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What’s your Secret Story about Childhood Abuse?

What’s your Secret Story about Childhood Abuse?

Abuse in Relationships

One hundred people – therapists, counsellors, social workers and clients – in a room. All is silent. What’s next? They are looking at her. She sits next to the therapist, her head down. What were the incidents in your relationship with your family?  The therapist asks. Sexual abuse and violence. Her voice breaks. A shocked murmur spreads.

Are You an Adult Survivor of Childhood Abuse?

How many years didn’t I dare to look into others people eyes due to the sexual and emotional violence of my past? For how many years did I feel stigmatized due to the generic judgment of being a hopeless case? For how long had I allowed other people’s opinion to define my worthiness? My answer is, for too long.

How about you?

How does this murmur make her feel? I look at her. She shrinks in her seat. You can never overcome the effects of abuse. Poor thing, she’ll never recover. The voice of my colleague – a counsellor – cuts through my thoughts.  I open my mouth, and I want to tell her, it is possible to heal abuse and violence. That is my experience. It is my truth. How to find words to express what can’t be described but only experimented? My rational mind never fully understood the transformation I went through. The more I was able to own my pain, the more I was able to experience joy. How can I express this to her?  I search for words. There is nothing. Silence. I shrink in my seat and feel small and powerless again. I lower my head and stay silent.

What is your secret story about childhood abuse?

The one I told – I called it A Brave, True Story – is mine. I wrote it for the woman on the chair. It is my intimate message to tell her that she is not alone. And it’s also for you if you feel like her.

Healing is beyond logical explanations. Meaning what? Healing is about becoming whole again. About reclaiming those parts of you that seemed to be lost in trauma and pain. A re-connection with your inner child to give them the love they have never received before. There will come this moment, when your inner child fully awake, full of joy, curiosity, innocence, dignity and intuition. Do you know how innocence feels like? I lost mine when I was three. I didn’t know what it was.

Recovery is about personal growth. While the trauma felt devastating, there is post-traumatic growth. Healing is about finding a safe space within yourself and take responsibility for your needs and dreams. Reclaiming your well-being is about letting go of the invisible barriers you have build around your heart and learn to love again, first of all yourself. Wholeness is also about finding empowering ways to deal with stigma.

What is essential for healing abuse?

Telling and owning your story makes the difference between merely surviving or really living. How does this feel? I don’t know what it will feel like for you but for me living means feeling. My image is that living is like a joyous dance to your favorite music, and you move and dance while you feel a sensation of deep joy in your body. Like looking at my cats and seeing their smiles and happiness. Like feeling the heat of the sun on my face, smelling the air after rainfall or seeing the fresh green leaves on the trees.  Simply, it’s a deep gratitude for being alive. A sensation of bliss that feels like exploding balloons filled with a multitude of bright colors. It’s feeling the embrace of a friend.

What can you do to heal the effects of childhood abuse?

No, I don’t want to force you to tell your story but I invite you to take your time, continuously taking small steps towards telling your story with full transparency. Rest assured that, however small, effects will be seen quickly and will empower you to keep moving.

Blame, criticism and judgment – both internal and external – can be powerful to silence your voice forever. And, if you are like me, you’re probably the one who gives yourself the harshest criticism. You perhaps try to adapt, to fit in, to be perfect and fulfill excessive demands about whom, how and what you should be. If you allow this to happen, you pay a price: you can never experience deep connection and true belonging in a relationship. If you try to fit in, you may end up with who you want to be and get some approval however they do not care about you but the illusion you play for them. Deep in your heart, you know that they don’t truly care for you.

What is genuine connection?

How can somebody truly connect with you if you don’t show them who you are – with your strength and weaknesses? How can you ever belong if you hide behind a mask, deeply afraid that somebody may find out about your secret?

How can I ask you to show up if I am not doing it? This is why I share these words with you, the reason why I wrote my memoir.

What is the healing power of telling your story?

Stories have the power to heal because they talk to your subconscious and can guide it gently into a new direction. They give you new pictures and perspectives for your situation you haven’t yet seen. They are like a protective cloak because they allow you to release painful emotions like shame and guilt without ever entering your story. And they show you that you are not alone in your situation. Aren’t we all human? What is so bad about being real? Why should we hide our imperfections and weaknesses when they make us human and our common humanity is our only hope to connect?

