What Works (and What Doesn’t) When it Comes to Healing From Emotional Abuse?
“When it comes to healing from emotional abuse, how do YOU know what works and what doesn’t? Why should I listen to YOU?”
Oh my goodness, you SOOOO don’t have to listen to me. I’m nothing remarkable. Truly just a lowly ant on the planet. (I’m throwing my haters a bone – do you see that? So much fun.) But here’s what I DO have that might prove helpful when answering the question of “What works and what doesn’t when it comes to healing from emotional abuse?”
I’ve been marinating in emotionally abusive environments my entire life. Home. School. Church. Marriage. Even parenting. I’ve literally got over 50 years of up-close-and-personal experience swimming in glorified upchuck. I know emotional and spiritual abuse inside, outside, and upside down. I can smell the slightest whiff of it from thirty miles away. A nuanced whiff. With just a dash of malice.
I’ve also read hundreds of books on the subject, had various types of therapy, taken online classes, watched buttloads of workshops and summits, had coaching, and interacted with dozens of experienced abuse advocates over the past few years. Do I know everything? Nope. But this little ant know a lot.
And finally, I’ve been publically writing and speaking about emotional abuse on this website, on social media outlets, and through my published book, Is It Me? Making Sense of Your Confusing Marriage, for six years. I’ve also coached hundreds of women privately and through my online training program, Flying Free, for the past four years. This means I’ve rubbed shoulders with a lot of victims. I know how they think, what they are feeling, what they typically do, and the results they regularly get from all of the above.
You guys, I know what staying stuck looks like. I know what healing looks like. I know what works and what doesn’t.
What Doesn’t Work When it Comes to Healing From Emotional Abuse?
I’m not all that interested in getting on social media and talking about the problem anymore. The problem is SCREAMING at all of us from every corner of this globe. It’s depressing.
And I get it. So few people are listening. I too used to think if we yelled loud enough, the people in the back would get it.
That doesn’t work, and it wastes our precious time and energy.
Trying to solve the problem by controlling or “fixing” abusers and their flying monkey will never solve the problem.
Trying to solve the problem by educating outsiders will never solve the problem.
Trying to solve the problem by avoiding and resisting the problem will never solve the problem.
Do you see this? That’s like telling a caterpillar that she can become a butterfly IF her abuser lets her. Which means we just need to get that abuser to CHANGE already.
That’s like telling a caterpillar that she can become a butterfly IF all the flying monkeys would just become flying angels and grant her their sacred permission. Which means we just need to get the CHURCH to change.
That’s like telling a caterpillar that she can become a butterfly IF all the humans get educated. And IF we can eradicate abuse on this planet. Which means we just need to scream our truth louder on social media and throw up all over everyone who disagrees with us. Maybe tell them they aren’t Christians. Right. That’ll work.
Sorry, but that’s just feeding her more of what her abusers feed her:
It also sends the message to our kids and the universe that the answer to control – is more control.
So round and round and round we go.
Trying to change all the external circumstances doesn’t work. Trying to control everything and everyone outside of our control isn’t the answer. The world gets to be what it is. People get to be who they are. (I remember the first time the profound thought occurred to me that “Christians get to be assholes if they want to.” Life-changing.)
Caterpillars can’t change anyone else. They can’t change their environment. As long as they are crawling on the ground, their environment will always involve the ground, and that ground ain’t going nowhere.
I know, cuz I’m an ant. Remember?
What DOES Word When it Come to Healing From Emotional Abuse?
Do you know what stands between a caterpillar and her butterfly destiny?
A personal metamorphosis that involves whole lot of mushy yuck.
Her ability to get free (whether we are talking about internal freedom from her abuser’s pretend world or external freedom from being in his physical presence every day) is totally dependent on her ability to ALLOW THE MUSHY YUCK.
This is the chrysalis phase of transformation.
Did you know that when the caterpillar tucks away inside her chrysalis, she dissolves into a liquid goo? That’s right. She loses her shape and form. She becomes non-descript. Lost. It’s like dying to all that she once was.
But hidden behind her chrysalis veil, something unbelievably transformative is happening. Her new body parts are reorganizing and taking a new form, revealing who she will become when she emerges some time later.
Does she struggle and fight against this process? No. She surrenders to the dissolution of her former life. She entrusts herself completely to her Creator, and she allows Him to do His miraculous work.
I don’t know if the caterpillar experiences pain, but I know a survivor does. And I know that a survivor’s ability to allow this pain, sit with it, and make friends with it, will ultimately save her life.
A caterpillar can’t change her environment. But she can change HERSELF. When THAT happens, she will be able to move into a different environment that no longer involves the ground.
Pretty amazing, right?
So that’s my focus. I ignore the abusers and all their allies. They are all the same anyway. You meet one, you’ve met them all.
I focus on the interesting, resilient caterpillars, and I teach them how to go through the chrysalis (and support them ever gooey step of the way), and then I cheer them on as they break free, dry off, and take their first flight.
I show them who they really are.
BEST. JOB. EVER.
I love what I do. Like – passionately, totally, ALL IN love what I do. Why? BECAUSE IT WORKS.
Who are you? Do you know? I do. I know who you are because I know Who your Creator is. And I know His handiwork and His heart.
