The Dalai Lama says, “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.” It is not my intention, to hurt anyone in this article. It is my intention to provide peace to my own pain. Comfort to companions. Vindication to victims.
Maybe I will regret this. I have never had that thought when publishing an article. This is the cloud of doubt that follows me around six months after ending the relationship. I hope that in reading this, the victims and the abusers seek help.
I am concerned with the hearts and the lives of men and women who are emotionally abused and those who become emotional abusers. Emotional abuse can be unintentional for the abuser and difficult to identify for the victim. When we hurt, we hurt others. That doesn’t make it okay. We have a duty to take responsibility for our actions. All of us.
As I sit to write this article a wave of anxiety, of fear, and of dread takes me over. My hands shake and my stomach aches. I am afraid of the man who used to be emotionally abusive to me. I am fearful because it was his charm on the outside and low self-worth on the inside that made me doubt my confidence and my self-esteem. That is what the emotional abuser will do, he or she will use subtle tactics like manipulation or shame to confuse you. I hope my words bring solace to the quiet women in the world. I hope they bring hope that there are others of us, just like you, that struggle to break free from an emotionally abusive relationship.
It was 12:34 am and I had just finished watching the movie, Big Eyes, with some girlfriends. The movie evoked a liberating nature with a story of a woman who was lied to, shot down, and emotionally run out of her own life. Tim Burton’s visuals were accompanied by the vocal soundtrack of Lana Del Rey. This made the familiar embrace of comfortable confusion all that more real to me.
Lana Del Ray would play on the television in the background and he would call me princess and seem present to our relationship. He was a charmer, from the very beginning. These charming actions and his complete denial of mistreatment would provoke much anxiety in me throughout the course of the relationship. This anxiety would be followed by feeling of low self-worth and doubt. I was in denial of even calling it abuse. That’s because the mistreatment doesn’t seem like abuse. The abuser will have you in long-term doubt. I learned to develop coping to alleviate my own anxiety. I did well. I was encouraging, thoughtful, and empathetic towards him; while he was discouraging towards me. I understood that he had some past wounds and insecurities that lead to his treatment of myself and other women. I thought that my own coping skills and those that I introduced in the relationship would change things for the better. They did not.
I was more lost inside of myself, not sharing his actions with anyone else. My roommates and good friends saw us interact. I cried, worried, and doubted often. I learned how to keep that all inside. If I didn’t, my friends would make me question the relationship, then I would have a little bit of strength to question him. By the end of these conversations, nothing was solved and I would stay with him. A part of me felt like I needed him. That wasn’t it. The truth was: My new lack of confidence and low self-worth I was inundated with while in the relationship needed him. Abusers do this. They break you down to keep you down. You chalk it up to relationship difficulties. You apologize for their behavior and you justify their actions.
I was new to the my neighborhood so I discussed wanting to join a flag football team to get to know some people. He asked why I needed to make new friends and discouraged me when I wanted to meet new people. He shot down every conversation about hanging out with his friends and rarely let me see his family. He promised he wouldn’t do the same bad behaviors of leaving me out and cheating again and again. He devalued me. He confused me. As the emotional abuser breaks you down, he also gets upset when you confront his actions. I navigate these patterns for a living, so it was how I could finally acknowledge the discomfort I had just endured. Even as a professional, I still have trouble putting it all together; when I lost myself, how my confidence and self-worth got so low, and why I stayed.
There I was, feeling alone with no one new neighborhood friends. He’d send pictures of his trips and text over the iPhone. I would sit at home on the weekends and read for fear of the shaming and intimidating questions I would meet on the other end of the phone, had I gone anywhere or made friends in the neighborhood. He didn’t want me to have guy friends, not even ones I had for years. So I learned to hang with my girlfriends. I thought he would be happy that I was “respecting his wishes”, but then more shaming took place. I would text a picture of me and my girlfriends at a hometown bar watching a small hometown country band. He would banter mean things back, that “he didn’t want to see me watching a bunch of dudes playing music.” I sent the picture because I assumed he would appreciate me being with my girlfriends. But nothing was ever good enough. Anytime I told a story about being with a girlfriend, he would ask me if, “I was out trolling.” Nothing was ever good enough.
When you are in an emotionally abusive relationship, trying to get answers or trying to justify actions will only leave you more and more confused. When you are able to recognize that you are in an emotionally abusive relationship, take space and seek out help. Surround yourself with good friends who value you and know you for who you were before you got into the relationship. Join a support group, get a therapist, build yourself back up. Trust me, you deserve it.
