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If you’ve gone to therapy and not felt it was helpful, read on. This blog describes strategies to empower yourself, some that can be done without seeking help and others require a therapist. These may spark your interest and guide you in knowing what to look for in a helping professional. Additional information regarding therapist behaviors and knowledge can be found here: “Guidance for Intimate Partner Abuse Therapy,”  

Many people grow when they struggle with stressful or traumatic circumstances. This isn’t how we would prefer change to happen, but it shows our resilience. Professionals call this post-traumatic growth. It results in new understanding about yourself and the world. You gain new confidence.

A study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry[i] found that therapy designed for intimate partner abuse victims was more effective than therapy as usual. The participants reported greater boosts in empowerment and self-esteem with therapy that was tailored to their concerns.

This blog is the beginning of a seven-part series regarding therapeutic basics that I found addressed survivors’ concerns, empowered them, and encouraged post-traumatic growth during my 35 years of work. Each of my next six blogs will go into more depth with one of these. I think you will find them helpful in empowering yourself.

Consider whether any of the following could be helpful for you.

Name What Happened

What It Involves—This refers to disclosing the abuse that happened (or continues to happen) in your relationship, first to yourself, and hopefully to a therapist or other supportive person.

The Benefits—This begins the process of seeing things through your own eyes, instead of your partner’s. When you share it, you receive understanding and validation by another human being that you were abused. Receiving empathy and confirming it’s not okay reduces confusion and self-blame.

Overcoming Roadblocks—The pain of talking about it may first override your willingness. However, pain tends to fade away when we face it. That said, you have the right to take it at your pace.

 Embarrassment or shame also may get in the way. Important fact: You are not what happened to you. Being victimized by your partner does not mean victim is your identity or that you are not strong.

Recognize Your Partner’s Domination Beliefs That Permit Abuse

What It Involves—Identifying the beliefs and assumptions that permit your partner’s domination and abuse.    

The Benefits—This knowledge helps clear confusion about how your loved one could justify hurting you. It also improves your ability to identify coercive control in the future.

Making these connections insulates you from taking the blame that your partner, and sometimes society, mistakenly assigns to you. If you have experienced any other form of abuse or discrimination, identifying these beliefs makes sense of why other forms of violence and oppression are so prevalent.

Overcoming Roadblocks—Often survivors lose trust in themselves because of the repetitive devaluation they receive. This can interfere with assigning responsibility for their behavior to partners instead of yourself. Building (or rebuilding) self-trust is important.     

Keep Yourself Centered and Able To Know Your Own Thoughts and Feelings

What It Involves—Methods include nature, exercise, prayer, meditation, talking with a friend, journaling, mindful breath focus—whatever works to calm you and connects you to feeling your power.

The Benefits—Using a grounding method helps you clarify your thoughts and manage your emotions so you can know what you want or make decisions.

Overcoming Roadblocks—The primary roadblock is lack of safety. Until you are safe, avoidance may be all you can use. It is an imperfect strategy, however, and the danger becomes believing you can control what happens. Domestic abuse programs and therapists can help make safety plans.

Even if you leave the relationship, anxiety may continue. This is because prolonged trauma causes neurological changes. Trauma therapy helps us reset and heal.   

Change Negative Thoughts About Yourself

What It Involves—Thought changing means observing and changing thoughts that interfere with asserting yourself and achieving what you want in life.    

The Benefits—These abilities help overcome the verbal abuse from a partner that may live on in your head, becoming negative thoughts such as “I am crazy” or “I will never find someone who loves me.”

Overcoming Roadblocks—You may not believe that this work will make a difference. If this is the case, I encourage you to seek a therapist who can assist you.

Relatives and friends who reinforce abusive messages can be another roadblock to change. They may be abusive themselves, or they may be able to adapt to changes they see in you. You will know the difference.

 Build Your Ability to Set Physical and Emotional Boundaries

What It Involves—Boundary repair involves believing you have the right to set limits physically and psychologically.

The Benefits—Boundary work empowers you to set physical boundaries regarding when and how people touch you and what happens in your physical space. Emotional boundaries allow you to observe and evaluate the appropriateness of people’s words and actions instead of automatically assuming they are right or taking it personally.

Overcoming Roadblocks—If you are still in an abusive relationship, this is an obvious roadblock. It is difficult, if not impossible, to use this and the following technique when there continue to be violations and you are not safe to set limits. However, learning to believe in your rights is one of the first steps to empower yourself. It helps you in deciding what to do.

Family, friends, and co-workers sometimes give what I call “change back” messages. They are used to how you were and may feel threatened by your changes or call you self-centered.

Empower Yourself with Assertiveness (When It’s Safe)

What It Involves— Assertiveness work requires learning and practicing specific communication techniques to address situations you confront. Assertive people communicate their thoughts and feelings while also respecting the rights of other people to be different. When you choose not to be assertive because you are in danger, this is a smart, necessary strategy. Safety first.

The Benefits—Knowing assertiveness helps you feel more confident. When we are assertive, we get more of what we want, and accept that no one always gets their way.

Overcoming Roadblocks—You may have non-assertive beliefs such as, “It is selfish to put my needs before others.” Work on negative thoughts and boundaries begins addressing this, and assertiveness becomes the third leg of the empowerment stool.

Continuing abuse in a relationship may hinder your ability to exercise assertiveness, but there are still techniques that are useful to learn in dealing with conflict.

Looking Forward

Next month, my blog will go into more depth with the power of naming what happened. This strategy furthers your ability to empower yourself. Please share this and subsequent blogs with anyone you think would benefit.  

[i] “Targeted Counseling Effective for Women Who Experienced Intimate Partner Violence”  https://www.healio.com/news/psychiatry/20211215/targeted-counseling-effective-for-women-who-experienced-intimate-partner-violence

The post HOW TO EMPOWER YOURSELF WHEN AN INTIMATE PARTNER ABUSES YOU first appeared on Madison Mental Health Counselor.

The post HOW TO EMPOWER YOURSELF WHEN AN INTIMATE PARTNER ABUSES YOU appeared first on Madison Mental Health Counselor.

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