Understanding the Psychology of Abuse

abuse trauma Aug 24, 2021
When abusers abuse, they do it very subtly.
It's very confusing for the person on the receiving end, because initially, and often for quite some time, the 'victim' BELIEVES what the abuser is telling them. They believe that what they are being told is true. 

Personal Experience

Many years ago I found myself in an abusive relationship.
I didn't know what was going on for a long time. I didn't understand.
I didn't understand why they were treating me the way they were: the humiliation, put downs, shaming, critisizing, which just went on and on, day after day. 
I didn't understand why I felt so bad and yet they were telling me that what they were telling me was right... was good for me.
This is one of the hallmarks of an abuser: they will tell you that they are right, you are wrong, and that what they are doing is for your own good.
They will often shame and humiliate you, put you down, make you feel bad... all the while telling you that you're wrong and they're right.
And initially, and for quite some time, you believe them. 

Cognitive Dissonance

This confusion sets up a huge cognitive dissonance in the brain, because despite what your mind is telling you (that they are right and you must be wrong), your body intelligence (heart and gut) know differently.
Whilst this cognitive dissonance goes on, life can be frightening, exhausting and confusing, because of the constant inner battle between the 3 minds (brains).
The head (brain) is saying one thing ("they must be right, I must be a bad person") whilst the heart is saying "this doesn't feel good, I'm really upset, sad, overwhelmed...", and the gut tension never goes away, you never feel safe. 
You find yourself on a rollercoaster of emotional ups and downs, self-doubt and self-recrimination, wondering if you are going mad. You simply don't know what is right or wrong anymore, because of the confusion of the communication and feedback coming from the 3 brains. You are exhausted with trying to work out with your mind, why your heart and gut are not agreeing with what you are being told by the abuser.
And for some time - maybe months... maybe years... - you tolerate the abuse.
You live with it. You become exhausted, and it wears you down. You can't sleep. You can't concentrate. You can't do your work. Your life becomes a living nightmare. 
And then at some point, if you're lucky, and when you're ready, the light begins to dawn.
Something happens which helps you to start understanding what is going on and to 'see the light'.

The Turning Point

For me the turning point was coming across a book called 'Men who hate women, and the women who love them'. [Note, it could also be women who hate men... this is not a sexist title]. It fell into my lap unexpectedly, and was a game changer.
When I opened the book, it opened to a chapter heading called 'Jekyll and Hyding". It talked about how one minute an abusive person will be kind and nice, and the next minute mean and nasty, and then again nice... and then again nasty... on and on and on, repeat, repeat, repeat.
For months I had been telling myself "It's like living with Jekyll and Hyde" - one day he's Mr Nice guy, telling me how good and nice I am, and then in a second turning into Mr Nasty, chastizing, shaming, judging, critisizing... 
For months I had been living on eggshells, afraid to say the wrong thing to upset him, but it never made any difference. He was always right, and I was always wrong, and I was always the one left in tears.
So here I was reading this chapter that was describing my relationship to a T. This was my life they were describing! And having that reflection and validation on the page in front of me, hearing that this happens to many others, started to wake me up to the truth of what was happening.
Rather than constantly believing everything he was telling me, I started to question whether he was right or not. I started to TRUST that what my heart and gut were telling me might actually be true - that maybe it wasn't OK to be treated this way... that maybe the reason my heart and gut weren't happy was because they were actually right, and that it was my mind (head brain) that had got things wrong.

Freeing Myself from Abuse

After that turning point of starting to wake up and understand what was going on, I started to LISTEN to what my gut and heart were telling me, and I started to TRUST myself more. I was still confused, especially as I was exhausted from months of poor sleep, but I began to start trusting that my feelings were right.
Then I saw an episode of 'Oprah' which helped me understand more.
On the show, she was interviewing a woman who had spent years imprisoned in her home by her husband. He forced her to do things I cannot repeat here, and for years she tolerated it. And then eventually, after 10 years, she finally went to the police, and he was arrested. 
One of the audience members asked why it took so long for her to do anything. 
As soon as the question was asked, I knew the answer. 
Because I was afraid. I was terrified. 
I was afraid of the consequences. I was afraid he would hurt me, hunt me down. I was just too plain scared. 
The woman said the reason it took so long to go to the police was because she was terrified. But eventually, she couldn't tolerate it any longer, and the need to stand up for herself and free herself became stronger than the fear.
I totally understood what this woman was saying. And I knew the time for me to free myself was coming closer. 
Even so, there was still the voice in my head that kept saying 'maybe he'll change, I'll give him one more chance'. And so things continued for a few more months. 