I learned to live in a world of lies and unsympathetic behaviors. It was the constant manipulation, negativity, and relationship sabotage that I couldn’t stand. There were times when he would introduce me as his girlfriend and times when he played “too shy” to do it. He would claim to be “scared of commitment.” He had learned the correct conversations that yield getting close to a woman’s heart.
As I rewind, I realize how confused and conflicted I felt. I realize how many red flags there were and how I should have walked away months earlier. He would be attentive when he felt me wanting to walk away. Then when I was invested he would push me away or run away on a trip. I know now that I could not have changed him. The few and far between reaches to make you happy. This is all a game. I am afraid the abuser is in charge of moving the game pieces. And trust me, no matter how hard you try, you will never be able to change that.
Lana Del Ray’s song plays as the credits roll up on Big Eyes. I get it, I am not a painter whose husband stole my artistic essence for fame. But when you have a heart like mine, that bleeds for others, you know that it’s not the number of people in the audience, but the lives, if even one, that you can touch. When a man is emotionally abusive to you, it sure feels like he stole the one thing that you have fought so hard to create: yourself. I think he steals it because he fails to find a self.
I asked him once about going to a wedding with him. He replied, “Why would I take you?” I had learned from our relational exchanges to not ask questions like that. Getting shot down or discouraged was the status quo of the relationship. I can not begin to explain or elaborate on the chaos that goes on in one’s head when emotional abuse is taking place. You doubt yourself, you doubt your own insight on yourself, and you doubt your own intentions. You begin to believe that you truly might not be good enough. This lie is a part of where you have come from, because the emotionally abuse partner seeks out people who are vulnerable to this kind of situation. I was lucky. I was able to break free in a little short of a year. Six months later my mind is still break free of and overcoming all the lies that he spoke over me. Like shrapnel, it never truly goes away.
I could no longer empathize with a monster. An emotionally abusive relationship will have that effect on you. The residue of your partner’s nature will linger and you will feel the guilt and the shame that they worked so hard to instill in you. I beg and plead with you to break free. Reach for my hand, listen to Lana’s words, and break free. “We can fly. They had us caged up like a bird in mid-summer, We’ve got things to tell you. Like we know that you are liars. ” We can fly. Together.
He told me he loved me. Maybe in his favorite moments he really did think I was the one. But in his moments of doubt, he was willing to betray me. A man who doesn’t know himself and have a firm foundation in loyalty and respect will do this.
I had wanted to see Big Eyes for months now. Timing is everything. I would not have had the strength to write this before. But now, well now, I can fly. And so can you.
I paced back and forth down the airport isles glancing into shops as I held my iPhone to my right ear. After the pacing and the conversation stopped, I found myself alone in the Las Vegas Airport waiting to board my plane to Denver. Blank time; blank space. It’s amazing how unfilled space and time can be so difficult for us these days. Silence and stillness are covered up with text messaging, scrolling through Facebook, posting to Instagram, or having private phone conversations in public places. The space between us and others is getting bigger and bigger, but we don’t feel it. We are determined to make the quiet spaces go away. More anxiety ensues in the moments that we can’t fill with busy fidgeting or too much chatter.
This social change frightened me, so I adjusted my solo engagement differently these days. I practiced not getting caught up in the anxiety of standing in an open area alone and feeling lonely. Those thoughts of people staring at you or your unconscious need to keep your hands busy. Pause. Just stand and take in the strangers around you. These acts were getting more and more comfortable with practice. I recall the first time, standing in line at Panera Bread; waiting for my coffee. Just making myself stand, no phone in my hand, no one with me. Just completely alone with strangers and myself. I felt ridiculously. I felt alone; I scrambled to find a place for my hands; I moved around like I was choreographing a new dance. It’s interesting to feel yourself in this kind of open space. We live in a busy world full of ways to remain introverted, even when around a bunch of people.
These days I don’t fidget around like I have to pee. You will get there too. Practice being comfortable with the discomfort. I still practice all the time. It will get easier and easier.
Part of this concept was instituted by a book I just read. In his book, Get the Guy, Matthew Hussy makes an extremely valid “life” point. He talks about opportunities. First, these opportunities begin as a way to engage with strangers. He expressed how one should engage in a conversation. This alleviates the strangeness of talking to those we don’t know, but it also opens opportunities to meet new people. I can not tell you how many times this action has led to amazing conversations with strangers. I have learned so much, networked for business, had insightful conversations, and just been in community with my fellow humans. It has been eye-opening. The later part of Mr. Hussey’s ideas are to address the issue of dating. Opportunities to open your smile and yourself up to possible suitors. The main idea being, how do we have the opportunity to meet possible dating partners, if we have such blinders on to the connections around us? We are constantly looking down at our smart phones and feel anxiety to keep our attention distracted at all times. We are disengaged people in a hyper world.
