Savannah’s 13 Steps to Change and Leaving Abusive Relationships
Why can’t I get over this?
Why do I get sucked in every time?
Why do I feel so powerless?
These are the million dollar questions when we’re dealing with abusive relationships. When well-meaning friends or loved ones ask us, “Why don’t you just leave?” Or, “Why can’t you just move on?” We’re kind of stumped ourselves, because we don’t really have an answer that would sound even remotely plausible. We might even reply, “Because I’m a glutton for punishment.” And you wouldn’t be that far off.
Why do we continue to do things that cause us pain? What’s motivating our behavior? Why do we feel unable to control or stop ourselves? These are important questions that need answers. So I gathered a few of the most prominent ones.
Why We Stay In Abusive Relationships
Trauma Bonds: A Trauma Bond is the connection that forms when two people share an extremely painful experience. These relationships tend to defy reason, according to Patrick Canes, author of Betrayal Bonds. They can happen at any time and to anyone. They can happen very quickly and are extremely hard to sever. In order for a Trauma Bond to occur, Canes says, these three criteria must be present:
- A power differential (One person behaves in an oppressive, controlling and dominant manner).
- Intermittent rewards (Random moments of kindness and tenderness, mixed in with painful and hurtful treatment).
- Periods of high arousal (defined as intense feelings of fear, anxiety, excitement, or any emotion that puts your nervous system on high alert) followed by periods of intense bonding.
Mistaking Intensity for Intimacy: When we get involved in high risk relationships that have high peaks and deep valleys we become addicted to the feelings those peaks evoke. The peaks are those moments when our emotions are soaring and we feel ecstatic, relieved and euphoric. The valleys are those moments when we are in the depths of despair, depression and heartache. The pattern of a peak and valley relationship consists of regular bouts of breaking up and getting back together again. The partner, who falls victim to the peak and valley relationship, will put up with an abysmal amount of humiliating and poor treatment just as long as they know there will eventually be another peak coming.
Addiction: An addiction can easily be identified as something we cannot stop. Trauma Bonds and Peak and Valley relationships all have the flavor of an addiction. If we think about a heroin addiction we know they can happen to anyone, at any time, they are very hard to break and we know that those addicted will tolerate appalling conditions just as long as they can get their next fix. The best way to make someone dependent upon a substance, or dare we say, a person, is to give them their fill of it (create the dependence) and then threaten to take it away. And this is exactly what emotional manipulators do, with love bombing and laser like intensity in the beginning, followed by periods of gross indifference and long stretches of the eventual disappearing act.
Programming: When we grow up with the core belief that we aren’t good enough, or that we aren’t worthy of love, we seek out people and circumstances that mirror those beliefs and they also seek us out. We seek them out because they feel normal and like home to us. If a healthy partner thought we were special and wanted to have a relationship with us, that would feel so abhorrent to us and we wouldn’t be able to run away fast enough. By finding someone who brings out our feelings of worthlessness we are able to recreate our childhood dynamic and it allows us to keep replaying the same tapes over and over again.
As you can see the answer to, ‘Why can’t you just leave?’ is a complex one and the next time someone asks you, you can shove these reasons in their face. While it’s important to know why and what is behind our motivations it doesn’t entirely get rid of the problem. To overcome these types of relationships we have to treat them similarly like we would an addiction to a substance.
Savannah’s 13 Step Program
No contact – This means no communication what-so-ever. Yes there are going to be withdrawal symptoms, cravings and a lot of unpleasant feelings. If you have children it will be difficult, but not impossible. You just have to be committed to the task. Like I always say, “You can’t kick heroin by continuing to abuse heroin. Just stop the madness and know that every day the pain, the cravings, the sorrow will become less and less and hold on to that.
Educate yourself – Read, read, read and watch videos on beating addiction and codependency. Learn how to control those codependent thoughts that always try to keep you from growing and getting healthy.
Find Your Inner Warrior – Make no mistake this is going to be a battle and you will be tested to the very limits of your ability. You must search deep, deep down and find your reasons and be ready to do battle.
