7 Steps To Healing From Emotional Abuse

Healing From Emotional Abuse


You finally did it.

You ended it.

You left your abuser after years of manipulation, verbal assaults, control, and unkindness.

You had the courage to say, “Enough is enough,” and make the excruciating decision to say goodbye to this person you once loved, maybe even still love in spite of everything.

Part of you feels exhilarated. You are free — free from walking on eggshells, feeling anxious in your own home, spending night after night wondering what you should do.

Your life is now your own.

But another part of you, maybe even the bigger part, feels devastated. All of your hopes and dreams about this relationship have crumbled to dust. Nothing is ever going to change with this person, and you know it.

You psyche, your self-esteem, and even your sense of who you are have been shattered by the person who was supposed to love and cherish you the most.

Maybe you beat yourself up over how you could have fallen for this manipulator in the first place. Why didn't you see it? How could you have stayed so long?

Maybe your heart aches from missing him or her, remembering the good times you had together — good memories that suddenly monopolize your thoughts now that you've decided to end things.

There are so many emotions, thoughts, and memories swirling around in your head that you don't know what is real, what is true, and what is right for you.

Healing From Emotional Abuse

Whatever triggered you to finally leave your abuser, you knew on some rational level that things between you and your partner were very wrong.

You knew that no matter how smart, attractive, and charming this person could be, there was another side of him or her that was completely unacceptable and harmful.

  • People who love you don't constantly call you names and yell at you.
  • People who love you don't try to control your every thought and action.
  • People who love you don't try to make you think you're crazy.
  • People who love you don't do the hurtful things your partner did on a daily basis.

Even though you're out of the relationship, you are still left holding the bag of unresolved feelings, fears, mindsets, and even mental illnesses.

How can you sort through all of the baggage to come out on the other side as a healthy, whole, confident person ready to find real and intimate love again?

Let's first look at some of the ways your emotionally abusive relationship might have impacted you.

You feel numb and hopeless.

Because you've spent so many years protecting your emotions, you may have cut yourself off from them.

You just can't feel anything. Even though you know you have reason to feel happy and liberated, you just can't muster up any emotion.

It seems like you are an observer of life right now rather than a participant.

If you do feel something, it's just a sense of hopelessness and despair. Your relationship is over, and it feels like there is nothing more for you.

You feel like damaged goods, especially if your abuser consistently disparaged and criticized you.

You need lots of reinforcement and approval.

After years of feeling not good enough, you still have a sense that you don't measure up. You try to make up for this low self-esteem by being a people pleaser or over-achiever.

Are you living with an emotional abuser? Click here to get your free Emotional Abuse Test. Find out your personal score.

You long for the acceptance, love, and approval that you never got in your love relationship, and you seek it with the other people in your life, often blurring your own boundaries and ignoring your needs.

You just don't have the confidence to stand on your own two feet, without your abuser, and say, “I like myself. I am good just the way I am.” It's hard for you to be compassionate and patient with yourself.

You feel deeply resentful and sometimes uncontrollably angry.

You're mad at your abuser, and you're mad at yourself. How could he or she have done this to you after all of the time, energy, and love you put into the relationship?

Why couldn't your partner just step up and change?

You also question how you could have done this to yourself. Allowing yourself to be treated this way feels deeply shameful. You just can't believe you didn't see what was happening earlier on.

You might also feel angry at your parents who may have been emotional abusers themselves and set the stage for you to be attracted to this type of partner.

Why didn't they protect you and care for you in a way that helped you make better choices as an adult?

Or you could feel resentment toward family and friends who didn't see what was happening and come to your rescue.

You've lost your identity.

You knew yourself before you got involved with your abuser.

Maybe you were a strong, happy, capable person. But now you don't even recognize the person looking back at you in the mirror.

Years of emotional abuse have stripped away your sense of self. You are left with the unattractive shell of a person your partner defined for you with his or her ugly words and insults.

