How to Build Self-Esteem After a Verbally Abusive Relationship

Stop AbuseMoving on after a verbally abusive relationship is challenging because your abuser has convinced you that your character is somehow deficient. Verbal abuse can leave you with enduring psychological wounds; scars that can influence every part of your life and damage your self-esteem. Best-selling author, Patricia Evans, founded the Evans Interpersonal Communications Institute in order to emphasize the devastating consequences of verbal abuse. She says, “Verbal abuses creates emotional pain and mental anguish. It is a lie told to you or about you. Generally, verbal abuse defines people telling them what they are, what they think, their motives, and so forth.”

Step 1
Confront the pain. Allow yourself to express any negative emotions you have towards your abuser. Face your anger and sadness. Recognize that the abuse wasn’t a result of your deficiencies, but a result of your abuser’s defects.

Don’t attempt to hide your emotions. Repressing the anger can force you to simply accept the abuse as a reality, rather than allowing yourself to face the devastating consequences of the manipulation, says psychoanalyst Jane Bolton. She says that by suppressing the resentment, you’re allowing your abuser to hold emotional control over you. As a result, the “…internal pressure builds up until the self-suppressing can no longer hold and emotional eruption follow.” Subsequently, she says, you feel “…remorse, shame, and self-esteem plummets.”

Step 2
Direct your feelings towards a constructive outlet. Find an active means by which you can express your frustrations. Engage in activities that allow you to focus on your well-being and your self-improvement.

Challenge yourself by participating in new hobbies. Sign up for a half-marathon and join a marathon-training group, take martial arts classes, participate in a cooking challenge or register for an intellectually demanding class at a local college. Your abuser has controlled you through domination and submission techniques, says social scientist and educator, Michael J. Formica. Give yourself an opportunity to recognize your strengths and prove that you can achieve success, even when you’re presented with a difficult task.

Step 3
Give and receive support. Find a support group for victims of abuse. Not only can you receive help for coping with your suffering, but you can also assist others in their journey through the pain. Empathizing with others can produce a healing effect in victims, says Bolton.

She says that the ability to recognize a need for understanding and compassion in regard to others can “…heal and support blossoming of the self and relationships.” Be open and honest within the group by sharing your experiences and receiving feedback from other victims who have shared some of the same hardships—you’re not alone. Bolton says that when you see someone who’s attempting to understand how you feel, it can give you a “…burst of hope, optimism and energy. That renewed energy brings us closer to being able to act upon what we need…” and permits you to take care of your physical and emotional needs.

Step 4
Replace negative self-talk. Replace the negative thoughts or words in your head with positive self-affirmations. Remind yourself that you were strong enough to leave the abuse and move on with your life.

Make a list of what has changed since you left the relationship and compare it to your life when you were absorbed in the abuse. Focus on your needs and do whatever it is that allows you to feel a sense of joy and accomplishment. Psychologist Daniel Tomasulo says that you should take time each day to identify and ponder the positive aspects in your life. He says that if you focus on moments of happiness or inspiration, you can transfer your “…mindset toward finding and savoring the good things in our life which, in turn, allows for a genuine resilience in our spirit, mind, and body.”

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