The Journey Back From An Emotionally Abusive Relationship

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by Annie Kaszina on November 25, 2015

An emotionally abusive relationship is a journey into darkness.  It’s like venturing further and further into a fog; one of the – now fabled – pollution-generated fogs we used to have in the UK.  Those fogs were rightly called ‘pea-soupers’ because they were as thick and solid as a split-pea soup.  (Well, my split-pea soup – which is the late, great Marcella Hazan’s split-pea soup – anyway.) 

Once in that fog, you see neither what lay behind it, nor what lies ahead.  It’s pretty scary being in a world where you see next to nothing.  Figures only emerge from the fog when they are almost upon you.  Sounds, too, are muffled.  It’s unsafe.  It’s isolating.  It’s… remarkably like an emotionally abusive relationship.

At least in a true ‘pea-souper’, even if you can’t see your destination, you know it’s still there. In the ‘pea-souper’ that is emotional abuse, because you can’t see it, you assume that it has gone for good.  Just as you assume your past self has gone for good because it has gone from sight.

Under the circumstances, where do you go?  What do you do?

How Can You Recover From An Emotionally Abusive Relationship

How can you recover from emotional abuse when there is no clear destination you can see to head towards?

Your emotionally abusive partner has un-lovingly crafted that pea-souped for you with his words, and his deeds.  He has chosen behaviours designed to make you feel totally unimportant and undeserving of any consideration.  He’s used his words to let you know that:

  • you’re incredibly lucky to have him because nobody else will ever want you
  • you could never manage on your own because
  • you will never, ever find your way out of the fog on your own.

I guess I’ve always been fascinated by true fog, as well as intimidated by it – maybe that’s a British thing. I know that even the most awful fogs are patchy.  All of a sudden, you can emerge from the fog and see more or less normally – although you might, just as abruptly, be plunged right back into it.

That makes fog remarkably similar to the journey back from an emotionally abusive relationship.  The difference is we have an awareness that fog is a passing phenomenon that temporarily disables our vision whereas we believe that emotional abuse is a one way, dead-end journey.

I hear this all the time from women: they want more, they know they should be as entitled as anyone else to a good life but…

They don’t believe it.

Not really and truly.

Never underestimate the importance of that gulf between what your head knows and what your heart – or, more correctly, your fear feels.

Negotiating the journey

So, how do you negotiate the journey back from an emotionally abusive relationship?

True, environmental fogs are caused by weather conditions we really don’t have to look at here.  Emotional abuse fogs are caused by… You Know Who playing on your emotional vulnerability.

The external variety of fog is generally short-lived (unless you happen to be in, say, Argentia or Point Reyes which have over 200 foggy days per year).  The internal variety can drag on a lot longer.

The first thing you need to know is the internal fog is NOT the landscape.

The internal fog is simply obscuring the true lie of the land from your eyes.

That’s why it’s so important to focus on dealing with the internal fog, first and foremost.

It’s perfectly understandable that any woman who wants to make that journey back to happiness from an emotionally abusive relationship wants to map out her future life.  That is meant to be her road-map, and her inspiration.  Then it is only a matter of following that map…

Except that, when the road signs, and the turnings, keep fading from view in the fog, it’s going to be incredibly hard to stay on track.

Start with the internal fog

That’s why it is so important to work at dispel the internal fog first.

One thing I’ve struggled with in my life, just as other women do, is the rush to sort out the externals of my life.  The externals, after all, are hugely important.  But if the fog keeps obscuring them, that becomes incredibly difficult to do.

This week, I’ve been working with an increasingly smiley, wonderful client who is starting to map out her future life.

She’s focusing on dispelling the fog, rather than trying to power on through it, more or less blind.

And it’s working.

She’s gone from wondering how she can possibly cope with the challenges that loom ahead, to creating the confidence in her own resources to handle whatever people may try to dump on her.  Specifically she has gone from worrying about how to deal with different varieties of tiresome people (patronising, dismissive, judgmental, sexist, arrogant, and just plain intrusive or offensive  people) to feeling confident in her own ability to deal with them.

She’s clearing with the fog, so she can see them coming, and send them on their way successfully before they become her problem.

When you’re in that fog, other people become your problem.  The more you deal with that fog, the more dealing with other people becomes one of those normal tasks you do routinely accomplish without even breaking a sweat. Tackling tiresome people effectively really can be something you just do – rather like the routine supermarket shop – instead of something you that frightens you.

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