What makes it so hard to get over the pain, and the sheer awfulness, of your abusive relationship?
The answer seems obvious.
You might reply: “I’m hurting because of the things he said and did. I just can’t get beyond that…”
And that’s true, of course.
The things your abusive partner said and did have had a very damaging effect on you, no doubt about it. But what if there’s something more even more important for your emotional well-being that you’re not seeing?
Last week my 7 Wounds workshop took place. Ahead of time, I asked myself: “What can I do to create the safest, most reassuring environment for attendees?”
The women who join my courses are, always, nervous, at the start. It stands to reason. They feel like they’re taking a very big
risk, by exposing their vulnerability.
They don’t know what to expect.
How could they?
They’ve been conditioned by an abusive partner to expect criticism, blame, and ridicule. Their partner has systematically rubbished and minimalized their feelings.
So, what could I do, from the first moment, to create a safe space for them? I decided to start with a simple visualization. I’d ask them to leave their “weapons” at the door.
Abused women are conditioned to expect attack. For them to feel safe they need to believe they’re not going to be subjected to outside attack.
And then it struck me.
I’ve never seen one abused woman turn on another.
It simply doesn’t happen.
But I’ve yet to see an abused woman who, in the course of even a brief conversation, doesn’t turn on herself.
The weapons abused women turn on themselves, quite mercilessly are:
- Blame – you blame yourself for everything
- Insensitivity – you are forever turning a deaf ear to your own feelings
- Indifference – you dismiss yourself out of hand
- Contempt – you never stop putting yourself down
- Hatred – you treat yourself like your own worst enemy
I could go on.
But do I need to?
It’s not hard to see what’s happening here.
You tolerate the behaviour of an abusive partner because it strikes a chord with you. An abusive man is only speaking your worst fears about yourself.
Now, you could argue this is a chicken and egg scenario, that you never felt bad about yourself until an abuser happened along.
I’d argue differently.
From listening to so many women I’d say that you were never really aware of how negative you felt about yourself until an abuser came along.
Suppose you didn’t think you were that valuable. If, for whatever reason, that was how you were brought up, that would have felt normal for you. It’s also the kind of upbringing that society endorses; you’re taught that it’s somehow not “nice” to feel good about yourself.
Later you learn, by bitter experience, that there’s nothing “nice” about feeling bad about yourself. But, by then, feeling bad about yourself has become so deeply ingrained in you that you believe feeling bad about yourself is just The-Way-It-Is, an immutable Law of the Universe; like gravity.
In fact, feeling bad about yourself is rather like gravity.
It is an immutable Law of the Universe that feeling bad about yourself, aka the Law of Emotional Gravity will pull you
down. It will keep you in the force-field of negativity, powerlessness, and despair.
But here’s the thing: the Law of Emotional Gravity is not an immutable, universal law.
Clearly, it’s not a universal Law, because not everyone suffers as you do. Yet you accept feeling terrible about yourself as your destiny.
And since there can be no way of escaping The-Way-It-Is, for you, your only way through –you think – is to be the best little foot soldier you possibly can be. You commit to the uphill battle of feeling terrible about yourself, and being as good, and nice,
and sweet, and helpful, and self-sacrificing as you possibly can.
How does that work for you?
It works very badly indeed. You cannot love an abusive man into behaving nicely. Yet you are committed to feeling bad about yourself until he makes you feel good about yourself.
You cannot subject yourself to the Law of Emotional Gravity and hope your heart will one day grow wings so you can soar with happiness. You cannot subject yourself to the Law of Emotional Gravity and hope that, one day, he will teach you to fly.
That can’t happen.
But you have a choice.
You don’t have to live in the force-field of Emotional Gravity.
If what happened to shape your emotional world came about even before you met your abusive partner, then that is the place where you need to do your emotional work.
“Ah, but you can’t change the past”, you might say.
But the past is past. Do you really want it to hang over your present and future like a nuclear cloud?
You can change how you view yourself – in the present, and in the past.
You can, if you choose, heal the old beliefs about yourself.
You can walk away from the force field of Emotional Gravity.
And you can stop turning your old weapons on yourself.
What happened to the weapons left outside the door at my 7 Wounds workshop? With the benefit of a little bit of distance, their former owners realized they were ugly, primitive, and brutal. They didn’t bother to pick up those weapons when they left.
Do you think there will be massive change in the way they live their lives when they stop punishing, blaming, and hating themselves?
Is healing that hidden hurt something you’re prepared to want enough for yourself to make it happen?
If you are, then I urge you to CLICK HERE to find out more about how to heal the 7 Wounds.
Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.
The 5 Simple Steps to Healing from Narcissistic Abuse
Over the next 5 days, I'll send you some lessons and tips that I've found have really helped women to heal from narcissistic abuse. Starting with the basics.