How To Heal From Emotional Abuse


Dealing With Past Abuse Triggers And Healing


This answer was originally published by Alka Writes on Quora and at . Shes graciously allowed me to publish it in Real Life Resilience under a new headline and format.

One of the most disconcerting realities of trying to get past old wounds is that emotional abuse leaves behind hidden, abandoned land mines.

Like a soldier in peace time can hear a car backfire, and suddenly be overwhelmed by memories and feelings from being bombed in war zones, very often the response to certain words or situations can evoke a reaction completely out of proportion to the actual present incident.

Instead of responding to the real event, one receives and reacts to some long forgotten interactions, very often completely unaware that this is happening.

This can be debilitating, because apart from the actual emotional toll it might take, it creates ongoing stress and negative reactions in the people around one, and creates a real sense of failure about any healing or growth past the abuse.

Realize You Can’t Fix Them

Despite your best efforts, you will never be able to change an emotionally abusive person by doing something different or by being different. An abusive person makes a choice to behave abusively.

Remind yourself that you cannot control their actions and that you are not to blame for their choices. The only thing you can fix or control is your response.

Let Your Partner Help Heal You Heal

If your partner has stopped abusing you and he or she is remorseful and wants to make amends, asking him or her to participate in your healing is good for both of you.

When your partner, who has abused you, can participate in your healing, this is very helpful because it gives him or her an opportunity to do penitence and help undo the damage that he or she has caused. For example, for him or her to participate in counseling.

Working together helps rebuild trust, safety, and love.

If your partner helps you heal, it makes it much easier for you to eventually forgive him or her for their abuse.

Hopeful, your partner will leave his or her abusive ways behind, and the two of you will move forward and live a great life together as a happy couple.

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Create A Safe Talking Space

One of the first steps to help your child overcome the effects of emotional abuse is to give them a safe space to express their feelings and emotions. Let your child know that you are there to listen to them and their feelings and you will not judge them based on what they tell you or how they feel.

Another way to foster a safe talking space is by opening up to them about your own experiences as long as they are age-appropriate for your child. For example, explain a time when you felt dismissed or bullied by someone and how you overcame that experience.

It is important to keep in mind that creating a safe space takes time and a secure level of built up trust within the relationship. Let your child open up to you on their own without putting too much pressure on them. This will allow them to feel safer in the space you create when it comes to discussing difficult emotional wounds.

Recognizing And Recovering From Emotional Abuse

How To Heal From Emotional Abuse Without A Disclosure

It took a few years for me to put my experience into words. I didnt recognize it while it was happening, but I was in an emotionally abusive dating relationship for over 2 years. You can call me a victim, a target, a survivor whatever it is, I have been the recipient of abuse.

Maybe you have also endured abuse of some sort. Im sharing my story to educate you on some warning signs of emotional abuse, and give suggestions on how to pursue healing. Im not a counsellor or abuse expert, but I simply want to share from my own experience to hopefully enlighten and encourage others. Its not an easy process, but hope is on the other side.

Its helpful to note that my experience of emotional abuse was in the context of a romantic relationship, but people can be abused emotionally in different types of relationships, including family, friends, or even co-workers.

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How To Tell If Youre In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship

If you identified with the above section, then you probably already recognize there are abusers in your life. It is most common in dating and marriage relationships, but it can include any unhealthy relationships with friends, family members, coworkers, bosses, teachers, and more. It can be difficult to identify because the abuser will likely deny it is really abuse. Without the physical aspect, you may be made to feel like you just arent being strong enough or you are not understanding their personality. Signs of emotional abuse include:

  • Yelling
  • Treating you like you are crazy or a child and cannot make decisions
  • Placating you, but not respecting your perspective
  • Dictating how you should feel
  • Occasionally making a big show of repentance for taking things too far, but not really changing
  • Invalidating your feelings
  • Expecting you to put things important to you aside so you can meet their needs
  • Requiring you to complete tasks, but also demanding they meet their standards

When To Get Emotional Abuse Help

People often live with emotional abuse for a very long time without getting help. This could be for many reasons. Often the abuse starts small and builds up in severity over time and so it takes a while before the victim truly sees the abuse. The victim might also stay in an emotionally abusive relationship due to marriage vows, kids, finances or weakened self-esteem.

