Healing From Emotional Abuse

By Jon Terrell, M.A.

Many people suffer from past or present physical and emotional abuse. Healing from emotional abuse is possible, even in the most difficult cases, with the right kind of help.

And a huge amount of healing can happen in just one weekend at our emotional healing retreats!

Even with abuse that took place in the past, suffering can continue until the traumatic pain we've internalized is worked through. People can live a life filled with past pain, and never free themselves.

Although we are most conscious of our uncomfortable thoughts about the abuse, it is our uncomfortable emotions that need to be healed for us to find relief.

Healing Happens In Our Body

These emotions live in our bodies, and that is where the healing must happen.

Healing from emotional abuse occurs when our body feel safe enough to finally release the emotional pain and suffering it is holding on to. These emotions include fear and anxiety, grief, anger and even hate.

When these feelings are transformed, our thoughts change too and we have more space in our lives for joy, love and peace.We are no longer caught up in the trauma.

Our body doesn’t clearly distinguish between abuse occurring now or in the past. 

It can be stuck due abuse that happened years ago, even in our childhood or adolescence. We can then be triggered by current situations, over reacting to what people say or do.

What is Psychological Trauma?

It could have been sexual, physical and/or verbal abuse from a parent or sibling or someone we trusted. It could have been harsh words or actions by our marriage partner or a boss or someone we looked up to.

Psychological trauma occurs when something disturbing happened that is beyond our ability to cope. We may go into shock or denial, pushing the event below our ordinary awareness into our bodies.

This can lead to symptoms such as:

  • Anxiety, worry or panic
  • Flashbacks
  • Confusion or feeling "spaced out"
  • Insecurity
  • Difficulty handling emotions or sudden emotions
  • Body symptoms such as digestive, back or pelvic pain
  • Hypersensitivity to stress

Highly Sensitive, Over Sensitive

Many people, including those who have experienced early life emotional abuse are often told that they are overly sensitive or too sensitive or thin skinned.

You may have also been told to “just get over it.” But it's usually not that easy!

What is actually occurring is that you have not worked through past trauma and are carrying that pain and discomfort into present situations. It's still in your body even though your brain doesn't necessarily recognize the cause.

If you were yelled at and it was traumatizing in the past, then raised voices or even loud sounds may trigger you in the present.

If you were touched inappropriately then even loving touch or massage can trigger an uncomfortable response.

If you experienced danger in the past, the present may also feel dangerous when some thing triggers you..

You may frequently space out because you don't want to be here–it may be too scary to be present if your body is still stuck in a past situation. It is still present for our body until we can let it go.

And we can't just let it go, we have to work it through.

Reclaiming The Present

How can we reclaim our bodies in the present moment? How can we heal from the past so we can reclaim our lives?

There are a variety of trauma healing therapies, such as Somatic Experiencing, that can help.

The emotionally healing retreats that we lead, especially Working Through Grief, Loss and Other Difficult Emotions can be particularly helpful for healing from emotional abuse. We help people re-experience their old pain in a safe environment where they can work it through and finally let it go. Read clients responses to the retreats here.

Sometimes it was abuse in childhood from a parent, relative or sibling. For others the abuse came later, in a bad personal or even work relationship. Sometimes the abuse occurs in our being treated badly after a traumatic event. 

What Is Emotional Abuse?

Most people focus on the trauma of physical abuse–from situations were people were beaten or rape. Removal from the abuser can stop the physical activity of course, but what about the emotional pain? It  can continue unless it also is addressed.

And what about verbal abuse, such as constant criticism, sarcasm, name calling, yelling. When I grew up I heard "Sticks and stones can break my bones but names can never harm me."

Words of affirmation like that were supposed to inoculate us from emotional abuse, but we often need much more than words–we need healing that comes from being heard and being supported in releasing our pain.

Healing From Emotional Abuse

I lead intensive emotional healing retreats 6-8 times a year, in the Northeast US and in southern California. People attend these events to work through where they are stuck and reclaim their love and joy. They come from all over the US and Canada, and occasionally from other countries.

People come to heal from grief and difficult emotions, including healing from emotional abuse, from being caught up in anger, and from anxiety and  fear. 

The work of healing from emotional abuse is to reclaim the safety of our body in the present moment. Our power and inner light can be lost as a result of abuse and trauma. Participants reclaim their light, their power and their love.

The first part of each retreat is about creating a safe, loving container to do the work. We do various activities so that participants feel more comfortable and at ease with each other and with themselves. We eat together, share our stories and learn principles and skills of loving.

The second part of each retreat is the depth work. Each participant gets an opportunity to enter the stuck places in their bodies and work it through. Everyone experiences the power of a loving group to support deep healing, as each person reclaims their body as a safe place to be in the world.

The last part of the retreat is about integration of what is learned and how to carry that healing back home.

To find out more about our retreats or to ask me a question, fill out the form below. Let me know the best times to reach you and your time zone.

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