Monday, July 15, 2019

Understanding emotional abuse and getting out of it. Part 2 "How did I get into this?"

Have you heard this before?

"Everyone knew he was bad news but she just didn't see it."
"He had to be really stupid to stay with that controlling bitch."
"It's her own fault. If she didn't like it, she could just have walked out."

Big debunk: victims of abuse don't 'ask for it' and they're certainly not stupid.

As I said yesterday, abusive partners use control mechanisms that create a kind of mental fog which prevents victims from seeing what's going on.

This is how it works:

#1 You meet someone and they are a romantic dream come true. It's love and care, sweetness and light. They're there for you. You're in LOVE.

#2 You're so in love, that they are all over your life – and you think it's glorious. You text ten times an hour and want it to be more. They collect you from work, call you to make sure you got to the office, and even ask in detail about what you said you had for lunch. You have no time for anyone else.

#3 You mess up. Or there's a misunderstanding. For a moment, all that wonderful LOVE teeters on the brink of disaster. You're panicked, thinking it's all over. But then – RESOLVE!  It's so romantic! You talk for hours and hours. They're sorry, they misunderstood or maybe you did something but they forgive you. Who cares what it was really all about? It doesn't matter because you get all that wonderful loving back.

Okay, so here's what's really going on.

Deconstructing the three steps.

Step #1 is about getting you hooked. The idea is planted in your mind that perfection is there. You get a taste of sheer heaven. Step #2 is about getting into your life. It's beyond intrusive but you don't notice because of that love fog. Step #3 is where you are shown the real person. You think you had a fight or misunderstanding but what this really is about is punishment.

What they're doing is this: they're letting you know that perfect love is there IF YOU FOLLOW THE RULES. And this is the kicker: you're so panicked by losing that vision of perfection that it doesn't occur to you to question them. All you can think of is what you might lose.

So, you give in, crawl, do whatever and that's when you are firmly on the hook. What happens next are these two steps:

#4 You cycle through steps #1 to #3 again, and each time you sink in a little deeper. Before you know it, you think you are to blame. You believe they are wonderful but you are just a total screwup. You become anxious, determined to 'do better'.

How do they make you think like that?  We'll look into this more closely tomorrow but the basic process runs like this:

#They strip away your self-esteem. Typical methods include, "You're not so smart" and "My last partner was prettier/better than you"

#They isolate you from friends and family.  Typical methods include, "Your friends secretly talk about you behind your back" and "You'll have to choose between me and them" Also, if you dare go off and socialise, you get sulked at, are given the silent treatment or subjected to fits of jealous rage. Maybe they text you over and over while you are out too, making sure they ruin your time away.

#They scare you. This involves making you cry if you 'talk back' and throwing fits of temper until you're too scared in case you 'trigger them'. Maybe they don't hit you, but they smash something like a plate or they punch the wall. The message is easy: next time, it might be you. Sometimes it IS you!

Once they have you too scared to speak up, away from people who love you, and doubting yourself, they have total control over you. They maintain that either with those steps or by adding more layers (we'll cover that tomorrow)

But once they have you this point, you get:

Step #5 Trauma bonding. You are so lost that you convince yourself that the other person is the only person in the world who cares. You can't leave because you literally can't imagine being free.

And this is what is difficult to believe if you haven't seen it: abuse makes the victim believe they are helpless. They think that the only person who can 'save' them is their abuser. This is why there is a push now in many countries to make reporting and policing of abuse mandatory. Victims literally have trouble helping themselves.

If this is definitely not you, 💕  But please, if you hear others victim shaming and blaming, speak up!  Educate them.

And if you're thinking😱😱 😱and recognise you're in an abusive relationship, listen to me: you are not helpless and you are not alone. Take a breath, and walk out. If you need help or are afraid of physical violence, I have put local help resources below.


NOTE: I'm a counselling psychologist working online via live video conversation over Skype, WhatsApp, Facetime and Messenger video. You can contact me via PM or send an email to

This is the second post in a series of five that look at abusive relationships. Yesterday's post,

For free help, I usually recommend All Women's Action Society (AWAM) as they have counsellors who are about to graduate from their Masters degrees manning their centre. So, you get good help free from people who will very soon be running their own business. MEN: awam will help you too!

Women's Aid Organisation (WAO) are also good.

There are govt services but from what I hear, it can take quite a while to get to see them.

Your governmental department counselling service (it's free!)
Click on GOVERNMENT to find the free services

Visit your District Social Welfare Office: (Office hours only)
Find the address for your state/town at and click on Contact Us

There are also resources like Befrienders, religious centres etc that are staffed by volunteers. I no longer suggest those as too many people tell me they can't get through. If that changes, I'll add them back to the list.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Understanding emotional abuse and getting out of it. Part 1, "How can I tell if I am in an abusive relationship?"

Note: Originally published on my Facebook page.

I have a number of clients who seek to heal after having been trapped and hurt by abusive partners. There is a lot of secrecy over these matters, so let's have a good look at this.

Over the next five days, I'll post and blog about how this works and what you can do to leave, heal and get into a better place.

Here's the first one: "Do I have a problem?"

When you are right in the middle of things, it can be hard to get perspective. Are you moody? Or fighting all the time?

It may be that you're just going through a rough patch. However, if you are dealing with an abuser, then the methods they use to control you will create a kind of mental fog that prevents you from seeing what's going on.

