Getting Over Abuse
By Neil Millar
I was quite lucky. I wasn't abused as a child, so I knew the abuse happening to me as an adult shouldn't have been occurring. Not everyone who suffers from abuse is that lucky.
When I left my abusive partner it was the first stage of recovery. My life was a wreck. I had two children, one living with me at the time, little money and very poor heath. The road ahead looked bleak. I didn't feel good about myself. I felt depressed. I didn't really like or trust other people anymore and the future was just a scary black hole.
During this relationship I allowed myself to be subjected to physical, mental and verbal abuse. But in this article I want to focus on the verbal abuse.
What is verbal abuse?
Verbal abuse is incessant ridicule, name-calling and mocking. The abuser will often blame you for things that have nothing to do with you and make you feel responsible for their mess in some way. When you talk about things they'll argue and say it's all your fault. After some time you'll begin to wonder what's wrong with you.
What's happened to the 'me' within me?
My sense of self began to diminish - the 'me' that used to drive my machine - and I began to think I was wrong all the time. What complicated things was that a year before I met my partner I'd fallen fourteen feet and hit the concrete headfirst. Often when she blamed me for things, I would think 'I don't remember you saying that,' and then, even though I sensed I was being blamed for something, I took on the responsibility and accepted blame, justifying it - saying 'The bang on my head must have affected my memory.'
When you're in a stream of verbal abuse it begins to strip away your identity. Once you become a victim of an abuser you can quite quickly end up serving their needs, while forgetting your own. The relationship becomes very much like a traditional mother-child relationship - mother (you) child (them).
In my case the name-calling, ridiculing and mocking served to undermine who I really was. What happened was my partner was drilling into me who she thought I was - or more likely who she wanted me to be. This happens when an abuser want you to fit into a warped perception of reality they expect to see in the world.
Remove the Web
I liken overcoming abuse to removing yourself from a spider's web. I found I behaved in certain ways and had no idea why. I can recall speaking harshly to people and then thinking 'Where did that come from?' Alternatively I would feel cornered and angry, and then think, 'Why do I feel like this? There is no reason to behave like this!'
Whenever these types of things surfaced I'd shut myself away for a while and try to understand what just happened. Eventually I stumbled onto something that changed everything.
What did I uncover?
I found that my responses where knee-jerk reactions that had nothing to do with whoever or whatever confronted me. I realised that these knee-jerks were all to do with a conditioned behaviour I'd learn during the abusive relationship.
How does that work?
When these knee-jerk reaction happened I discovered it had nothing to do with current circumstances and all to do with a pattern of behaviour I'd been running in order to survive. When I analysed the 'current situation' I understood I was not under threat - not about to be called names or undermined and could therefore behave in a way that was more accepting rather than fearful.
What happened then?
Gradually I began to master my emotions again. Sometimes I'd slip back to the knee-jerk, other times I'd catch it, say 'Hi' to it and then let it go. Eventually the knee-jerks stopped coming.
The Road Ahead
I want to wrap up this article by letting you know that things can, and do, turn out well. Although I never sought councilling, I know others do. This is, at the least a way of being able to talk about things. Another way is to spend a weekend writing down every thing that happened to you in your abusive relationship. Writing is an excellent way to vent and it harms no one.
What did I do?
I read lots of books. My goal wasn't necessarily to overcome abuse, but to rediscover me again. I also became quite careful who I became good friends with and who I listened to.
I hope this article helped you.
About the Author
Find out more about Neil Millar and join his weekly newsletter on making positive changes in life. http://www.neilmillar.net
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