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#1 Hangingon

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 04:10 PM

Found this in some random web surfing so I thought I'd share it. Have read enough over the years to know a good number of us have suffered from this......



Emotional abusers are very insidious - some of them are much harder to spot than others, because they mingle their abuse in between acts of generosity, and often employ emotionally manipulative tactics, and passive-aggressive behaviour. Not all emotional abusers overtly belittle and verbally harangue people - some are much more perfidious and as such, people may not realize that the source of their distress and an unease has been coming from abuse for quite some time. The longer a person remains under the grip of an emotional abuser, the more they will start to question themselves, their actions and their beliefs. It is the abuser's goal to make them believe that they deserve this cruelty and that only through their actions can they make it stop. It is their intent to get them to feel that they are the cause of any problems, and that this (abusive) behaviour is simply a response to them, and therefore acceptable. It is true, that only through their actions can they make it stop - they must have the courage to walk away and avoid further contact with the abuser.

Abusers, physical or emotional, are abusive because of their own self-hate and internal issues - not because of anything anyone else did. No amount of work or attempting to please will stop an abuser from abusing. They have to be willing to recognize and actually work on their own issues before they can stop inflicting cruelty on the people around them. In many cases, they don't even love others, because they can't even love themselves, and don't feel that they deserve love, even though they crave it. Abusers may genuinely feel bad that they committed another act of abuse, not because they have any real compassion for the person they hurt, but because they get angry at themselves for "screwing up" again. This drives them further into self-loathing, and further into a cycle of abusive behaviour.

Like the alcoholic, an abuser must admit their behaviour to them self and others, and seek help. Unfortunately, not all therapy works, and not all people who go into therapy are ready or willing to do the personal work necessary to get better and eliminate their destructive patterns. As such, abusers are not safe people - even after they enter therapy. It can take years of therapy to unravel and undo the damage and self-hate that has driven someone to abuse. During that time, the abuser may actually get worse before their behaviour improves, if it changes at all. It is quite common for deeply disturbed people who enter therapy to initially use the therapy to project their problems on everyone else and point out the character flaws of those around them, rather than face their own internal demons. Until they can be honest with themselves and the therapist, the therapy will accomplish nothing. For a person who has spent a lifetime of lying and hating themselves, honesty does not come easily.

More disturbingly, some abusers can and DO go into therapy as a ploy - to make it LOOK like they are actually working on their own behaviour, and accepting responsibility for their actions, when, in fact, the real motive is to arm themselves with distortions of the therapist's words and tools, in an effort to heighten and increase the psychological warfare. The bottom line, is that you can't trust an abuser.

The more subtle forms of emotional abuse can be the hardest to escape from, because the gaps between the loving, caring behaviour and the emotional cruelty can span several weeks or months. However, someone who is nice and caring, and helpful for 2 or 3 months at a time, but then deliberately does or says something very emotionally devastating and cruel to someone is no better than someone who does the same nice things but then PUNCHES the person once every few months. The pain, the insecurity, the uncertainty, and the heartache are the same. The bruises and the welts are on the inside instead of the outside, and they take far longer to heal.

When they distort the past and blame you for their problems, you may even feel like you are going crazy, and they will certainly do everything they can to imply that you ARE. The truth is, there IS something better. You don't have to put up with a relationship where you are treated poorly, with disrespect, or emotional cruelty, no matter how infrequent those acts are. And of course, when you do get upset, the abuser will infer that you are overreacting, or "too sensitive", so it adds to the confusion and hurt that you may feel.

What are the signs and symptoms of Emotional Abuse?

A common misconception is that emotional abuse has to take the form of a partner yelling over every little thing, belittling or constantly criticizing a partner. Other forms of emotional abuse, can however, be just as damaging, and far less overt. They can include being disrespectful, discourteous, rude, condescending, patronizing, critical, judgemental, "joking" insults, lying, repeatedly "forgetting" promises and agreements, betrayal of trust, "setting you up", and "revising" history.