I have chosen to align myself with the Creator in being a sort of midwife who helps to deliver lovely, colorful, living, breathing butterflies into this universe. (If you are one of those butterflies – shout it out in the comments below!)
I have an online coaching/training/education/support program that opens every six months for new members.
In this group I train women using all the most effective methods for discovering your programming and making decisions about what to keep and what to change. Then I help you do all the changing your heart desires.
We do this work using classes, coaching, live events, workshops, and community. All the things you need to make your journey successful.
You can meet me, read loads of reviews, and learn more HERE.
Make this the beginning of your new life!
I just found this website and the articles are really ministering to me! I dated a man long distance for 6 months and married him. It took me a while to figure out what was going on was emotional abuse. I really started feeling like I was the problem but I know I wasn’t! I’m thankful the Lord has his hand on me and freed me from what would have been a horrible life! Everyone tells me to be thankful and be glad I’m out but it still hurts so bad. I’m just trying to work through the grieving process.
Oh Natalie, you are my Kindred Spirit! I praise YHVH that He orchestrated our “meeting.” The stage I’m in? Is it possible to be the goo before being a caterpillar? Ha! Caterpillars are cute and fuzzy and move slowly, serenely. That doesn’t describe me at all. But, even as “goo,” I can think clearly enough to get online and LOOK FOR YOUR FACE! God is REALLY using what the enemy meant for evil. Thank you for fighting for yourself and for us by surrendering all you’ve got to the metamorphosis directed by our Creator!
I have an off-topic question: do you have a “contact us” button somewhere or is there a way to actually connect with you besides commenting in a subject matter box like this one?
I mentor the women within the Flying Free Sisterhood, and they have access to me every day in the forum. Learn more here: http://www.joinflyingfree.com
I love this article! You have a beautiful way of articulating the painful process that will end in joy and a life of freedom that our Creator wants for us to live. Ive chosen time sit in the muck and become ALL God wants me to be. The pain is intense, but He is holding my hand and showing up for me every step of the way. Thank you for all you do and the words of encouragement you give! Bless you!!
I have known Natalie for over two years. I found her blog and FB group at the time I left my abusive 33 year marriage. I was so scared and had no clue what to do; I just knew I could’t live like that anymore. Everything she describes above happened to me. I was alone until I found the women of Flying Free and Flying Higher. I am a butterfly now, free for the first time in my life. It has been a hard, mushy, gooey journey but so worth it. Don’t stay stuck. Focus on yourself, perhaps for the first time in your life. You are not alone. Thank you, Natalie!
You’re so welcome, Julie! You are an example of what is possible!
I am still on the ground, but so close to being in the cacoon. I was married almost 23 years. I had an affair at the end when I was in a desperate state. I wanted free from the marriage, but I knew no one would accept it. The affair was over quickly, friends and family have overwhelmed me with love and support, but my children waiver in their feelings towards my actions. The divorce was/is hard, but so much more peaceful to be alone than with an abuser. I want to join the group and finally grow my wings!
Amen and “ditto” to all you wrote!
I am one of God’s butterflies thanks to Natalie. So thankful for her book and her support community when few people around me could understand. Thank you Natalie for your passion to use your experiences to help others.
I am so glad there are people like you speaking out.. I am a mother of seven and like you came out of a very strict conservative church I really relate to you. Thank you for “walking with me“ through this when no one from my church would. When I suffered abuse I was told not to talk to anybody in my church except two designated people: an elder in the church and a new member (both were biblical counselors). The former preached women need to submit in everything (The morning after my husband came into my room with a knife telling me our marriage was over when I tried to set boundaries) and the latter gave me an article that insisted all conflict is a result of idols in one’s heart. I previously tried to go to the elder with a list of abuses but a few days after his wife committed suicide. I ended up sleeping in my car to get away from my abuser all the while my church was sending out emails telling church members to look out for people in our community who are suffering!! I was told not to return to worship there when I filed for divorce. The seasoned forensic investigator in my case said this is THE worst case of control he had ever seen.
Wow. It makes me wonder why his wife killed herself. True followers of Jesus don’t drive the sheep away. You experienced an attack INSIDE the sheepfold by wolves who were posing as shepherds. It’s one of the most traumatic experiences a person can go through. It sounds like you are out now? Keep doing your personal work. You are strong, brave, and true.
I’m sorry you had to go through all of those experiences
At what stage are you now, dear?
Love to you
Had it not been for the Lord, I would’ve soon settled in silence. I was married TWICE to the same very abusive man! Insanity. God granted me the courage and wisdom to get OUT of 1st marriage to him, although, Elders, Deacons wife, “supposed” Christian counselors told me to stay! God hates divorce. It’s so exhausting to be reminded of it, but I want to thank you, for ALL your hard work, your persistence to find God’s truth, and for sharing with other’s, that they too..might be FLYING FREE
Well said Natalie! Thank you for doing what you do. You have helped me in my journey and I look forward to my final stage as a butterfly! Keep up the great and life changing work you do!
I’m so glad! Fly free!!
Natalie, what you said is so true. “ sit with my pain and make friends with it“ has literally saved my life! It’s so true! I was married for 26 years and I left 13 years ago. I lost my family, Friends, children, home, pretty much everything. But I am transformed, strong and a new creature! There is so much hope if we’re willing to embrace our pain instead of wallowing in it. Thank you, thank you for your wisdom and teachings!