The abuse you suffered wasn’t your fault. You’ve finally gotten yourself out of the situation to a place of safety. Yet, you can’t help feeling guilty, as though you’ve done something wrong. If anyone should feel ashamed in this situation, it’s the abuser—not you. But it’s still hard to feel like you’re truly free. What you’re experiencing is extremely common among abuse survivors. You don’t have to live with the guilt and shame forever, though. Here’s what you need to do to break free:
Lean on Your Support System
When you’re coming out of an abusive relationship, chances are good that you don’t feel very confident or capable. Most abusers try to make victims feel self-doubt, and that tendency to second-guess yourself can be extremely difficult to undo. Many abusers try to isolate their victims from other people, too. As a result, you may be out of the habit of depending on others and asking for help.
Still, now is the time to lean on your support system.
Rely on friends and family members. Let your loved ones help you re-evaluate your abilities and strengths. Tell them you need encouragement and support, and you’ll find that most people are happy to give it. Nobody is supposed to go through life alone, regardless of abuse history. We’re meant to lean on each other.
Use Affirmations—Consistently and Frequently
You may know that you didn’t deserve the abuse you suffered. But knowing something to be true and understanding it deeply are two completely different things.
Help the knowledge travel from your head to your heart. Repeat affirmations to yourself, many times a day. Tell yourself that the abuse was not your fault.
You are lovable and kind.
You are strong and can overcome any challenges.
When you repeat positive things to yourself, you can change your perspective.
Pay Attention to Self-Care
Everyone needs to practice good self-care, but you may not be in the habit of doing so. You probably spent more time trying to placate your abuser than you did taking care of yourself.
Fortunately, it’s never too late to start, and there’s no time like the present.
Take time to do the things that make you feel good about yourself and focus on your healing.
Try writing in a journal, spending time with animals, or even taking long bubble baths.
Don’t neglect the things that will improve your health, like getting a good night’s sleep, eating well, exercising regularly, and being attentive to your spiritual health.
Release the Blame
It’s crucial to forgive yourself. Many abuse survivors blame themselves for not seeing the signs of abuse in advance or for not getting out sooner.
Abusers are often very slick and charming. They can easily fool others into thinking they’re nicer or kinder than they really are. Don’t own the blame for interactions or behavior that doesn’t belong to you.
However, it is still important to forgive yourself if you do have regrets about your legitimate wrongs. Resolve to learn from your mistakes and to avoid repeating them in the future. Forgiving yourself will help you feel more at peace.
Get Professional Help
Recovery from abuse is not a quick or easy process. Living with an abuser for a long period of time can damage your self-image and instill a fear of relationships with other people.
Shame and guilt can also cause you to avoid seeking help, but that fear and feeling of brokenness are exactly the reasons you should reach out.
A caring, professional counselor can help you release guilt and shame. You can learn to become confident and happy again.
Take the First Step…
If you’re ready to take a step toward healing from the traumas of your past, I would love to help. Please contact me by phone or by email so that we can discuss how we might work together to achieve your therapeutic goals as quickly and effectively as possible. I look forward to hearing from you.
Linda K. Laffey, MFT