Emotional abuse creates a deep sense of loss. It takes you into an acutely painful place of exclusion. It leads you to look at the rest of the world and see everyone else as other than you. Other in the sense of happier and more blessed. From where you are standing, that feels horribly real and true. You don’t need me to tell you how agonising that feeling is. Instead, while acknowledging that there are no easy solutions, I want to look with you at a few things that can help.
The use of marginalisation and exclusion
But first we need to focus on how that sense of loss arises. Emotional abuse inevitably gives rise to feelings of marginalisation and exclusion. This happens because marginalisation and exclusion are two very real techniques that all abusers use – quite deliberately – to enforce their power over you. They quickly teach you that you and your feelings are terminally unimportant Plus, they are very good at creating a sort of charmed circle in which you have no place.
You soon learn that you are unimportant when you constantly receive the message that you do not matter. Especially when that message is laced with an equally constant message about how wonderful the messenger is. How are you meant to know that that person is consistently – and consciously – feeding you a constant diet of untruths? Especially when the process starts in your most tender and impressionable years?
The “charmed circle” of triangulation
The charmed circle routine that all abusers use to great effect bears the label “triangulation”. The Narcissist introduces third parties, or just their opinions, to belittle the victim. Triangulation lies behind such remarks as. “What would X think if they knew…?” and “Everybody thinks that you….”.
In reality, these ploys serve not only to diminish you but also to give you an alleged “chance” to conceal your awfulness by hiding away.
Significantly, they offer you no real chance of redeeming yourself. No abuser ever wants you to redeem yourself. All that they want for you is for you to continue squirming on the hook of their abuse.
The only way out of the sense of loss
All abusers work to create a sense of loss in you that only their love and validation can fill – except that they have no intention of ever loving and validating you. Not that love and validation were ever truly within their capabilities. But how were you to know that?
Once that sense of loss has taken root in your psyche, it takes over – like bindweed. Like bindweed, that sense of loss is not easy to eradicate.
My own bitter experiences with real – and psychological – bindweed have taught me that the price of not being overrun by the wretched stuff is vigilance. By which I don’t mean the hypervigilance that abusers create with a view to ensuring that we spend our whole lives nervously observing their mood and their focus. That is the stressful hypervigilance of always waiting for the proverbial other shoe to fall. Rather, healthy vigilance denotes a sympathetic alertness to your own shifts in mood. When something is not right, healthy vigilance registers that something is amiss, identifies the cause and then finds a way of dealing with the issue.
When we turn our attention to the 4 keys to overcoming a sense of loss, we notice that the first one develops out of that vigilance.
Key 1 Become more Sherlock Holmes
One of the biggest problems that I have observed in my clients and myself is the dissociation of cause and effect. Admittedly, this is perfectly usual. One way and another, all of us face a ton of different stimuli every day and every hour. So, it’s not surprising when we lose the precious thread that leads from effect back to cause.
This dissociation happens especially when an abuser deliberately leads us to believe that we are awful. Our own crushing feeling of awfulness/worthlessness prevents us from tracing the thread of bad feeling directly back to the disgraceful creature who visits so much hate and hostility on us.
Once an abuser has installed that pattern of dissociation in us, they don’t even need to be physically present to trigger it. I remember sitting with my lovely partner in a nice restaurant, having a nice meal and a nice day, while my lovely dog snuggled comfortably in my nice car outside. Even the weather was surprisingly nice for the UK. Yet I was suddenly submerged by a sense of loss.
The joy of he actual situation was suddenly obliterated by an intense sense of loss (and despair and all the other horrid feeling that ride on loss’s shirttails). Why did that happen? Because I noticed a happy family group and it took me deep into the loss of what I could never have with my own family of origin.
The solution was to shift my attention back to all the blessings that were available to me then and there. (And, no, it wasn’t easy at the time. Past losses can sometimes feel more powerful than present joys.( Refocusing is a skill that requires practice.)
Key 2 Take control
We all learn from abusers that they are the sole source of our good feelings. This, like almost everything else they ever say, is a lie. Your life resumes when you start to flex your self-validation muscle.
As the wonderful Marianne Williamson might have said, “Who are you not to be a receptacle for good feelings about yourself?” Of course you want other people to corroborate those good feelings. But that is, at best, like giving a person a fish rather than teaching that person how to fish. At worst, with an abuser, it becomes like some kind of monstrous endurance challenge.
You have to notice where you are farming out the feelings about your own worth to other people and STOP it.
Key 3 Distract yourself
Once you start to feel bad, that feeling is even more of a time-waster than social media. Here is how you tackle it.
- First, notice the time when you first become aware that you are feeling horrible. Allow yourself 5, 10, 15 minutes, or as long as makes sense for you. (Hint: as a general principle, shorter is always better.)
- Second, do something to distract yourself. Anything from watching a film to dancing to music on your phone, to speaking with a friend or watching something funny on Youtube will do The art is to give your mind something different to latch onto.
I’m guessing that you would not willingly sit in somewhere that smelled rank. By the same token, would you settle for hanging out with toxic thoughts?
Key 4 Reinterpret, reinterpret, reinterpret.
Why does an abuser work at hurting and diminishing you? Let me give you a clue here, because you are an awful person is the W-R-O-N-G answer. Any variation of that theory is still the WRONG answer. That means that you need to look for better one.
You can, if you choose, drag out the psychology textbooks or spend a thousand hours researching that person’s issues on Instagram (actually a great place for positive reinforcement provided you follow inspiring accounts). Or else, you could opt for the the simple approach and accept that, just as common things occur most commonly, the people who spout the most hurtful words most frequently are just horrible toxic people. The toxic things an abuser says are a pointer to who they are, not who you are.
Practice can work miracles
Sadly, your sense of loss won’t go away over night but that doesn’t mean it needs to dominate your life. Good practice works miracles. Once you start to practise these 4 keys to overcoming your sense of loss, you will start to feel better about yourself a lot more of the time. However, if you don’t feel that you can do this alone or you would like help in speeding up the process, get in touch.
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.