Recovery From An
Abusive Relationship
- What You Must Know

To make a full recovery from an abusive relationship the following things have to be dealt with:

  • Separating from, and reducing the influence of, the abuser
  • Stepping out of the reality the abuser created for you
  • Undoing the effects of the abuse
  • Finding yourself/connecting with your own identity
  • Re-learning how to be independent and make your own decisions
  • Re-establishing relationships with friends and family
  • Putting criteria in place for future relationships


Minimizing contact

Getting the abuser out of your life is often much easier said than done. Many think that once they are divorced or separated from the tyrant in their lives that things will be different. However, abusers often don't give up so easily and will use a variety of maneuvers to keep a conversation going. They will offer to change, they may insist that you owe them an explanation for the break-up, they will use financial excuses and, of course, they are willing to use the children in the relationship to continue to abuse and manipulate.

Another very significant factor in keeping away from these types is the dependency that they create in their victims. The identities of victims of psychological abuse are often enmeshed with those of the abuser and the victim may not only need the abuser to know what to do but also to know who they are and that they are ok. Being separated from the controller can be extremely unpleasant for the victim even if they know the relationship is bad/abusive.

Making it worse is the fact that the victim often cannot tell anyone about this because it seems so ridiculous. The victim feels that there is actually something wrong with them at a fundamental level. They often feel that the only way to ease the horrible feelings is to go back to the abuser. This explains why some people have an 'on and off' relationship with the abuser before the final breakup and why battered wives are known to go back to, and even defend, their physically abusive husbands.

The more contact a victim has with the abuser the more slowly the recovery from an abusive relationship tends to go.


Getting out of the living nightmare

Leaving the abuser often brings a lot of relief, but it's never complete. The victim has been living in a reality that was created for them by the abuser.

In this reality, the abuser is always right. It's never their fault. There are one set of rules for the abuser and another set for the victim. The abuser has justifications for breaking the rules, the abuser is punished, every time. The victim cannot challenge the leader without severe consequences. The abuser can criticize, insult, belittle and humiliate in whatever way they like, whenever they like. The victim does not make decisions without running it by the manipulator, even if that's done in the mind of the victim, "what would s/he think if I did...?"

How the victim perceives themselves is distorted tremendously by the controller. The victim comes to think of themselves as inferior, less than, worthless, not as intelligent as others or even stupid. Their self esteem is in their boots. They feel they are defective and broken in some way and no matter how hard they try to fix that or adapt themselves, it never seems to be enough.

Signs of a controlling girlfriend

They are all the time trying harder and harder to please the abuser, because the abuser has made themselves the center of their universe. The victim's purpose in life becomes avoiding upsetting the abuser and trying to figure out what to do to please their torturer. Even the way the victim rears the children is organized around not upsetting the abuser.

Unfortunately, many people leave what they call a controlling or toxic relationship but don't fully understand the dynamics of the situation and they think that once they are out that they are not affected by the relationship any longer. This is a major mistake.

This reality, and the mental contortions the victim has to do to live within it, are put in place over time with very powerful influence techniques. Oftentimes the victim is not aware of many of these techniques. The reality, the beliefs, the emotions, the perceptions, the decision making and the behaviors are deeply embedded in the victim and they do not switch back to what they were before the relationship just because the victim leaves. They all persist. And unless they are dealt with, they continue to cause problems for the victim because they were put in place not for the benefit of the victim, but for the benefit of the abuser.

Stepping out of such a reality into something that approximates normality takes time. It takes effort. It takes understanding. It takes outside help.


Undoing the effects

The abuser changes the victim's world view, their perceptions, their beliefs, their decisions making, their behaviors and their emotions. In effect, they have changed the personality or the identity of the victim. This is why people around the victim say that they don’t recognize the person any longer and why many victims say that they feel that they lost themselves in the relationship.

This false personality is called a pseudopersonality and you can read more about it here and in these articles about abusive wives and abusive husbands.

This pseudopersonality is programmed in all sorts of ways. It is programmed to believe the abuser and to take care of and defend the abuser. It is made to be dependent on the abuser. It has all the beliefs installed that the abuser wants as well as behaving in the manner that the abuser wishes.

Getting rid of this personality is the basis to a full recovery from an abusive relationship. That means undoing the beliefs and replacing them with beliefs that are beneficial for the individual. It means stopping the behavior patterns put in place by the abuser for the abuser.

I miss my abusive ex!

A fundamental part of this is undoing the damage that has been done to one's sense of self.


Re-establishing the self

As the person in recovery begins to undo the pseudopersonality, he or she allows the real personality to flourish and become dominant again. The individual, 'finds themselves' again after 'losing themselves' in the relationship. I use the term 'losing themselves' but it's not anything that the victim did. Rather the reality is that the abuser destroys the real personality and replaces it with a personality of their own choosing. An aspect of that is imposing various ideas and beliefs on the victim about themselves.