As a counsellor, I give to my clients what helped me during my own healing journey. I will not tell you what to do but I will collaborate with you so that you find the answers you need. You are the expert in your life and you have the power to transform your past.

Check out how I can help you.

Loss of Self-Confidence – Sign of Emotional Abuse?

emotional abuse

It started slowly. It was hard to put a finger on it. I felt like a failure, unworthy. I had a sense that I was fighting with an invisible enemy. Who was it? Were these the effects of emotional abuse? I wasn’t sure, but I knew I had to deal with it.

Do you suspect that emotional abuse is part of your life?

I could not really put a finger on it. My work fulfilled me and I was happy with my life. Why had I lost so much self-confidence? My choice was to dig deeper and look at my relationships. I was wondering whether there were any people who were emotionally abusive towards me. The question did not feel comfortable, but I decided to be honest with myself and observed what happened in my relationships.

Start with being honest with yourself

I started to observe the relationship with my sister. We weren’t really close because we lived in different countries and were really different. But something seemed off. I started to label her behaviours. She constantly criticized my work. When I shared my dream to move to Canada, she told me that I would never make it. When I did something she did not like, she yelled at me. She belittled my professional achievements. She ridiculed my spirituality. When her cat was diagnosed with terminal cancer, I told her that I could send him Reiki but I also told her that it would only allow him to die gentler. She agreed and I sent him Reiki. Six months after his death, she accused me that I had killed her cat. I didn’t know anymore what to say. Did I wanted to be treated that way? No, not at all. I decided to give me a time-out and didn’t contact her for a while.

Step away from people who appear toxic to you

The distance helped me to see things more clearly. As I’ve shared in my memoir “A Brave, True Story”, I grew up in a family with abusive relationships. Guilt was a way to hold the family together. My family denied the existence of any higher power. When I grew older, I chose a different path. I move beyond the conditioning I had received in my childhood. I learned that it was possible to have nurturing and loving relationships and I knew how to do it. My sister had never started this journey. Growth was not important for her.

After I healed myself, I wanted to support her on her journey to overcome our childhood experiences by being a role model. However, I did not realize that she never wanted to. From her and my family’s perspective, healing was impossible, spirituality was something for crazy people, and counselling was only for the outcasts of society. Since I knew her so well, I had found excuses for her abusive behaviour. She just repeated what she had learned in her childhood. However, she was also an adult and responsible for what she did. In order to have a healthy relationship, she would have needed to change, too.

Emotional abuse is not ok.

As a result of her emotionally abusive behaviour, I had lost self-confidence. It had been a slow process that affected me on a deep level. I would never have expected that the influence was so deep since we did not live in the same country, but it was. I told my sister that she either would need to do counselling or I would refuse to have contact with her. She refused counselling and I ended our relationship. It was the hardest decision of my life, but it was the loving decision towards myself.  Emotionally abusive behaviour affects my physical, emotional and mental health, and eats away my soul. I was not willing to accept it in my life anymore. I can’t heal my sister’s past, nor can I save her. That’s her responsibility and whatever choice she takes it’s up to her. I can only take responsible for myself and protect myself from emotional abuse. As long as my sister does not take responsibility for her abusive behaviour and seeks professional help, she will repeat it.

Ending abusive relationships is a path to freedom

I grieved the end of our relationship and focused on taking care of myself. My inner dialog was very negative. My sister’s voice was constantly in my head, telling me: “You’ll never make it.” Dance and positive affirmation helped me to transform my inner dialogue. I went to counselling to work through the difficult emotions connected with emotional abuse and chose to forgiving myself and her. Overtime, her influence faded away and my self-confidence returned. I promised myself to keep my life free of emotionally abusive behaviour. Based on my experience that is the wisest and most empowering choice that I can take for myself.

How about you?

Do you want to read more? Read my memoir “A Brave, True Story.”

How to Deal with an Abusive Relationship with a Parent?

