Do you know the difference between a healthy relationship that sometimes includes conflict and an unhealthy one that is marked by emotional abuse?
If you’ve suffered from this kind of abuse in the past or present, this question may be surprisingly hard for you to answer.
That’s because the person who hurt you was supposed to love and protect you. Your trust was betrayed at the most basic level, leaving you confused and disoriented, doubting your own truth.
Your abuser may have been a parent, an authority figure, a lover or a spouse. All this may have happened when you were a small child – or it may be happening to you right now.
Whatever your unique story, the trauma you have faced has had a powerful effect on your life. The first step is acknowledging what has happened to you so that you can begin to heal.
The telltale signs of emotional abuse
Emotional abuse happens when someone attacks and undermines our identity, our emotional reality and/or self-worth. Even though this form of abuse may not involve blood, broken bones or scars, it is just as damaging as any form of physical abuse.
People who inflict emotional abuse have many ways of making us feel small, ashamed, invisible and unworthy. Has someone close to you …
- Repeatedly attacked you with words?
- Shamed, criticized or ridiculed you?
- Made fun of your dreams, wishes and plans?
- Kept you away from other people you care about?
- Tried to control your movements or confine you to a certain space?
- Used fear and threats to control you?
- Gaslighted you? (Gaslighting refers to manipulating someone by psychological means into questioning their own sanity, cognitions or emotional experience.)
If you have faced these and other emotionally abusive patterns, you may doubt your own self-worth. Many people in your situation also suffer from depression, anxiety, self-injury, addictions and other related issues.
As terrifying and harmful as emotional abuse can be, I want to reassure you of three things.
First, emotional abuse is real. It is a form of trauma that can have long-lasting effects when left untreated.
Second, there is hope for you to recover from the trauma you have suffered.
And third, you are not to blame for what happened to you. The abuse is NOT your fault. And with the right treatment and support, you can reconnect to your truth and lead an empowered life.
Seeing your life experiences in context
The path to recovery will depend on your unique life story. Abuse that happens in early childhood has an especially large impact on us because our brains are still developing. The human brain grows in stages, starting with our most basic operating systems – which govern reactions like fight, flight or freeze – then moving on to the more advanced areas that help us reason and solve problems.
To grow and develop healthy brains and bodies, we need consistent nurturing and support in a setting that provides security. If our families attacked, belittled or manipulated us, our sense of safety and security was seriously compromised. We may have suffered even greater harm if the people raising us were emotionally or physically absent due to drug or alcohol abuse, jail time, 80-hour workweeks or even abusive relationships of their own.
As grownups, we don’t stop needing stability, love and support. If you are suffering emotional abuse as an adult, your brain and body are under full assault. It is crucial for you to seek professional help so that you can see what’s happening and begin the process of reclaiming your life.
Our approach to treating emotional abuse
At SunCloud Health, we will help you see, understand and acknowledge the truth of what’s happened to you. Our treatment plan will be built around your unique life experiences and the effects of the trauma you have faced.
Consistency, nurturance, structure and safety are key for you right now. Most people who have suffered trauma don’t feel safe anywhere, because their bodies are holding trauma energy that’s been trapped there over time. This energy plays and replays in their bodies and minds, making it hard for them to trust authority figures and have mutually satisfying and fulfilling relationships. We understand these patterns and we’re prepared to help you cope with them.
Our caring, supportive staff will create a safe space for you to talk about your life. You will work one-on-one and in group settings with our expert therapists. You will also have the chance to connect with others who are walking the same road towards more safety and meaning in their lives. Releasing the strong feelings hidden deep inside you will create space for the type of healing and learning that will help you move forward.
Recovery from emotional abuse isn’t something that happens overnight, and the path is not linear. But along the way, you will meet people who have succeeded in creating empowered, abundant lives. We’re ready to help you take the first steps.