Aftermath of Abuse

MJ: When a man or a woman is in an abusive relationship, the abuse can be intangible yet insidious at the same time. There are so many forms and combinations of abuse and no two horrific stories are the same. Each person having endured their own personal horror movie. Once the survivor is living away from their abuser, what is a “normal” trajectory toward healing on any or all levels?

Percell: I'll begin by saying that there is a nice book on this called "The Journey from Abandonment to Healing" by Susan Anderson. There is a norm but what does that mean, really? Normal is relative. How you deal with the healing is more important than what is expected of you. So, there is this:

Grieving - the painful loss of the attachment; we feel emotionally ripped. This is primal. Remember that love is an emotion; emotions we have no control over, and, fear, not hate, is the opposite of love. Of course, the goal is to restore the emotional balance, wellness, self-worth and dependency needed for a healthy continuance. During this period, it is imperative to not allow grief to become depression. For example;

  • grief symptoms often fluctuate whereas depression feels more present all of the time

  • persons whom are grieving might avoid social gatherings, but often accept help and support from loved ones, whereas depression often causes self-isolation and a turning away from everyone

  • persons whom are grieving tend to still work or attend to requisite daily functions; they often cognitively know that these things will help to keep them occupied. Depression is typically bad enough that one is mentally, emotionally, and often physically unable to go to work or to do other important things.

Internalization - the phase of wondering "What was wrong with me?", "Was this my fault?", and similar questions. With relevance to 'Signs of Abandonment' in another part of this interview, this is a normal thing as we all tend to view the world from our tiny eyes out rather than from its grander eyes in. We can learn through the three Essential Laws of Life ( how not to do this. The recovery is to study wellness, increase self worth and confidence, set new goals, and change your life.

Anger - a normal feeling; only be aware that it is internal. You are the one creating it; it is no one's fault that you are angry save your own. Yes, a bad thing has happened to you, but only you can determine how you will react to it. Get over it. You must minimize the problems much like minimizing debts. The larger issue becomes easier as you get rid of each piece of it. Do not compound problems by adding anger to the list. Seek to overcome patterns of self sabotage, learn positive behaviors, create new and healthy life habits, and incrementally create change.

Withdrawal - the time of letting go or moving on. This could be tough because it can feel like the same emotional withdrawal from the partner which led you to this moment in the first place. It is not. There are all types of separation therapy techniques (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and other therapies, Desensitizing, wellness programs, support groups, etc.). Finding the right one for your circumstance and need is the key.

Rising - relief / recovery from the loss; without forgetting the past, we learn to live with it, to integrate it into a new life.

MJ: Are the emotions similar to experiencing the death of a loved one?

The experience of abandonment is often worse than the death of a loved one. Though definitely similar in many ways, when a loved one dies, there is a sense of a complete end. He / She is no longer here in a tangibly physical sense.

Abandonment, divorce, and the like does not offer that same completeness. There is often the sense that the other person is just across town, a phone call away, someone whom I might run into at the store. There is also the sense of death took the loved one away... there was nothing I could have done. With abandonment or divorce, there is the instance that he did it, she did it, it might have been fixable if, it might not have had to end if.

This reality does not allow the same complete closure that death does. It requires a similar yet different kind of grieving and recovery.


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