If your partner told you how to think, what to believe, and how to feel, you're at a loss. You no longer have a puppeteer managing these for you. So how do you recreate a new you or find your old self again?

You feel anxious and depressed.

The emotional abuse has taken its toll on your mental health.

While you were in the midst of the abusive relationship, somehow you were able to hold it together for your own survival and for your kids.

But now you are out, and your walls are coming down. All of the emotional energy you spent trying to manage the relationship has drained out of you, and you simply can no longer cope.

Maybe you continue to feel on high alert and anxious, which could be a symptom of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It feels like you've just left a war zone, with all of the bad memories and fears doing battle in your psyche.

Or you might have sunk into a dark place where you want to pull the covers over your head and cry all day. The emotional pain you've been stuffing down for years is finally seeping out in the form of depression and unbearable sadness.

You've lost your trust and fear falling in love again (or you date too quickly).

Right now, the idea of getting involved with someone again makes you run away screaming. How can you trust anyone when you thought you knew your partner, but you were so wrong?

If your partner was manipulative and constantly tried to make you question your own judgment, you wonder if all people are capable of these toxic behaviors.

You wonder how you'll ever be able to tell a healthy, mature love partner from another toxic manipulator. Rather than take a chance, you'd rather just step out of the game.

Or it's possible you jump in too quickly, desperate to find someone who treats you with love, kindness, and respect — only to be attracted to same abusive type of person.

There's no question that your emotionally abusive relationship has taken a toll on you, but you don't have to suffer with the after-effects forever.

You can heal from emotional abuse and move on to become a happy, self-assured person who knows how to choose a better, kinder, more mature partner next time.

Here are some positive, practical actions you can take to accelerate the healing process:

1. Listen to your head, not your heart.

As you know, it is possible to love someone and know they are bad for you at the same time.

Your heart might be telling you how you should give him one more chance. Your heart might trigger memories of all of the good times you had with her. Your heart might compel you to pick up the phone and see how your ex is doing because you miss him so much.

All of those feelings are powerful and compelling. You've spent years with this person, and it really hurts to be separated from them. Some nights you can hardly bear it. He or she is like a drug, and you need another hit.

But the rational part of you knows without a doubt that you did the right thing. You need to be away from this abusive person who has done so much damage to you.

If you go back to this person, you'll never have a chance for real love with someone else.

Your daily mantra should be this: “Listen to my head, not my heart.”

On days when your heart is breaking, phone a friend for an intervention, and have them remind you of all the reasons you left.

2. Allow yourself to go through the stages.

Ending a relationship is almost like experiencing a death. You must go through the stages of grief and emotions in order to heal.

If you are feeling emotionally frozen right now, that's okay. Just be with that for a while. You can't force yourself to feel, and eventually your feelings will return.

If you feel hopeless, remind yourself that you have reason for feeling this way because your abuser left you vulnerable. At the same time, you can remind yourself that healing will happen and that you do have things to look forward to even if you don't believe it right now.

Keep a journal to write down your feelings. But also write down your hopes and dreams, what you want for your life moving forward, and your ideas on how you can begin again.

Even if you can't act on these things right away, they will stoke the tiny sparks of hope within you.

3. Work out your anger in constructive ways.

It is perfectly normal to feel anger and resentment about the experiences you just survived. It's normal to want to lash out at your abuser and to feel angry at yourself.

But funnel that anger in a productive way so that you don't add more angst to your life by making a knee-jerk decision (like keying your ex's car for example).

Write about your feelings in your journal. Punch your pillow. Start running or take up another aerobic exercise that helps you work off the rage.

If you can't manage the anger, and you see you're taking it out on your kids, friends, or family, then go meet with a psychotherapist who can help you vent your feelings without harming yourself or others.

4. Do something to build your self-esteem.

Your self-esteem has taken a huge hit, and it may feel impossible to like yourself again or believe you are a worthy person.

You can work on rebuilding your self-esteem by taking action and accomplishing small goals. Maybe you decide to declutter your house, take an art class, or volunteer somewhere.