So, if you're not sure, here's a short list of questions to ask.

·         Do you have to report on every single detail of your day?
·         Do you have to hide information about your day, like who you talked to, because they'll get mad at you?
·         Do you feel anxious if you get a call or text and you can't reply instantly?
·         Before you meet up, do you check to see what you're wearing and practice what you'll say – because they'll get mad at you if you mess up?
·         Is it too much trouble to go out with your friends because of the epic bitching and questioning during and after?
·         Are you frightened of switching off your phone?

If the answer to one of those questions is yes, it suggests your partner is abusive.

Heads-Up: nobody has the right to control you. It's not love; it's abuse.

If you can say no to all the questions above, have a look at exactly where you are sad or arguing. Common causes for trouble include: not being open in your communication, having different goals and needs, and having another hidden issue that's pushing on your relationship. Whatever it is, talking it out should help.

Note: be prepared that if your relationship is new (say less than 2 years) or has never been too hot, then being sad/quarrelling etc a lot may simply mean that you're not a match. That's sad but at least you know and can move on to find happiness.

If you're saying 😱😱😱 "That's me!" then do get help. If you're in physical danger, too: leave now. Please don't be a statistic. I'll put some local resources in the first comment.


NOTE: I'm a counselling psychologist working online via live video conversation over Skype, WhatsApp, Facetime and Messenger video. You can contact me via PM or send an email to

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Is Work-Life Balance An Impossible Goal?

This morning I said no again. Usually, I’m fine with saying it because I know it’s a healthy choice. I have a limited amount of time, and so I am careful about the tasks I take on.

This time it hurt a little and so I’m second-guessing myself. The issue at the heart of the dilemma is work-life balance.

You know how it is: if you work too much, you over-stress and burn out. But it can be very hard to choose what you should do and what you might do.

My problem is that I’ve said no to a ‘might do’. Let me explain…

This is my current workload:
1.       Service the clients who come to me for help with depression, anxiety and stress.
2.       Write newspaper columns and magazine features, roughly 7000 words a month.
3.       Write two novels a year, at roughly 95,000 words each.

I have office hours from 8AM to 4PM weekdays and from 9AM to 12PM on Saturdays that cover the first two businesses.  

The novel writing is fitted in around everything else. I write roughly 20-25 hours a week. And that doesn’t include the time spent on advertising and promotion.

My downtime is going out two nights a week, plus a late lunch on Saturdays and Sundays.

The decision I made this morning may affect my novel writing business.

Conventional wisdom is that novelists who aren’t JK Rowling and Nora Roberts have to engage with readers and reviewers. If you don’t engage, fewer people buy your books.

This is probably true. If I could, I would spend a lot of time chatting online. However, I sell mostly in the UK and USA but I live in Malaysia.

I have tried to connect online via Facebook and Goodreads but when I’m at the end of my working day and free to chat, the Brits have just arrived at the office and the Americans are still fast asleep. If I get up an hour early, the Brits are in bed and the Americans are having dinner.

Staying up late means I catch people, but it also screws the next workday. It comes down to a choice: for every hour I stay up and chat, I lose out on clients and commissions the next day.

Now, this is what I said no to. I have a new book coming out soon, Twisted, and I am looking to recruit extra reviewers. I was considering signing up a review team with a promotion company but when I looked into it, I was told I would have to set up a Facebook group and engage.

I said no, but it kills me. I have this inner voice whining that it would be so much easier if I lived elsewhere. I’m frustrated. I’m also battling the urge to give up sleep and the rest of my life for a few months while I push Twisted.

And that is the real danger. We do convince ourselves to do crazy things on the basis of, “It’s only for a few weeks” and “this is a special case.” But once you start making excuses, it’s very hard to stop.

The golden rule to maintaining a sensible work-life balance is to guard your downtime and make the most of your working time, while it will never be perfect.

The ideal balance just doesn’t exist. It can’t because work has a way of expanding to fill any available space. This is partly a mindset issue: we think work is more important than living. It’s not true, but being busy is taken as a mark of success rather than slavery or unhealthy obsession.

I know all this but I still have that, “OMFG did I just screw up?” going on in my head.

So, sensible me is now giving whiny, silly me a talking-to. It focusses combatting fear by pointing out truths. Like this:

Whiny me: I’ve spent months writing this book, I shouldn’t grudge a few months of promo. Sleep is for losers!
Also me: You can’t work 24/7 and it makes no sense to give up valuable day-job time for a third business.

Whiny me: What if nobody knows Twisted is published? What if it bombs?
Also me: Books don’t expire. While success today is nice, it’s a long-term prospect.   

Whiny me: There’s Sunday afternoons! We can schmooze then!
Also me: Abandoning Tom on our special day off, right. How much do we value that uptick in sales?

Whiny me: What if there is no online market in the future?
Also me: If my aunt had wheels, she’d be a truck. You can’t control the future.

Whiny me: I don’t like these answers!!!
Also me: We’ll get Tom to take us to the pub. It’s nice downtime and we can talk about having the heebie-jeebies.

Talking to myself isn’t perfect but it does ramp down the fear and paranoia. Moreover, it stops me from making silly mistakes like committing myself to things that just can’t be done.

Happy Monday <3
PS, if you want to talk to me about stress, depression and anxiety, email me. I work over video on Skype, WhatsApp, and Messenger. First session is 20 mins and is free.