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How to Heal and Recover Mentally from Domestic Abuse

Updated on October 21, 2012

No one can really understand what you are going through when you are a victim of domestic abuse. You feel alone, isolated and helpless. You can't tell anyone about your experience because it is a taboo subject where you might be criticised, pitied and even blamed.

Quite often victims of domestic abuse blame themselves for what has happened to them, so it isn't surprising that they feel others may blame them too.

It is as if the abuse continues even after violations by the abuser is over, the scars penetrate deep into the Psyche long after they have healed in the body.

So, how do you heal and recover mentally from domestic abuse when you are being tortured by your thoughts and feelings? Here we provide some ideas as to how to develop coping mechanisms on your way to self healing.

If you are reading this article, you have already come a long way into healing because you have accepted that you have been abused by a loved one. This is why 'domestic abuse' is termed as 'domestic', because it is invarably someone close to you that has abused you.

Abuse comes in various forms and may not always be physical.

  • It can be verbal, where the abuser is displaying anger issues and is focusing this upon the victim.
  • It can be mental, where the abuser is setting the victim up for failure, twisting situations and scenarios in ways that it produces guilt, self-loathing and blame within the victim. This is a way of diverting the abuser's inadequacies from the abuser onto the victim
  • It might be physical, where the abuser is placing actual bodily harm on his victim, causing damage, pain and helplessness.
  • It can be a combination of all three categories.

Whatever the level of abuse, it results in the same feelings - powerlessness, a lack of control and a loss of self. People lose themselves when in the control of others. Abusers are controllers and, at the heart of it, are angry inadequate people. In order to understand anger, please take a look at the article about anger.

Refuge - Empowering Victims of Domestic Abuse

  • The Charity Refuge
  • Contact the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline on 0808 2000 247

This is a charity that focuses on domestic abuse. They are confidential and will help you, or a friend that you know is being abused, gain control of their lives.

They have a national helpline, a place to go and hide, councilling services and legal services that may help you back to you again.

They are there to help you and will not apply pressure into leaving the abuser, but they will help to empower victims of domestic abuse to make an informed choice.

Relationship Disputes: What is Acceptable?

Before you can start to heal, you need to get a grasp of the situation and anaylise what is acceptable vs unacceptable.

There is a difference to a dispute that has got out of control to the 'abuser / victim' scenarios that we have mentioned above. A one-off row between two people, who basically love each other, because they have a difference of opinion is worlds apart from regular scenes of violations for which we have discussed previously.

Rows are equally abusive to both parties, but can also be a healthy way of learning about each other, which can lead to a greater understanding of individual needs. A row or two can, indeed, enrich a relationship.

Domestic abuse is more than this. It is unhealthy. It is where one person is attempting to control another person by using harmful tactics as a way to break down another person and dehumanise them so as they are powerless. They no longer have free will and the ability to speak for themselves for fear of repercusions.

If you feel like a loved one is making you feel like this, then you are in a domestic abuse situation. When you realise this, you can start to make plans as to how you are going to remove yourself from the situation. This requires real strength of character. Find your voice and talk to someone you trust, like your Doctor or speak to the charity Refuge.

Kübler-Ross Model In Brief

  1. Denial – Disbelief at what has happened.
  2. Anger – Seeking blame, feeling hateful and resentful.
  3. Bargaining – Seeking other ways to delay the inevitable
  4. Depression – Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
  5. Acceptance – Accepting the new reality and preparing for the outcome.

Understanding Your Feelings

Victims of domestic abuse will experience a variety of feelings. Knowing how you feel will help you understand. In this understanding there will be healing.

In any transition or change, it is normal to go through a variety of different feelings. These can be confusing and erratic. It is only through time that these feelings become less confusing and less erratic. This is the healing process.

Kübler-Ross's Model (see opposite) explains these feelings. When going through change, people experience all these feelings at any time. The model is not in any order or preference of feelings, but the victim can feel these randomly and chaotically. This lessens over time.

Happiness and Self Actualisation - A Journey For Healing

Understanding and acknowledging your feelings will help victims of domestic violence to heal. Through counselling and talking to others who have been through abuse, will help people who have suffered abuse to recover.

It is not acceptable to be controlled by another person - this is not a loving relationship. In order to grow and be the best you can be, people need to feel safe and secure. Violations that causes harm, loss and/or injury is a violation of these rights and under these circumstances people are not in the right environment to grow.

The article 'What is Happiness?' explains what is needed to help people reach their full potential. This is called self actualisation and is worth a read.

Self actualisation is a totally healed and happy person. This is the ultimate goal for all people. However, when someone has suffered domestic abuse, the recovery process, especially when considering mental health, can take many years. This journey comes from within and is a personal working progress to the individual. It is, therefore, up to the victim of domestic abuse to learn to love themselves. When they have done this, they are healed.

© Shazwellyn 2012 - This work is covered under Creative Commons License

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    • shazwellyn profile image

      shazwellyn 5 years ago from Great Britain

      mslizzee... dont let the abuse continue in your mind. The only person you are hurting is yourself. Stop it now and start to heal x

    • mslizzee profile image

      elizabeth 5 years ago from Buncombe County, NC

      It takes a very, very long time to erase some kinds of abuse. Every time I wash dishes I think of "him" and the way he would criticize every single little thing I did. He thought I left soap suds on the dishes, even that I couldn't do properly. Thanks for your article.