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Scandal and Emotional Abuse

June 9th, 2015     by Raisa Bhuiyan     Comments

Photo via The A.V. Club

Scandal: A Toast to the Brave Olivia Pope Who Broke Up with Her Toxic Father

If there is one thing that is for sure on ABC’s hit TV show, Scandal, it is that the protagonist, Olivia Pope, is brave. Olivia is brave not only because of the daily struggles that she negotiates everyday as one of the most powerful women in the fictional Washington, DC, but also because of the strength that she displays in dealing with her father, Rowan Pope, a source of toxicity in her life. While there are hundreds of review articles that have been published on the racial dynamics of Olivia’s love life, there is hardly any that have looked at the relationship with her father.

For the last few years, one of the central plots in Scandal have centered on the toxicity in the relationship between Olivia and her father, Rowan/Eli Pope. Whether it was because of an addiction, a compulsive need to put her down, an ex-communication, an inability to give and receive love, or just the turmoil of dealing with a disfigured personality, viewers get a glimpse of emotional abuse that Rowan puts Olivia through. Although it takes her some time to realize how poorly her father has been treating her, Olivia tries her hardest to leave her father behind and that takes courage. Throughout the 6 seasons of Scandal, Olivia has tried to find a middle ground, a place where she can avoid the excesses of her father’s antics. This was usually through tightly scheduled phone calls, no surprise visits, or some topics that are agreed to never be discussed – at the cost of much anguish to Olivia.

Emotional abuse is a recurrent theme on Scandal, and more often than not Olivia experiences it from her love interests and friends as well. While the happenings of Scandal are fictitious, many of the storylines it depicts are all too real, especially the relationship between Olivia and her father and the emotional abuse that goes on there. In real life, emotional abuse isn’t something that can easily be spotted – especially when it comes from loved ones. The challenge in dealing with emotional abusers is that interactions with them tend to be draining. No matter what you say, they always have a negative opinion to offer. Being discouraging and skeptical, they tend to focus on the downsides and the ‘dangers’ of an action or thought. When something positive happens, they are quick to excuse that as a one-off or point out the black lining to the situation. When they have a problem, they prefer to victimize and complain, rather than work out a solution. Emotional abusers have a self-defeating attitude because for whatever reason they are not able to access the positive energy in their life. Therefore, they are volatile and act very abrasive towards others in their lives for reasons that are unique to each person.

There are however, some useful short-term strategies in dealing with emotionally abusive people. Although the long-term goal would be not to be emotionally abused, not everyone has enough resources to do so and so the short-term strategies can help make day-to-day life more manageable. The first strategy is that one should pick their battles. Picking battles means choosing the disputes that you want to engage in. You don’t want to spend your days embroiled in anger and frustration because it would be a waste of your time and energy. Emotional abusers thrive off self-defeat, negativity and anger, and they will always try to nip at things to provoke a reaction – choosing which battles to engage in can cut down those reactions by a lot. At the same time, this does not mean not taking a stand when the topic of contestation is about something you are passionate about. Assessing the situation before choosing to react is always helpful.

A second strategy is to quiet your headspace by visualizing certain images. Many esteemed psychotherapists tell patients to imagine images such as bubbles around oneself, brick walls, and doors as ways to keep the negativity of an emotional abuser out of one’s mind. So when an emotional abuser is trying start some trouble – it can help to mentally remove oneself from the situation by envisioning a bubble, a brick wall or even a door. A similar tactic that psychotherapists recommend is drawing out the image of a place that gives one peace and keeping that picture with them or remembering the picture during days when it is tough to deal with an emotionally abusive person.

The final strategy may seem like an obvious one – but its effectiveness is without doubt. Surrounding oneself with positive, joyful yet constructive people is a helpful tactic because being around such people can help you see how different life can be without the presence of an emotionally abusive person. Think about the people who are supportive or will be supportive of your goals if you told them. Think about how you can increase the time you spend with them. If you don’t have any of such people in your life, it’s okay. Think of the people out there in this world who are doing what you want to do, then increase your contact with them through their works, such as their books, interviews, TV shows, and so on. Even reading a good book, making a delicious meal or watching a good television show can do wonders.

While an emotionally abusive situation is not ideal, it’s definitely not indicative of the value of one’s goals or future. Just because others don’t support your goals doesn’t mean they are not worthwhile. If anything, they are probably more worthy than anything you’ve ever wanted to achieve, and hence your desire to pursue them. One tends to face resistance from others when they pursue goals worth pursuing. This is especially so if you are surrounded by people who tend to be more fear-based. Examples are people who tend to seek affirmation about everything they do, people who don’t think much about what they want to do in life, people who are quick to dismiss than accept changes. But you can move past all these things and eventually be in happy and joyful situations with supportive folks – and that is the bravest thing of all.

Tags: media savvy

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