Regardless, there is a time when many people come to the conclusion they need emotional abuse support and help. This is typically when the emotional abuse becomes severe and daily. It’s also time to get emotional abuse help when:

  • The emotional abuse starts to negatively impact parts of life like work, school, and friendships
  • Friends and relatives start to express concerns about the emotionally abusive relationship
  • Abusive patterns are long-term and are ingrained

Emotional abuse help is almost always needed in long-term emotionally abusive situations as these tend to wear down the self-worth of the victim making them believe they cannot leave the relationship or that they deserve nothing better. Emotional abuse help can support a person through these feelings to escape the abusive relationship.

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What Is Emotional Abuse In A Marriage

Emotional abuse is a type of abuse but it is not physical or a visible form of abuse. Emotional abuse in a marriage involves belittling, insulting, threatening the partner, and using manipulative tactics to gain control and dominance over them.

Emotional abuse in marriage can lead to various serious mental problems, which can break a human completely.

Studies have even highlighted a correlation between emotional abuse and alexithymia.

Praying Scripture Over Your Childs Life

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Jodie Berndt loves to pray for her children. Shes been doing that for the past thirty years. Now she helps other parents to talk to God, asking for the salvation of their kids, and for wisdom, self-discipline, purpose, a future and much more. She offers fun and practical encouragement that moms and dads can put to work immediately in their daily lives as they prepare their children for a life in Christ.

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Emotional Abuse And Future Relationships

First and foremost, there is a link between people who experienced abuseemotional, physical, or sexualin childhood, and those who have unhealthy romantic or intimate relationships. This means that people who have experienced abuse are more likely to end up in relationships that are abusive later in life.

Anderson explains that, especially in the context of emotional abuse experienced early in life, this may be because it impacts the mental template you have for what a relationship looks like. This was also confirmed by study that followed women who had experienced emotional abuse in childhood, and found that they were six times more likely to experience emotional abuse in their romantic relationships later in life.

One theory is that the person is attempting to create a similar situation to handle it differently and break the pattern. Unfortunately, this usually results in the person finding themselves in a romantic relationship that is abusive.

Anderson works with patients to make sure that they recognize signs of emotional abusers in future relationships. He recommends Internal Family Systems therapy for many of his patients that have experienced emotional abuse.

This form of therapy focuses on healing the emotional wounds that were created by past relationships. Once someone has addressed this, people are less likely to reenact unhealthy relationship patterns later in life.

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Partners can also expose you to emotional abuse which may seem impossible to get away from.

Many victims dont realise that they are being abused so it is important to know what signs to look out for.

Emotional abuse can be in the form of controlling and isolating you away from your family and friends.

Name-calling is a common sign of emotional abuse in relationships as well as patronising behaviour.

You can be made to feel like everything is always your fault.

Identifying that you are in an abusive relationship is a big step when it comes to getting over it.

When in an abusive relationship, you may not necessarily spot the red flags yourself.

Friends and family often notice abusive behaviour before you do.

Although people raising this may feel as though they are just trying to get between you and your partner, it is crucial that you listen to their concerns and look out for the points they have raised.

Emotional abuse can have a big impact on your self-confidence and how you feel about yourself and so understanding that you were not the problem plays a huge part in overcoming emotional abuse.

Speaking to the abuser and explaining how they make you feel may help them understand that their actions are wrong.

If your partner cant recognise that their actions are wrong, you need to place yourself first and leave.

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Let The Healing Begin: 11 Tips To Overcoming Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse and substance abuse have a complex and oftentimes co-occurring relationship. In fact, 40-60% of domestic violence cases are suspected to have either been exacerbated by or stemmed directly from situations involving substance abuse. And since physical abuse is typically accompanied by some form of emotional abuse, it stands to reason that drug use is directly responsible for emotional damage in a relationship as well.

Physical And Emotional Abuse In The Cycle Of Abuse

Emotional Abuse

There are two types of abuse that occur during the cycle of abuse, which can also both occur at the same time. The first, which is easier to identify, is physical abuse. If your partner beats you or takes out their emotions on you physically, this is physical abuse.

Of course, there are situations when physical abuse seems so minor that you may not consider it to be. But it still is.

Emotional abuse, on the other hand, is more difficult to identify, even though it can be quite damaging psychologically.

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How To Get Over An Abusive Friendship

As well as relationships, friendships can also be abusive.

Abusive friendships can have an extremely detrimental effect on an individual and their mental health.

It is very important to completely cut contact with the abuser which would also include removing them from social media.

Abusive friendships dont necessarily mean that they are physically abusive but may involve being psychologically abused and controlled.

Although letting go of the friendship may be difficult, it is important to understand that their behaviour isnt right and that you do not deserve nor need to tolerate the way you are being treated.

