Psychological violence is one of the forms of abuse that can occur in the couple, family or work or education. Psychological violence can be an active or passive behavior, of discredit, submission, and contempt towards another person. Psychological violence is not a specific and isolated situation, but rather a behavior sustained over time.
It usually deepens over time. Furthermore, its damage to the victim intensifies, causing psychological effects that prevent it from defending itself or even identifying the problem. Whoever exercises it may not do it consciously of the damage it causes since many forms of abuse are socially or culturally legitimate. Psychological violence can take subtle forms not perceived by the victim, but over time they ensure control of the victim’s behavior, through fear, dependency, and coercion.
Its consequences are the deterioration of self-esteem and independence, increased stress and can even trigger psychosomatic pathologies. It can also lead to the development of addictive, psychotic, or violent personalities.
For example, psychological violence against children can cause the child to be an abuser in adulthood. In the workplace, it decreases productivity and the use of skills and increases discomfort.
The examples below can be given individually or in isolation without a link characterized by psychological violence. In cases of psychological violence, one or more of the examples are given systematically over a long period of time.
Examples of psychological violence
- Threat: They generate fear in the victim and restrict their actions. When the threat is harmful it is punishable by law. However, threats can also be of abandonment or infidelity.
- Blackmail: It is a form of control through guilt or fear.
- Humiliation: Denigration before others (friends, coworkers, family) or in privacy.
- Monopolize decision-making: There are relationships in which decisions are shared (friendship, partner, etc.), however, when there is a situation of violence, one of the people make all the decisions. This extends to managing money, how free time is used, and can even make decisions about the other person’s life.
- Control: Although there are relationships in which control is healthy (for example, control from parents to children), it becomes a violent practice when it is excessive. There are other relationships, for example the couple or friendship, in which control is not justifiable. For example, checking private messages or listening to phone conversations.
- Insults: Insults can be part of forms of humiliation.
- Disqualifying comparisons: Permanent comparison with other employees (in the workplace), people of the same sex (in the couple’s environment) or siblings (in the family environment) to point out a person’s shortcomings or defects is a form of abuse.
- Screaming: Discussions are common in any type of everyday relationship. However, shouting arguments is a form of violence.
- Image control: Although we all have opinions about the image of others, that does not mean that the other should follow our position. Control over another’s image is done through humiliation, blackmail, and/or threats.
- Teasing: Jokes can be a nice way to relate when there is trust. However, the constant ridicule that points to the disqualification and denigration of another is one of the elements of psychological violence.
- Moralization: The actions and thoughts of the other person are always judged from a supposed moral superiority. It is associated with blackmail and humiliation.
- Criticism: We can all have negative opinions about some actions or thought of the other. However, repeated and constant criticism of the other may be one of the elements that build a behavior of psychological violence. Criticisms that aim to denigrate never have a constructive way, that encourages the growth of the other, but a destructive way, that directly attack self-esteem.
- Denying the other’s perceptions or feelings: Disqualifying someone’s feelings (sadness, loneliness, joy) in a systematic way causes an inability to express themselves and even mistrust in their own judgment.
- Indifference: Both in the couple, in the workplace or in the family, remaining indifferent to the other (to the problems of the children, the presence of the couple, the achievements of the students or the task of the employees) is a form of abuse. This is a passive behavior that nevertheless is a form of psychological violence when it is maintained over time.
- Psychological harassment: It is a deliberate form of psychological violence that seeks to destroy the victim’s self-esteem. The examples of psychological violence already mentioned are used as part of a strategy with the aim of creating intense discomfort and anguish. Moral harassment is carried out with the complicity of the group, as collaborators or passive witnesses. Harassment can be vertical when the harasser has some kind of power over the victim. These are cases of psychological violence at work, called mobbing. Or the harassment can be horizontal, between people who in principle are considered equal. For example, bullying among students.