Perhaps you go out and get a job (if you've been staying at home with your abuser), or you learn how to meditate, which has so many mental and physical benefits.

You don't have to take on a huge goal, but do something that will give you a small sense of triumph and hope.

Be sure to reconnect with friends and family and start socializing with them again. You need a support system and people who make you feel loved and happy.

5. Reexamine your values, opinions, and beliefs.

If your abuser stole your identity by demanding you acquiesce to his or her views, then you'll need to revisit all of your values, opinions, and beliefs to make them your own.

Ask yourself . . .

  • What are your core values?
  • What is your philosophy about money, raising the kids, where you live, etc.?
  • What are your spiritual or religious beliefs?
  • What are your political opinions?
  • What movies or TV shows do you like?
  • Who do you want to socialize with?
  • Where do you like to eat?

Look at any area of your life where your abuser made all of the decisions, and come up with your own point of view or preferences.

Try to enjoy the freedom of redefining what you want for your life and how you want to live it.

6. Treat anxiety and depression quickly.

If you recognize the symptoms of these mental health issues in yourself, take action quickly before you sink further into despair.

Anxiety, PTSD, and depression are all highly treatable, but often when you feel so bad, you don't have the energy to pick up the phone and call a doctor or psychologist.

But do it anyway, or ask a friend to help you find someone. The longer you let it go, the worse you will feel. You can't treat these illnesses on your own, and you don't want to put your life on hold for any longer than you have to.

7. Heal, learn, and grow before dating.

You have suffered a tremendous blow to your psyche and self-esteem by living through an emotionally abusive relationship.

Most people who come out of this kind of relationship aren't ready to jump back in the saddle with a new relationship right away.

You don't want to find yourself in the same abusive situation or possibly get involved with the right person when you are emotionally unavailable and grieving.

Before you look for love again, make sure you love and like yourself. Make sure you know what a healthy relationship looks like and how you can spot an emotional abuser who might initially be charming and kind.

Examine your own behaviors and reactions in your previous relationship to see where you might need to grow and change.

As much as you want to find the right person, you also want to BE the right person so the relationship is healthy and balanced.

Acknowledge and congratulate yourself for having the courage and strength to end a bad relationship with a toxic person. But remember that you have some work to do and healing to endure.

Allow yourself plenty of time to deal with all of the leftover baggage so that you can move on with life and hopefully find love again.

Comments

  1. Ryan Macdonald says:

    You should counsel more on repairing relationships instead of leaving them. Contributing to the rise in the divorce rate is not admirable. People can learn how to adjust and correct without quitting. Anyone can walk away and ignore the problem, but that’s not really solving anything. Put in the time and effort and start saving marriages instead of advocating for divorce. My thoughts.

    • When it comes to emotional abuse staying with the abuser is not a healthy option. Abusers rarely admit fault and therapy or counseling are likely to cause further problems and trauma for the victim. It is incredibly difficult to fix an abuse dynamic and many mental health professionals would say it’s crazy for the victim to stay in such a relationship and let the abuse perpetuate. Divorce is a much better outcome than suicide or worse.

