Today I conclude my 5-Part series on recognising emotional abuse & breaking free by looking at how we can stay free of future emotional abuse (as much as possible) & start to rebuild our life.
Over many years I have witnessed & been on the receiving end of emotional abusers & manipulators. The problem is that at the time it is often very difficult to see or understand what is happening: we just assume that there is something wrong with us or it is something of our making. Unless we are able to recognise the situation, the abuser & their behaviours for what they are, we will become entrapped in a mesh of confusion & be constantly unhappy, stressed or even neurotic.
In Part 1 of this series, we defined emotional abuse & manipulation. We also examined typical scenarios (situations) in which emotional abusers & manipulators operate & looked a bit at how they think.
In Part 2 we looked at specific characteristics & behaviours of abusers & manipulators. We saw how they have a well-sharpened quiver of ‘emotional arrows‘ that they shoot to produce chaos, disharmony, isolation & maintain control. We looked into the way they operate.
In Part 3 I used real-life examples to examine how emotional abusers & manipulators use their ‘weapons‘ in everyday settings to achieve their aims
In Part 4 we examined how it is possible to break-free of the cycle of emotional abuse & manipulation.
Before we look specifically at how to stay free of emotional abuse, it is important to recap the most important points from the previous posts. In so-doing we can see why it happens & how to break free.
- Abusers are to be pitied, but are dangerous, divisive & destructive characters. They are poison to friendships & any community in which they exist: family, friends, teams, clubs, churches, businesses.
- Abusers start with the premise that they are right/cannot be wrong. Even if they do wrong they will project that onto someone else, looking for a suitable scapegoat, especially their victim, so that they don’t have to take responsibility for their actions.
- Partial truth is the perfect lie. The abuser will recount selected edits of reality to ensure that they are seen as the good guy &/or the victim. They will leave out or lie outright about the real victim to fabricate their own reality with their friends.
- Abusers are socially awkward or inept, but when they need to put on a show or gain strategic friends & allies, they can become the life & soul of the group. They will court favours often by giving favours first, especially when it comes to finding a new victim: pouring out gifts & money is a lethal bait readily swallowed by the right people.
- Abusers love to create chaos & confusion: they hate order, accountability, written records & strong people.
- Abusers isolate their victim, stripping them of a voice & essential support, leaving them exposed, vulnerable & confused. Abusers are usually cowards, requiring ‘back-up‘ from the crowd or important people. However, once they have used these people they will often discard them without conscience as they move on to their next plan.
- The abuse is often hidden from those looking on & actively disguised or denied to people with whom the abuser chooses to make friends. Friendship is not based-on the usual mutual respect, trust & openness: it is based solely on what the abuser can extract to their needs & advantage & is based on smoke & mirrors, plus deceit, lies & an uncanny ability to discard friendships when they no longer serve a greater purpose.
- Abusers hate it when their victim finds a voice of their own & stands-up to them. Be ready for dirty tactics if this happens as the abuser will do things previously thought improbable or impossible in order to try to regain control.
- The best way to stop the abuse cycle is to take a stand, state clearly what behaviour you will no longer tolerate, take previously unexpected action to drive home the message & stand firm as the opposition comes. It may be effective quickly or it may take a while. Abuse involving more than one abuser e.g., a family member is much harder to break. If there is no success, breaking-off the relationship is often your only other option.
- Never forget that your views are equally important in the relationship: that you matter. Abusers will try to steal & destroy any sense of self-worth in order to keep control. Reclaiming & recognising our self-worth is a good foundation on which to build our break-free & stay-free plan. Once we matter to ourselves we are empowered to start the upward movement towards freedom, happiness & contentment.
Staying Free Of Abuse is about learning from our experiences & then applying what we have seen, experienced & learnt to stop it from happening again. Once a person has been abused it is very easy for them to become hyper-sensitised & find it very difficult to trust anyone. This is a horrible position to be in & very difficult if you are trying to befriend a victim of previous emotional abuse. Patience & wisdom are high priorities for a successful outcome.
Some strategies include:
- Stay clear of abusers: Abusers are not always easy to spot, but when we have experienced it once, we have keen eyes & ears to recognise potentially abusive & manipulative behaviour & people. Not everyone will be, but having your guard up helps early identification of when you need to take action (usually distancing yourself from the abuser or cutting contact with them).
- Recognise abusive behaviour: Abusers have patterns that they cannot & will not break. Once we have experienced them or seen them used they are easier to recognise again. If someone is too good to be true, the chances are that they will be. Once again we need to use our powers of observation to determine whether our instincts are correct. Even if we have previously been in an abusive relationship, the euphoria of starting a new relationship can cloud our judgement. This is where dilligence & having a trusted friend to help can be very important.
- Remember that we have a right & a voice: Never forget the power of your voice when dealing with an abuser. They hate it when you stand up for yourself & this may be a good method of uncovering a potential abuser as they will often react very strongly (almost be reflex rather than conscious decision) if you stand up to them.
- Take a stand when we need to: Remember that expressions like “No!” & “Stop that now!” are very powerful for gaining control & for stopping abuse before it gets established. Abusers are cowards & will look for the path of least resistance: if you stand up to them they usually lose interest & look for a new victim.
- Have a supportive friend or group of friends: We know our true friends by our experience & often discover that many we thought were friends, desert us or take sides when an abuser is on the scene. You will be amazed & surprised by those who stick with you. These people are like gold dust & can be very helpful for support & bouncing ideas off if we are uncertain.
Dealing with abusers can be traumatic enough, but rebuilding our life after the division & isolation of an abusive experience can be long & painful. We may be find that people who were taken-in by the abuser saw or learnt through what happened & are prepared to support you. This is a tough one because once our trust has been broken it is very difficult to rebuild & establish. Walking away & starting again can, in many cases be the best option for all concerned, at least initially.
Rebuilding will mean something different to each one of us & the options & routes are many. The main aim to re-establish a life where we can feel comfortable with our self & with those around us, we can recognise when things may be going awry & we have the determination &/or support to make it & help it happen.
I hope that you have found this series helpful. enlightening & useful. I am always very interested to read your comments about your experiences & who knows, by posting them here you may just save someone else from experiencing the trauma, pain & heartache you had to endure.
If you are concerned that you may be in an abusive relationship it is always good to confidentially talk to someone outside of that relationship such as your doctor. Being able to share your concerns is the first step towards breaking free. The UK has a great resource in Relate a relationship counselling service.
Thank you for reading & until next time …