Thursday, July 18, 2019

Understanding emotional abuse and getting out of it. Part 5 "How to get out of an abusive relationship and get your mojo back."


This is the final post in a series of notes on how abusers work and how you can exit an abusive relationship. If you missed the others, the link at the end will lead you to the others.

Today we'll take a look at the question, "How to get out of an abusive relationship and get your mojo back."

Okay, straight off: leaving an abusive partner feels very scary. If they are violent, it can also be dangerous. Therefore, the first rule is STAY SAFE.

Everything you do, must be geared to keeping you safe. That means that the rules for breaking up with a normal partner don't apply. You won't be having breakup chats and you cannot be friends – ever.

Here is a series of steps to implement:

Get your support network in place. Exiting is best done with help. Make a list of everyone who will help you: family, friends, people at your temple or mosque. If your partner is violent, also call on police and NGOs dealing with domestic violence.

Make a solid plan that includes all the steps you will need to take: telling them it's over, moving out, getting your stuff etc. Go through every step, and anticipate what may happen.

Tip: plan for the worst. It may not happen, but it's best to be over-prepared. Note: this is where you can ask an NGO or therapist to help you. If you think your soon-to-be-ex will turn violent, visit the police and ask them for help.

When you are prepared, you can break up. It may seem cruel but you can't leave yourself open to abuse or violence. Break up over the phone or by email. If you must meet, do so in public and have physical support with you.

Abusers don't let go easily, so expect rage, emotional blackmail, threats etc. Don’t try to reason with your abuser. Just say/text once, "This relationship doesn't work for me. It's over." Then stop.

They will scream and issue threats, or try to get you to come back. Don't get sucked in. Do not respond. Block your ex on your phone and social media.

Alert your wider network. Warn extended family, casual friends, work colleagues, and the people in your building or regular haunts that you have an abusive ex.

NOTE: if you think your ex will bother you at work, inform HR and your boss. Do this in advance so that they are prepared. You need not go into detail. "I have ended a relationship with NAME. They are taking this badly, so I am taking pro-active steps. If they approach me here, will you please step in?"

Abusers don't like it when victims leave, so expect tantrums. If they come to the door, don't open it. If they approach you in public, ask the nearest person to help you go to the nearest police station. Do not engage. KEEP SAFE.

If your ex tries to leverage other people to force you into meetings or going back, be firm. "The relationship is over. For reasons I am not willing to discuss, I cannot be meet or be in contact with NAME. Please respect my wishes." If the busybodies push, block them too. Better to get rid of toxic types than end up in hospital.

You will have blocked your ex but should they contact you via email or letter and threaten you, keep copies. Show these to a lawyer or to the police. In most countries, sending threats via the post or internet is a criminal offense, so you can use that to keep your ex at bay.

It's scary but stick to your guns. Keep to your plan, do not engage. If it helps, try to imagine yourself as a rock – or a superhero who won't buckle under pressure. Freedom is yours, so go for it.

When you have escaped, you need time to heal. Typically, victims cycle through shock, guilt, denial, shame, and fear. At this point, you hold on to your support network. Accept that you are not responsible for other people's behaviour. You are not to blame. BREATHE.

Repeat these helpful affirmations:
I am a good person and I have the right to be happy.
I have a powerful core that's tougher than any bully!
I am choosing my path to happiness and freedom.

Also, sign up for regular therapy for a few weeks. It will help you talk things out and remove that mental fog we talked about earlier. There are lots of avenues for help, from paid people like me to NGOs. So, pick a support system that suits you and know you're not alone.

Now, to get your mojo back. Whatever you do, don't date for a while. Being a victim of abuse really messes with your mind.

Work out, eat well, sleep well, do happy things for yourself and connect in healthy ways to sane people. Rebuild your life. Focus on joy and affirmation.


Note: Image by cocoparisienne

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Understanding emotional abuse and getting out of it. Part 4 "Will therapy fix my abusive relationship?"


This is the fourth post in a series of notes on how abusers work and how you can exit an abusive relationship. If you missed the other three, links are at the end.

Today we'll take a look at the question, "Will therapy fix my abusive relationship?"

It seems like the answer, right? Go and talk it over and it will all be resolved? But the true answer is that couples therapy won't work. In fact, it can be incredibly dangerous.

Couples therapy is based on the assumption that both individuals share the same goal: to be in a healthy relationship where both parties have equal input.

BUT abusers are not interested in equality or fairness. They want one thing: complete and total domination over their partner. And they'll do or say anything to get that.

It sounds simple enough but abusive relationships are widely misunderstood. Nice people have real difficulty understanding how predators work. They can't get their mind around it.

Therefore, there are horror stories of abuse victims going into couples therapy and being told not to 'trigger' their violent partner.

Consider this truth: you are not responsible for someone else's behaviour.

And consider this, too: There is never an excuse for abuse. NEVER.

So please, avoid couples therapy.

If you've been at the sharp end of this, go get help for yourself (More on this tomorrow)

We often love people, even though they hurt us. Therefore, I'm often asked, "But I want to help my abusive partner change. How do I do that?"

This is my standard response: "Sadly, we all have just one person in the world we can change: ourselves."

It begs the question, "Is it possible for an abuser to change?"

I don't like that one because I don't want to give false hope.
But here goes: in theory, anyone can change. We all have the capacity to learn new behaviour. In practice, it's pretty damn unlikely an abuser will seek help.

Programmes aimed at helping to change abusers tend to be prison-based or some other form of mandatory counselling. And from the reports, they're not very successful. It's not through lack of skill or effort: it's because abusers actively resist change.