      • “Ryan”—-What if the person who is doing the deception; never admits fault,,,”ever”? They say “no ones perfect”….but you notice they must be! because any gas lighting or disagreements happen due to the fact you don’t agree with them. They NEVER have said the words ,,,,”maybe I was wrong…maybe I was too harsh… Gesso,,,I had the wrong perspective on that….” Nope, fact is No one is perfect except for them. Because they never have to apologize; when you seek counseling as a couple; counsel gives advice….and when they themselves don’t have a hint of follow through…they blame you..because YOU ARE the one who wanted you both to go to counseling. Or wait, the most recent…. “I may have told you that and you caught me in a lie..but it was your fault for asking ME!” Really… ?? Yes Ryan….I’m still in this relationship…I lost my job and have NO where to go. I have equity in House and I am paralyzed with fear….I want to discuss and communicate on a mature level. When I ask him….I get total silence…or THEN he gets mad.(.he shows no emotion otherwise. )I asked for divorce telling him I’d pay for everything….he’s giving me the silent treatment on It! for me; if you treat people the way he does ……you don’t really want them in a marriage) he didn’t move; I am not rude, I still give him sex, hugs & kisses. He plays the part….all is fine. until We disagree. I am attempting to win him with love…. But gosh: He lied about his faith…..I wanted to marry a Christian, he went to church with me..for over a year. I told him my faith…he faked it. After 3 years he tells me he doesn’t believe the way I do! Really? As soon as I get my bearings straight.. He throws me another one. Most recent (him and ex-wife had bank account I didn’t know about 3 years after we were married etc. I was considered irrational when it upset me it took over 3-4 months to remove him from account. (they live 45 minutes apart ; to this day he still tells me the scenero only lasted a couple of weeks. I can sincerely prove the time line and he will disagree to my face and argue! I can’t argue with delusional. I hate the idea of divorce Ryan…what would be your suggestion? I’ve been to scared to contact an attorney because of more emotional hurt and pain, yet I live it regularly. I keep hoping it will get better. What do I do practically? He had a choice of a $7,000.00 trip to London, or keep the cash so we wouldn’t lose our home. He chose the trip. This was after telling me once…He wish he had the choice to keep the $ ..then he found out he DID have the choice…but he chose to take the trip anyway. At what point do we quit enabling? God allows us to make choice ‘s….we deal with consequences….what about those who abuse.? Maybe we need to take our love to some one who sincerely cares. While raising our standards? I will accept any prayers for a miracle….but I have made a choice to stay over the past 4 years.. I may sound sarcastic Ryan….but teach me O Wise One? Maybe you sincerely have something I Can do/they before I get out. Am I not more than “just a body” ? I am a person…with a heart and values…someone to this day my husband said… “no one would take care of me and my kids the way you do” …..and yet at the same time, He does what he does….

      • Sorry Chris; I meant this for Ryan’s reply.

    • Jessica Smith says:

      Of course i dont know but i wonder whether these are views of someone who has never been in an abusive relationship? My experience at least has been that when you are already taking abuse from another person you are desperate for the relationship to work or you wouldnt be taking the abuse in the first place. I would have done anything to repair both relationships i was in…one being a marriage…but when relationships are abusive there is no real trust or respect left in them so what is there to repair? Everything has been corroded already and of course some people can change but sites like Live Bold and Bloom help name abuse for what it is and no one should be encouraged to put up with an abusive relationship just because we want to keep divorce rates lower. It takes an incredible amount of strength to walk alway…for me it was the hardest thing I have EVER done and the thing I am most proud of.

      • Veronica says:

        I’m in an abusive marriage…it started as emotional abuse and lately it has become physical. Yesterday my husband and I got into an argument about dinner. He got angry and threw the pot to the ground next to me. The vinegar from cleaning the whole chicken got on me so I said I was going good to wash me face. I was vegetarian for 7 years before marring him and I was disturbed by the process of skinning the animal and cleaning of the fat. I was absolutely disgusted. When he threw the pot , I said I was going to wash my face and walk away because it was getting too ugly. And my siblings in law that both of us are gaurdians for (his mom passed away while we were married and we are the only ones in the country who can take care of them since they are minors in highschool). To I went to the bathroom to wash my face and he ran up to me out of nowhere, grabbed me by the back of the head, and shoved the whole chicken in my face then pushed me down to the floor…I started packing all my things immediately and taking them outside and told him I was divorcing him. My sister in law was trying to tell me it was my fault because obviously he was hungry and my brother In law was silent. She kept telling me to stay and I wished her well for her future but told her that my husband and I just were toxic and no good for eachother. At some point he came into the room and started apologizing and hurged me and I just started crying, he helped me wash my face again…and we started talking but even then he was saying he was sorry for the action but it was my fault for getting good him so angry. And that actually I am the one who can control the relationship. Idk this was yesterday and I’m sitting here alone asking g myself why I’m still here? He has kept me from friends and family and now I have nobody but them even though they are all against me because they just follow him. I’m watching him turn them into manipulators. He is always putting me down, always yelling, always keeping secret documents or just secrets that only him and his siblings know about. I feel I can trust in him. In some ways he has shown me more love than Iriver ever received from a partner but at the same time the most abuse as well. He inconsistent and I always wish to see more of his kind side. I hardly feel he loves me but I’m a convenience. Always cleaning, cooking, bringing in money when I’m working. Ivery lost many jobs because of him. And kept having to obtain new ones. Why can’t I build the strength to leave? I’ve started feeling good suicidal with him. But once I’m completely alone I do think know what I will do.

