How to Recover from Emotional Abuse

How to Recover from Emotional Abuse
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

Recovering from emotional abuse means having to process a traumatic event that has undermined your confidence. To do this, you have to avoid blaming yourself. The person who trusts and gives everything to their relationship is never in the wrong. The “crime” is committed by the narcissistic and unhealthy person who uses lies, manipulation, blackmail, and psychological abuse.

We’re stressing the importance of not blaming yourself or assuming responsibility for what happened for a very concrete reason. When a person is finally able to leave an abusive relationship, the questions on everyone’s mind (including their own) are “Why couldn’t they leave their significant other sooner?” and  “How is it possible that they were so blind they didn’t realize what was happening?”

“The way is to quiet the the mind and encourage it to see itself in a realistic way. A mature and balanced mind that learns to lose. A humble, but not absent mind. A mind open to the world, energetic, with feet firmly planted on the ground.”

-Walter Riso-

This isn’t a simple process. Emtional abuse isn’t easy to unmask. Its mechanisms tend to be very subtle and sophisticated at the same time. We should also add another really important ingredient: love. Don’t forget that a person in love is bull-headed, trusting, and committed. So, the signs of emotional abuse aren’t so easy to see. And if the person in love does see them, their brain uses really complex strategies to assuage their doubts. It’s like there’s a dense cloud of fog that prevents them from clearly seeing what is happening.

Until you just do it. Until you become fully aware of what is actually happening. Sooner or later you will look in the mirror and you won’t recognize yourself anymore. The person reflected in the mirror is little more than a shadow of who you used to be…

Not everyone manages to recover from emotional abuse

The cycle of emotional abuse often works like an addiction. There is a punishment-reward cycle that is easy to get caught up in. At times, the abuser will lavish you with attention, affection, and unbridled passion. But then come the demands, the coldness, the humiliation, and the reproaches that cause so much damage.

Good treatment is linked to mistreatment. You end up being one more cog in the engine that controls the abuser. Breaking this cycle and getting out of this situation isn’t easy. Also, don’t believe that just because you managed to end the relationship means your suffering will end too.

Many people who finally leave an abusive relationship innocently assume that they’re putting a stop to everything with that brave step. They think that after their decision, everything will be better. They’ve hit rock bottom, and now everything has no choice but to improve quickly. This, however, is far from the truth.

Signs that you haven’t healed from your abusive relationship

  • Feelings of guilt. You’re angry at yourself for not seeing the truth sooner. You blame yourself for having wasted so much time with someone who was doing you harm.
  • Guilt mixed with anger. Your frustration and anger accumulate. So much so, that sometimes you project these feelings onto others.
  • You become mistrustful.
  • The tendency towards moments of extreme hyperactivity. You want to do many things and get involved in a lot of projects, but then you feel exhausted. You don’t have enough energy.
  • Your self-image, sense of self, and your self-esteem are still damaged and vulnerable.
  • It’s difficult (or impossible) to feel positive emotions with the same intensity as before. Joy isn’t as joyful, your dreams don’t motivate you or give you hope in the same way. You feel like you are under anesthesia, you feel numb.

Strategies to recover from emotional abuse

As we said at the beginning, to recover from emotional abuse it’s good to re-interpret your condition as the victim. You have to remember that you’re more than just a victim. Don’t let it take over your entire sense of self. Set aside feelings of guilt and blame. Stop feeling helpless. Helplessness, in the long-term, will make this traumatic state chronic. The victim identity takes away power and undermines your sense of self even more.

To that end, let’s see what strategies you can use to overcome this challenge.

Focus! You’re brave and you should take control of your life

You aren’t a victim. You are a brave person who has to recover from a traumatic past. To do this, focus on the moment and grab life by the horns. You’re responsible for your own life. Responsible, if you recall, means “he who knows how to respond to things.” So, rid your mind of feelings of guilt and take charge of your life, your situation.

Calm in the face of an existential crisis

Recovering from emotional abuse implies learning to be responsible for yourself in this new stage of life. Now, when you take this step, it’s common to feel anxiety, fear, confusion, etc… When you face all of these feelings, the answer is to stay calm.

Be calm. Understand that no one will rush you to recover. Remember (and assume) that all healing takes time. Consequently, your only option is to follow the rhythm, listen to yourself, and accept all your emotions. Little by little you’ll be able to take full control of your situation.

Positive management of your situation

After an abusive relationship, it’s common to feel anger and mistrust. You might have a negative image of yourself for not putting a stop to the relationship sooner. It’s important to avoid getting trapped in those thought patterns. Try to adopt a more positive outlook.

  • If you feel angry, channel it and release it.
  • If you feel alone, talk to other people. Look for a support group of people who have been through the same thing as you.
  • If you feel like you aren’t able to move on and everything is pulling you back towards helplessness and frustration, get professional help.

To recover from emotional abuse, you have to take positive steps to change your situation. Be proactive in your recovery. Make sure that you have the resources and the support you need. Be open to your surroundings and find the right therapy that helps you return to your best self.

Anyone can escape from the cycle of abuse. You might not come out unharmed, that’s clear. But you can emerge as a stronger person if you build an image of yourself as a resistant, valuable, and dignified person.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.