Every resource on narcissistic abuse/childhood abuse talks about how it is obvious if the abuse is physical and goes on to mostly talk about emotional abuse and neglect

Right. And really, it's the impact of the abuse that matters. The impact of the abuse is the reason the abuser does it, and the impact of it is what sticks with us. That's why even an implicit threat is enough to meet an abusers goals a lot of the time. The distinctions between types of abuse can be helpful for people to identify it, but can also muddle the issue and cause victims to doubt their experience, like in the OP. It was such a game changer for me when I realized that the underlying system of control is what's driving everything, and the specific acts of abuse are just strategies to enforce that control. It sounds funny, but learning about cult dynamics is 100% relevant to ongoing abuse dynamics on smaller scales. Steven Hassan, author of "Combating Cult Mind Control" even refers to abusive relationships and families as micro-cults. I've seen work being done in this area now refer to the whole system as 'coercive control', which is why I use the term.

I won't even describe an abusive situation becoming physically violent as 'escalating', because it truly can be just as life threatening and damaging without direct physical violence. To be brainwashed, lose your sense of self, become totally isolated and dependent on your abuser, become suicidal as a result of the abuse and/or be encouraged to commit suicide - that ruins a person and seriously endangers their life. Direct physical violence absolutely brings with it a more acute danger, I won't deny that in any way. But if one survives a physical attack or threat, the physical injuries won't be the most severe injuries one sustains.

(I should add for credibility that although my abusive ex husband didn't hit me, I experienced life-threatening violence in my home growing up and in a one-off attack as an adult. I'm not sitting here having never been hit, saying the psychological wounds are the real wounds. I'm sitting here with the experience of physical violence, saying the psychological wounds are the real wounds.)

/r/CPTSD Thread Parent