Strategies to reclaim your power and self-esteem after emotional abuse
In moments of stress or anger, many of us revert to behaviors we experienced as children. The rage and anger that we swore we would never express, especially the way our parents or caregivers did, can sometimes overwhelm us as we find ourselves acting out the toxic behaviors of our youth.
Emotional abuse leaves its scars as much as physical, sexual, and other more violent forms of abuse. It is penetrable, just as destructive and far too often goes unseen. Not all wounds we bear are visible. You don’t have to hit someone to hurt them; words and actions can be powerful weapons. How we speak to each other and even how we speak about someone else when they are not around can be forms of emotional abuse.
Words can be used to disempower. They can affect our very being, which can lead to us feeling like we are in a constant state of wrongness. When people have experienced emotional abuse, there may be situations that touch their wounds and scars that can trigger them to become the one who abuses others. We are capable of creating what we need to change not only in the way we speak to others — especially children — but also how we speak to ourselves.
Here are examples of emotional abuse:
- Physical Threats
- Constant criticism because everything you do is wrong
- Spiteful comments
- Someone telling your friends or loved ones how awful, inept, or mean you are
- Public shaming
- Labeling or putting someone in a box
- Being told you are stuck up or cold or uncaring when you don’t do what they want you to do.
- Belittling you and making you feel you don’t deserve to win awards or acclaim
- Repeatedly pointing out mistakes, even years after the fact.
- Blame shifting — everything is your fault, they never take responsibility.
- Name calling
- Yelling and humiliating
- Lashing out
Some effects of emotional abuse from family, colleagues, teachers, and relationships include:
- Extreme damage to a person’s self-esteem
- A sense of hopelessness
- Owning responsibility for the abuse, believing that we were somehow at fault
- Becoming overly sensitive and anxious
- Personifying what we are criticized for or whatever we have been accused of doing
We wear this emotional abuse like a cage of limitation or a jail of judgements, inventions, agendas and lies. Self-judgement requires you to become your own eternal jailer and further locks you into the wrongness of you. You begin to believe someone else’s judgements of you and very often, they are the beliefs of the person who judged you. We buy this lie that there is something inherently wrong with us. If we were only different, or better behaved, or, or, or…
So, what can we do to change the patterns of the past into a life that is worth living? What steps can we take to end the struggle to survive and begin to truly choose to thrive and feel radically alive?
The model used in the Embrace Your ROAR class — coined the ROAR Technique — consists of 12 steps to unlock yourself from your invisible cage of abuse. This technique starts with The 4 D’s represented by the cage and ends with The 4 E’s that represent your liberation:
The 4 D’s:
The 4 E’s:
The Bridge to Radical Aliveness is the part of the model that asks you to take charge in your life. As triggers come up, you start by embracing the moment, being with it where you can, then breaking it down by examining it. Once you have broken it down and set it free, you can then embody the freedom through expanding beyond the limitation.
After the bridge to radical aliveness comes the four C’s where we walk through what it means to choose greater: Choosing, Committing, Collaborating and Creating. You can find more information about this in the book Radically Alive Beyond Abuse.
One of the ways you can begin to step out of toxic behaviors is through your choice in people you surround yourself with. Do the people around you consciously or unconsciously constrict you with their words, beliefs and judgments? Once you begin to see and acknowledge the impact other people have on the way you view yourself, you can begin to choose those people who create possibilities with and for you? When you are choosing more for and of yourself, you begin to embrace yourself and unlock the limitation the abuse has perpetrated on you.
When you’ve experienced abuse, you lock things into your body, constricting yourself in certain ways so you can avoid encountering the abuse again. You become rigid, and in this rigidity, both physical and mental, you lock out flexibility and creativity.
When we choose instead to function from a spacious place without all the walls and barriers that we erect to keep the world out, we become a space for a different possibility to be created.
What counteracts the constriction is taking a moment to breath and acknowledge what is happening. Taking a moment to stop can shift you enough to break free. Close your eyes and just breathe. Consciously relax your body. Then ask yourself these questions:
- What could I do today to be kinder and gentler with myself and others?
- What would it be like to surround myself with kind and caring people who always have my back?
- What would happen if I began to limit my time with those who are unkind and critical of me?
- What would my life be like if I chose to be a relaxed space that melts all density and limitation?
Abuse dissipates when it has nothing to grasp onto. What choices can you make today to be part of creating a kinder gentler world?
You may also enjoy reading Why (and How) Forgiveness Can Be Your Key to Emotional Freedom, by Laurie Buchanan