    • No. Sorry. You’re mistaken. Staying in an abusive relationship is NOT a healthy option and should not be the priority. A person being abused must protect themselves and remove themselves from the abuse immediately. Any counseling or attempts to repair the marriage are secondary thoughts. If the abuser is willing and able to recognize they are abusive and they want to seek professional treatment, that’s a great plan. But working on a toxic, unsafe, unhealthy marriage should not be the focus. Keeping the marriage together should not be the first priority, rather the safety and well being and healing of the victim IS what needs to be the first goal and focus.

    • I am 18 years in, trust me I have tried and tried, nothing is enough for him. He sees no wrong in himself , I’m defective. He expects doctors to fix me. ( so I will obey, which was not in our vows, I never agreed to do that). Everything I have read on this site is true even the test nail it.I have stayed , tried more for our kids sake.And that I have been cut off from all my family and have no close friends no one else besides his family to hand out with. though he would say he hasn’t. Can’t even go to the store without being checked up on or having to justify myself. I don’t get to keep even twenty bucks to myself, he will take it. Now OUR kids are learning nothing they ever do, or how hard they try they will it will never be enough. Would you want to stay in that?? He manipulates, all of it, everything they’ve said I can check 99.9 % as applying to me. My whole personality is different, I have to have to get phycological medication, meds for pain, for my stomach. Get the picture? I’m now being treated for bipolar, had 2 hospital stays so basicly I wouldn’t kill him or myself. I know he will use that aginst me.He had me at home 10 years. We have a special needs child.I feel worthless and alone, ugly and stupid. Now he’s decided I have to work to make it easier on him. He even cheated. So much anxiety, and fear. I do get a steady well paying job I will better myself, eventually make more money than he ever can I already have one degree sights on more. But no school for now have to work on my way out-with OUR kids. He can visit. I would never take his children away from him or his side of the family. But he would. So tell me Ryan 18 years you think I’ve tried long enough?

  2. I’m so thankful I found this page to read it really has help me that Im in a abuse relashiophip,he is a heavy alcohol drinker on the weekends and come home and treat me like I’m a no Body at first I was strong but than I was just didn’t wanna to argue anymore.becouse of that he stared to feel more like he can disrespect me in anyways wen he was drunk I’m almost out of here saving some money to get my own place I’m trying to make it out of here a life this is why I stay quited whites and say nothing but reading this page has give me so much Aleve about that I be ok soon and I know I need lots of healing because I cry alot wen I’m by my self asking God to help me get out, I know I be successful soon thank you.

  3. Natalie says:

    How do i get over him?

    • Natalie- did you read the article? She just gave excellent advice on HOW to get over him. Read it again. You get over it day by day. Cry, grieve, forgive yourself for staying, take an honest look within yourself and recognize what was inside you that left you vulnerable to an abuser, what warning signs did you refuse to see (there are ALWAYS warning signs), recognize that even though you have strong feelings for someone that doesn’t mean they are safe or healthy or good for you, commit to making your safety, health and well being your absolute priority then work on your own healing and growth. STOP focusing on HIM, focus on yourself and your healing dear. Best wishes.

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