Healing From the Effects of Emotional Abuse
Dealing with emotional abuse is never easy. When you’re wounded on the inside, rather than the outside, it’s hard to convince people you have a legitimate issue. So you’re forced to handle your issue alone, and feel hopeless, trapped and defeated.
Fortunately, not all hope is lost. You can still get back up and stay up, even if you’ve been knocked down so many times before. You can still be the amazing, happy person you’ve always dreamed of being, even if your abuser has convinced you otherwise. Best of all, you can start healing with the steps below.
Here are some steps to use to being healing from the effects of emotional abuse.
Let Yourself Grieve
Grief is a natural, human response to loss. You’ve lost a lot — your self-esteem, identity, drive to succeed, among others. So it’s only fair that you allow yourself to go through the five stages of grief.
- You refuse to acknowledge that you’ve been emotionally abused. (“What? Are you seriously telling me I’ve been sick all this time?”)
- You lash out at anyone who suggests that you’ve been emotionally abused. (“How dare you tell me that you know my thoughts and feelings better than I do!”)
- You convince yourself that you can still change your abuser. (“Maybe if I worked 8 hours instead of 12, my spouse will stop berating me.”)
- You finally grasp the extent to which you’ve been emotionally abused, and have mostly negative feelings about it. (“What am I going to do? Things aren’t looking up for me.”)
- You accept that you’ve been emotionally abused, and you’re ready to take steps to heal.
Bear in mind that accepting your situation is not the same as “being okay” with it. Being okay suggests that you’re willing to leave things as they are, while acceptance means you know things can be better, and that you have the power to make things better.
Be Willing to Draw Lines, and Stick to Them
As long as someone feels they can get away with abusive behavior towards you, they will push your buttons again and again — unless you set boundaries.
Let your abuser know which behaviors you’re willing to tolerate, and not tolerate, from them. For example, if they tend to make a big deal out of every tiny mistake you make, say: “Yes, I know I’ve done something wrong, and I’m about to fix it. Now can you please stop nagging me about the fact?”
If they decide to trample on your boundaries regardless, find ways to minimize contact with or avoid them altogether. You have better things to do than get involved in drama, and life is too short to let toxic people drag you down.
Nurture Healthy Relationships
Remember those people who’ve been kind to you before? If you haven’t been in contact for years, reach out to them. Ask them if they’re available for coffee or a trip to the movies. Don’t forget to give them a present or two for their trouble.
Avoid expecting too much from those people, though. Life often gets in the way when you’re an adult, and as much as they’d like to “be there” for you, they probably have their own concerns to deal with too. Be honest when they ask you how things are going, but don’t make them feel like you want to dump all your burdens on them. If they want to help you, they will. If they don’t, don’t take it against them.
You can also find others who can understand what you’re going through. There are over 7 billion people on Earth, after all, and with a good number of them connected to the Internet, you’re bound to find at least one other person you can relate to — even if they’re on the opposite side of the globe!
Get Professional Help
Even if you’ve done all the above, it might not be enough. Your current emotional state may be caused by a yet-to-be-identified factor, and the only way you can figure that out is with the help of a therapist.
Keep in mind that different therapists have different specialties. For example, if your abuser is a spouse or family member, your best bet is family or couples therapy. Look for professionals who specialize in the most appropriate treatment for you, and do a thorough background check on them.
You don’t have to live with emotional abuse forever. Once you recognize, accept and take charge of your situation, you’re well on your way to healing and starting over with your life.