Five years ago this week, I placed a call to The Hotline to ascertain if I was, as suspected, involved in an emotionally abusive relationship. After delivering an affirmative verdict, my advocate informed me that emotional abuse is not only more difficult to identify than physical abuse, but it’s also more difficult to recover from. She said the scars last even longer. This was not welcome news.
She labeled my on again/off again boyfriend as an abuser, and said he would have treated any woman he dated the same way – I just happened to be the one who came along. She insisted I had simply been dealt a bad hand, as if I’d been playing a game of chance.
This all flew in the face of everything I believed, like how we attract relationships that help us evolve. And that we play our relationship roles with mental, emotional and behavioral patterns, based in the past. I believed life was always unfolding for my good (even when I couldn’t see it that way). I’d known myself as an equal co-creator of all my previous relationship challenges. Why was this one different?
I also didn’t believe my boyfriend would treat any woman the same way. I’d long ago learned we teach people how to treat us. These other women who supposedly would have had the same experience with him may have handled things quite differently, therefore shifting the dynamics of the relationship.
For instance, in the early stages, another woman who believed she was being relentlessly judged, criticized, berated, falsely accused and blamed may not have accepted this as willingly as I did.
She may have devoted more energy to her own emotions, instead of trying to help him navigate and feel better about his. When her feelings cried out for attention and love, she may not have pushed them down, avoided them or tried to get better at “handling” them.
She may have known there is no such thing as being too sensitive – that her sensitivity was one of her superpowers, not a flaw to be corrected. She may have learned how to activate it much sooner.
If he yelled in the name of love and justified what felt like very unloving words in the name of Jesus, another woman may not have tried to understand what she’d done to trigger his anger, let alone allow him to project it on her.
She may have told him right off the bat that this was not behavior Jesus, or any other enlightened being, would condone. This is not how love shows up; it’s how fear does.
Another woman may have foreseen the disaster that awaited if she didn’t stop obsessively focusing on what he was saying and doing and allowing herself to get sucked into draining power struggles, instead of attending to how it all affected her.
Another woman may not have been unconsciously looking for approval and validation from someone who was rarely going to give it on anything that mattered to her. Women who love and honor themselves don’t seek anyone else’s approval; they don’t need it.
Another woman may not have people-pleased like a professional and allowed the relationship to consume her. Hell, she might even have known how to say no to him without feeling guilty, and how to enforce the boundaries she tried to set. No one respects our boundaries when we don’t, and why should they?
Another woman may have reached out for professional support when she realized their relationship dynamics were having a detrimental effect on most aspects of her life, including her emotional and physical health and finances.
She may have walked away when she began to perceive their relationship as abusive, instead of calling a Hotline to ask someone else’s opinion. And that woman may not have gone back once, let alone time and time again.
So no, he wouldn’t have treated any woman the same way: only one who would allow it.
Part of me already knew all of this while I spoke with the advocate; in fact, I’d already helped countless clients with codependency and relationship issues. At the time, I was a 13-year addiction specialist, albeit not one who understood that an experience of abuse can turn into a biochemical addiction.
I knew in my heart that my happiness and well-being were my responsibility, not someone else’s, but I was desperate to feel better. So my advocate and her powerful broadcast managed to convince me that I was, indeed, a victim. Yikes.
She insisted I go “no contact” and even went as far to suggest I replace my ex’s contact name in my phone with Call The Hotline. This way, when he contacted me, or when I felt tempted to reach out to him, I’d call them instead, for another round of victim brainwashing.
When I look back at that call today, I wonder what the next phase of my life would have been like if I’d never made it. Or if I had gotten an advocate who could have helped me see that my experience was a symptom of what I had going on within myself, not something external that was happening “to me.”
It all played out the exact way it was meant to. I signed up on the spot for my doctorate at Victim University, a necessary degree for my future mission of helping others. The more I focused on my courses of study and identified with being a victim, the more experiences and people I attracted to feel victimized by.
That’s how it works when we are caught in victim stories, or more accurately, how it doesn’t work. They breed like rabbits.
My teachers came in many forms. Some were romantic partners, or potential ones. Some were family members I’d previously been close with for decades, who I co-created screenplay-worthy scripts with. One was a childhood friend, another a professional ally of many years, neither of which I’d experienced conflict with before.
Those of you who read my blog in 2015/16 might even recall the highly improbable experience of an abusive exchange with a 5-star B&B owner!
Don’t get me wrong – those people all showed up in some radically unevolved ways, to put it kindly. But it nevertheless came as a very big surprise when shortly after graduation from Victim U, I discovered I was only actually a victim of one person in that entire cast.
That person was myself.
Clear Your Traffic
Welcome to Love Without Traffic, circa 2020. You’ve come to the right place if you want to release your own victim stories, the ones that have you feeling disempowered, disconnected, anxious and unhappy. The ones that are wreaking havoc on your life.
Are you dating a narcissist, struggling to break free from an unhealthy relationship or scared to date because you keep attracting this personality type again and again? Are you ready to take back your power from these relationships and patterns? If so, and you identify as a woman, I invite you to join my new (free) support sisterhood. I’m also holding a free 3-day training this September.
If you’re ready to take responsibility for your own happiness and well-being, you are in for a glorious adventure of empowerment and awakening.
I took the long, dark, winding, treacherous and extremely painful road of healing so I could help others find the shortcuts.
If you want to hold onto your stories and continue giving your power away to other people, situations and world events, that’s okay also. We’re not ready until we’re ready; maybe I can help you get there in a way that feels safe.
Reading some of my old blog posts, including the one about what prompted that Hotline call might help. Seeing myself in the stories of others was extremely helpful for me in the early stages of my recovery.
I’ve also written two books that will help people heal and empower through experiences of abuse. I’d love your help deciding upon titles!