How to break the spell of abuse paralysis

26 Aug 2011

Do you ever look at your situation, and ask yourself; “Why am I still struggling with this?  Why can’t I just move on?”

If that sounds like you, let me tell you about Sarah…

Sarah couldn’t have been more frustrated and disgusted with herself.  She knew exactly what she needed to do: she needed to stop giving head-space to her jerk of a boyfriend.  And she knew she had to get out of the lifelong pattern of being Ms Terminally Nice to everyone who crossed her path.

Could Sarah do it on her own?


It wasn’t as if she couldn’t identify unpleasantness when it came along and bit her on the hand.  She just didn’t have the tools to deal with it.  It was almost as if The Bad Fairy had paid her a visit when she was a tiny baby, and stood by her cradle, waving her magic wand and saying: “You will be unfailingly nice, kind, and long-suffering to man and beast – especially beast.  And you will be hurt many, many times.”

Isn’t it funny how those of us who were visited by The Bad Fairy at birth have an uncanny knack of attracting an endless stream of Beasts-in-human-form?

Not that it’s our fault.

Just think about it: imagine for a moment that you are Beast.  (Really, do it. It will be good for you to experience the energy of nastiness, for a moment.  There’s no real fear of you turning into a Beast yourself.  It won’t happen any more than you will wake up tomorrow with four great big, hairy paws.)

So stay with that thought: suppose you are a Beast.  Would you rather approach folk who will shun you?  Or would you rather mosey on up to that nice, gentle sweet-natured gal who will smile at you, no matter what, and listen to your ill-tempered roaring, and make excuses for you ’til the cows come home?

It’s a no-brainer for the Beast, wouldn’t you say?

Sarah had become aware that she was that nice, gentle, sweet-natured gal.  But her awareness wasn’t enough to change anything…  except her stress and frustration levels.

So what did she do?

She did what we all do.  She turned her anger back on herself.  She beat herself about the head with the loathsome 6 letter “S” word – which should never be used by, and in the company of, sensitive souls.

(It’s true.  She was using the vile “Should” word.)

Worse still, she compared herself to other people -unfavorably, of course. Because Nice Women who’ve been visisted by the Bad Fairy, never, ever compare themselves favorably to anyone.  If you live according to the rule that you must always be at the bottom of the emotional hierarchy, you’ll know that you wouldn’t dream of lifting your eyes and comparing yourself favorably to anyone.  How could you?)

Sarah believed “Other People”, to a woman, managed better than she did.

She belonged to a women’s group.  According to her, every single woman in that group was way ahead of her.

(I doubted it, because Sarah’s searing honesty, and emotional intelligence, are remarkable.)

Now, I can identify with Sarah.  She wasn’t doing anything I haven’t done at some point in my recovery.

That was why I said the following words to her:

“Sarah, you have to understand that recovery is a ladder.  Feeling good about yourself is a ladder.  Not everybody starts on the same rung of the ladder.   Some people start several rungs up the ladder.  Some start on the bottom rung.

“Suppose you’ve spent a lot of your life on the bottom rung, through absolutely no fault of your own.  It just so happened that you were unfortunate enough to experience a number of  bad things that placed you on the bottom rung of the ladder.

“In an ideal world, everyone might have started on the same rung, somewhere pretty close to the top.  Unfortunately, that didn’t happen in your case.  Sometimes, it’s taken you tremendous courage, and all your resources to stay put even on that bottom rung of the ladder.  You’ve had to fight far harder than the people who luck placed near the top.

“And there is no point in getting upset about that.  It is what it is.  Besides, those people have never needed to develop all the resources you have.

“So, here’s the thing, Sarah: you may be on the bottom rung of the ladder now.  You’re furious, and frustrated with yourself because you’re looking up at where you want to be.  And you’re not there yet.

“But there is so much energy in that fury and frustration.  We really can harness that to get you up the ladder.  Sure, it’s taking longer than you would like.  I hear that, and I fully understand that.

“But here’s what’s really happening: you’re gathering a head of steam.  It’s slow going for you now, but it won’t always be.  Yes, you have to learn the lessons and the skills you need the hard way.  But, once you’ve got them under your belt, you’ll be unstoppable.  And you’ll be so – deservedly – proud of all you have achieved.  Just hang on in there, Sarah Goddess.  You will climb that ladder.”

Now, I’m no fairy – even though I do have a well-known fondness for sparkly shoes.  But I do have a proven track record of breaking The Bad Fairy’s spells.

As far as I can see, taking action to break that spell sure beats the alternatives, which are:

  • Hoping for a rescuer to come along.  (Most rescuers have an agenda, they use rescue to prey on vulnerable women they can then abuse.)
  • Living in a state of isolation, and putting your life on hold, more or less indefinitely
  • Being ground down by the constant pain, humiliation and misery, and saying: “One day, when I feel strong enough, then I’ll do something about it.”

Spells feel very powerful when you’re under them.  But there really are better ways of doing it than waiting for a kiss from a good-looking, lantern-jawed, Disney character, on a white horse.

If you’re ready to take action to break that spell, I can help you.

Women who work with me wake up from the nightmare very quickly.  What that means is they aren’t just able to rescue themselves very competently, they can also see Bad Fairies – and other Nasties – coming their way.  They can protect themselves.  And they can protect themselves without having to turn into bitches.  They discover how to be nice and treat themselves like they matter.

If that’s something that would help you move forward,  choose it for yourself, and it will be yours


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.

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