Thanks to the advancements in neuroscience and modern technology, with the help of medical pieces of equipment and imaging techniques like EEG and MRI scans, we are now able to get a clearer picture of the brain structure and function.
And it has been seen that neglect and abuse, even of the emotional kind can leave a lasting impact on our brain. Sophisticated imaging techniques like diffusion tensor imaging provides information on the white matter tracts, and how the circuits in our brain are altered in an abusive environment.
Amygdala, which is one of the brain’s most important areas, process fear and fear response within us. And regular abuse results in increased activity in the amygdala, which advances to behavioural changes such as impulsivity and a constant state of heightened alert. And on the other hand, the reward centre of our brain shows a blunted response, which means that we find it difficult to feel happiness. Emotional regulation and behavioural maladjustments are other key changes that happen with constant stress and abuse.
In the previous article, I spoke about the kindness one can offer a partner. But people rarely talk about the abuse one greets one’s intimate partner with.
I was a terrible lover to my partner.
I am you; you are me, we’ve all been here on this path before.
Strangely enough, I was never a bad guy. I’ve never hit a woman or even used a swear word against one. I’m not abusive in that popular cultural reference kind of away.
But I was still abusive in that I didn’t respect my partner’s thoughts and feelings as much as I should have. Even though I didn’t intend it as such, I ended up making her feel like her opinions were worthless, and in effect, she was worthless.
When two people disagree, they do so because both of them think they’re right. I thought I was right. I thought this more often, even when I didn’t think of her as wrong.
I forgot the inalienable truth; sometimes there’s no right or wrong, especially in a relationship. One person can like colour, the others needn’t. One might like a particular kind of movie, the other needn’t. There’s no right or wrong over here. But I treated it as such. What I felt and thought and hence believed, I considered as true. Which automatically meant, I thought she was wrong.
I had promised to love her, and I did. I never stopped loving her. But I did stop observing what effect my nonchalance was having on her.
I always put her first in my life. But not when it came to disagreements and fights. When we fought, it was all about me, how I had to prove to her how I am not to be blamed, how I am in fact blameless. It’s not that I wasn’t, but my insistence on proving my “innocence” meant that I didn’t see how it was affecting her.
She told me about it. Once, twice and many more times than I can recall. I heard her plenty, but I didn’t listen to her.
I was a good person. I was charitable. I was generous. I was sacrificing. How can I be a bad guy, then? Those people (bad people) do horrible violent acts. Then how can I be one of them? Then it hit me; a good man can still be a lousy professional. A good man can still be a bad teacher, doctor, and officer. I was just a bad lover.
The fear response in our Amygdala acts in haste when we hear perceivable bad things about ourselves. When our fear response gets activated, our sympathetic nervous system gets activated. We react unconsciously and impulsively. We get defensive, we get angry, we try to rationalize and justify our behaviour.
I didn’t hit her. I didn’t call her names. But I still drove her to tears during a fight. Constant abuse altered her brain circuitry. It affected her behaviour; she was in constant distress.
When she moved away from me for good, it finally hit me what I was doing to her. When she moved to cities and went back to college, I realized what I had lost.
Emotional abuse, it’s the silent devil in relationships.
I share my story so that you don’t end up alone like me.