Recovering From a Toxic Relationship
Healing from the Psychological Impact of Abuse
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | March 21, 2019 (edited January 15, 2022)
Healing from an abusive relationship takes time. We can aid healing through these practices.
When engulfed in the pain and trauma of an abusive relationship, escape appears as the only necessary step for recovery. We focus on the brightness at the end of the tunnel as we plan our release from the hell of broken dreams. Most find that the shimmering light is only a mirage. The prolonged trauma leaves a significant stain on our souls, continuing to cripple our happiness. The disappointment of reality, sadly, drives many back into the chaos of abuse.
No one deserves to be abused—emotionally or physically. No matter what our childhood experience, personality flaws, or weaknesses abuse serves no purpose other than magnifying weak points and suffocating growth.
Emotional intelligence is damaged in high stress environments, retarding further expansion. Escape, often the necessary first step for recovery, overwhelms the longtime prisoner with the weighty demands of emotional survival in new complex environments. The abuse has taken its toll and purposeful steps towards recovery are required for healing to begin.
Abusive Relationships Difficult to Leave
Abusive partners often play the roll of a damaging narcotic in addiction. Although an abusive relationship is psychologically damaging, we find comfort in the familiarity. When a new life away from an abuser out-matches our resources, we return to the poison. We often justify our stupidity, soothing the craziness with thoughts such as, “this time will be different,” or “(s)he really loves me.”
Just like the years of manipulation in the relationship, abusive partners continue to manipulate after the escape. Promises, emotions and threats are the likely tools. Truths are blurred, resolutions weakened and promise of a magical change titillating. Fool’s gold sparkles.
"When the new life out-matches our resources, we return to the poison that originally damaged our souls."
Lack of Empathy and Abuse
While many abusers can articulate their sadness and loneliness, they often lack empathy. Your damage and hurt is completely ignored. This is the waving red flag that nothing has changed. Although “I’m sorry” and “forgive me” may litter their frantic pleas, the heartfelt empathy for your experience is missing. The words lay hollow against the backdrop of selfishness. Jumping in and out of these relationships prolongs healing and motivates manipulative actions to force a return to the dark world of a non-existent self.
Healing from these noxious and toxic people doesn’t occur through escape alone. We must take purposeful action. Healing, also, can’t be done in the privacy of our own homes. We need help.
We must surround ourselves with strong, positive influences. Not necessarily another relationship. Often a quick jump into another intimate romance magnifies the hurt. We still are suffering from emotional blindness, unable to see the magnitude of the complexity. Another hawk quickly swoops in and deprives us of self-discovery, taking advantage of weakness, and imposing their stronger will.
Seek Social Support
Churches, groups, classes, and of course therapy are all helpful during the initial months of healing. They provide support as we get our lives back on track, discovering hidden aspects of our inner lives. We need to reset the balance—a new homeostatic norm. Years of chaos and unpredictable collisions confuses reality, disabling normal wisdom that flows from feelings.
The dysregulated system easily misses obvious signs of abuse in potential new partners. The romance blinds logic and leaves the crippled heart ripe for another round of abuse. Like a fractured leg is incapable of full function, even after set and bandaged, so is our emotional lives. We need time to heal before placing the weight of another stormy romance on the shaky limbs of recovering emotions and a dysregulated systems.
Allow Time for Healing
We must be patient and kind to ourselves during healing. If we continue to belittle ourselves, or ignore the magnitude of our feelings, we perpetuate the wounds. We must forgive ourselves for the failed relationship, for continuing to stay despite signs of harm, for lack of strengths to protect our wellness. Our harshness and judgments often are simply symptoms of abuse. Our brains incorporate the harsh realities of the environment. We treat ourselves with the nastiness that once intruded from the outer world. Our escape is laced with the poison from years of ingestion. It will take time to detoxify.
Healing requires a tremendous self-care. Typically, during the throes of abuse, the self is neglected—we become a non-entity serving the needs of the partner. This neglect must be countered, learning new habits, dismissing negative feelings (guilt) that have bonded to acts of self-kindness.
We must engage in activities that nourish our souls, rebuilding confidence. We must regain the appreciation for ourselves, noticing the beauty living inside. Self-nourishing behavior is circular and cumulative. Our capacity to appreciate and protect well-being increases when we purposely provide compassionate attention to our weary soul.
We can recover. We can enjoy the beauties of a flourishing life despite the extended derailment of development from abuse. Life can bloom once again. The dreams we fostered as a child may bless our new life as we move forward with added wisdom and purposeful healing.
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