The Last Straw

Until one day the last straw happened. 
I came home from work at the end of a week, to find him washing his dinner plates. He had cooked himself dinner, but not made any for me. 
At the time, I was the 'breadwinner', supporting him while he was setting up a new business. 
It may not sound like a big thing, but in that moment it was the final straw. The anger and frustration which had been building up for months was at a tipping point, and I'd had enough. 
I didn't say anything, but inwardly I decided that was it, it was time to move out. I had actually been thinking this for some time, but then the urge to 'give it one more go' would win out, and things would carry on. But this time, I knew it was final. I was leaving.
That weekend, I secretly went to look for a place to live, and on returning home announced I was leaving. 
His exact words in response were "so you've had enough then?".
So he knew. He knew all along what he was doing. He wasn't surprised. 

Final Extrications

We didn't speak much the next few days before I moved out, and then after I moved out 'Mr Nice guy' arrived on the scene again.
He said he missed me, wanted me back, would do anything to change... 
This went on for months, and I found myself temporarily drawn back into his charms, but this time it was different because we weren't living together, and I could escape for repreave.
And again, as my senses came to me, I realized I had to make a final, final break. I had to end it for good, even though a part of me kept being sucked back to him, as if I we were connected by some invisible elastic (which as I later understood energetically, we were). 
I was invited back to the UK for a wedding, and I knew this was my opportunity to create the physical distance I needed, with no temptations to see him. I went back to the UK for a month, and it was a saving grace. He kept phoning, and pleading, and even though it was the most difficult thing in the world to do, I kept strong, and said NO. And finally it was over.

Understanding the 'stickiness'

It's important to understand why it is, that it is so difficult to leave abusive, dysfunctional relationships.
The reason we draw ourselves into a relationship like this in the first placde is due to our own unresolved issues from childhood. 
If we have had a similar experience in childhood, which is not emotionally healed, the energetic imprint of that original experience will still be in our psyche and energy field. And this energetic matrix will draw to us a similar experience, so that we can finally resolve and heal the original issue. 
This is why we keep repeating past events. 
I had to do a lot of work to 're-cognize' the original trauma from childhood, and heal that, in order to fully complete and overcome this unhealthy pattern of drawing myself to people who treated me badly. 
It's not an easy thing to do this work, and it doesn't happen overnight. Often it can take years, and we will be tested over and over again until we are 'clear'. We may think we have dealt with it, and then out of the blue, again, we will be sent another person to test us. 
The good news is, as we become more 'aware', and more in tune with our internal body feedback (from the heart and gut), we learn to TRUST ourselves, and stop doubting, and follow our own inner guidance. 
We will know when we are being treated badly, because it won't 'feel right'. And we will HONOUR those feelings and act on them, quicker and quicker, eventually immediately. 

How about you?

So how about you?

After reading this article, if you made it all the way to the end, how much are you tolerating unfair behaviour from others? How much are you listening to your heart and your gut, and doing what is right for you? How much do you trust yourself?

If the answer is 'lots' or 'fully', then good on you! You have done what it takes to trust your inner guidance.

If not, don't beat yourself up. Just decide what it is you have been tolerating which you no longer need or want to put up with, and take the necessary steps to change the situation, and change yourself.

If you need help with this, my self-help 'self-empowerment' program has everything to help you do this. It will teach you how to take back your power, say no (to others) and yes (to yourself), and make you your number one priority in a healthy way without guilt. 


 Other Recommended Programs

I also recommend 'The Trust Series', an online training series teaching you how to grow and restore true, unconditional trust deep within. You'll find all 3 levels of the series on my dedicated Qigong training website

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