“Are You At Risk?”

by Annie Kaszina on June 4, 2013

Is safety an issue for you? Do you feel safe?  Or, do you often feel at risk – emotionally, financially, and/or physically? 

If you’ve ever been in an emotionally abusive relationship, let me reassure you: feeling at risk is a normal response to an abnormal situation.  

Your emotionally abusive partner has trained you to feel at risk.  He’s taught you that you can be under attack at any time.  He has an extraordinary talent for finding fault, taking offence, and being disappointed in you, has he not?    

No wonder you worry about being safe. 

Even if you leave him that fear doesn’t just dissolve of its own accord. 

For a lot of emotionally abused women, the whole UN-safe programming started long before they ever met Mr Nasty.  A lot of us were brought up fearful.  We were told the world was an unsafe place; we had parents who gave us that message, over and over again. 

And then along came Mr Nasty… 

Whether or not he said it, in so many words, the message you got from him was, essentially: “It’s an unsafe world out there.  Your best chance – actually, your only chance – is to stick with me.” 

That’s not true, of course.  

But the brainwashing can be hard to shift. 

This week, E. sent me an email that reads: “I’ve been going thru a lot with the guy I have been dating for almost 5 years now. Everyone is telling me they feel my life is in danger with this guy.  What should I do?” 

“A tough time” is abused woman’s code for: “this man has been making my life a living hell, but I really don’t want to believe he is an emotionally abusive partner”.  “What should I do?” means “I don’t really want to give up on the relationship.  Could you, please, reassure me that it’s neither emotionally abusive nor dangerous, things could still work out well, and my friends have got it wrong?” 

Is E at risk? 

Absolutely.  She is at massive, massive risk.  She’s at risk if she stays, because things will keep on getting worse.  It’s an abusive relationship.  It’s on a downward spiral. The emotional (and physical) violence will escalate. 

Even when she leaves she will be at risk – because an emotionally abusive man tends to become even more dangerous when he feels he’s losing his power over you.  E, like all emotionally abused women, is between a rock and a hard place. 

For all that, leaving – and staying out of contact – is the best, and safest, option.  But she will have to plan it carefully, enlisting all the support she can, including, neighbours, friends and family, and the police.  

Unfortunately, that’s only one scenario in which an emotionally abused woman is at risk. 

How about this one? 

She calls time on the relationship and then, a few days, weeks or months down the line, along comes Mr Nasty wearing his: “Darling, I’m so sorry, I’ve seen the light, it will never happen again” mask.  Is she at risk, then? 

If she’s feeling lonely, down, insecure, and nostalgic/loving, or regretful, she’s at huge risk.  

Will he harm her physically?  

That depends on his patterns, and his beliefs about physical violence.  

Will he harm her, emotionally, if she gets back with him? Yes, absolutely.  Sure, if you do enough research you’ll end up dredging up – and I use that term advisedly – the example of  one man who didn’t exactly have a Damascene conversion, but changed… a bit.  

But if you’re really keen on playing seriously long odds, why not just have a little flutter on the lottery each week?  True, you stand to lose is a few dollars.  But it won’t progressively erode your sense of self-worth the way he will.  It won’t break your heart, crush you psychologically, and leave you for emotionally dead.  

There’s a third way in which your fear of feeling at risk keeps you locked in the abusive dynamic. Any abusive man worth his salt will tell you that you can’t afford to leave him.    He does that, deliberately, to trigger your fear.  Why?  Because he doesn’t want you to realize that you cannot afford to tolerate the abusive half-life

If you leave, you can rebuild your self-worth, and get your gifts and talents out in the world.  These may well be gifts and talents you aren’t even aware of, yet, that will generate not just money, but the love and the LIFE you want for yourself.  If you stay, all you’ll ever have will be crumbs: crumbs of love, crumbs of life, crumbs of happiness.  Emotionally, he will slowly starve you to death.   

Some women stay for financial reasons.  His money will not save you, or enable you to thrive. Money’s great, I’m not denying it.  But money won’t give you a deep sense of your own worth and lovableness.  That’s down to you.  Your gifts, true self-awareness, and self-worth will bring you all the love, happiness, and abundance you deserve.  No matter how broken you may feel right now. 

Your safety does not lie outside you: it can only lie within you.  

Heal the fear, and live life your way.

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