How Hard Can It Be To Recover From Emotional Abuse?

by Annie Kaszina on May 5, 2015

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How hard can it be to recover from emotional abuse?  If you listen to all the people standing in the wings – friends, family, counsellors, therapists, and even casual acquaintances  – it shouldn’t be that hard. If you just do what they tell you to do, and feel the way they tell you to feel, you could be as wise about your life as they are.

Except that they’re not wise. They’re foisting their opinions, and their perspectives on you. Worse, they are expecting you to start to recover from emotional abuse from where they are – not where you are.

How easy would it be to  put it all behind you if you could just vacate your shoes, step into theirs, and start bounding forward? 

This week, my heart went out to a new client.

“I’m just like all the other women you work with” she said. “I can’t let go, and I can’t move on.  And I hate myself for it?”

“No, you’re not.  You’re absolutely not” I replied. “You’re an individual. Just like they are individuals.  You have your own gifts and talents, your own strengths and qualities. There are a ton of things   that make you unique, and precious, and amazing.  The only thing is, you’re not aware of them.  And there’s a reason you’re not aware with them.

“You’re not living as you. That stopped a while ago – if it ever really got underway.  And the reason that you’re not living as you is that you’re caught up in a syndrome. You’ve been trained to think, and behave in a specific way.  You’ve been taught to believe some very specific  things about yourself.”

An emotionally abusive partner has a very special modus operandi. First, he makes you feel that he wants to be with you because you’re really special – and he’s really special. Actually, he’s really, really special.

Once you’ve bought into his patter, his routine starts to change: you have to earn that specialness – and you don’t always live up to his expectations.  You can end up feeling like you’re standing at the gate of the Garden of Eden and knowing that, if you don’t measure up, you’ll be cast out.

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Time, of course, doesn’t make things better. It never does with an emotionally abusive relationship. Mr Nasty becomes the Garden of Eden, while you spend your time as an outcast and a supplicant, banging on the gate, pleading to be allowed back in, promising to be and do whatever he wants, in order to be allowed back in.

Mr Nasty is a zealous gate-keeper. Every so often, he lets you peek over the threshold. Then he kicks you back out again. He’ll wave the odd apple at you, he may even let you take the occasional bite, but he’s never going to let you sate your hunger with that damned apple.

That modus operandi affects you.  It affects you far more deeply than you realise.

He trains you to scarcity: scarcity of love, scarcity of self-belief, scarcity of hope, scarcity of everything you need to have a happy, meaningful, productive life.

Mr Nasty has morphed into Your World.  I see this over and over again. Even women who have children, who say their children are their world, still treat Mr Nasty like he is The Sun who lights their world – or, more correctly, The Sun who could light their world, if only he didn’t skulk full-time behind a very big, very dark cloud.

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In short Mr Nasty has dragged you deep into some kind of world that exists only inside his own head.

That’s what I mean by being caught up in a syndrome.

When you see it written down on the page like that, it’s mad.  You know it’s mad. But every time you’ve tried to resist that madness, you’ve paid a high price.

At heart, you know The World doesn’t function that way.  You’ve just come to believe that your world does.

That’s got nothing to do with you are. It’s all about how you have been conditioned to be. By You-Know-Who.

That’s why I get so angry with the counselors and therapists who want you to start to recover from emotional abuse from where they are. You’re not where they are. If they can’t get behind you, and work with you from where you are, then they’re not helping you. If they give you to understand that there’s something wrong with you because you still feel the way you feel, they’re not doing their job right. 

It really is that simple.

The job of any professional helping a woman to recover from emotional abuse is just that: to help her recover from emotional abuse. You do that by helping her to see the woman she really is, the qualities she really has, and the promises life holds for her. You get her to understand that what’s happened to her is not who she is, it’s just a syndrome that’s happened – to her. 

See, you’re not a syndrome.  You never were.  You’re a woman who can have a rich, rewarding life.

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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