Cutting out contact suddenly can be very hard so it may be easier to withdraw slowly by becoming less available.

This may help avoid any confrontation.

Finding new friends would be a great start in regards to healing from abusive friendships and realising that not everyone is the same.

Having supportive friends is important in life but sometimes you just need to be your own best friend and learn to put yourself and your feelings first.

Not Everyone Manages To Recover From Emotional Abuse

The cycle of emotional abuse often works like an addiction. There is a punishment-reward cycle that is easy to get caught up in. At times, the abuser will lavish you with attention, affection, and unbridled passion. But then come the demands, the coldness, the humiliation, and the reproaches that cause so much damage.

Good treatment is linked to mistreatment. You end up being one more cog in the engine that controls the abuser. Breaking this cycle and getting out of this situation isnt easy. Also, dont believe that just because you managed to end the relationship means your suffering will end too.

Many people who finally leave an abusive relationship innocently assume that theyre putting a stop to everything with that brave step. They think that after their decision, everything will be better. Theyve hit rock bottom, and now everything has no choice but to improve quickly. This, however, is far from the truth.

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Am I Being Emotionally Abused

If you are noticing the tactics described above in your relationship, there may be emotional abuse. It is recommended to consult with a mental health professional to gain additional insight and to have an outside opinion. It can be remarkably difficult to recognize the emotional abuse, because you may have been told, directly or indirectly, that you have poor judgment and cannot be trusted. It is common to enjoy some aspects of the relationship and have fond memories of positive times, which can lead to additional confusion.

Common excuses we make for our abusers include:

  • Its my fault, I did something to deserve this treatment
  • They are working on themselves
  • I am over-reacting
  • They did not mean what they said or did
  • They can be so nice at times

Regardless of the reason, emotional abuse, or any type of abuse, is never okay.

How Trauma Impacts The Brain

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Trauma and stress associated with trauma changes the brain structure and function. During a traumatic event, the body produces large amounts of stress hormones which affect the amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex. These areas of the brain are responsible for feelings and actions related to fear, clear thinking, decision-making, and memory. These functions and abilities have been found to be decreased in a person who has experienced trauma.

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How To Spot Emotional Abuse

Signs of emotional abuse can look similar to verbal abuse or bullying. Emotional abuse often includes verbal abuse, which is the use of words to bully or demean someone. However, emotional abuse is when the abuser manipulates a person into feeling less than.

Here are a few ways you can spot emotional abuse in your own relationship or a loved ones:

Victims can identify emotional abuse if they consistently feel drained, exhausted and/or depressed after spending time with someone, according to Hart. The other person may not add any positivity to the relationship or is always criticizing.

However, it can be a difficult situation to identify, she adds. The nature of the abuse is making them question themselves instead of questioning the other. Thats where it starts to fester and go on for some time, but it doesnt have to.

may notice a change in someones behavior the victim may be more withdrawn or complain more often about how they feel, whether physically or emotionally. Observing people can also yield giveaways of emotional abuse. In fact, its common to see signs of emotional abuse, but fail to label it that way. If you suspect abuse in a loved ones relationship, look for:

  • Symptoms of anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Apologizing a lot, even for trivial things like taking up space
  • Attention problems and confusion
  • Physical problems
  • Being more distant in other relationships

Examples Of Emotional Abuse

Check out these examples of emotional abuse in a marriage or relationship:

  • When someone threatens their partner to leave on not agreeing to obey
  • Lying to partner to hide some vital information
  • Using derogatory language
  • Treating the partner like a servant or a child
  • Threatening the partner for violence
  • Frightening the partner that they wont receive food etc if they dont abide by the rules
  • Isolating the partner and not allowing them to visit anywhere or letting people meet them

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What Is Emotional Abuse

Understanding what exactly emotional abuse is and how it occurs is the first step to healing this type of trauma. When we are aware of all of the ways emotional abuse can exist, we can better understand it, pinpoint it, and help our children work through the distress. It is important you have the knowledge of what to look for in a dangerous situation so that you can then know when and how to report abuse.

In simple terms, emotional abuse refers to any words or actions that seek to damage ones self-worth, self-image, self-confidence, or mental wellness.

Here are a few common examples that fall under the category of emotional abuse:

  • Verbal abuse
  • Neglect and rejection
  • Gaslighting
  • Isolation tactics

Emotional abuse can exist in any combination of the examples listed above and more. It is important to note that some may be more deceitful and subtle, while others may be very prominent and direct. However, regardless of the degree to which it is present, it is important to heal with the following steps.

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