Are you abusing yourself? How do you stop?

I recently saw a post of FB condemning men for the emotional abuse they inflict on women. It attracted many comments, mostly from women identifying with the experience, sharing their stories: all the horrible ways men had wronged them. As a woman who’s been through my fair share of emotional abuse and come out the other side, I can tell you there’s only one person I blame: me.

The rule is simple: what we permit we promote. In practice this means putting the necessary boundaries in place to stop the behaviours you don’t like. This sounds so easy, logical, obvious even. But it’s the toughest lesson we all go through and if you don’t learn it early on in life, well then, life will give you the experiences you need until one of two things happen: you get bitter or you fight back by protecting yourself.

When we’re in an abusive situation, the natural reaction is to look outwards to see who’s attacking us and blame that person. The natural reaction is not to look inwards and wonder: what have I done to create this situation? Because that’s a tough question, one that requires space, time and compassion to answer, and typically, these are not things a person in an abusive situation possesses.

Neuroscience shows us that one of the ways the brain and body are connected is through the nervous system’s central control: the enteric nervous system (ENS). Located deep in the brain, with every breath the ENS scans the environment outside the body to make sure it’s an environment that meets the needs of the mind and body. When there’s an imbalance, the nervous system flicks to fight or flight mode. Or it freezes.


I was frozen for a long time. In such a deep freeze, I wasn’t even aware of how bad things were, or could get. I felt powerless, and woke up every day dreading getting dressed and going outside. Most of all, I dreaded interacting with people. I lost the ability to talk, to hold sentences in my head, to have anything to say. Better to be quiet. Hidden. Isolated. Where no one could judge me but me.

The sense of shame I felt invaded every cell in my body. When things got really bad, anxiety raged through me like a forest fire, razing my peace of mind. I couldn’t sit still, couldn’t calm myself for long enough to read a book or watch a movie or even cook. Every task felt overwhelming. I wanted to curl up, go to sleep and never wake up.

I couldn’t understand why no one could see the pain I was in, yet at the same time, I made no effort to have honest conversations with anyone. I didn’t have the words to explain what was happening to me. I was too scared to examine what was happening to me. I was waiting for approval, waiting for someone to say, hey, don’t worry, what you’re going through is normal, or even better: hey, don’t worry, I have the solution to your problems, let me fix them for you.

It took me years to understand that the only approval I needed was from myself. But before I got to that point, I kept looking for answers outside myself while placing blame on the people and situations in my life. As a result, I kept attracting toxic people and toxic situations, ensuring that the cycle of abuse continued and I remained frozen.


The law of quantum physics states that you attract what you are, or you are what you attract. This is a tough nut to swallow, especially for those of us who find ourselves in abusive situations. Why would I want this in my life? Are you crazy, I didn’t wish for this! are typical responses to the idea that we invite abuse into our lives. But today we have the science to prove it’s true.

In this blog post, John Assaraf, one of the world’s leading mindset experts, explains how the science works. He begins the post with a simple statement: “Nothing is solid.” By this he means, everything in the universe, including people, is made up of energy. Because we can’t see or touch or buy it, many of us have trouble attaching a meaning to this concept. It works like this:

The body is comprised of organs and tissues, which are made of cells, which are made of molecules, which are made of atoms, which are made of sub-atomic particles, which is energy. There’s more. We use our senses (sight, sound, smell, touch and taste) to experience the world around us. But what we experience is determined by our individual internal map i.e. the bundle of experiences that makes you who you are.

What that means in practice is that what you perceive is not an objective assessment of reality but a subjective interpretation based on your past experiences. Here’s where things get tricky. If your past experiences were traumatic (read: we all carry trauma, it’s part of the human experience), it shapes your internal map to the point that you continuously seek out what’s most familiar to you, more trauma.


If you find yourself frozen as an adult or living from crisis to crisis, it means you learned how to be frozen as a child, or were raised in a chaotic environment. I’m speaking from experience. Like so many of us, I was sexually abused as a child. Because my child brain couldn’t understand what was happening to my body, l learned out how to block out memories and how to shut down and freeze my body in times of extreme stress.

This was a strategy that worked well for me as a child, enabling me to forget the abuse. However, with age, the strategy started to fail. My conscious mind forgot but my body didn’t. I carried the abuse with me until I was able to look at it and acknowledge the pain in my body. Until I acknowledged that pain, my mind kept seeking abusers in a bid to get me to remember, to wake up, to heal.

Here’s what I know: you can’t go around a problem, you have to go through it. But there’s no way to do that from a place of fear where you feel empty and drained. The only way to start is to figure out what’s bothering you and confront it head on with bucket loads of compassion. The key is compassion. No one else can give it to you. How do you give yourself compassion?

Start by doing nice things for yourself. Learn how to really take care of yourself. Then, ask questions. Learn how to have gentle conversations with your Self. Later, when you’ve built up a reserve of compassion, you’ll gain courage and will be able to direct some questions to your abusers. All it takes is a little bit of enquiry to discover that the people who’ve been abusing you are far more broken than you. This is compassion. This is healing.


If you want updates on the tools I use to overcome the challenges of IBS, hit that FOLLOW button.


Do you know how to give yourself compassion? Do you do nice things for yourself every week? What’s a nice thing you’ve been meaning to give yourself? Can you set it up this week?


If you need help putting an eating plan together to help you deal with the challenges of IBS, get in touch today, email wildwomanaw@gmail.com


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