Now back to the airport, so there I am, just standing in this space. There happened to be two gentleman about my age in the area next to me. Because I am not contained in my own world, I can not help but be in-tune to theirs. I can’t help but begin to giggle after five minutes of overhearing them. They were in a deep conversation about types of pillows and the delivery to sleep; luxury, style, make, and model. I looked over and said, “I am so sorry, but your conversation about pillows is so intense and so passionate that I can’t help but laugh.” This conversation starter yields an even longer conversation with one of the gentlemen through the whole flight. Turns out these rad dudes, Severan and Tyler, are owners in this cool record business: Vinyl Me, Please. It is exciting to meet mew people. You never know what you can learn and take in from conversations with strangers. I think we can learn something about society deficits that continue to get bigger. Set an intention each day to talk to a stranger. Encourage yourself to do rest your hand of fidgeting. Create just a little bit more wonder in a world loosing all its genuine quality and succumbing to impulsivity and immediate. Take in the world around you and be open to the idea of meeting someone who may spark something new.
When I was attending Indiana University as an undergrad, I got to travel to Prague with a group of students; some students were from the states and others made their way from different countries all over the world. It was on this trip that I was met with beauty, understanding, and patience. I was also met with being “called out”. Our political science class was having a discussion; students privy to the social and political happenings in the world. A debate about how lower socioeconomic citizens could not overcome their circumstances as easily as middle to upper class. I rationally chalked it up in my head that even if you were born into a specific hardship of lower socioeconomic status that you could just “choose” to move away and make something of your life. But what did I know, I was a middle class caucasian woman. I was met with much debate and rationality for why this just wasn’t possible. Sure, there are exceptions where people who have come from very little have made something of themselves, but this is the exception. I humbly accepted that I was wrong after I was met with massive conversations arguing against me and proving their point. I enjoyed this very much about my undergraduate experience and my travels. People interested in learning and heightening their understanding of the world in some way. We don’t know everything. The older I get, the more I realize it is not about what we know. Thought provoking intelligent conversations take place when we all turn towards one another to build relationships.
As Narcissism and selfishness eats our American society, it is time we went back to the drawing board? Why is it inappropriate to humbly accept that you are wrong? Why is it easier to make up excuses, instead of own up to not understanding something or to being wrong? Time and time again from talking to people to being guilty myself, we find it easier to excuse our behavior rather than to understand it. There is some kind of beauty in being “called out.” If you reach for a greater understanding of yourself, it will have to be part of the process.
Children tattle. They run to their parents to report the actions of their siblings. They solicit their teachers to tell about the boy next to them who is not doing his work. In first grade it is almost a right of passage to make sure justice is served. We watch as their age progresses and their maturity in regards to this blossoms. They stop telling on their peers for justice and learn the more appropriate times to contact an adult for real danger. Then something happens. We become adults. It is no longer socially appropriate to go to our boss and report about co-workers bad habits. We learn and understand that chain of command is important and collaboration is imperative. However, we digress in some way from our childish actions. We don’t tattle, but are instead constant to place the weight of a crappy decision on something or someone else. We’d rather use excuses when it comes to taking real responsibility for our actions. I was late because I hit all the red lights. I didn’t finish my reports because I got slammed with other work. First of all, you were not late because of red lights, you were late because you didn’t leave soon enough to manage traffic. Second of all, you didn’t finish the reports because you didn’t manage your time and deadline properly. The cause and effect of an excuse never directly correlates to the issue. You know what the issue is; YOU. Learning how to take responsibility is a huge milestone in personal development. We are so quick to learn from our mentors, parents, and peers that excuses are okay.
Excuses are evolved from a victim mentality. I believe the evolution of excuses is taught and ingrained in us through learnt behavior that it becomes such a natural thing to do. Day in and day out I hear people give them every day. Excuses about why they don’t work out, why they don’t eat right, why they cheated on their partner, why they can’t get somewhere or do something. There comes a time when we have to stop our adult-ish ways. We have to start over, we have to slowly move towards rationality and leave all the bullshit excuses behind.
Originally posted on miss kjelstrom:
I figured that it is time to write some more articles about my personal journey; I mean what good is all the objective relationship advice and discussion if you don’t hear some of my subjective experiences. Self-realizations have to be a part of the process in order to implement change. You can have all the knowledge in the world, but it won’t do you any good if you can not put it to use.