To outsiders, abusers often appear as decent, successful, sensitive, calm and nondescript. To their families, they are often controlling, self-absorbed, hypercritical, compulsive, childish and mean-spirited. Most of abusers are actually BOTH.

One of the most difficult things about identifying and leaving someone who is a psychological and emotional abuser, is that the REALLY successful abusers are highly intelligent and hide their abuse incredibly well. They may have shelves of filled with psychology books; many are well-read and very well spoken. They know how to twist and manipulate language and people. They present an exterior of calm, rational self-control, when in reality, they have no internal control of their own pain and chaotic self-hate, so they try to control others, and drive others to LOSE control. If an abuser can cause YOU to lose control, it proves how healthy THEY are, so they can say, explicitly, or implicitly (it's amazing how sighs, and rolling of the eyes can accomplish as much as words), "There you go again, losing it, crying and yelling. I'm not the one who needs therapy, *you* are." Unfortunately, if an outsider sees the abuse at all, all they see is an outburst from you, NOT the abuse that triggered it. It may make you feel as if you have had all your lifelines withdrawn, as if you are going crazy, because nobody believes you that this charming, "nice", helpful, successful person could be so incredibly psychologically cruel and deliberately hurtful.

An Emotional abuser will try to make someone responsible for their happiness. Either through direct comments, or indirect implications, the abuser will let you know that they are not happy, that it is somehow your fault, and that you must fix it. The problem is, no matter what you do, it will never be enough, and it won't ultimately make them happy.

Emotional abusers overcompensate for their self-hate with a warped kind of narcissism. They genuinely believe that YOU SHOULD know how they feel, and know what to do to make them happy. AND that you should be willing to do those things without having to be asked or told. They believe that they DESERVE to be treated better, to be put first, to be given preferential treatment. They will expect you to read their mind. They live by the "if you really loved/liked/cared about me, you'd KNOW how I feel" game, and of course will punish you for not being telepathic. If confronted with the unreasonable nature of this behaviour, the abuser will blame you for their lack of communication - it will always be your fault that they couldn't tell you what they needed or wanted. They will project THEIR behaviour on you, and insist that they couldn't talk to you about what was bothering them because you were too intense, or critical, or angry, or judgemental, or needy. Don't buy it. Those are THEIR issues. Not yours.

And speaking of narcissism, the emotional abuser will be envious and resentful if YOU get more attention than THEY do in a social setting. They will likely punish you for it by one of any number of techniques: ignoring you, sulking, disappearing for hours, flirting heavily with someone else, or leaving the party or function without notifying you. They will have socially plausible, pathos-laden excuses for their unannounced departure, like they couldn't find you, or they were tired and wanted to go home. However, the REAL reason they left without a word, was to punish you; to wind you up, to get you worried about them, and ultimately, to have you feel guilty for not paying enough attention to them. When you confront an abuser on the concept of COURTESY around these sorts of things, the abuser will either apologize weakly, (but the damage has been done), or insist that your distress over his behavior is overreacting.

Emotional abusers will try to isolate you from family and friends. There are several tactics that may be employed. If they can't manipulate your friends, they will either find reasons to denigrate them or will be "uninterested" in doing things with you AND your friends. They may find them "boring". Over time, you may find yourself isolated from your friends by virtue of the demands on your time that they make. You may also find them VERY upset if they find out that you have been talking to a close friend or family member about them and/or your relationship with them - especially if that person is likely to tell you they are behaving like an ass.

Emotional abusers expect more from you than they are willing to put into a relationship. The problem is, no matter how much you give, it will never be enough, and the abuser will expect more - because the relationship isn't about love and caring, it's about control.

The more independent you become, the more abusive the abuser will be, because they see they are losing control of you.

Emotional abusers expect to be forgiven for their "mistakes" (otherwise known as abuse) but are unable to forgive others for legitimate mistakes - and will continue to "punish" you for those mistakes, long after apologies and restitution have been made.