In my practice I've helped plenty of clients recover from abuse but I've only had a handful of abusers reach out to me.

The ones I was able to help knew there was something wrong. They were aware they had frightened away their loved ones. They wanted to change.

The others were incapable of seeing that their rages, punishments, and terrifying attitudes were an issue. They blamed their partner for 'making them crazy'.

It became clear very, very quickly that they contacted me solely because they wanted me to call their ex-partners who had escaped and convince them to come back. And they were angry when I would not.

Which brings us to the other often asked question, "Do abusers realise what they're doing?"

That's a question I think about often. A handful, like career criminals, plan their abuse and are very skilled at controlling people. Just ask anyone who's been trafficked. 

The majority of domestic abusers appear to be carrying out a pattern of learned behaviour. They picked it up from their parents or if they were sent away to boarding school, from abusive teachers and fellow pupils.

And that's the very sad part about abuse. When someone has been taught to behave that way, they have a lifetime of behaviour to unlearn. It's a real challenge. And not many people have the strength to do it. Not many at all.

Worse, abusers often enjoy the results of their actions. They like having a partner who is anxious to please, who doesn't talk back, who obeys completely. That's why they get so damn mad if you walk away. You're ruining their good time.

FACT: many abusers have several relationships on the go at once, in case their prime victim walks. So if you exit, don't be surprised if a replacement pops up out of the blue.


Note: Image by cocoparisienne

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Understanding emotional abuse and getting out of it. Part 3 "I'm desperate but I can't leave." Examining the tactics abusers use to completely control you.


This is the third post in a series of notes on how abusers work and how you can exit an abusive relationship. If you missed the other two, links are at the end.

Today we'll take a look at the question, "I'm desperate but I can't leave" by examining the tactics abusers use to completely control you.

Interestingly, abuse is a systematic process that is the same all over the world. You might be in Finland or Saudi or Taiwan – it's always the same deal.

Intimidation – they start small, like yelling at other people when they're driving. As a nice person, you are taken aback at this anger, so you try to calm them. Next, they start smashing things, like maybe their phone. As a nice person, you are shocked, and also a little scared. You're getting the abuser's message: be frightened of my rage. It may be you, next.

Emotional abuse – at first this is cast as 'helpful advice' or 'just a joke' like "You need to smile more" and "You're not as smart as you think". Maybe it's a nasty nickname, "my chubby panda". Before long, you get constant abuse that you're stupid, ugly, crazy, etc etc

Isolation – they begin by making you cancel seeing your friends 'because I can't bear for you to leave me' and if you do go, you get endless texts that completely spoil your time away. Before long, your friends are 'difficult' and 'gossiping about you' or 'flaky' and 'not right for you'. They criticise your parents as well. And then, they create a fight and tell you that you have to choose between them and your family and friends.

Minimizing, denying and blaming – everything that happens is your fault. If they make you cry, it's because you're too sensitive. If they scare you, it's because you made them do it. They will lie to others about events, and say you are crazy or a liar.

Using children and pets – like a kidnapper and terrorist, they will threaten the people and things you love. "If you make me angry, I'll take the kids and you will never see them again." Or "I will poison your dog, if you upset me."

Using privilege – this is where they try to get the universe to endorse them. Male abusers will assert things like, "Women are no good at logic and so they need men to look after them" and treat women like a servant who has to obey orders. Female abusers will assert things like, "Who do you think you are? Don't try and step outside your competence" and treat the man like a servant or a wallet. In same sex relationships, the abuser will define how roles work – and you have no say.

Economic abuse – the person who controls the money, controls the home. And if you are broke, you can't run away. Therefore, abusers aim to get you trapped into being poor. At the beginning, they talk you out of getting a job or a promotion. If you're unlucky enough to have married them, they give you an allowance and you have to account for every single Sen.

Coercion and threats – this can be simple and direct, as in "If you try to leave me I will kill you" or simple and indirect, as in "If you try to leave me I will kill myself" or subtle "If you leave me, I will make your life a living hell" Some will try to put you in a position where you break the law, and then blackmail you into doing what they want by threatening to report you.

Abuse is so systematic, that there is a graphic for it: the power and control wheel. Google it if you like to read more about it.



And if you're recognising you're in an abusive relationship, listen to me: you are not helpless and you are not alone. If you can, take a breath, and walk out. 
If you feel stuck, help available varies from country to country. Google domestic violence support in your country. If you live in a place that supports victims, call the government agencies. If you don't, look for NGOs. Note: reaching out to a neighbouring country can be useful if you are stuck in a hell hole.

In this series:

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


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


Understanding emotional abuse and getting out of it. Part 3 "I'm desperate but I can't leave." Examining the tactics abusers use to completely control you.


Understanding emotional abuse and getting out of it. Part 4 "Will therapy fix my abusive relationship?"


Understanding emotional abuse and getting out of it. Part 5 "How to get out of an abusive relationship and get your mojo back."


Image by cocoparisienne

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, here are some local Malaysian help resources.


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!)
http://mmha.org.my/reso.../directory-of-counselling-services
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 http://www.jkm.gov.my/ 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.

In this series:

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


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


Understanding emotional abuse and getting out of it. Part 3 "I'm desperate but I can't leave." Examining the tactics abusers use to completely control you.


Understanding emotional abuse and getting out of it. Part 4 "Will therapy fix my abusive relationship?"


Understanding emotional abuse and getting out of it. Part 5 "How to get out of an abusive relationship and get your mojo back."