As a former counselor, I’ve heard numerous stories of the emotional toll abuse takes on us. I’ve had my own experiences which led me to becoming a domestic violence counselor. Abuse in a relationship is mentally draining and physically exhausting. Furthermore, dealing with abuse may also cause us to struggle with feelings of depression and anxiety. These feelings can stem from the continuum of emotions, “the emotional roller-coaster” we experience. It is important for us to understand our emotional response to abuse in order to regain mental clarity. When mental clarity is regained, rebuilding of our personal strength can follow. When we are able to regain strength, we are able to make better decisions regarding the relationship.
The continuum of emotions one feels due to abuse in a relationship is explored through each chapter along with poetry to enhance reflection. Following is a listing of the chapters and a brief synopsis of each.
SHOCK / ISOLATION
Shock is the reaction to any traumatic event for which the person is not previously prepared. On an emotional level, shock is the emotion when the mind is jarred instantaneously, either by a significant dose of conflicting information or a disturbing situation that the mind cannot comprehend. In most cases, the situation is too painful to comprehend.
Denial is a term describing disbelief in something. When we do not want to believe something, we deny its existence. We make our own reasons as to why and believe them to be truth, thus justifying our beliefs and actions.
Anxiety is a state of feeling nervous, uneasy, and tense. The familiar term in abusive relationships, “walking on eggshells”, is symptomatic in describing anxiety.
Confusion is a feeling of ambivalence. It is having two opposite emotions at the same time. These emotions play a dual part in that they are not complimentary of each other. They are in conflict. A woman who loves her partner and at the same time fears him feels confusion.
Fear is a strong emotion that can be felt on many levels. Fear is both a feeling of apprehension and anxiety. It arouses panic by the threat or presence of danger. It has been known to be a motivator to action as well as an inhibitor.
SHAME / EMBARRASSMENT
Shame is a painful emotion brought about by feelings of embarrassment, inferiority, disgrace, and condemnation. It can cause us to alienate ourselves from our environment and retreat into isolation.
GUILT / RESPONSIBILITY
A woman, who feels shame because of abuse in her relationship, often feels guilty and will consider her-self responsible for the abuse. Most likely, she has been told numerous times by her partner that if she “did not act a certain way”, or on the contrary if she “would have acted a certain way” then the abuse would not have occurred.
Anger is an instinctive emotion we feel when a threatening presence impedes our goals and desires. It is also a response to frustration when our happiness is being jeopardized.
ACCEPTANCE / LETTING GO
Courage is an important characteristic in our personalities. Positive change is a series of small steps. Accepting the notion of change and letting go of an abusive relationship is the only way we can be true to ourselves.
Healing ourselves from past abuse can be a lengthy process. No one heals in one day. When healing, it is imperative to take small steps toward your goal and realize that healing takes time. In order to heal, we must allow ourselves to remember the abuse and feel all the emotions associated with the healing process.