The abuser says it's not completely their fault, or you push their buttons, or that something you did triggered them to do or say something hurtful or damaging to you.
As part of their "control" technique, the abuser may "set you up", pushing as many buttons as possible to get you to lose control by breaking down in tears or getting angry or yelling or lashing out. If you raise your voice, they will insist that YOU are the abuser. Don't buy it, and don't believe it. While there might be better ways to handle the situation, (more easily enacted if you weren't emotionally involved with this person), chances are that they have inflicted so much psychological warfare that you have been backed into an emotional corner, and are reacting in self-defence. Emotional reactions in self-defence to an abusive situation do NOT make YOU an "abuser".

One of the more subtle but effective ways an abuser can "wind" you up is by invalidating/rejecting/showing no compassion for your feelings - especially in conjunction with a deliberate act of malice that was designed to upset or hurt you. They will claim the act was either "accidental" or intended.They will try to tell you that it is NOT OK to feel angry or hurt or upset by their actions - or that if you DO feel those things, your "feelings are your own" - that they have no responsibility towards repairing any emotional damage they may have caused. As part of this tactic they may pay lip-service to personal responsibility by saying they "take responsibility" for their actions, but then make no offer to do anything about the resulting emotional pain, or say that there is nothing they can do to repair the damage or make restitution. Non-abusers who genuinely ACCIDENTALLY hurt a someone's feelings, do not refuse to nurture those feelings - they help repair the emotional damage, and they don't repeatedly make the same "mistakes" over and over with you.

The truth about responsibility for one's feelings is that if you care for and trust someone - if you open yourself to caring, you also open it to the potential for hurt. Yes, in the strictest sense of the word, no one can make you feel anything - you choose to let them affect you for good or bad. But very few people, can be completely "unfeeling" when dealing with someone they care for. Most people are unable to open their hearts up completely to be able to "let" only good things affect their feelings and not the bad. To disconnect yourself from feeling hurt and pain is to disconnect yourself from feeling love and joy. When you open yourself to someone, you are granting them your trust. You are trusting them to respect and honour your feelings. If someone abuses you by violating your trust, you are not wrong for trusting - THEY are wrong for breaking that trust and using it to hurt you.

If caught in a lie or exposed in a situation where they can't immediately manipulate you into taking the rap, they may try to go for the sympathy ploy, in an attempt deflect the situation away from their bad behaviour. All of a sudden, the situation turns from them being caught in a lie, to you being expected to feel sorry for them... Deflection techniques they may use when their behaviour is exposed, are:

-to bring up stories of childhood/parental abuse (watch these, they are the same old stories each time, and if you listen closely, you may see that their behaviours closely match those childhood abuse patterns...)
-to bring up troubles and things bothering them at work
-to bring up their hurt and "pain" over something YOU did ages ago, and have long-since paid for.

Once someone starts to detach from an abuser and refuses to play the games, they may go for the sympathy ploy. If you don't capitulate and refuse to pander to their emotional blackmail, you will be accused of being cold and heartless, in the hopes that THIS escalation of emotional blackmail will hurt you further.

Because abuse is about power and control, the abuser will often try to become "buddies" or friends with your closest friends. Abusers will use things like stories of childhood abuse or trauma, lost friends or the death of relatives to get your friends to feel sorry for them. They will play up the "sensitive" role. If they can cosy up to your best friend, the friend will feel caught in the middle - which is exactly what the abuser wants - to cut you off from external support. If they can, they may even flirt with your friends, or become pals with one or more of your former friends as another way to hurt and attempt to shame you. As much as possible, they will perpetrate this behaviour in front of you, so that they are exhibiting their control - going for maximum hurt to you through a blatant display of compassionless disrespect.

Abusers are completely self-centred. They blame other people and seldom take responsibility for their own actions.

Abusers are self-righteous. They find ways to justify their behaviour. As a result, they always focus on your problems, and insist that you change to make things better.

Emotional abusers hate apologizing - and if they DO apologize, they will only do the same thing again. They know this, and will even try to make it seem like any expectation of an apology is really an attempt to "blame" them. If you do get an apology out of an abuser, it is a quick-fix, not a long-term solution, because they will do the same behaviour over again - that is why they are often so resistant to apologizing and saying that they will work on the behaviour - because they KNOW they will repeat it at another time.

