Emotional Abuse Terminology

We’ve compiled a list of common emotional abuse terminology just for you! And if you want to dive deeper into a specific term, simply click on the “Learn More” button for a full blog on the subject. We’re here to make learning about these important topics easy and accessible for everyone. Get in touch if you think we’re missing any words and we can add them in.

ABANDONMENT

Narcissists often display abandonment in the discard stage of the narcissistic abuse cycle. So it is when they desert you either emotionally, withholding feelings or physically, leaving you permanently or temporarily.

ACCUSATION

To charge or claim that a person has done something illicit or dishonourable. It can also be a form of projection (see below), e.g. they accuse you of cheating when they’re actually the ones doing it to you.

BAITING

Intentionally “winding you up” to provoke a response.

COGNITIVE DISSONANCE

The feeling of having two opposing beliefs simultaneously – is particularly experienced when a narcissist gaslights an individual. The victim believes what the abuser is saying over what the victim is feeling, causing them to distrust themselves over the abuser.

FAUXPOLOGY

A fake apology, lacking any genuine sincerity and usually said to achieve the desired outcome. Narcissists use it often as a hoovering tactic.

FLYING MONKEYS

A third party, often friends or family of the abuser, is used to reinforce the abuse. However, it can be people who have also (unknowingly) been manipulated by the abuser or people who believe the abuser is a “good person.” Unfortunately, it can also exacerbate the cognitive dissonance by further invalidating the victim’s feelings/emotions.

GASLIGHTING

A manipulation tactic used to make the victim question their reality. Abusers convince the victim that what they are thinking/feeling isn’t real, in their head, or nonexistent. Present in the devalue and discard stages of abuse.

GHOSTING

To disappear without a trace or warning. Narcissists commonly use it in the discard stage of abuse.

GRANDIOSITY

The belief by the abuser that they are superior to any other. They have an inflated ego and sense of self and believe that everyone else is inferior to them.

HOOVERING

Think of a vacuum sucking you back into the abuse cycle using love-bombing tactics and fauxpologies. Intermittent hoovering throughout the cycle makes you think that they care for you and are a good person.

LEARNED HELPLESSNESS

What a victim will experience as a response to repetitive painful stimuli. Victims will begin to accept they have no control and start to give up fighting against it.

LOVE BOMBING

The abuser uses constant, intense flattery, fake acts of kindness, rushed intimacy, and generosity to groom the victim into trusting them, predominantly seen in the idealisation stage of abuse.

NARCISSISTIC FOG

F – Fear O – Obligation G – Guilt. Abuser pursues to instil these into the victim through various strategies to reinforce narcissistic supply.

NARCISSISTIC MIRRORING

The abuser will mimic the victim to form a “deep bond”. They create the illusion that you have similar goals, morals, interests, and humour. Used in the idealisation stage of abuse.

NARCISSISTIC SUPPLY

Positive and negative attention reinforces the belief of the superiority of the abuser. They have an excessive need for admiration from their victim to solidify their sense of entitlement. So when you no longer meet their needs, they will move on to seek a supply from elsewhere. Therefore, leading to the discard stage of abuse.

PITY PLAYS

Abusers display pity plays to trigger the victim’s empathy and compassion to feel sorry for them about a situation. They know that narcissists easily manipulate the victim’s feelings, so they use this to their advantage. Also, they use it as a hoovering tactic, following the devalue and discard stage of the cycle.

PROJECTION

When the abuser shifts the blame for an event or situation onto another. They do not hold themselves accountable for anything, which would dismantle their superiority complex. Hence, they are never wrong, and all the defects lie with you.

SELF GASLIGHTING

Self gaslighting can result from being frequently gaslit. It helps to deal with any negative feelings of cognitive dissonance that might surface. Moreover, it helps the individual self-soothe volatile circumstances. For example, one might repress and dismiss any details that don’t align with their feelings and beliefs, e.g. “I am probably being too sensitive and overreacting”.

SELF REGULATING

To manage your own unsettling emotions, thoughts and behaviours, particularly to influence a future goal. For example, if you value your relationship, you will work harder to keep it going. Self-regulation encourages you to adapt your behaviour accordingly and prevents you from acting before thinking. Narcissists will try to influence self-regulation as a way of controlling you.

SMEAR CAMPAIGNS

The abuser will intentionally convey false information about you with the hope of further isolating, discrediting, and controlling you. It usually involves third parties.

SOUL-MATE EFFECT

During the love-bombing phase, the abuser creates the illusion that they are your soul-mate. As a result, they gain your trust whilst simultaneously blurring the boundaries. This is usually a precursor to the devalue stage.

STONE WALLING

The intentional withholding of information/feelings/emotions. A narcissistic technique used when confronted with issues they don’t want to deal with. The narcissist will shut down and avoid any method you choose to try to engage with them. The effect of stonewalling is similar to gaslighting as it is a form of manipulation. It helps the abuser gain control by encouraging you to chase them to respond to you. Therefore, you avoid any subject that could trigger their stonewalling reaction in the long term.

TRAUMA BONDING

Whereby the individual becomes bonded to their abuser. As a result of the abuser’s intermittent positive and negative reinforcement. It emerges from a recurring pattern of abuse and leaves the victim feeling bound to the abuser for emotional comfort.

TRIANGULATION

Another word for the involvement of third parties used to isolate the victim further and discredit their experience of the abuser.