, logging attendance, bible reading, and prayer time and then using it against people, telling people they must be at every service, and so forth could all be forms of emotional abuse, as well as spiritual abuse.

Sometimes I run across something like this. Memories flash through my mind, I take a deep breath, and just have to say “Wow.”