Abusers may, in a moment of "opening up", tell you of their abusive or manipulative nature. At the time you may think that this is some kind of indication of a willingness to work on their past problems, or that somehow it will be different for you. In fact, what they are looking for is absolution in advance for behaviour they will later inflict on you. They may even go so far as to say, "I told you this is how I am."

Emotional abusers often grow OLD without growing UP. They are emotionally stunted and immature. Emotional abusers are self-preoccupied, and demonstrate a passive-aggressive interpersonal style.

Emotional abusers deny that they have any problems and/or project their problems onto you, often accusing you of abuse - especially AFTER you have woken up and called the abuser on their behaviour. At this point they will be sure to tell as many *mutual* friends as will listen, that you are controlling and abusive to them, in an attempt to further undermine any support you might get.

In order to gain sympathy, the abuser will share convincing stories of their burdens, including stories of how they were abused as a child, or how they witnessed their mother being assaulted by their father.

An emotional abuser demonstrates little capacity to appreciate the perspective of another person when their own interests are at stake. Emotional abusers often flip between being a martyr and a self-absorbed asshole - there is no middle ground, and they use the martyrdom as an excuse for their behaviour when they are in self-absorbed asshole mode ("I was just doing something for *me*. I'm tired of you making me feel bad about myself."). However, that "something" often winds up breaking an agreement, a promise, or involves them being condescending, ignoring, or rude.

An emotional abuser sees them self as a blameless victim, and denies their own provocative behaviour, even going so far as to bemoan the fact that you left. The emotional abuser will play up the "pathos" in an attempt to garner sympathy, all the while, continuing to stalk you, making jokes about things they could do to upset you, and invading your personal space and boundaries at social functions. Like physical abusers, emotional abusers will often stalk you. The stalker's objective is often to control you through cultivating fear rather than making direct or specific threats, or confronting you. This is a subtle form of terrorism, because abuse victims are often very emotionally (if not physically) afraid of their abusers.

Ex-partners/friends/relatives of abusers will often express fear of their abuser, and will have no desire to be anywhere near the abuser. On the other hand, the abuser may try to appear as if they are calm, rational, and still supportive of you, despite the fact that they will also express the opinion that they believe you are quite unstable. They will make statements such as saying that they "bear no ill-will", etc., but then will show no respect for your boundaries or your requests for them to stay away from you. The abuser will still inquire with friends as to how you are doing, implying that their inquiry is because they care about you - they do care - about retaining those last vestiges of control. What they really want to know is if you are suffering or doing badly, because that feeds their sick ego. They feel best when they put other people in as much pain as they are in.

People have conflicts. But there is a right way and a wrong way to resolve them, and no matter what the other person does, no matter what a person's "issues" are, abuse is the wrong way. Emotional cruelty and abuse are choices. A person can choose to be abusive or choose to be non-abusive; they can choose to be honest and straightforward, or passive-aggressive and covert, and no matter how hard a person tries to blame you, there is no justification for abuse.

If you are a victim of emotional abuse, you have to wake up to the fact that this person *does not love/like/care about you* and probably hasn't for a very long time, if ever. Because the truth of the matter is, someone who can be emotionally cruel, malicious, and compassionless with people who have given them their love, their understanding and their trust, is so absorbed in self-hate that they are incapable of loving himself, much less anyone else. What the abuser feels is obsession, not love.

If you find that you are having to explain the basics of respect, boundaries, personal space and courtesy to someone - if you are finding that they just DON'T SEEM TO GET IT, when you try to explain why their behaviour or actions were disrespectful - run far and run fast. People who are capable of maintaining and contributing to a loving, supportive, healthy relationship, DON'T need to constantly have the concepts of respect, compassion, and consideration explained to them.

Just because they admit their behaviour (and WATCH - some abusers are VERY good at acknowledging they did something without apologizing, or admitting there was anything WRONG with the behaviour.), does NOT mean they are willing to change it, that they will not repeat the behaviour, nor that they even believe they did anything unacceptable, hurtful or wrong. DO NOT take admission of an act as a sign of integrity, acceptance of responsibility, a show of remorse, or an indication of genuine caring, unless you see EXPLICIT behaviour that demonstrates it.

