The essential steps of domestic abuse recovery, we all benefit from knowing.
The outcome for many of us after abusive relationships is a type of confused, emotional place where guilt, shame, fear and obligation can run rife and the greatest risks include going back, failing to meet our own needs or drifting towards a new abusive relationship or a future where we never really made sense of the past.
Our domestic abuse recovery needs loom large when we escape an abusive ex, but the pathway to recovery is unclear.
I've met authors and influencers, who promote recovery - who tell me how they still struggle to make sense of why they loved an abuser and why they either stayed so long, or went back repeatedly. This confusion, it's a barrier to recovery and one we have to address.
In this article we list some of the other needs we have to meet to recover.
1. Recognise that a bright future is possible.
It's a strange first step, I realise. But my experience of recovery and my scoping of the sector reveals that almost all messaging about abusive relationships is negative. If you google 'domestic abuse' or 'abusive relationships', or enter these into social media - you will be drowning in negative images, warnings, statistics and messages of crisis and escape.
Whilst this is needed to help people to wake up and leave, it misses the much needed message that life can change and we can move from abuse to an amazing and successful love story!
For now, just trust me - as that might be all that you can latch onto. I've worked with 100s of people and seen so, so many move from the lowest emotional point in their lives to pride, love, freedom and success. Abusive relationships are our past, not a predictor of our future.
2. Understand your past (& that you are not alone).
The first step is to understand our past.
why did I enter this relationship?
why did I stay?
why did I not realise?
why did I blame myself?
why was it so hard to leave?
why did I go back?
The answers are difficult to access, as the knowledge needed is Psychological. Abusive relationships groom us, confuse us, compel us and hold us in ways that most people can't understand. You will hear people say things like, "why don't they just leave" when they are referring to abuse victims. The answer is complex, but there is an answer.
Trust here that the answer is not a failing in you. It is a shared common experience for millions of humans and is so, so very common. We reveal the entire journey through abuse and how it changes us in ACT I of the 'Get Out Get Love' programme. One of the users of the programme fed back on this part of the journey:
"I’m not alone in my experience. I had low self worth but am worthy of self love. Understanding the past can lead to not falling into the same habits and help to move forward towards a better life.".
Take from that statement, to support yourself and recognise that you are not alone.
3. Spot your emotional needs and meet them quickly.
The greatest risks after leaving are that we might go back, that we may fail to meet our own needs, that we may find a new toxic lover or that the effects of the abuse effect our lives (friendships, work, parenting etc).
We have new questions we need to answer quickly:
how do I stay away?
how do I manage panic or trauma rebound effects or leaving?
how do I soothe fear?
how do I soothe obligation?
how do I soothe guilt?
how do I soothe shame?
how do I start to feel compassion and not anger or blame at myself?
For many of us, we have lost control over our own emotions - as we are more used to serving the spiraling needs of a volatile abuser. We need to both spot the emotions that are in our way and learn to soothe them. It's hard work but transforms our experience of ourselves and the future we are heading into.
For this, we need support. Friends, services, forums... whatever you can access - recruit people to help you to stay away from your ex. Learn to expect irrational thoughts and feelings, but recognise this is recovery and not missing someone you love. It feels like love, but it isn't... and when it doesn't, we feel all sorts of other negative emotions about ourselves - these are false too.
But expect them and be hopeful that we can recover from them, with work and time. Because you can!
This is the focus of ACT II of the 'Get Out Get Love' programme.
4. Develop Self-love!
It seems easier to read / write than to produce in ourselves. Yep, that's true. But it is possible, and many of us have learned how to do this.
Self-love is not only the cure, but also the armour for your future. When you can source your own worth you will reject poor substitutes (abusive partners or friends etc).
Many people park recovery after they leave and ignore the scars that continue (here's a story of another Psychologist who left abuse and didn't address recovery until 17 years later, when GOGL nudged her to realise the need).
how to get closure on the past?
how to let go?
how to notice your own needs?
how to meet those needs?
how to practice self-love and feel your own worth?
It starts with a commitment to create change... the rest we have roadmapped for you to make it easier to acheive: in ACT III of the 'Get Out Get Love' programme.
What will you notice?
The past will feel more like a memory than a nightmare.
You will feel confident and a sense of value.
Your world will include more loving people and less abusive / exploitative people.
You will find love in another, a healthy love.
When? Who's to say... it takes a while, but on the way you will be transforming yourself and feeling an awakening arrive that will last a lifetime.