“It’s Overwhelm”

13 Nov 2012

We need to look at what happens to you in an emotionally abusive relationship. 

In some ways you don’t need me to tell you what happens; as an emotionally abused woman, you’re living it for yourself.  Chances are, even if you’re out of the relationship, you’re still living with the emotional abuse to some degree.  The problem is, you could be so deeply enmeshed in it that you don’t see the whole picture. 

What happens when you can’t see the whole picture? 

You tend to focus on one, or at most three, or four, details.  The most common aspects are: 

  • “it must be all my fault because I’m not good/lovable enough”
  • “how could he behave so badly to me… ”
  • “maybe the relationship is not so bad/still salvageable… because he has cracked his face into a smile, and said/done something nice for me, in living memory..”
  • “I still love him…” 

None of these details help you to see the overview.  They are simply rabbit holes you can disappear down.  

First off, all of these details work on the misguided belief that it may just be possible to get blood  from a stone. 

Am I saying your emotionally abusive partner is…


a stone? 

Quite possibly.  More to the point, the relationship, the connection between you and your abusive partner, is a stone.  It is NOT vibrant, alive, loving, nurturing, gentle, kind… 

What it is is a constant state of guerilla warfare resulting in massive damage and destruction. 

That damage and destruction in an emotionally abusive relationship is what we want to look at today. 

When you met your emotionally abusive partner you didn’t have a strong sense of your own worth and lovableness.  That’s a given.  The time with him has only made things worse.  Much worse.  

You’ve ended up telling yourself all the bad things he’s ever levelled against you.  

And you’ve forgotten who you truly are.  

You came into this world with a unique collection of gifts, talents and abilities.  Even if you didn’t know what they are. And that’s still true: you still have a unique collection of gifts, talents and abilities.  

What’s happened is that creative, gifted, vibrant you – yes, it is YOU I’m talking about – has been overwhelmed by Mr Nasty.  

Rule #1 of any abusive relationship is this: he who shouts louder, and has the greater talent for vicious, destructive behavior is The Winner.  He always wins, hands down.  

Rule #2 – which is less commonly known – is what happens to the loser.  Let me labor the point here: in an emotionally abusive relationship there is always a loser.  That loser is, of course, you.  

(Please understand I’m not suggesting you are “a loser” in the current sense of the term – not least because, as I see it, it’s a horrible, cruel, abusive term used carelessly by judgemental people.) 

So, now we’ve got that out of the way, let’s look at what you lose, when you lose. 

You lose sight of

  • Your self-belief – women who’ve been in an abusive relationship always tell me what they can’t be, do, or have…  By their own assessment they can look forward to no life, no love, no money, no happiness…  They believe unhappiness, isolation, and paralysis are their permanent condition.
  • Your gifts and promise – you accept his judgement that you are a pointless, redundant human being
  • Your future – you tell yourself that the best is behind you, your life is broken and cannot be mended.
  • Your energy and motivation  – you’ve been T-R-A-U-M-A-T-I-Z-E-D, for Heaven’s sake, and trauma drains you of energy, motivation, and optimism.  Repeated trauma makes you feel about as valuable as a used popcorn carton.
  • Your identity – at best, you talk about who you were, and compare and contrast that person with the sorry shadow you now believe you are 

Then there are the thousand other things you lose sight of that all fall into one or other of those big things outlined above.  You lose sight of your confidence, your, femininity, your courage, your charm, your spontaneity, your light-heartedness, your sense of fun, your creativity… 

Let me tell you something you might find it hard to believe.  All the negative stuff you believe about yourself is all a consequence of Trauma and Overwhelm.  

I say that not because I want you to hide your light under another label – that is most emphatically NOT  what I want for you.  I say it because I want you to understand where you are, and what it’s really about. 

So, what is it really about? 

Smoke, mirrors, and hot air. 

Wouldn’t it be marvellous if we could harness all the hot air that comes out of abuser’s mouth, and use it as an alternative energy source?  How fabulous would it be if we could run our cars on it? It is, after all, a renewable energy source. 

Sadly, an abuser’s natural resources aren’t even useful for that.   Their only use is to blind you to who you truly are. 

The you that you really are is in Overwhelm.  She’s done the sensible thing and taken refuge from all that scorching hot air.  She is understandably nervous about emerging from her bomb shelter.   Maybe she’s been there so long she doesn’t know there is still a world out there. Maybe she’s terrified she doesn’t know how to manage in that outside world.  

That’s actually normal, and appropriate, given the circumstances.  It may not be ideal, but it is normal and appropriate.  AND it doesn’t mean she should stay there, shaking with fear, and self-loathing.  It simply means she could use some support and guidance to help her find her way into the outside world, safely and happily, free from the demons of the past.   

Make sure she has it.


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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