It is NOT wrong, or unhealthy to want someone to care about you and care for you, and to want to reciprocate. It is only through this kind of openness that we can achieve true intimacy with another individual. And two emotionally healthy people, CAN do this without becoming co-dependent. Unfortunately, abusers violate the trust that this kind of relationship requires, and are incapable of true intimacy. People who ARE capable of genuinely loving you in a healthy and safe way, DON'T WANT TO HURT YOU, and do not DELIBERATELY DO THINGS TO HURT YOU. They don't play on your insecurities and they don't wage psychological warfare on you. They don't blame YOU for all the relationship problems, and they don't fabricate problems just so you can be the scapegoat.

People who love you will treat you with respect, consideration, courtesy, honesty and compassion. If you are with someone who matches the abusive behaviour in this article, get help. The sooner you wake up to the fact that the relationship is unhealthy, and move on, the sooner your life will improve.

Remember: Safe People are people who draw you closer to who you were meant to be spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically. They encourage you to be your most loving, growing self.

#2 pita

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Posted 08 January 2008 - 08:41 PM

:c: Thanks for posting this Sheila.

#3 Guest_ouch_*

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Posted 12 January 2008 - 02:33 PM

IMO an emotional abuser doesn't necessarily have to be a husband, significant other, spouse, life partner or lover. I saw my daughter throughout this article.

#4 Hangingon

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Posted 12 January 2008 - 02:54 PM

Totally agreed Shirley...... That's why I chose this article, it's not written to pinpoint any specific abuser, it's more general.......

#5 NJCat

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Posted 12 January 2008 - 03:01 PM

I have yet to read this whole article (am about to, all set up with my coffee) .... but I was definitely emotionally abused in highschool for a few years by high-school bullies. I don't know what else I could call it but emotional abuse. Off to read ...

#6 NJCat

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Posted 12 January 2008 - 03:27 PM

Thanks for posting this. It makes it more real that I really was emotionally abused by classmates in 4,5,6th grades (and maybe even 7th/8th but not as much)



These are the paragraphs that rang true for me and my situation from way back in gradeschooll

Emotional abusers will try to isolate you from family and friends. There are several tactics that may be employed. If they can't manipulate your friends, they will either find reasons to denigrate them or will be "uninterested" in doing things with you AND your friends. They may find them "boring". Over time, you may find yourself isolated from your friends by virtue of the demands on your time that they make. You may also find them VERY upset if they find out that you have been talking to a close friend or family member about them and/or your relationship with them - especially if that person is likely to tell you they are behaving like an ass.


One of the more subtle but effective ways an abuser can "wind" you up is by invalidating/rejecting/showing no compassion for your feelings - especially in conjunction with a deliberate act of malice that was designed to upset or hurt you. They will claim the act was either "accidental" or intended.They will try to tell you that it is NOT OK to feel angry or hurt or upset by their actions - or that if you DO feel those things, your "feelings are your own" - that they have no responsibility towards repairing any emotional damage they may have caused. As part of this tactic they may pay lip-service to personal responsibility by saying they "take responsibility" for their actions, but then make no offer to do anything about the resulting emotional pain, or say that there is nothing they can do to repair the damage or make restitution. Non-abusers who genuinely ACCIDENTALLY hurt a someone's feelings, do not refuse to nurture those feelings - they help repair the emotional damage, and they don't repeatedly make the same "mistakes" over and over with you.


Emotional abusers often grow OLD without growing UP. They are emotionally stunted and immature. Emotional abusers are self-preoccupied, and demonstrate a passive-aggressive interpersonal style.

Well this is mean, but the **main** person who abused me in gradeschool, I can't imagine her being a nice person even now. I picture her now as mean as she was then. But I don't know, she didn't come to our 25th reunion over a year ago.