Abusive Relationship

I always had an abusive relationship with my father. Maybe it all started with my conception. While my father only wanted one child, my mother wanted two. To make her dream reality, she secretly stopped taking the pill and became pregnant again. She betrayed him. Her story was that my father went on holidays alone shortly after I was born. How does a man feel if he becomes a father of a child he never wanted? I cannot answer this, but the abusive relationship became an important theme in my life.

My parents separated when I was one and I saw my father two years later again. The following two decades, I was torn between my infantile need to be approved by my father and rejecting him because of his manipulative personality traits. When I was 12, I cut contact with my father for the first time. His badmouthing about my mother’s family had become too much.

I saw him again when he got married to his new wife a couple of years later. Deep in my heart, I hoped that this new relationship had transformed him and he would have stopped blaming my mother. I was wrong. Nothing had changed.

My mother died when I was 19, and I hoped that her death would put his mind at ease, sooner or later. The little girl within me wanted to get his approval. Eight years later, his torrent of hatred against my mother and her family persisted. It was unbearable to listen to him any longer. His stories never changed.

Does a daughter have the right to cut contact with her father?

At that stage, I wasn’t sure. My father’s favorite bible quote was “You have to honor your father.” He used it each time when he wanted to impose his opinion on me. Sometimes I asked myself silently, and a father – how is he supposed to treat his child?

One day, I finally woke up and accepted that I would never receive affection from him. He was unable to give it. I was sick and tired of his repetitive stories and his unforgiving attitude. I cut contact with him. It wasn’t easy or comfortable, but it felt right. It was not for his sake, but for mine. Even though, I didn’t know it at that time, it was one of the most caring acts I ever did for myself.

Do you have the right to cut contact with your parents?

I faced many opinions. Abusive relationships are still a secret nobody wants to talk about. Some people looked at me disapprovingly; a couple of counselors told me that I had to meet him and hug him to be able to forgive him. In a way, they gave me the responsibility for his unhealthy behaviour. Other therapists approved my decision and told me that I had to find the right distance to be at peace with him. I only felt at peace when I was far away from him. My last therapist told me that she felt glad that I stayed away from him. I felt the same.

Who knows what’s right or wrong?

Each opinion reflected the perspective the other person had, their story and their values. It is hard to accept that families, the place where children should be safe, sheltered and nurtured, can be violent and harmful. I guess that many people who grow up in a healthy environment have no idea how a family with abusive relationships look like. How much did they know about my experience and my inner process that led to my decision? Not much.

My father continued his abuse by stalking me

Years after I cut contact, I still had a secret address so that my father couldn’t find me. But one day, he did. I called a police officer from the victim’s department, and she phoned him. Later, she told me that he would insist on having the right to see me. She asked me whether I would be willing to do so. I said, no. I just wanted to have my freedom. She continued: I have many years of experience with victims of violence. I know that you have every reason to fear him. It was the first time that somebody outside my family confirmed my truth about him, and her comment helped me to believe in my intuition and release my doubts. Unfortunately, blaming the victim is still part of our society, and it was a relief to hear the words I needed most: I believe you. It is not your fault.

Dealing with an abusive relationship as an adult

We can’t choose our family and, as a child, we get used to accepting what is. However, as an adult, as an adult we choose how we want to relate to them. We are not obliged to stay in a situation that is toxic for us. Everybody has the right to find the distance we need to protect ourselves and we have the right to cut contact. I cannot tell you what the right answer is for your specific case. But I invite you that you trust your inner voice because the only person who knows the correct answer is you. You don’t owe anybody an explanation. You don’t need anybody’s approval. The only thing you need to do is to take care of yourself.

What to do if the abusive relationship had ended?

After ending the abusive relationship with my father, I started a different journey: Healing the effects his emotional abusive behaviour had on me. I gave myself the space to forgive and heal my heart. I grieved that I never had the father I truly wanted as a child. While I never want to have a connection with him in real life, I can accept that he is my father. As long as I rejected him, I also rejected parts of myself. In a spiritual way, he’s now closer to me than he has ever been in my life. Sometimes, the best option to love somebody is without having a relationship with them.

Whatever decision you are facing, I know that you will make the right choice for yourself and your life.

Do you need support making this decision? Check out how I can support you.

