Finding Self-Love and Healing After Emotional Abuse

Photo of an unmade bed with a widow behind it

Photo of an unmade bed with a widow behind it

Emotional abuse can often go overlooked in relationship dynamics. Tactics like gaslighting and manipulation can often hide in plain sight under the guise of the abuser acting “madly” in love or “protectively” possessive. Emotional abuse can often leave the person with PTSD symptoms. Here are a few way to begin healing from emotional abuse.

Introspection 

Understanding the ways in which you are wounded is the first step to healing. Digging deep and uncovering the beliefs about yourself that have been instilled in your mind is the first step to dismantling them. Using open ended questions, begin to inquire about the root of your wound. An example question might be: in what ways do I believe I am underserving of love? 

Inventory 

This part is difficult but necessary for growth. Look into the ways that you have internalized self limiting beliefs. If your parents called you worthless, how has that affected your personal beliefs on your worth. Take an inventory either orally or written of the abusive patterns that you have internalized within yourself. 

Affirmation 

After taking inventory of these limiting beliefs take each beliefs, take every belief and write the opposite of it, using language in the positive and avoiding “not” and “don’t”. Begin with “I Am” 

example: “No one will every love me” turns into “I am worthy of love and affection” 

Do this for each belief until you have a list. Start with one belief that you would like to change and write down the affirmation in a notebook. You can get a new notebook and dedicate this specifically to your self-love progress. Write down the affirmation with your dominant hand, then again with your non-dominant hand. The research of Dr. Lucia Capacchione, art therapist and author of The Creative Journal illustrates that “Writing with the non-dominant hand has been shown to help connect us with emotions as well as intuition and creativity.” Writing with your non-dominant hand speaks to your subconscious mind, allowing these changes to occur on a deeper level. 

After writing the affirmation a few time, switching from dominant to non-dominant, pause and check in with yourself. What do you feel? What thoughts, feelings or sensations come up when writing this affirmation? Jot down your reflections. 

Repetition

Repetition is one of the most successful ways of subconscious something in the subconscious mind. One of the most damaging aspects of abuse is that it is usually repetitive, and changes the brain structure of the person being abused. In order to heal, the old reactions and thought patterns that were used to protect you from abuse need to be replaced with ones that are centered on loving yourself. 

Once you have your list of affirmations you are working with, its important to repeat them in different ways so that they can sink in. One of the ways you can do this is by taping the list to your mirror or fridge, using an wallpaper on your phone or computer, or scheduling them into your calendar. Creating time in your life for affirmations is prioritizing your healing over a busy schedule. Say the affirmations out loud, and as you speak these into existence notice what your feel. Do you feel any resistance? If there is a voice that says something negative in response, tell it “no” and keep repeating, letting the words sink in. Afterwards, pause and let this mindset integrate. 

Things might not change over night, but with a regular practice of affirmations, you will start to see old negative patterns fall away. Holding yourself in a space of compassion when doing these exercises is an important part of growth. Allow yourself the space to heal at your own pace, focusing on the inner transformation that’s occurring and less on your perceived “progress”. 

Sources:

Alan G. Sawyer (1982) ,"The Effects of Repetition and Levels of Processing on Learning and Attitudes", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 09, eds. Andrew Mitchell, Ann Abor, MI : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 439-443.