Struggling to Heal After an Abusive Relationship

Dear Liz,

I was wondering about the steps I need to take in order to get over a breakup, especially one that involved abuse.  I am still working with my ex-boyfriend because I love my job, and I feel like if I leave, that will show weakness.  Work is tense and awkward, and I am wondering if it is an unhealthy situation for me.  

Dear K,

Getting over a relationship that involved abuse is entirely different from overcoming the heartache that may follow the end of healthy relationship.  While both can, and often do, raise the painful experience of questioning whether we are lovable, healing from an abusive relationship demands we confront our fractured self—it isn’t about getting over the person, as much as it is about healing the part of us that led us into the abusive space to begin with (or the part of us that got so damaged as a result of the abuse). You didn’t give me many details regarding the time spent with this person, how/why the relationship ended, or whether you ever addressed the abuse with him.  Nonetheless, when we find ourselves in any sort of intimate relationship that involves abuse, we are presented with an extraordinary opportunity for spiritual awakening.  The awakening brings about the healing, and in this context, healing implies a genuine separation from that individual—we can be “broken up,” but still give our power away to the person.  When we master the art of dignifying our personal power, we become free in the most profound sense of the word.

When we engage over time with a person who is abusive, and we find the power to leave (or even if left) it becomes important, in time, to acknowledge the discomforting truth that abuse always takes two:  someone who is obsessive about control, and someone, for any variety of reasons, who swaps their own personal power for “love.”  And so we must take responsibility for what led us to barter for what appeared to be love, at the cost of our own well-being.

Taking Responsibility

Romantic-intimate relationships just don’t happen to us—we seek, we invite in, we participate.  When we blame another person for what they are doing (or have done) to us, we are avoiding looking at our own self and taking responsibility for “cooperating” with the abuse.  This does not mean we were/are responsible when they hit/insult/cheat/spend the rent money on drugs, but rather, that we are responsible for our need/ability/addiction to doing the psychological dance that would enable us to tolerate the unacceptable, all the while sustaining the illusion that abuse can be compartmentalized, and love exists outside its borders.  We need to face that we got hooked on illusion, which is the same as personal deception.  Personal dignity always begins with taking responsibility.  For some, that task is not so hard.  For others, it can feel insurmountable, because many of us, on one level or another, have become complacent regarding maltreatment.  The root of that complacency (or the fact that we are unfamiliar with genuine love) is the painful truth we must confront when trying to heal.

We can only recognize love and receive love when we believe we deserve love, and we can only offer authentic love when we are able to receive love, and both can be a mighty task, given the broken environments so many of us come of age in.  We can’t begin to receive love, to respond to love, or to offer it, until we know the source and intuitive nature of love.  This journey begins with dusting off the layers that prevent us from experiencing our true Self—it is work that is spiritual in nature.  When we set our eye on the task of learning love, we are moving in the direction of healing.

How did I get here?

We’re born little bundles of pure Being—we don’t think about “will mommy’s breast have enough milk…if I pee will I get cleaned up…what if I can’t fall asleep…will it hurt when my teeth come in…”  We are free of anxiety and fear because we haven’t developed the ability to experience time and the issues born of “time consciousness.”  Such issues only show up when we develop an EGO.  EGO is sort of like a second consciousness, one that is capable of experiencing linear time. This consciousness is rational rather than intuitive, and often feels more powerful than the soft spoken nature of our pure Spirit, the Spirit that was our consciousness at birth.

As we grow older, we rely on the EGO to interact and function in the world.  EGO and intellect have roots in the same place, and intellect is good.  So EGO tags along with our intellect as it develops, and as we grow up, our EGO grows stronger.

