Of all the tasks that we face in emerging from an abusive relationship, healing the damage from the abuse is the most difficult and the task that inevitably takes the longest. Our finances can be rebuilt; our emotions will rebound; bruises will heal; new friends can be made; new partners found.
But those anguishing memories; those painful thoughts about ourselves; these are difficult to escape. It can be done. But it takes time. And it takes work, and a determination to heal.
Abuse hurts. It hurts a lot. But the healing task is not so much about the pain. Because, in our minds, each abusive act is a message we recieve about us. It doesn’t make a lot of difference if the act is physical, verbal, sexual, emotional, social, financial or whatever. From the healing perspective, each abusive act done to me is burned into my memory. And each carries with a message – a message that I am unworthy. A message that I deserve to be treated with contempt. A message that my feelings don’t matter; that my needs don’t matter. A message that I am worthless, of no consequence, and little more than a source of pain for my partner.
And all of these message are lies – vicious, hurtful lies. And over time these messages build up in our memories, until the real truth about what we becomes overwritten with abusive lies. When we think about ourselves, when we react to events or people around us, we begin to react in the context of this mass of abusive distortions – in effect, the we begin to feel about ourselves to match the way we have been abused. And because all this is based on memory, and because our memory is very long-lasting, the effect of abuse on us goes on and on long after we escape from the abusive treatment.
Within in each of us is a beautiful, loving spirit. The truth about each of us that we are giving, caring, intelligent individuals; people with so much to give and so much potential in life. This is our truth. The details will vary from one person to another, but each us has a rich and precious spirit that needs and deserves to be seen, to be cherished, and be free to guide us in a loving and fulfilled life.
To heal the abuse, we have to over-write those abusive lies in our memory. We have to explore the truth of our inner spirit. We have to learn, with help from others, the things that make each of us precious, learn how to say, “I am a precious and wonderful person.” And we need to say it, and hear it, over and over again.
Just as our abusers worked over time to program our minds with lies, we have to work to re-program our minds with truth. People say that time heals all wounds. NOT! Healing takes work; healing takes determination. We know that we have been deeply wounded by the abuse. To heal, we have to accept to that there is long work ahead of us in healing. But it can be done. And even better, it need not be done alone. There are many, many others with experiences very much like ours, people who also face a long healing path. These people are there today, ready to embrace me, ready to embrace you, and share the burden of re-learning what we are truly about.
But let’s be honest. Safety is a prerequisite. There is no way we can undo the damage from abuse that is still going on. We cannot hope to save ourselves from damage at the same time are choosing to accept more damage. If you are still in an abusive situation, read on. I hope it will empower you. Certainly you can do some good for yourself, whatever your circumstance. But is your goal is to heal; to be happy; to fulfill your potential in life; to become all you can become… then you will have to free yourself from the abuse.
And, to make real progress in healing, we have to be working on putting some other emotional things in order. We need to have re-established contact with healty people, honestly discussing our experiences, so that we can establish a solid understanding of what is right and wrong in what has been happening We need a good grounding in how a personality disordered person behaves; some idea of what motivates them in these behaviors; and a grasp of how we, in coping with them, play a part in the dance of that disease Often we struggle with powerful feelings of love that draw and bind us to our abusive partner, Understanding what these in-love feelings are about, and how being in-love is different from having a loving relationship is critical to overcoming these powerful bonds And we need to face our pre-conceptions about obligation – those beliefs that we have to stay and take it because… well, we think we have to. Peeling back these accepted mandates and figuring out what is really important is critical.