Do you want to find out more about the abusive relationship with my father? Find out more about my memoir A Brave, True Story on amazon.ca.

What if You Are In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship?

“It’s like a dream. I always wanted to be together with an independent partner like you are. And now I’ve met you.” He said this after we had talked intensively about our lives. And he was right. It had been a beautiful start for a relationship. I thought that he was honest. And this stage, I had no reason to doubt his words. I felt happy and very lucky.

Toxic dynamics are not visible in the beginning

The relationship seemed to continue in a good direction. We planned our future and did many activities together. We went hiking and spent our summer holidays at a meditation retreat. Then, I went away for a weekend because I attended a wedding of a friend. When I returned, he picked me up at the airport. Everything had changed.

Trust your inner voice

I was excited to see him, and saw a man with a different face. He started to argue. I felt confused in the beginning. Each day, he found another thing I didn’t do right. I became angry because I didn’t want to be treated like this. No matter what I did, it was not right for him. I felt drained. I gave him a warning. He apologized and promised to change. However, he continued with the same manipulative game. My inner voice said, it’s time to go. This situation isn’t good for you at all. The one thing I learned from dealing with manipulative behaviour is to trust my gut. If it says something is off, I take action.

Do they keep their promises?

The problem with people who have manipulative behaviour is that they promise a lot but they do not change their behaviour. He apologized constantly for his behaviour, but the next moment, he behaved the same way. Luckily, I was able to see the toxic dynamic very early. I didn’t doubt my decision to leave him for a moment. There is one rule I have for relationships: I do not tolerate any form of violence – and manipulation is a form of violence. As a child, I grew up with emotionally abusive relationship, I did not have a choice. I did not know anything else. As an adult, I have a choice. I choose healthy relationships. This is a promise I gave myself many years ago. How about you?

Keep firm boundaries

My ex-partner couldn’t believe it. He waited for me in a park where I volunteered to feed a colony of abandoned cats. He wanted another chance; he promised to change, just another time. Just give me a month, he said, and I rejected. But he did not stop there and continued to disrespect my boundaries. Your partner’s promises may sound sweet and tempting but don’t fall into them. They are part of the game.

Resist the presents

I sat in a workshop. The doorbell rang. My spiritual teacher opened and came back with a huge bouquet of flowers. She said, It’s for you. I had just told her the story about my ex-partner and those flowers were the last thing I ever wanted to receive. I felt angry because he didn’t respect my boundaries for another time. I said, I don’t want them. She looked surprised and said, you can’t do this. They are beautiful. I replied, you know that they come with the wrong intention, don’t you? Living compassionately doesn’t mean that I allow somebody to manipulate me. She sighed, you’re right. Giving gifts is another way to control you. Do not buy into them.

Work through your emotions

Even though I wasn’t responsible for his manipulative behavior, it took me a while to release shame, guilt and humiliation. Luckily, I was able to identify his toxic behaviours very early in our relationship. However, it is never easy to be around people with manipulative behaviour. The relationship lasted only a couple of months, but I needed some time to forgive myself for having fallen in love with him.

Love yourself more than a partner with manipulative behaviour

Emotional abuse is difficult to spot in the beginning and you may notice it when you are already in a committed relationship. While you can’t choose who you fall in love with, you have a choice on how you want to handle it when you recognize manipulative behaviour.  You have many different options on how to deal with it. Important is that you make choices that are good for you. Emotional abuse leaves deep wounds on your soul, eats away your sense of worthiness and your belief in yourself. You can’t change your past but you can start today to heal yourself and become whole.

Seek help

Manipulative behaviour is confusing and it is good if you do not handle it alone. It is a sign of strength to ask for professional help. It will help you to handle the toxic dynamics in a way that is good for you. You have many different options.  However, if you do not take action, nothing will every change. Yes, change is scary, but what price do you pay if you stay where you are?

You are interested in getting help? Find out more about our program for people who are in unhealthy relationships.

Do you want to read more? Check the article How to Become a Modern Hero

5 Warning Signs For Toxic Relationships

Each relationship has its ups and downs, and both partners will grow through their bond. And sometimes, these up and downs of the relationships become emotionally abusive. Emotional abuse is difficult to recognize and it can deeply damage your soul.

