What Emotional Abuse Teaches You

by Annie Kaszina on July 28, 2015

 

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What do you really learn from emotional abuse?  Usually the first thing you learn is the wrong thing; specifically that it’s all your fault.  While there are vitally important things that you are much slower to learn – not least that the reason why your partner behaves so badly because he is emotionally abusive. It takes the longest time to learn that you – and the relationship – are doomed to unhappiness.

Then there’s what friends and family expect emotional abuse to teach you. As they see it, you should be struck by the thunderbolt of Enlightenment, see The Error of Your Ways – and your Wayward Heart – and just forget about Everything and move on. (Unless they belong to that other -even more taxing – group who Know What You Do Not:  above all, they know that he’s a good guy, you’ve got it wrong, and you should go back and make it work!)

Either way, what’s obvious to them should be obvious to you. They have a pretty good road-map for your life. Their (spoken or unspoken) question to you is: ‘why can’t you see your world my way, and life your life my way?

 Emotional abuse teaches you is that you’re not very good at running your own life.  It teaches you that Other People think you are distinctly challenged when it comes to running your own life.  Nobody actually uses the word ‘feeble-minded’, as far as I know, but it hovers in the air.

In fact, Other People do you no favors.  Rather, they help to blind you to the real issue – which is how you relate to yourself.

Many women tell me that they had a perfectly okay relationship with themselves before their Mr Nasty came along.  But that isn’t exactly true. Before Mr Nasty came along you may have ‘rubbed along’ with yourself reasonably well. You didn’t unconditionally love yourself, but you had some vision of how you wanted your life to be, and you had a dream of the loving relationship which would make you whole.

Then along came Mr Nasty, and your world fell apart.

Everything bad you had ever experienced before, plus some, was suddenly coming at you from your partner, this person who had found his way into your heart by promising something totally different.

How devastating is that?

More to the point, what does that betrayal of your trust teach you?

This is where we need to tread carefully.  What it tells you is that the man you gave your heart to is not the person you thought he was.  That much is clear.

But then something else happens; you do the very human thing of creating a narrative around the fact.

Most of the narratives we tell ourselves are dramatic, moving, and exquisitely tiresome.  Let me explain. Mr Nasty reveals his oh-so-dark side, and we create a narrative about it.  We scroll back in time: we must have either been fooled by him, or slipped up incredibly badly, either to turn him against us, or to end up with a jerk in the first place.  So what does that say about us?

 According to the narrative we tell ourselves, it points to our stupidity, and worthlessness, past, present, and future. 

 Emotional abuse teaches you that you are a no-hoper: it teaches you that a splendid collection of platitudes and labels apply to you, including ‘so broken that you cannot be fixed’, ‘loser’, ‘no-hoper’, ‘lousy’. These become your job description as partner, wife, mother, and beyond.

You learned negative judgement as a child, and as an emotionally abused adult woman you reap judgement.  You’ve reaped it from other people, especially your emotionally abusive partner, and you continue to reap it – and sow it – all by yourself.

If you listen to the internal dialogue of emotionally abused women, as I do, all the time, it is remarkably similar to what they heard from their Mr Nasty. (Sure, they won’t use certain epithets, and may draw a few lines in the toxic sand but, still, their Mr Nasty would be almost proud of the way they judge themselves. He would be entitled to feel that he had done his ‘work’ well.)

Emotional abuse teaches you that you live in a world of negative judgement, and all you can ever expect is negative judgements. If/when “People (whoever that may mean for you) see who you really are, they will find plenty not to like.

That’s your narrative. It’s not true. But you’ve swallowed it. Other people will, too, if you feed it to them.

Mostly, people are happy to accept whatever narrative you put in front of them.  After all, you accepted Mr Nasty’s narrative that he’s the Original Mr Wonderful.

That brings us back to your narrative.  It’s making your life much, much harder than it needs to be. Changing your narrative about yourself may not sound like the easiest thing in the world to do, but it’s your lifeline – quite literally. It is your path to a joyful life. That’s the work I do, every day with my clients. I teach them how they can change their narrative, so they can feel good about themselves, and find the strength to create a life they can love wholeheartedly.

Emotional abuse teaches you to live in fear of seeing your internal judgement reflected on the faces of other people. You cannot live with that fear of judgement and have a joyful, meaningful life. Something has to give.

So, what’s the lesson emotional abuse really wants to teach you? How about this one? It’s time to rid yourself of the whole judgement piece, before it squeezes the life and the joy out of you.

 

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