What comes after emotional abuse?
What comes after emotional abuse is THE big question, the question that all emotionally abused women do – and don’t – ask themselves. I say that both as someone who has been there and done (and not done) that, and as someone who has supported hundreds of other women as they confronted that question.
You see, that question, ‘what comes after emotional abuse?’ –or, more correctly, “what’s left for me (and of me) after the emotional abuse I’ve been through?” – obsesses you. And like a lot of the things we obsess about, we don’t really hold it up to the light and take a long, stern look at it.
Instead, it triggers are fear response. So, the answer we come up with, more or less automatically, springs straight from our worst fantasies. What comes after emotional abuse is a lonely life without love, we tell ourselves. The image that strikes terror into the hearts of emotionally abused women everywhere is that of ending up in a garret somewhere, with only a cat for company; sharing a can of cat food.
(Okay, the cat food detail may be a detail too far for some, but the image can be very powerful – even for me, and I am NOT a cat lover.)
What we should be doing is asking ourselves:
How likely is that image to turn into reality?
Why do you/we need to keep fixating on worst case scenarios, anyway?
What comes after emotional abuse depends entirely on you.
There is your state, and your future.
There is the state you are in, by the time that you leave; and there is your future.
Your state does not have to be your future – unless you let that state be your future.
Let’s look, now, first at your state, and then at your future.
By the time you leave your emotionally abusive husband you are at an all-time low. It took an enormous effort to stay, and it took a superhuman effort to leave. No wonder you feel so drained and exhausted.
Over the course of the relationship, your Mr Nasty has taught how to see the world. Specifically, he has taught you:
- To catastrophize. To misquote Dr Pangloss: “Everything is for the worst in this worst of all possible worlds.” Even when you don’t consciously believe this, the underlying belief is very much that good things don’t last, but the bad stuff does.
- To feel completely and utterly disempowered. You just know you don’t have the strength and the resources you need to come back from this dark place and create a life for yourself.
- Not to trust. Mr Nasty let you down big time, but Mr Nasty is grandiose. He wants you to believe that he is the World. So, you end up believing that you can’t trust the World, because the whole world works the way he does. But equally, how can you trust yourself, given your choice of partner?
- To expect to be treated badly – just because.
- To live in an unsafe world, where you are constantly under attack.
- To be very, very fearful. If you live in a world where everything goes pear-shaped, you’re totally disempowered, you can’t trust anyone, you can expect a lot of nastiness, and you’re never safe, how could you possibly feel anything other than fearful?
- You feel worthless. In fact, you feel as if you’ve been transported, on a one way ticket to Worthless World.
- To feel unlovable – simply because Mr Teeny Weeny Wizened Heart was unloving and unpleasant.
As states go, that’s pretty grim.
Do NOT go there!
As my clients well know, emotional states can change very fast.
The good news is that many women have been in that grim state and gone on to live happy, productive lives filled with love. You can, too.
That brings us on to your future.
This is where you start to focus on what you want in your future – as opposed to what you think you’re going to get.
I’ve never been a Spice Girls fan. But they did have a point when they warbled on about telling them what you want, ‘what you really, really want’. Most women don’t dare to dwell on what they really, really want, when they try to think about what comes after emotional abuse. They don’t really focus on good things because they are too busy trying to make the bad things go away.
You can’t know how the future will pan out. That’s true for everyone, whether or not they’ve been through an emotionally abusive relationship . You can’t know, but you can tilt the odds in your favour. You do that when you have a clear idea of what you want to be there in that future – in terms of feelings and people, rather than things.
Leaving an emotionally abusive relationship means uprooting yourself. It is a big deal. But, on the other hand, you have to remember that you are uprooting yourself from very poor soil – the kind of soil you could never thrive in anyway.
What comes after emotional abuse is down to you. You get to choose– maybe for the first time in your whole life – the soil in which you put down roots. You can’t afford any more major mistakes, but you do have the opportunity to put down roots somewhere where you can thrive and luxuriate as never before. This is your time to finally get your emotionally abusive partner out of your head.
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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