Here are 5 warning signs of a toxic relationship:

Isolation from the people you love.

You get increasingly isolated from the people you love. This can start slowly and subtle: Your partner may have required all of your attention and convinced you in a flattering way to spend all your time with him and his friends. Maybe, he or she talks in an insulting or depreciating way about your friends and your family, and they never seem to be “good enough” in the eyes of your partner. Your family and your friends are an essential part of your life and loving you includes accepting your friends and family as they are. If you suddenly notice that you have lost contact with most of your friends, then this is a warning sign that you are heading in the wrong direction.

Your partner’s jealous behaviour limits you.

Jealousy is an emotion, and your partner is responsible to manage his or her emotions. If your partner feels jealous, he should explore the emotion more deeply and understand its root causes. It becomes a warning sign if your partner uses jealousy to control you and to prevent you to do the things you love and enjoy. Don’t find excuses for their jealous behavior and don’t feel flattered by it. Jealousy isn’t love and in a healthy relationship you should have the freedom to do what you enjoy.

Insults and depreciation.

Instead of expressing their appreciation for you, your partner tells you things like “You are lazy” or “You are fat.” Or your partner doubts your abilities to meet your goals and talks about you in such a way that you feel belittled or ashamed. It is a warning sign if your partner talks about you repeatedly in a negative way. Don’t try to whitewash this issue. I have experienced this myself and the words my partner used left a deep mark on my heart, more than I wanted to admit when it happened.

Blaming.

It doesn’t matter what’s happening, you are responsible for all the bad things that are going on in your partner’s life. This blame can be completely irrational, and you might feel very confused about what’s going on. It is a warning sign if your partner blames you all the time or if you feel constantly guilty.

Continuous fighting.

A relationship consists of two people who have different needs and desires. It requires communication to create solutions that meet the needs of both partners. These solutions need honesty, negotiation and creativity. If your conversations consist of constant fighting with an attitude of “my needs are more important than yours” then this is a warning sign. The needs of each partner are equally important. If your partner uses threatening behavior or constant screaming or yelling to meet his or her goals, then this is a sign of a toxic relationship.

In summary, the subtle manipulation of a toxic relationship will eat away your self-esteem and your sense of worthiness. You may end up believing all the negative labels your partner says about you. He or she usually knows your weak points and will push the buttons when possible. The longer you stay in a toxic relationship, the more difficult it can be to leave it due to your decreased sense of worthiness. Only you can change this situation. The best decision you can take for your well-being is to ask for professional help and to leave a toxic relationship as soon as possible. You are an adult, and you are responsible for taking good care of yourself. You deserve a fabulous relationship. You deserve a loving and supportive partner.

A recently published Danish study shows that “middle-aged man and women” who experience stressful social relations have an increased mortality risk.

Do you want to pay this price?

Learn more about unhealthy relationships today. Download a free report on how to identify unhealthy behaviours in relationships by signing up below:

5 Ways To Deal With Unhealthy Family Relationships

This week, I read a quote by Willard Scott in google+. It said, “Positive feelings come from being honest about yourself and accepting your personality, and physical characteristics, warts and all; and, from belonging to a family that accepts you without question.” Willard Scott. Somebody had posted a comment: I have it all… except for the family that accepts without question. When I read it, I felt sad. It reminded me that family is sometimes seen in a rather limited way and it is more than just the family we are born in. I commented that family does not only mean the family you are born in, it can also be friends or colleagues. He answered with a smiley: if it’s that kind of family I have too. I replied, me, too. It’s a good one. and he posted, the best one ever.

Life seems easy if your family relationships are supportive and nurturing.

However, how can you deal with family relationships if they are unhealthy or manipulative?

