Emotional abuse is the opposite of love
When a reader wrote to say; “You are teaching us how to love. Thank you.” I was deeply touched. Back when I started my emotional abuse recovery journey, I could not know that the healing journey is all about learning to love and be loved. At the time, I thought healing was only about survival. I now know that it can only be a journey from lovelessness to loving. In fact, emotional abuse is the opposite of love
More specifically, the healing journey is about learning to loving wisely and well. It requires us to learn to love ourselves as much as anyone else. That is the only way that we can – finally – be at peace with our past, present, and future.
You only ever end up in an emotionally abusive relationship, as I did, because you know little or nothing about being loved well. You know little about it because you have been deprived of that experience. Instead, you grow up without having the experience of being lovable as you are – simply because you are.
Every one of my clients has at some point asked – in disbelief,
“Do you mean that I don’t have to do anything to deserve love?”
My clients are smart women. They already know this stuff intellectually. Despite their own demons, they do everything they can to treat the children in their lives as the wonderful beings that they are. Yet, at the same time, they still believe themselves to be less deserving than everyone else. They believe that their lack of innate worthiness gives punitive, inadequate others the right to treat them badly. they do not know that emotional abuse is the opposite of love.
The parallel universe of Attachment
Victims of emotional abuse grow up under the constellation of abuse, Narcissism, emotional neglect, and aggression – whether passive or active. Through no fault of their own they live in a skewed, parallel Universe.
They look for love, but what they learn is Attachment, love’s ugly, much, much needier step-sister. Attachment is a complex bond. It is fuelled by the belief that the person, who denies you the love and validation that you deserve, could and should, one day, provide it. (Provided you just work hard enough to earn it.)
There is no shortage of Attachment in any emotionally abusive relationship. It is the powerful chain that binds you to an abuser. It feels like an incredibly intense bond, and so it is. Having a choke-chain around your neck that another person yanks, at will, to “train” and/or control you, is a pretty intense experience.
Because having your choke-chain yanked is such an intense experience for you, you tell yourself that it must be equally intense for the person doing the yanking, also. In that you could be mistaken. The person pulling on that chain, likely, LOVES the intensity of the experience. However, that does not mean he loves you. If he did, he would not do that to you. He would find a healthier, more loving way to communicate.
Attachment has little to teach you about love
Attachment has little to teach you about love – because it is a very different experience. However, how can you possibly know that, if attachment has been your “normal” experience in your family of origin?
You learn, early on, to settle for the best that you think you are going to get – the best that appears to be on offer, at the time. (Yet you vow to give their children a far better deal than you ever had – and you honor that vow. That, in itself, is quite amazing, given the severity of your own wounds.)
I never set out to teach what Love is. My experience of a somewhat challenging family of origin, an abusive husband, and the in-laws-from-Hell, I did not exactly make me an expert. I had gathered a wealth of experience about Attachment, and lack of love, and how those things operate.
Still, the more I have worked on my own healing, as well as my clients’ healing, the more I have understood the centrality of love to healing and well-being.
Love is central to healing
You cannot truly become the best and highest embodiment of yourself without understanding what Love is – and what it means to you.
Attachment is a choke-chain around your neck. It constricts you every which way. Love, on the other hand, creates space and peace around you. It enables you to grow and discover gifts you would never have believed you had.
Being around an abuser reduces you to a tiny fraction of your power and presence.
Your negative beliefs – and your partner/sneer-leader’s negative beliefs constantly tell you about who you can’t be, and what you can’t have. In fact, the message he gives you is true – but only in part. There are many things that you will never be, do, or have – but only for as long as the abuser is present in your life.
Once you are free of him, your future holds whatever you choose to focus on and work towards.
Matthew Kimberley, author of “How To Get A Grip” and one of the more irreverent people I’ve come across in the field of personal development, rightly observes:
“You can’t control the volume, quantity, or colour of the shit that will get thrown at you from the minute you arrive in this world, incontinent and bawling, to the moment you leave… You can control, however, whether you’re going to clutch a shovel and get stuck into breaking out of the gargantuan piles of ordure, or whether you’re going to don a snorkel and just about survive while the crap piles on in ever-increasing bucket-loads.”
You cannot control what is thrown at you. However…
When you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship, you constantly commit, and recommit, to being smaller than your problems. You commit to the choke-chain of settling for what you do NOT want. You commit to believing the rubbish that an abuser says about you.
Of course, you do that in the name of “Love”.
Still, it does not serve you. It does not further your happiness.
Love is about care, regard, and nurture. It’s about receiving as much as the giving. You cannot open to receiving when someone has a choke-chain tight around your neck. Nor is it possible when the chocke-chain itself is gone, but you still feel traumatized by it.
The more you work on yourself, as my lovely client C. discovered, the better the quality of the people and relationships you attract into your life. That does not suggest any fault or flaw in you. Just a need to dig yourself out of the ordure of the negative judgments that other people have visited on you.
If you do not feel that you are every bit as good as other people, then something is amiss. You are still struggling with the “gargantuan piles of ordure” that have been flung at you. It really is time to free yourself. A key part of learning to love yourself is accepting that you are worthy of your own time, trouble, and effort.
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.