This all began one day when I called my mom to let her know that I had some news. It went like this:
Me: “Mom, guess what?”
Me: “Jason and Jamie are getting married!” (Both good friends of mine).
Mom: “You are getting married! You and John are getting married!” (Screaming to my father). Honey, Laurie and John are getting married!”
Me: “MOM! MOM! MOM! I said Jamie and Jason are getting married.”
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We are nearly two weeks into the New Year. We have been faithful to our New Year’s resolutions for less than 4 percent of the whole year. How are you feeling about your resolution? Are you hyped up about the recent change? Or are you bummed out? I watch as dieters mope across the work hallways and hang their heads as they crash from lack of sugar and crave salty chips. We torture ourselves with high end goals but have a low end understanding of what it takes to keep them.
You probably have great intentions when it comes to persevering through this first month. The truth is only 8 percent of us keep our resolutions. What can you do to be a part of the winning few? I am eager to help you understand how to stay on track.
Lose the Victim: If you feel like a victim in the race to your resolution, failing is right around the corner. By victim, I mean the ideas and judgment that you have given your resolution; if the goal is good but your reactions to it are negative, it will be hard to keep. I’ve overheard people dieting this week say that they are upset, hangry, and unhappy. The self-talk, emotional responses, or judgments that we give to our goals can be defeating or encouraging, whatever we allow them to be. If we can interpret and evaluate the situation with positive regard, we make it better. Our mindset about our goal is important. Instead of negative statements and defeated talk, try positive reflection about the goal.
Check in with Yourself: Know what goals you can reach and be honest with yourself. Ask yourself, “What do I need to achieve this goal?” Set realistic goals and challenge yourself to keep those goals by “awarding” yourself something at the end of that goal (such as a massage or an overnight trip you’ve been putting off). An example: You resolve to work out more this New Year. Your goal is 20 workouts a month. Each month you reach that goal you get a massage. We go to work to get money. Money is the “prize”. Work is the “goal”.
Balance: Life is about balance. Too much or too little of anything is bad. Make sure your resolution is a balance of ways you want to better yourself this year.
Temptation: Most New Year’s resolutions include something that is going to link to temptation. So you have a list of foods that you can eat on that diet, but what is your plan for when tempting treats make their way into the office? If you resolve to save money, what is your plan to resist your favorite purchases or to not spend as much time at the restaurant you love? You need to have a plan in place to resist the temptations that are going to come along with that goal.
Remember, an important part of improving any part of our lives is an understanding of ourselves. Don’t be discouraged if your resolution isn’t working the way you planned, just reevaluate it. We get stoked on the social stimulation of the New Year’s resolution, but we can make improvements on ourselves at any time in our lives.
Tonight is Friday. I am single. So I have so many options. So many options. What about setting up an online profile so these Friday’s don’t seem so lonely? I could jet out to the local bars to harness whatever small amount of luck I have left in me? I could swipe a tinder app, or upload a boyfriend? As I sit in my living room Frosty the Snowman by Beegie Adair Trio plays in the background. My roommate makes dinner for her date, herself, and myself. The Christmas tree is lit in the corner aligned with presents. My roommate loves Christmas. I could take her evening happiness away by being a bitter single. I could scoff at every couple that passes me and snuggles with hot chocolate and hand holding. However, as I sit here, I have decided to do none of that. I have a heart of compassion and understanding that has taken years to cultivate. The expectation is to be bitter after the reason for my recent break-up, but I refuse. I refuse to be angry. I also refuse to seek out filling the void through another relationship. I was offered for one of the couples this evening to bring me a date, and I kindly declined. It was time to take a break from the dating world. I look at it like switching up your routine at the gym so your results can be better. This year launched a long line of failed dating attempts. It was time to go back to the drawing board. It was time to figure out what new self-discoveries could yield a more stable and loyal relationship. Like I always say, the common denominator in our failed relationships is us. Through weeks of sadness and honesty I have gotten to this point. Here I am single, not about to mingle. I am excited to head out tonight to see the beautiful Balboa Christmas Boat Parade with two couples this evening. I am happy to be a fifth wheel.
Being single in a coupled world seems hard. It’s really all what you make it. When did it become so complicated that we had to seek out the next partner before spending some honest time with ourselves cultivating self-love? We should wait until we have an understanding of why the last relationship didn’t work out. Being the fifth wheel has it perks. No worry about that awkward end of the night kiss. No obligations to meet or expectations that could go unmet. Spending time with yourself harnessing a new passion for life and a better understanding of love. Spending time with your friends and family. It’s really all what you make it.