Our family relationships are the first relationships we experience in our life. As children, we needed their attention, their love and their nourishment. During our childhood, we adapted the best way possible to the circumstances and tried to fit it so that we could belong to them. We may have tried to save them from their problems. We may have taken on the responsibility for their happiness. As children, we need our family and we love them unconditionally without knowing what is good for us.
However, as adults, we have choices. We do not have to stay in relationships that try to control and manipulate or that constantly use blame or shaming. You may still feel obliged to do what your family says and wants, however you can learn to take care of yourself. Taking care of yourself isn’t selfish. It’s part of your personal growth process and your path to become mature. You can’t save other people, even if it is your family. You can’t change them if they don’t want to. You can only save yourself. And you are free to leave relationships that hinder your growth, that don’t accept and don’t support you. You are the most important person in your life. You are responsible for your well-being and your emotional health.

What can you do if your family relationships are unhealthy?

  • Execute your rights.
    You are an adult now, and you can claim your rights. What your rights are? Here are a few to think about: you have the right to be happy, and you have the right to be happier than those around you. You have the right to follow your own values and standards. You have the right to take care for yourself, no matter what. You have the right to be uniquely you, without feeling that you aren’t good enough. You have the right to be in a non-abusive environment. You have the right to dignity and respect.
  • Put some distance between yourself and your family.
    If your family relations are unhealthy, find a place for yourself that enables you to feel well with it. Put the distance you need between yourself and your family. What distance can you put between yourself and your family so that you feel well? What kind of contact do you want to have with them? You are free to put the distance you need and to follow your path. It is kind and caring for yourself to love your family with the necessary distance.
  • Cut contact with manipulative family members.
    If the relationships are manipulative or if they constantly drag you down, cut contact with these family members. You are not obliged to stay in contact with your family. You are responsible for your own well-being and for taking care for yourself. If your family ties hinder your personal growth, you have the choice to cut contact with them. I cut contact with my father when I was 26 years old. It was the best and wisest decision I took for my well-being. I acknowledged that he wasn’t able to give me the love and appreciation my inner child longed for. It was not an easy decision. I faced comments like how dare you, or you are a bad daughter. I received looks that expressed disapproval. I also received a card from a friend who thanked me for cutting contact with my father and given her the courage to do the same. The world is full of different opinions about what is right. Important is that you follow your intuition. I don’t know how it is like to grow up in a supportive family. I do know that there are good reasons to stop having contact with family members. Being a family relationship doesn’t justify manipulation.
  • Heal your inner picture of your family.
    Your childhood experiences influence your way to relate with the world. If you have experienced unhealthy situations, you have to heal the effects it had on yourself. If you don’t face the issues you experienced in your family, you risk repeating the same mistakes as your parents did. I always said, “I never want to have the manipulative relationship my mother had.” And I had it in another disguise until I dealt with the effects my family had on myself.
    As an adult, you are able to face the pain and heal your inner child from the pain he or she experienced in their childhood. Face your grief of all you didn’t have and let go of it. You also can do a family constellation to liberate the effects your family had on you. Through the process of self-discovery and awareness, you can find inner peace with the family issues you are dealing with.
  • Create your own definition of family.
    I am blessed with two types of family: the family I was born in and my chosen family. My chosen family consists of my three cats and my closest friends. They give me the love, support and sense of belonging I need. You have faced challenging family relations. You can continue to look at all what you never had, and it is likely that you will never get it there. You family gave you the best they could. They didn’t have more. They have their own story that hinders them to give you what you want.
    As an adult, you have the choice to create the kind of family you wish. Outside the family you were born in, there is a group of people waiting for you that accepts you without questions. That’s your family of souls. Invite them into your life!

Difficult family relationships are painful experiences. However, they don’t define your capacity to experiment positive feelings. Through growth, self-awareness and self-discovery, you can transform them into life mastery and wisdom. That’s a path so that you generate positive feelings with the kind of family you had.

 

Copyright © 2014, Natalie Jovanic. All rights reserved.

Can You Heal From Emotional Abuse and Violence?

Can you heal from emotional abuse and violence?

Yes, you have experienced traumatic events. Emotional abuse and violence have left a mark on your soul. Everything may seem dark and hopeless. You feel pain, shame and guilt. You may hear judgments of other people like “poor victim” or “you will never overcome the effects of emotional abuse.” You feel small, you feel unworthy. The scale of your life seems out of balance. The trauma seems heavier than any resources you may own.

And the trauma weighs so heavy on you that you can’t see clearly: you have precious and valuable resources. You have developed strength, perseverance and courage. You have resilience because you have learned to go through a crisis and move forward with your life.