Thanks again Sheila for putting up an article ***Validating*** that I was emotionally abused ... and maybe really does have something to do with some of the issues I have now.

#7 Kaktus

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Posted 19 January 2008 - 05:06 AM

This was very well-written. I am gonna print that one out and add it to my pile. Thanks, Sheila.

#8 Hangingon

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Posted 02 February 2008 - 09:59 PM

Assertive Bill Of Rights

1. I have the right to be the ultimate judge of my own behaviour, thoughts, and emotions, and to take the responsibility for their initiation and consequences upon myself.

2. I have the right to offer no reasons or excuses to justify my behaviour.

3. I have the right to judge whether I am responsible for finding solutions to other peopleís problems.

4. I have the right to change my mind.

5. I have the right to make mistakes - and to be responsible for them.

6. I have the right to say, "I donít know."

7. I have the right to be independent of the goodwill of others before coping with them.

8. I have the right to make decisions without using logic.

9. I have the right to say, "I donít understand."

10. I have the right to say, "I donít care."

11. I have the right to be treated with respect.

12. I have the right to set my own priorities.

13. I have the right to say NO without feeling guilty.

14. I have the right to have and express my own feelings and opinions.

"I value MY well being, my emotional health, enough to make choices that allow me to move towards health, wellness and better relationships. Itís worth the price.. I am worth the price."

Repeat as needed.......

#9 Sunshineinmyface

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Posted 03 February 2008 - 04:39 AM

There you go...we could do well to practice exerting our rights if they are not fully exerted.

yea, sounds like parents, others and sister for sure is/was the worst then for me and for those around her now I would imagine.

thanks Sheila XO

edit: I would add for me: I have the right to leave the past behind and stop flogging myself with it, flogging is not right.
I have a right to put what I think (not others) are mistakes in the past in moth balls and get on with the present. (hard one to work on and hey it helps when there are emotional abusers around to dig it up again and again - and I guess that is where I learned how to do it in the first place. Bury the past and toss the shovel.

Edited by sunshineinmyface, 03 February 2008 - 04:42 AM.


#10 Sunshineinmyface

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Posted 03 February 2008 - 04:57 AM

I read the whole thing again......I was very abusive to me - conditioned that way. And if you pick up negative feelings you cannot put into words regarding a person when first getting to know them....pull back and look deeper. Or, when looking back on the relationship...how did it change over time? Or how did roles develop. And, I think abusers will NEVER actually sit down face to face after the conflict and talk about what happened calmly. And look around at others in intimate situations and how they act with each other.

Just a few thoughts....and I will be printing this out as well...good idea.

#11 belight232

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Posted 02 January 2009 - 07:24 PM

Thank you so much for posting this. I was having trouble admitting that I just got out of an emotionally abusive relationship, but absolutely every work of this rang true to me. I'm so glad I found this.

#12 JohnR

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Posted 02 January 2009 - 08:14 PM

Thanks for posting this.

Much of that described my ex-wife as if the author knew her. The other thing with her, is that she has absolutely no concept of how here words and actions affect others. She is genuinely (or at least appears to be) surprised at someone being upset several days after sometime extremely malicious.

In may particular case, in the past 10 years, I have had family and friends tell me incidents they noticed many years before that I had completely blocked out. In talking to a p-doc once, we discussed how previously ridiculed 'henpecked' husbands or 'pussywhipped' boyfriends are really being abused. The abuse of women was recognized long before the abuse of men.

#13 rosie8

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 04:04 PM

Wow, I could see a lot of my mother in that - feel guilty for writing that, but its true.

Thanks for pinning it for all to read. Rx

#14 lookingforalight

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Posted 04 October 2009 - 05:44 AM

Wow this opened my eyes to so many things! I just realised that almost every relationship i've had so far has been very emotionally abusive...thats a little scary lol :o And I saw alot of my parents in that article too... :cry: intense stuff I'm gonna send this to my sis!

#15 cookiemonster2809

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Posted 04 October 2009 - 03:00 PM

Wow this is great and its a huge help with some advise on how I was emotionally abused by my dad. This is great thanks :c: