Who Really Listens To The Emotional Abuse Sufferer?

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by Annie Kaszina on September 11, 2017

If they “don’t understand”

“I’m not sure my therapist really understands…” writes Natascia, a recovering emotionally abused woman. Unfortunately, her experience of therapy has been like that of many other emotional abuse sufferers in therapy.

At the time in her life when she is most in need of someone hearing and acknowledging her, Natascia is not getting that experience from her therapist. Worse still, said Professional not only doesn’t understand the client’s problem but doesn’t realize,

  1. a) That he/she does not have a profound, empathic understanding of the client’s problems.
    b) That the feelings of a deeply wounded client need to be treated with the deepest respect.

Nobody, least of all an emotionally abused woman, wants to feel like a “write-off”. Yet that is the regrettably common experience for abuse sufferers. A lovely client told me this week that her previous therapist had told her, “You just have to learn to live with plunging into despair, at the drop of a hat.  It’s just your character.”

Really??!!!

So cause and effect would have nothing to do with it?  And being taught (by an emotional abuser) that you there will always be a high price to pay for any good feelings you enjoy would be purely coincidental?

Hmm!!!

(Listen carefully and you will hear the sound of my blood boiling over the internet!)

Why people don’t understand

When you’re struggling in an emotionally abusive relationship, it’s amazing how many people – in all walks of life – don’t understand.  You can feel like you are standing behind a triple-glazed glass wall.  You can be pouring your heart out, and speaking at the top of your voice, yet nobody seems to really hear what you’re saying.

Of course, that’s not enough to stop people giving you their ‘considered opinions’ on how you should live your life, together with their glib “answers” to your overwhelming problems.

Pull yourself togetherForget about him, and get over it.  Let it go. Find someone else. It takes two to tangle. You’re a masochist.  You’re addicted to him.  It’s been X months/years: you should be over him by now. Other people manage to move on, why can’t you?”

Do you think they might just feel more comfortable with the sound of their own voices than with yours?

One thing’s for sure, whoever they are, whatever role they have in your life, and whatever drives them,

They’re not really listening to you.

Long experience has taught me that there are a number of ways to listen, some better than others.  Different ways to listen include:

# 1 Listening to hurt

A person can listen to hurt. That is what an emotional abuser does.  Anything you say, can and will be used as a weapon against you at some point.

#2 Listening to muscle in

You can listen with a view to diving into the conversation – because you just don’t like going too long without hearing the sound of their own voice.  Listening to muscle in is not unlike sitting in your car on a side road, waiting for a space so you pull onto the highway – and hog the passing lane.

A lot of people do this.  It may work for them.  It doesn’t work for the person sidelined who feels edged out of their own story.  If someone has ever conversationally sidelined you , you’ll know that it’s not a great experience.

You can end up feeling frustrated, disregarded and silenced.  Yet again.

#3 Smartass Listening

You can listen with a view to slapping a diagnosis, judgment, or label, on the other person.  That makes the Labeller feel smart and self-satisfied.  Unfortunately, premise of Smart-ass Listening hinges on making someone else feel like a Dumb-ass.  Being in pain and being made to feel like a Dumb-ass for being in pain truly sucks.

At best, having a label pinned on you may be slightly better than no label – at least labels confer some degree of acknowledgement.  “I’m like this because I’m addicted to him,” is a slightly less awful diagnosis than, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.  If I’m like this, it must be because I’m weak and pathetic.”

However, having some kind of addiction, or serious trauma label, doesn’t go a long way to help you to recover – and recovery is, in the end, what you really want.

#4 Therapeutic Listening

Therapeutic listening is all about listening to really hear another person, listening so respectfully that they can – finally – hear themselves.  That is the most healing kind of listening.

Why do you suppose that you go over your story of emotional abuse, again and again?

You do so because you really, really hear need someone to you.  You need someone to listen to you, and be fully present to your experience of an emotionally abusive relationship. You need someone who will walk beside you.  We want them to see it – and us – with empathy, and without judgment.

Therapeutic listening needs to be judgment free. (Judgmental listening you can find for free on any street corner.)

When someone listens to you without judgment, that frees you up to do the same thing for yourself.  It frees you up to develop an accepting, empathetic relationship with yourself.

Ultimately, the person who most needs to listen to you is you.

Once you can listen respectfully to your past experience – however awful – it’s okay to let it go.  You can acknowledge the reality to yourself: “Yes, it was terrible.  I could wish my emotionally abusive relationship hadn’t happened.  But it did.  I’ve suffered more than enough.  Now the time has come to put that suffering behind me, and build a new, vibrant, happy life.”

If you feel that they don’t really understand what you’ve been through, chances are that’s because they’re not really listening to you.

You deserve more than that. You deserve to be truly heard

That may be a whole new experience for you.  Certainly, your emotionally abusive husband never bothered to truly listen.  He listened to hurt – so that he could control you.

That’s why it’s so important to you to have the new, precious experience of being heard.

That’s probably the single thing that makes the biggest difference for my lovely clients – feeling heard, understood, and unconditionally supported.

What to do if you don’t feel understood

If you don’t feel understood, you can do one of three things:

  1. a)      You can give up trying to make yourself heard – that can feel like being emotionally abused all over again. (Not recommended.)
    b)      You can shout longer and louder (and end up feeling that all that you nothing more and nothing less than your story.) Or else,
    c)       You can find someone who has the ears and the heart to listen and truly hear you.

Option C is the only one that will heal you, and move you forward.

Wherever you are now along your journey now, make sure you give yourself the gift of being truly listened to.

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