How to Heal from Emotional Abuse

Three Parts:Reclaiming YourselfLetting Go of Hurtful EmotionsGetting Professional Help

Emotional abuse includes words and behaviors that put you down, diminish your self-esteem, and make you feel lesser-than. Some examples of emotional abuse include insults, put downs (name calling, public embarrassment, constant blame), intimidation, isolation (refusing to let you see friends and family), making threats, rejection (pretending not to notice you or what you say), and controlling money.[1] Once you’ve made the decision to leave, it becomes time to heal and move on. You can begin to heal and feel more in control of your life.

Part 1
Reclaiming Yourself

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    Recognize your rights. You are not alone, the abuse was not your fault, and no one ever deserves to experience abuse in any way.[2] One step to healing from abuse is to recognize that you did nothing to deserve disrespectful treatment. As a human, you have rights to be treated decently by those in your life, by strangers, family members, and intimate partners alike.
    • Recognize that each human has the right to be treated with respect, have their opinions heard, to change their mind, to be listened to and to to be treated with respect at all times.
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    Make decisions for yourself. Emotionally abusive people often force you to put their needs, desires, and demands above your own. This desire for harmony and less conflict can slowly choke out your voice, leaving you feeling like you don’t know what you want or who you are.[3] Learn to rediscover your inner voice. One way to do this is to begin making decisions on your own and learning not to second-guess yourself.
    • While decisions can be scary at first, start with small decisions and build your self-confidence. Ask yourself, “What do I want? Cherry ice cream or chocolate?” Recognize that either outcome is nice and there’s no bad decision.
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    Re-learn your preferences. After enduring emotional abuse, you may have lost touch with your own preferences for things.[4] Spend some time reclaiming yourself by engaging in liking and disliking things. Do things for yourself that bring you happiness and joy. Do things that you enjoy without worrying about pleasing anyone else.
    • To start, you may go to a candle shop and find which scents you enjoy. You can also cook or buy foods that you enjoy on your own, even if other people don’t enjoy them.
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    Embrace your positive qualities. You may feel like your self-esteem has been shattered after enduring an emotionally abusive relationship. Take time to recognize your positive qualities. You can choose memories of yourself before the abuse began and remember that who you are is still the same and you still have those qualities.[5] Remind yourself of the beauty within you that hasn’t gone anywhere.
    • Write in a journal. Ask yourself, “What positive traits, qualities, and characteristics do I like about myself?” Are you kind, generous, helpful, or good with people? Do you take good care of your pets, children, or family members? What things do you appreciate about yourself?
    • Think about what you are good at as a way to boost self-confidence. Are you a good cook, athlete, artisan or crafter? Think about what you excel at.[6]
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    Surround yourself with caring people. This is an important time to invite those who care about you back into your life. Tell your friends and family what you need and let them take care of you. You may need a place to live, someone to talk to, or someone to help you find a job. Be willing to ask for help and receive support.[7]
    • Sometimes the abuser may purposefully isolate you from your friends and family and you may feel like you have no one to turn to for help. Reach out to these people and ask for their support. You may be surprised by their response.

Part 2
Letting Go of Hurtful Emotions

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    Severe all ties. You may want to plot revenge, show how much better off you are now, or get closure in some way with your abuser. To fully move on and experience personal closure, it’s best to cut ties with your abuser.[8] If you live with the abuser, move out promptly. While you heal, avoid places you may bump into the person. If this feels severe, remind yourself that this person has chosen to continually hurt you and you are unwilling to endure any more hurt from this person.
    • Delete this person’s phone number, remove any social media contacts, and avoid any contact with this person.
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    Release regret. You may feel guilty or regretful for “wasting” your time in this relationship, or for allowing yourself to be treated disrespectfully. It can become easy to feel the sting of regret and hold onto it. Yet, recognize that you cannot change your past. Regardless of how strong or deep or hurtful your regret feels, there comes a time when you recognize that the pain regret causes you detracts from your life and it’s time to release it.[9]
    • Regret keeps your focus in the past. Keep yourself in the present and work toward a positive future.
    • Create a mantra or positive phrase that reminds you to let go of regret. Say, “Sometimes I make mistakes. I am still capable, smart, loving and lovable.”
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    Let go of shame. You may feel ashamed about the abuse. Perhaps you fear talking to other people about your experience for fear that they may judge you or think differently or less of you. Shame makes you feel like something is “wrong” with you, or that you are unworthy or undeserving of things or feelings that other people have such as love, happiness, and success.[10] Shame can hurt you and make you feel lesser-than and affect your self-confidence.
    • If the abuser shamed you by saying “You’re nothing, nobody likes you, you’ll never survive in the world,” stop believing those lies as soon as possible. You are just as deserving as those around you.
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    Avoid blaming yourself. While you might take responsibility for what happened, remind yourself that abusers make a choice to be abusive. The person may say that he or she lost control, yet remember that abuse is one way someone chooses to exert power.[11] Each abuser chooses to act in an abusive way.
    • Recognize that the person is responsible for his or her own behavior, and you are not responsible for the person’s words and behaviors.
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    Forgive. Forgive yourself for any guilt or shame you have about being in an abusive relationship. And when you feel ready, forgive the abuser and release this person from your life. Holding onto anger, bitterness, or rage only serves the other person for still having control over you. Choose to let go of these negative feelings and release the power this person holds over you. Embracing forgiveness means embracing peace and your own well-being.[12]
    • Forgiveness doesn’t mean accepting the abuse as okay or pretending that it didn’t happen. It doesn’t mean you let the person “off the hook” or that you’ll immediately stop being angry or hurt. It means letting go of the negative feelings you have for your own personal freedom.[13]

Part 3
Getting Professional Help

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    See a therapist. Ending an emotionally abusive relationship and moving on can be incredibly painful, and you may need support right away. Therapy is an excellent place to get support and can begin helping you immediately. Here you can express your feelings, thoughts, fears, and experiences. You may struggle with anxiety or stress, and a therapist can help you process and work through your feelings and experiences.[14]
    • You may want to work with a trauma specialist or someone who specializes in abuse.
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    Attend group therapy. Group therapy can be supportive in showing you that you are not alone. By meeting with other survivors of emotional abuse, you can help work through feelings of shame, guilt, and isolation in a caring and supportive environment.[15] Especially if you’ve felt isolated while in an abusive relationship, being in a group of other survivors can feel comforting and empowering.
    • Most group therapy is lead by a trained psychologist or therapist and will help you work through emotions and negative thoughts, while also helping you learn coping strategies.[16]
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    Join a support group. A support group is helpful in gathering other survivors of emotional abuse for the purpose of supporting one another. A support group can provide the space for you to share your story, be supported and give support, and feel safe. Members can give and receive advice and ultimately feel safe around each other.[17]
    • A support group is often community run. While there is often no professional support or guidance within the group, gathering with other survivors of emotional abuse can be beneficial.

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Categories: Abuse