By the time you even think seriously about walking away from an emotionally abusive relationship – it feels as if your life, your future, and your identity have all been taken away from you.
As an emotionally abused woman, you don’t know who you are, who you can be, or even if you have the strength to recover from the ordeal you’ve been through.
The starting line for your emotional abuse recovery journey
You’ve just reached the starting-line of your recovery journey.
You’re finally been obliged to admit to yourself the reality of the situation. You’ve come to accept that Mr So-Much-Potential is simply Mr Nasty.
Still, you have to come round to really believe that, even though an emotionally abusive husband painted you as The Villainess of the Piece – and himself as the Wronged Superhero – you were, actually, the victim.
You know you’re at the recovery starting-line when it comes as a relief – and a vindication – to realize that your partner was not the man you thought/hoped he was. That finally proves to you what was true all along, that you always were more sinned against than sinning.
That’s why acknowledging that you were a victim can feel like the first – BIG – step forward. It is a big step forward from the morass of despair.
However, victim status has a fatal problem at its very heart. The problem with being a victim is that victimhood offers you a limiting view of yourself, and the world.
Mr Nasty effectively stole your identity, and left you in pieces. Small wonder you feel like a victim. That can lead you to feel you have to present yourself to other people as the victim that you have been.
Beware sharing your victim status
As one lovely client said this week, you feel that you have to tell people about your victim status before you can appeal to them for help and support.
Sadly, that kind of appeal doesn’t work too well. A victim story makes most people feel hideously uncomfortable. And when people feel uncomfortable, what do they do?
They try to silence the person causing them the discomfort – that is to say, you.
Understanding that you’ve been a victim is a great starting point. But it’s a disempowered place to stay. You certainly do NOT want to do what one lovely client thought she had to – when meeting new people – which was introduce herself together with her entire “can of worms”.
I guess she thought it was her duty to inform people – a bit like the Surgeon General’s warning on cigarette packets. Obviously, the parallel does not hold because the only person whose health my lovely client ever damaged was her own.
If you want to take charge of your life, and rebuild your happiness, you simply can’t afford to stay in that victim mind-set. Still less can you afford to share that view of yourself.
Next step – becoming a Survivor
The next stop along the journey from Victimhood is becoming a Survivor.
However, realizing that you are a Survivor is not the end of the journey. It is simply a step forward – although possibly not quite such a big step as you may think. Here’s why.
#1, You’ve always been a Survivor – you just hadn’t realized it. You survived the daily torture of living with Mr Nasty. You’ve kept going, even when you wished you could just fade away. That’s bottom-line surviving.
#2, The big problem with seeing yourself as a Survivor is that it means that your point of reference is always the thing that you survived. That thing is your emotionally abusive relationship. For that reason, your Survivor identity actually binds you to the thing you most need to move beyond.
Do you see what I’m saying?
Don’t confuse status with identity
You don’t want to let being a survivor define you. You don’t want to confuse your survivor status with your identity. You are so much more than that.
You will, likely, be ‘in recovery’ for a while to come, as you learn to ‘do’ Life differently. That doesn’t mean you have to be a wounded soldier, for months and months, or even years and years. It does not mean that the world needs to know about your journey, and the road-blocks and feelings of discouragement along the way.
It simply means that you will need to focus on how best you can learn and grow. You’ll want to revise the way you do relationships. You’ll want, also, to revise the relationship you have with your own feelings.
One lovely client said, this week, that she’s the happiest she ever has been, in her whole life.
The ‘externals’ of her life are not perfect. She still doesn’t have the financial stability she might like. She doesn’t have all the answers to her questions about the future. She still has ongoing contact with her Mr Nasty over the children, She still has practical problem to negotiate.
However, her life feels totally different. She isn’t experiencing the negativity and the fear any more.
When I started working with this lovely woman, she had hauled herself out of Victim mode, into Survival mode. And there she struggled. The support she was getting hinged on the assumption that Survival was as good as it got. That is my pet bugbear.
It drives me CRAZY to hear that anyone has been told they have a broken life, which can’t be healed. That is just NOT true.
Fire on all Happiness Cylinders
My goal is always to ensure that clients have a fuller, happier life than they ever had before. That is not because I am wildly idealistic and out of touch with reality. Rather, it is because I know full well that they were never firing on all Happiness Cylinders in the first place. Plus, I know that they – with just a bit of help and support – they can and will.
A few months down the line, my lovely client has shed her Survivor status, like a skin that she has outgrown.
She is discovering,
- Who she is.
- How to be herself.
- How to truly enjoy her children, her life, and her relationships with the people around her – including the difficult ones with family members.
That’s what happens when you move past Victim mode, and Survivor mode, into being the person you truly are.
If that sounds like a stretch to you, right now, I quite understand. Once upon a time, it felt like a huge stretch to me. Even “Survivor” sounded like a stretch too far. Still, I found a safe path through the ambushes and the impasses that I now share with other women.
If you are struggling, you could be missing a few vital steps in the process. I can help you.
If I can do it, you can, too.