Change your focus – Spend some serious time sitting and thinking about what you want and where you want to go. Create a map from where you are to where you want to be. Write out all the little steps you have to take to get there. Get in the habit of focusing on you. Every time you find your mind going back to things that it shouldn’t have your map nearby and focus your attention on it.
Take Away Its Power –When you understand why you are thinking or behaving a certain way it lessens its potency. If my mind keeps going back to my abuser, I need to take a step back, ask myself, ‘Why am I feeling this way?‘ Label the thought process – this is my disease (codependency) and dismiss it. When we know what we’re battling, when we know what to expect and how to overcome the challenges, we become empowered and the process becomes easier.
Change Your Perspective – Stop the victim mentality. Were you victimized? Yes. Do you have every reason to feel like a victim? Yes. But guess what? That mentality isn’t going to help you. Every time I get a comment that starts with, “You’re blaming the victim.” I stop reading it and away it goes into the trash bin. I’m solution oriented, not problem oriented. I don’t want to focus on my Narcissist and why he/she did what they did. Sure it’s important to have an understanding. It also helps inspire us to act, but the healthy way is to own your role in the situation. Sure they did X,Y,Z, but I stayed – I allowed it to happen. You can’t change them, but you can change yourself. Own your own shit and be empowered.
Learn How to Protect Yourself – You were probably never taught how to communicate properly or even what a boundary was. These behaviors are things you will have to research, implement and enforce. I always say once you find one Narcissist in your life you’ll probably find many others. You will have to start the process of eliminating toxic people from your life and teaching people how you expect to be treated and backing convictions with consistent action.
Get Angry – Anger is one of those words that has such a negative connotation that everyone is afraid to talk about its plus side. I’m going to tell you a secret. My life would never have changed if I didn’t get angry. If my attitude doesn’t change from poor me, to you son of a bitch, I’m still rocking back and forth and feeling so hard done by, like a victim. Anger is that secret ingredient that pushes you to achieve what you think you can’t. It’s the fuel in the, I’ll show you, attitude. Embrace it while it lasts and let it push you to greatness.
Become Uncomfortable with Where You Are – Do you know why most people don’t change their lives? It’s because they’re comfortable with where they are. It doesn’t mean they like it. They might be overweight, in a bad relationship, in poor health, living paycheck to paycheck, addicted to something…. But the idea of doing something to change their circumstances is more painful and more difficult than doing nothing and staying where they are. There’s no fear of the unknown in what you already know. There’s no work in doing nothing. Find your reasons. For most parents, your children are a pretty good reason. We often hear, “I left for my children. I didn’t want them to go through that.” And it’s a good reason. Anger and fear wear off pretty quickly, so you better figure out what your reasons are. Generally I find the more salacious the reason, the more powerful the force behind it. Revenge, I’ll show you, Fame, Money, Purpose, Need to Help Others… these are the answers we usually get when we ask someone what their reasons are to change. Figure out what yours are and find a way to let them fuel you.
Get a Mentor – Chances are, if you want to be X, there is already someone that is X. The easiest way to become X is to do what someone, who is already X, is doing. Find someone who is the pinnacle of what you want to be and do what they’re doing.
Own Your Own Worth – Stop looking to others to tell you who you are. They don’t know. They don’t have a clue and worse yet, they don’t care if they’re giving you validation or self-esteem – not really. You can’t get something from someone that they don’t have. Your worth is in you, no one else. It’s a set point and it doesn’t change based on someone’s ability to see it. It is your birthright. You just have to reach out and take it.
Learn How to Meditate and Regulate Your Emotions – When I meditate I can manufacture a feeling. I can make myself feel joy, love, abundance…any feeling I want. What you want to do is get in the habit of taking time every day to raise your emotional vibration. You want to feel good as much as possible throughout your day. It raises your emotional vibration. Make time for it – make it a habit in your daily routine just like brushing your teeth.
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