It doesn’t matter what happened to you: you are worthy of love and belonging.

The emotional abuse or violence you have experienced don’t define yourself nor your future. Healing them is your challenge on your journey. Facing them is the starting point for the greatest transformation of your life. And that’s your hero’s journey. You have the power to become whole and to recover all what seems lost in the traumatic events. And nobody else can do this for you. Your partner can’t save you. Your parents can’t save you. Your children can’t save you. Only you can save yourself.

Let’s take a look at a lotus plant: Its roots stand in the dirt and mud, and out of these roots, it develops bright and colorful flowers. Its roots are strong enough to survive in an environment that seems difficult. Its leaves have a mechanism to repel water. And it can produce heat to the water that surrounds its body. This way it creates its own friendly environment.
You are just like this lotus plant: you have the strength to grow through these painful events and transform them into a bright and colorful life. You can release the negativity you have experienced and liberate yourself from its influences, and you can create for yourself a loving and nurturing environment.

Why am I so sure about what I am telling you? I have been there, too, and I used this path myself. I experienced emotional abuse and violence in my childhood. And I used the following steps to heal myself. If I was able to do it, you can do it, too.

How can you heal from emotional abuse and violence?

  • Create a bright and colorful vision for your future.
    Your past doesn’t define your future. The vision you create will define the outcome and you can create joyful and positive experiences you may never have experienced before. Everything is possible. Your definition of the future gives you the energy and courage to face your challenges and move forward on your healing path.
  • Become whole again.
    The painful events have shaken your soul and your sense of being. You have absorbed many labels and many opinions about yourself that are not true. Your task is to connect deeply with yourself, to love yourself and to liberate yourself from the conditioning you have absorbed. Re-establish your self-esteem and self-worth. Value your needs and dreams. Be loving and kind towards yourself.
  • Become a compassionate parent for your inner child.
    During your childhood, you have experienced painful events that you weren’t able to deal with at this age. Now, you are an adult. You can choose to become a loving and compassionate adult for this child within you that wants to be seen and loved by you. Don’t blame your parents for what they did or didn’t do. They can’t help you with this. You can’t change the past, but you can take the responsibility for your inner child. Be a good parent for your inner child. This way, he or she will heal and become a source for creativity and joy.
  • Connect with your intuition and your higher wisdom.
    You have learned many beliefs about yourself that aren’t true. Connect with your higher wisdom to clarify the truth of these beliefs. Sit in silence, go for a walk in nature and connect with this part of you that has all the wisdom you need. Listen to and follow your intuition. It will show you the right path for your healing.
  • Find somebody to go with you without judging you.
    You cannot do it all alone. You will need somebody who supports you on this journey. Find a person who doesn’t judge you or the events that happened to you. Find a therapist, counselor, coach or healer who deserves your trust and who deserves to hear your story.
  • Learn to practice emotional intelligence.
    Connect with your body, and learn to listen to your emotions. Learn ways how you can express them in a healthy way. Your emotions aren’t your enemies. They are your allies, and they give you signals. If you numb yourself to avoid painful emotions, you limit your capacity to feel joy and happiness, and it can lead to addictive behaviors. Explore your emotions and listen to what they have to tell you.

As human beings, we have a need to connect and love. Traumatic events can limit your capacity to connect. Healing yourself is your path towards love and connection. Take responsibility for your life and your needs. Dare to walk down this path. You deserve it.

What Are the Limits of Love in A Relationship?

Toxic Relationships

“I don´t need to own to love. I don´t want to be the owner of the person I love. I neither want to conquer nor take: love is not an act of war. Saying she is mine is treating the other like a thing, as if it were a matter of buying and selling. I don´t possess you, I enjoy you while you are around in my life; and that means a lot.”

Walter Riso, Psychologist & Writer

This phrase describes well how a relationship should be like. Yet, there are also these types of relationships that are painful, difficult, confusing and incomprehensible. Maybe you have seen them in your family, in the circle of your friends, at work or maybe you have experienced them yourself. As an observer, a separation seems to be the only wise solution and you wonder why the couple stays together. If you are involved in toxic relationships you may feel like Don Quijote fighting with the windmills: powerless, guilty, without energy and maybe even embarrassed when you talk to friends about your relationship. Love has turned into continuous suffering and fighting even though you saw all through rose-colored glasses at the beginning.

