Today we have another post from our contributor, Sam on emotional abuse.
Love should never hurt. But for too many, “love” seems almost inevitably linked to pain. For too many of us, our past relationships have taught us to expect to be hurt by our partners. Our histories have made us believe that we’re only lovable, we’re only worth sticking around for, if we’re sacrificing ourselves and our needs.
If we don’t suck it up and take it, we think we’re going to end up alone. And being alone, when you’ve been emotionally abused, is maybe the most terrifying prospect of all.
But life should not be pain. And love should most certainly never hurt. But you’ll never move on to the life you deserve until you finally stop blaming and start loving yourself at last.
Recognizing the Abuse
One of the most debilitating aspects of emotional abuse. We often think of abuse as physical or sexual violence, only. We might think that it’s only abuse if it leaves bruises or draws blood. But that’s far from the case. Abuse comes in many forms, from the physical and sexual to the psychological and financial. It can impact domestic partners, children, or elders.
But what makes emotional abuse so sinister is how difficult it can be to recognize. Many women do not even realize they’re being emotionally abused until their self-esteem has been so devastated that they no longer think they deserve or can do better.
The first step in healing is learning to recognize the signs of emotional abuse. They can include everything from name-calling and insults to veiled threats. But the signs can also be more subtle, such as invalidating your emotions or disregarding your needs.
It can also include extreme volatility in the relationship, from periods of “love bombing” to withholding of affection when you behave in a manner that your partner disapproves of. In essence, emotional abuse is all about robbing you of your sense of power and of security by alternating love with hurt.
Your abuser will make you doubt your own sense of reality as well as your own sense of worth. Abusers make you feel unlovable, insecure, and powerless because that is how they keep you dependent on them.
After all, if you spend all your time walking on eggshells and trying to avoid the next outburst, you’re going to have less time and energy to plan your escape.
The reality is that abuse isn’t just about battering the body. It’s about dismantling the self. It’s about taking away your peace, your joy, your security, your confidence. It’s about making you forget how to love yourself. Accepting that you have been abused, though, is essential to your healing because this will enable you to understand why you feel the way you feel and behave the way you behave.
For instance, if you’ve experienced emotional abuse, chances are you’re also experiencing depression and anxiety, and perhaps even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Healing and moving on to the better life you deserve means seeking care for the mental health effects of the abuse. Acknowledge what you are experiencing with compassion and understanding. Take action to get the mental healthcare you need, which might include medications or even short-term inpatient care.
And that’s okay. You are worth whatever it takes to have peace and happiness in your life.
Moving On from Emotional Abuse
Working on your emotional and psychological healing is about more than understanding you have been abused and seeking the psychiatric care you might need to recover. It’s also about building the healthy, happy, and productive life you deserve.
That includes finding the strength to safely leave your abuser. And that begins by reaching out for the many resources available to help you make that transition safely.
It also involves learning to be okay on your own, no matter how long it might take to find a healthy relationship. In fact, building a healthy and loving relationship means first having a healthy and loving relationship with yourself.
After all, if you don’t love and value yourself, how can you expect someone else to? So focus on creating a life for yourself where you are your own highest priority. Fill your days with self-care: Focus on exercise, on nourishing your body with healthy foods, on getting consistent and restorative rest, and on doing the things that give you joy and fulfillment.
Love may be all you need, but not when that love hurts. The people in your life should never be a source of pain. But, all too often, love feels hopelessly mixed up with hurt. And that can make it very hard even to see that you are being emotionally abused, at least until you are so emotionally beaten down, you can’t remember what it felt like to be happy. But there is hope. There is life and happiness on the other side of emotional abuse.
Sam Bowman writes about people, tech, wellness and how they merge. He enjoys getting to utilize the internet for community without actually having to leave his house. In his spare time he likes running, reading, and combining the two in a run to his local bookstore.