But there is a catch with EGO—EGO enables us to not only think about our thoughts, but to think about the thoughts others have about us, including the thoughts of our parents, our faith, our culture, our peers, etc.   So what happens if we come of age in an environment where love and respect and genuine dignity are scarce?  What happens when our interior life is ignored, or exploited?  What happens when our trust in life is met with the fears and anxieties and control of others?  What happens is that our sense of our self-worth takes a hit.  For some, the hit is not so great and we manage to function in a relatively healthy way.  For others, however, chronic exposure to people or situations that are demeaning can leave us truly fractured.  So EGO can move us from “pure baby-I am safe-I am at peace” consciousness straight into the “I am not enough” consciousness.  EGO exploits the darkest experiences of our life.

We are born with a profound need for real love, it’s primal.  When we fail to get what we need, we move into the world with the “I am not enough” consciousness, an empty basket of sorts, desperate to have it filled.   That desperation can walk us right into the arms of a lover who perceives our hunger, and intuitively senses he can control us, or at best, not pay all that much attention to our interior life.  When we’re desperate for love, we’ll accept all sorts of false versions of it, often times because genuine love feels unfamiliar—not energized enough.  We will sub consciously choose partners who will confirm our deepest held beliefs about our self, and if we have a fractured sense of worth, we will repeatedly choose partners who bring us back to that familiar space.  Some people with low self-worth seek to control.  Others with low self-worth walk in their line of fire.  This is the recipe for abuse.

Here’s the bottom line:

When we right our perception regarding the actual truth of our existence, of our Being, then the only intuitive experience we could have about our Self is that we are reflections of the Divine—precious, eternal souls temporarily incarnated (remember that pure baby Beingness?  You didn’t wonder if you were a spiritual being at three days old, rather, your consciousness was singular with and in Spirit, thus your freedom from time and fear and worry).  It becomes intuitive, then, that no one could diminish your worth, no one could inflate your worth.  Rather, you simply are “of worth” by virtue of your existence.  Once that truth is experienced by the heart, the healing, the restoration, has begun.

In our life what matters, and matters only, is how well we love—how well we love our own Self, how well we love each other.  We approach the depth of our precious nature, we illuminate it, when we love.  But we can’t get to work on our purpose, until we “right” our perception regarding existence itself.

And so with respect to being in and/or separating from any relationship that is abusive:  If we are “cooperating” with our own abuse, if we give others “permission” to abuse us, we are as stuck in EGO consciousness as our abuser.

The pattern breaks, melts away, at the moment we recall that we are spiritual beings, at the moment we bring our consciousness into alignment with our Spirit, and at the moment we place complete trust in the impulse of our Spirit.

It’s never easy to leave someone we love, even when we know that it is the right thing to do.  Just remember that when you really love someone, you would never give permission to that person to behave in a manner that distracts that person from his Spirit or her Spirit.  As you regain “right perception” regarding your authentic Self, you will naturally be able to separate from abuse with peace—which does not mean you will not grieve—but you will find joy in the courage you have shown to be true to your Self, you will be distant enough from the abuse to see that it was never personal, and you will naturally have genuine understanding regarding what led your partner to be abusive.  That understanding is the true nature of compassion.

And what will follow will amaze you.  Once you set up camp in your “Spirit’s consciousness,” you will naturally begin to resist all expressions of abuse, but your resistance will be fueled by love, rather than EGO-ic resistance, which can rapidly evolve into any number of socially accepted versions of violence.

With respect to your concern that leaving your job will show weakness—“showing weakness” implies that there is an observer to your “weakness,” in this case, your Ex.  So his perception of you is internalized by you and you conclude that you are weak.  In your desire to refrain from showing that, you feel compelled to remain at a job that is arguably emotionally toxic and draining.  This is a perfect example of EGO guiding rather than Spirit.  Spirit wants you at ease, feeling good and free, and thus, if leaving this job is a realistic possibility for you, then leaving is the healthy thing to do.

Whenever we cave in to EGO we lose some of our authentic power, personal power.  Genuine strength is born of heeding Spirit’s impulse, despite EGO’s taunt, be it your Ex’s EGO or your own.

I have complete faith that you will be able to find your strength.

Love, Liz

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s