Why do toxic relationships exist?

Lack of Healthy Role Models

Many people miss a healthy image of a relationship because they grew up in dysfunctional families. They have never learned how a healthy relationship should look like. They lack of positive role-models and they do not know how to behave in a relationship in a healthy way. As a consequence, they repeat as adults what they have learned during their childhood. However, you do not have to continue this cycle. You can break it. As an adult, you can choose to heal your childhood wounds and your past to generate new experiences. This way, you can experience relationships that give you support, positive energy and well-being.

Unhealthy Beliefs about Love

Some people have idealized thoughts about love. Beliefs like “love is limitless” or “true love is unconditional” make it difficult to set clear limits or leave the relationship if necessary.  Society or your own family may tell you that you have failed when you get separated. Or, that you cannot separate because of the children. My parents were divorced and, as a child, I was grateful that they had been divorced. These beliefs are often deeply buried in our subconscious mind and make a separation a very difficult decision due to fear, guilt and shame. In reality, you should say, “no” to a relationship when it affects your dignity, your identity or your happiness. You should leave your partner if their behaviour breaks with your values and principles. A healthy relationship signifies that you love your partner while you love, value and respect yourself.

Obstacles to love

Another limit of a relationship is that your partner doesn’t love you. It is not necessary to continue with the relationship, but you must face reality and to learn how to give up. Love is the foundation of a healthy relationship. A relationship is unhealthy if you cannot grow or if you cannot follow your dreams. A relationship should give you and your partner the freedom to grow.

Any form of violence

Physical and sexual violence clearly breaks the limits of love. Love doesn’t justify violence. There is nothing to argue about. Despite the evident signs like maybe a bruise in your face, physical violence leaves a mark in the soul that requires profound healing. A very subtle boundary is emotional violence or manipulation. It is hard to notice but has the same devastating impact on our soul as physical or sexual violence. Manipulation destroys in a hardly perceptible manner the self-esteem, the well-being, the happiness and the identity of the victim. In a toxic relationship, the victim and the aggressor are in a dangerous cycle of control and power and may even switch roles from time to time.

What are the signs of toxic relationships?

Here are some of them:

  • Your partner makes you feel inferior, guilty or humiliated. They repeatedly insult you by telling you phrases like You’re insane, You’re ugly, You’re stupid or You’re fat.
  • They try to isolate you from your family or your friends. They control whatever you do or whom you talk to. They try to tell you where to go and use  jealousy to justify their unhealthy behaviour.
  • They use threats by mentioning suicide or separation or they frighten you by falsely reporting you to the police. They provoke fear through looks, gestures or by destroying objects.

What makes toxic relationships so complex?

All these behaviors break with the limits of love in a relationship. Often, the aggressor would minimize or deny the abuse, in occasions they make even their partner feel responsible for the abusive attitude. Sometimes, the aggressor looks like a charming person to other people and only shows their  abusive behaviour in the relationship. This makes it difficult for the victim to ask for help since no one else understands it. The affected person loses self-esteem until they start believing that there is really something wrong with their personality.  That is the point when the victim is convinced that their partner is right, and develops a false image of themselves. The affected person lives in fear and experiences a strong feeling of guilt and self-hatred. The victim also faces difficulties to giving up a toxic relationship due to a strong emotional dependence.

How can you change the situation?

Even though it seems difficult, you can learn a lot out of these situations: you can learn to set healthy boundaries, to stand up for yourself and to clearly say no to these toxic relationships and walk away while facing the pain of separation. This pain is a useful suffering because it opens a path towards a healthy life. You don’t have to make the road alone, you can and you should ask for professional help that supports you in facing the fear of loneliness, in healing the traumatic experience, in learning to set up healthy boundaries, in regaining self-esteem and dignity and in learning how a healthy and mature relationship looks like. This is an inner process that can guide you to freedom, happiness and connecting deeply with your essence. The beauty that life has to offer is worth to take this step.

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