It's important for the victim to understand that how they think about themselves (being inferior, worthless, stupid etc) has been created by the abuser and that none of these things are true. Being able to see how the abuser made them think such things makes it so much easier to begin to see things differently. It's not enough for the victim for people to say to them that they are great, wonderful, intelligent etc. Just hearing those things is not enough to allow the victim to change. The beliefs and patterns that have been installed by the abuser were put in place with very powerful influence techniques over months or years and simply challenging them head on won't work. These belief and ideas have to be undone, sometimes one by one, learning how they were put in place and why. Only then does the victim have a choice about whether to continue believing them or not.

Undoing these destructive thoughts and beliefs is the first part. The individual has to then figure out what qualities they do actually have, what their real personality is and begin to think of themselves in this way. This is no small task and can take 12 to 18 months to do the bulk of this work. (For most people it should not take a lifetime to do undo psychological abuse. Watch out for those who tell you otherwise.)


Reclaiming independence

As people go through recovery from an abusive relationship they recover their sense of themselves and in this way they also start to take control over their lives, too. They make different decisions, choosing what they want and like, what they don't want and don't like, what they need and what they don't need, instead of having someone else do that for them.

Sometimes people have to get a job after not having worked for some time. Deciding what to do can be a major stress for some people. Because the pseudopersonality was the default for so long, people don’t know who they really are, and if they don’t know who they are, how can they figure out what they want? It takes some time to sort out things like this.

Some even have to learn how to manage money if they have not been allowed to do so in the abusive relationship.

In a toxic situation, the identity of the victim is blended with that of the abuser, so whatever the abuser says about the victim can have profound effects. Separating from the abuser, the victim also learns how to separate from everyone so that they perceive themselves as distinct individuals. An important aspect of this separation is understanding that people have different opinions and preferences. Just because someone says something about you does not make it true. Nor does it mean you have to adapt yourself to please them. Instead of organizing to please others, a person in recovery from an abusive relationship learns to organize their life around themselves rather than what others think of them.

This brings us to the next stages, assessing relationships with others, first family and friends and then later entering into intimate relationships again.


Fixing relationships

Mind Control 101 is about isolating the victim from their support networks. Many people in abusive relationships end up spending less and less time with family and friends. They don't recognize this as a deliberate ploy of the abuser and often end up blaming the family and friends for drifting away or for causing the rift.

When they learn what was done to them, how they were step by step isolated from their loved ones, many people have to actively repair some relationships. In some cases this may mean simply making an effort to spend more time with the friend, other times it means explaining to the family or friend about abusive relationships in order that the friends can understand the lack of contact or closeness.

In some cases, the victim has been totally isolated and the family has not known where they were for years. If the family recognizes that there was abuse involved, they typically welcome the person home with open arms. However, some families, not understanding mind control, blames the victim for abandoning them and treating them badly, believing that the victim was making their own decisions. This situation is obviously more complicated and takes time to resolve because the family has to learn what was going on and how controlled the victim actually was.

Sometimes the abuser has convinced the family that the victim is the bad one and the family sides with the abuser against the victim. Recovering family relationships in this scenario brings its own challenges.

In some situations it's worth working to rebuild a relationship, in others it is not. A good recovery from an abusive relationship means learning about manipulators, psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists. This information allows many people to realize that there were people in their past, and even in their present, who fit these profiles. They recognize that some of these people have, or still are, taking advantage of them.

In fact, for many, the realization that they were in a bad relationship in the past and had a pseudopersonality from that relationship, allows them to understand why they were vulnerable and actually caught in the most recent abusive relationship. The individual now has to decide what to do about these other manipulators in their lives.


Moving into another intimate relationship

We are social creatures, we need company and attention from others, we want to be loved. A full recovery from an abusive relationship means having the skills and confidence to go and find a normal, healthy relationship of equals where you can have all these things.

Initially ex-victims (having got rid of the pseudopersonality and undone the damage, people no longer have a sense of being a victim) are worried about trusting others. They think, "I got it so wrong the last time, how can I trust others? In fact, how can I trust myself to get it right?"

However, understanding mind control techniques and undue influence, as well as having a way to recognize manipulators, give people the courage to try again.

Also important is defining the criteria for new relationships. What behaviors do you expect from friends? How do you expect to be able to treat them? What kinds of things are deal breakers?

Little by little people practice using the new skills they have learned: differentiating a normal influence technique from a destructive mind control process, feeling out when someone's intentions are good versus controlling, learning to spot lies and hear inconsistencies in someones stories.

Knowing what is possible with mind control, being able to spot it when someone is using it in real time with you and knowing how to respond to it, are other skills that are acquired in a good recovery from an abusive relationship.


More reading about recovery from an abusive relationship

Some more things that may be of interest to you... signs of an abusive relationship, help for those in an abusive relationship, how to deal with a sociopathic friend, do psychopaths know right from wrong?, healing from emotional abuse, how to leave an abusive relationship and how to divorce a sociopath.

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If you think you are or have been in a cult or a destructive relationship, or a friend or family member might be in a cult and you want to talk to someone, send me a message on the Contact page and we can arrange to talk. All communication will be treated in the strictest confidence.

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