Ending the Cycle of Abuse
Recovering from an abusive relationship can be a long and difficult journey. It involves coming to terms with memories laced with fear, humiliation and sadness. These memories might stay with you, making it difficult to move on. Sometimes, you might find that you are unable to forgive yourself for certain choices you made or did not make in the relationship. This could bring out emotions like self-blame, guilt and hate. It might also cause you to avoid getting into a relationship again because you start believing that all future partners might behave similarly. If these are things you are struggling with after an abusive relationship, here’s what you can do to stop abusing yourself.
1. Recognise and come to terms with the reasons you might have stayed in the relationship.
You might be forced to confront a lot of painful moments from your relationship at this point, leading to questions like ‘why didn’t I leave?’ or ‘why would I stay with someone like that?’. As difficult as it might seem, it’s important to move past the inevitable judgement and self-blame that follows. Once you view yourself and your choices with empathy and kindness and begin to understand why you stayed in the relationship for as long as you did, you can break this pattern within yourself.
2. Begin to grapple with the anger you might be feeling.
Anger might have been the driving force behind you leaving the relationship in the first place, but any remnant of it could not only leave you agonising over your past but also engaging in self-destructive behaviour. Anger directed at yourself for not realising what was happening or for not leaving sooner might manifest in judgmental thoughts that can be potentially damaging to your self-esteem. Understand that the anger you are experiencing was important for you to get out of the relationship but now that it has served its purpose, you need to find ways to let go of it.
3. Identify and logically counter abusive thoughts.
Being in an abusive relationship can cause you to internalise statements you might have heard often, and convert these into your own thoughts or beliefs. Common examples of such abusive thoughts are ‘I never do anything right’ or ‘I am a failure’ or ‘I don’t deserve to be loved’. It is important to be aware of and dispute these thoughts. You could do this by writing down instances when you felt like you were successful, no matter how small or insignificant they might seem. Another important practice is to ask yourself if you would ever feel comfortable saying similar statements to a friend; if the answer is no, then you probably shouldn’t be saying the same to yourself.
4. Exercise self-care and compassion.
Identify what self-care might mean for you. It could mean anything from making time to exercise every day to ordering your favourite food or rewatching a funny movie. Find the things that make you feel comfortable and at peace, and make time to fit them into your schedule. Another important step in recovery is constantly being kind to yourself, as you would be towards someone else. You could practise this by repeating positive affirmations like ‘I am resilient and strong’ as often as you can.
5. Seek help from a professional.
Exercises like grappling with anger and disputing abusive thoughts can be difficult and exhausting to do all alone. Speaking to a therapist or counsellor can help you develop insight, work through painful memories and break unhealthy patterns that you might be replicating. Always remember that seeking help isn’t a sign of weakness but rather one more step on your journey to recovery.
Know someone who is struggling to break the cycle of abuse? An InnerHour therapist can help. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or on +91 9167771131.
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