Emotional abuse doesn’t stop the day you walk away from an emotionally abusive partner. Unfortunately, it will probably continue to affect you long after your abusive partner has become history, unless you discover what emotional abuse really is and how best to overcome it.
Emotional abuse is any judgement, from any source, humiliates, undermines and paralyzes you. People have a right to pass comment on errors you have made. They are never justified in suggesting that the errors you have made undermines your human worth. Emotional abuse keeps you focused on the past; and seeing the future only through the negative perspective of the abusive relationship. When you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship, your partner will always remind you of everything you have ever done wrong – and visit on you their prediction that you will never change for the better.
How does your partner know this?
Actually, they don’t. It’s only their opinion. Emotional abuse brainwashes you into taking whatever bad things your partner says about you as gospel. If they can be so sure, when you are feeling so confused and undermined, then they must be right. In fact, they sound so certain because they are heavily invested in what they’re saying.
They need you to believe it so they can maintain their power over you. You can’t be sure whether what your partner says ‘counts’ as abuse or not. After all, he doesn’t hit you; he’s just telling it like it is. Maybe, it’s just you being too sensitive, or too demanding, or too unreasonable. That’s what he tells you. So you end up worrying: “Is it? Isn’t it?” Because you’ll only feel 100% justified in taking a firm stand, if you are absolutely sure, and it’s so hard to be sure with words. In fact, if his words make you feel small, worthless or humiliated, and he doesn’t respect or consider how you feel, that is abusive. More important, it is unacceptable.
Hurting your feelings, or being careless of your feelings, however you choose to see it, is unacceptable. Period. Until you become adept at recognising verbal and emotional abuse you will continue to suffer it in your life. Because you will continue to let friends, acquaintances and even strangers behave in ways that are either hurtful or careless of your feelings. until you discover how to identify them and get rid of them once and for all. Worse still, you’ll confuse abuse with ‘being realistic’. If ever you find yourself thinking: “They can do things, because it’s different for them, they’re not as hopeless and useless as I am”, that is an abusive judgement. Any assessment you make about yourself that denies your ability to create good relationships and a good life for yourself is abusive – and wrong.
How can you possibly know what the future holds? After all, if you had had the gift of foresight, you wouldn’t have got involved with your abusive partner in the first place, would you? and that you have the power to make all the changes you want and need. Sure, you may not be able to make them right now, because you may not even know exactly what you want and need. What you can do, is start making one or two small changes and maybe add a few others as you go along; maybe adding a little self-care into your daily routine. The psychological burden of an abusive relationship is actually like a massive boulder. You can’t push it away, but a few small changes act like putting a plank under it. The leverage you’ll gain will allow you to roll that boulder away, faster than you might think possible. You can wait until things get better to start believing that they will; or you can fast-track your recovery by starting to believe in and look for improvements. Whatever you look for, you will see. Whether your glass is half-full or half-empty, it’s still the same glass and the same volume of liquid. The only difference is how you’ll feel about it. How do you want to feel? You can find support from a refuge, from this group for survivors of domestic violence – and make no mistake emotional abuse is domestic violence – from a counsellor, coach or other professional who understands how you have been affected by emotional abuse. Not only will you find out that you’re not the only one to fall for an abusive partner, you’ll see that all abusive partners are clones. Some hit, some don’t, but they all behave in much the same way; they all say pretty much the same cruel things. You’ll soon start to realize that, since they all work from the same script, what they say is not about you, it’s actually about them. Yes, you’ve been through totally undeserved pain and misery and no doubt you are still hurting, but you have a choice. You can focus on the pain, or you can start to focus on what you have to celebrate. Bear in mind that what you focus on multiplies. Consciously make time in your day, maybe last thing at night, to celebrate your health, your children’s health, a child’s smile, any good thing that has happened in your day, a kindness shown to you, the sunshine, the beauty of a flower. If you commit to celebrating 10 things in a day, then you’ll have to look for them. Once you make a habit of looking for them, you will surely find 10, and more. Is that it? It’s certainly a very good start. Everything suggested in this post will move you on from your hurt, victim mind-set and into an awareness both of your own worth and of all that there is for you to look forward to. The journey of recovery from emotional abuse is the journey from fear, shame, and powerlessness into joyful belief in yourself and the world. You don’t know what the future holds, but rest assured that there it will be far, far happier than you can imagine right now.