HEALING FROM EMOTIONAL ABUSE FOUR CRUCIAL STAGES Many people live in relationships where they endure emotional abuse, and the longer they remain in those partnerships, the more they are damaged, and the harder it is for them to escape. It is often hard for loving relatives and friends to watch the degradation and be unable to help. They come to me asking for my help when they’ve exhausted everything they could do to fail in being able rescue them.
WHAT MAKES PEOPLE ENDURE EMOTIONAL ABUSE? -They experienced or had to watch it in childhood, often at the hands of an addictive parent who alternated between abuse and asking for forgiveness. -Children often are blamed or blame themselves as deserving abuse and, as adults, they choose partners who feel familiar. -They suffer from all of the symptoms of PTSD and are immobilized by those feelings of powerlessness and debilitating anxiety. -They believe that love and abuse are wedded and that they can’t have one without the other. -They can’t imagine living without that person because of the things they love about them despite the abuse, and try to ignore what they are paying to keep getting what they need. -Brainwashed by the charisma of an abusive partner that they are overly dramatic and out of line when the try to stop the abuse.
HEALING FROM ABUSE CANNOT HAPPEN UNTIL THE ABUSE STOPS Some try to heal it from within the relationship but it seldom works unless the perpetrator sees his or her behavior as abusive and is willing to change in order for the relationship to continue. The abuser often also has an abusive history and they can continue to trigger each other without outside guidance. If a couple can heal this destructive pattern within a relationship, they can transform the underlying trauma that both have had to endure.
THE FOUR STAGES OF HEALING Most people suffering from emotional abuse want to try to heal themselves within the relationship first. Even though they admit to feeling humiliated and fearful of challenging their partners. I encourage them to try if they feel too frightened to leave, but tell them that they will have a hard time setting new boundaries unless their partners are on board, which they are usually not and will often up the abuse when challenged.
STAGE ONE – AKNOWLIGING THE ABUSE FROM THE ABUSER AND ONE’S OWN CULPABILITY Many abuse victims have been unable to recognize the abuse they are enduring. They fear being vulnerable or giving the abuser any more ammunition than they already have. Most abuse victims are not courageous enough to leave the relationship because they have been made to believe that no one else will want them, or they feel they deserve what they are getting, or that they should be able to take the abuse and not complain. They usually will come into therapy alone as the abuser rarely recognizes his or her accountability. They frequently have many attachments to the relationship and want desperately to save it.
STAGE TWO -THE DECISION TO SAVE SELF AT ALL COSTS Once realizing that their partner will not change, the abused partner must make an irrevocable choice to protect and preserve self at all costs, even in the presence of threats or trauma-triggering behaviors from their partner. They need help in balancing their own self-compassion from fear of the other or even worry that they are now the hurter, the role they never wanted to become. They have to ignore their partner’s intensified pressure to conform again. Very often, children are now involved, and can be a motivating force for the abuse victim to stop the intergenerational trauma that will result if they continue to be at the end of abuse and having their children witness it.
STAGE THREE – THE BUILDING OF POWERFUL SELF-COMPASSION AND SELF-PROTECTION Many people who have begun freeing themselves from abuse tyranny feel guilty for having stayed so long and perpetuated their self-damage. That must be replaced by self-compassion and pride in their heroism. They are now liberated from living on a witness stand, trying to prove they are worthy of better treatment. They finally can hold others accountable for behaviors that are simply wrong, and who blame others.
STAGE FOUR -BECOMING A MODEL FOR OTHERS The best way to hold on to new patterns is to teach it to others by modeling. Others can see that you are no longer attracted to or willing to submit to abusive behaviors, no matter what the positives may offer. You can have compassion for those still locked in to abusive relationships, but realize they must find their own way out when they are ready.
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