Why is trauma therapy so important for those who have been hurt in an emotionally abusive relationship? Jill Stenerson explains how trauma occurs and the value of addressing it with a trained and specialized clinician.
Why is Trauma Therapy Important to Victims of Emotional Abuse
In today’s world, there is an increasing awareness of the different forms of abuse that people can experience within the confines of their personal relationships. Emotional abuse, often subtler and more insidious than physical abuse, can leave deep scars on its victims. Victims of emotional abuse may find themselves grappling with complex emotions, distrust, and a sense of constant unease.
In this article, we will explore the importance of trauma therapy for victims of emotional abuse, particularly within the context of a traditional male-female marriage or committed partnership. While the dynamics can apply across various genders and relationship structures, we will use a simplified male-female example for clarity.
Understanding the Complex Nature of Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse in a marriage or committed partnership can manifest in various ways, such as manipulation, control, gaslighting, and consistent undermining of the victim’s self-esteem. Victims of emotional abuse may endure not only the direct abusive behaviors but also the lasting impact and emotional turmoil that lingers long after the abuse has occurred.
When victims of emotional abuse seek help, they often grapple with two distinct aspects of their trauma: the abuse itself and the coping mechanisms they’ve developed to survive within the abusive relationship. These coping mechanisms, while initially necessary for self-preservation, can become ingrained behaviors that hinder emotional healing and personal growth. This is where the importance of trauma therapy comes into play.
Recognizing the Signs of Trauma
Not all emotional distress qualifies as trauma, and not all trauma requires professional treatment. However, when an individual’s life becomes organized around avoiding unsafe and fearful situations, or when they are constantly anticipating the other shoe dropping, it’s indicative of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD). C-PTSD signifies that a person’s emotional regulation is profoundly affected by their experiences, and specialized treatment becomes necessary.
Imagine living in a world where you are continually anticipating harm or betrayal, where your emotional well-being is a constant struggle. This is the reality for many victims of emotional abuse. Their lives are structured around avoiding triggers and maintaining a semblance of safety. In such cases, trauma therapy is essential to help them heal and regain control over their emotional well-being.
The Baseball Metaphor: Understanding Betrayal Trauma
To illustrate the challenges faced by victims of emotional abuse, let’s consider a baseball metaphor. You and your partner are on the same team, playing the game of life together. In this partnership, you are supposed to trust and care for each other. However, when emotional abuse occurs within this intimate relationship, it feels as if your partner, the person you love and trust the most, suddenly wields a baseball bat and strikes you with it.
This form of betrayal trauma is unique because it stems from someone you deeply care about and should be able to rely on. The emotional devastation is different from trauma inflicted by a stranger. To address this, we must focus on healing and restoring the individual’s emotional well-being.
In the metaphor, when abuse occurs, it is natural to focus on the person wielding the bat. We aim to take the bat away, help them develop new coping strategies, and prevent future abusive acts. Meanwhile, the victim is often left with emotional wounds, trying to continue playing the game of life despite being injured. They may limp through their relationships, struggle to trust, and find it challenging to engage in a healthy way.
The Role of Trauma Therapy
Trauma therapy, particularly in the context of emotional abuse, shifts the focus from the abuser to the victim. It involves examining the victim’s life and behaviors to understand how they have adapted to survive in an abusive relationship. The goal is to identify the emotional injuries and negative adaptations they’ve developed to navigate their environment.
In therapy, a trauma specialist will work with the victim to analyze specific events where abuse occurred and closely examine the resulting emotional injuries. This process helps the victim understand how the abuse has affected them on a profound level. They may uncover deep-seated fears, trust issues, and emotional triggers that have been left unaddressed.
Through therapy, victims can gain insight into their emotional injuries and begin the healing process. This may involve developing new coping strategies, learning to recognize when they are in a potentially triggering situation, and ultimately regaining control over their emotional well-being.
The Importance of Professional Trauma Therapy
Trauma therapy should be conducted by a trained professional, as it requires a deep understanding of trauma and its impact on individuals. Clinicians with trauma expertise are equipped to guide victims through the healing process, ensuring that they receive the support and strategies needed to recover.
If you or someone you know is dealing with the aftermath of emotional abuse, it is essential to seek help from a trauma-trained therapist. Look for resources and support related to betrayal trauma and complex PTSD, as this kind of specialized work is best conducted within a professional’s office.
In conclusion, trauma therapy is of utmost importance for victims of emotional abuse, as it provides them with the tools and guidance needed to heal from the profound emotional wounds they’ve suffered. By shifting the focus from the abuser to the victim and addressing their unique experiences, trauma therapy empowers individuals to regain control over their lives and move forward towards healthier, happier relationships.
Also read: What is The Secret to a Lasting Marriage
About Dr. Hawkins:
The internet is inundated with hyperbole and misinformation about narcissism, leaving many people confused and hopeless. Get the facts on narcissism and emotional abuse from someone who has been researching, writing about and treating narcissism and emotional abuse for over a decade.
Dr. Hawkins is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience helping people break unhealthy patterns and build healthier relationships.
He is the founder and director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute which offers education, training and counseling for people who want to break free of, and heal from, emotional abuse. Whether the perpetrator of the abuse is your spouse, partner, parent, boss, friend or family member, we offer practical advice for anyone trapped in a toxic, destructive relationship.
In addition to narcissism & emotional abuse, you’ll learn about the lesser known forms of abuse, including covert abuse, reactive abuse, spiritual abuse, secondary abuse, relationship trauma and much more.