Abuse comes in many different forms. Have you been the victim of abuse? Are you wondering if you have been abused or just mistreated? Do you know how to overcome abuse? Chances are, if you have been mistreated, then you are a victim of abuse, and with the right tools, you can learn to overcome it.
We will talk about 4 types of abuse, how to overcome abuse, and the different ways abuse infects your body, mind, and soul. Any mistreatment in the form of abuse will affect every part of you.
We will cover a lot of information in this article today. It will take you time to heal, and for each person, it takes a different approach to mend your life. I will incorporate the body, mind, and soul into each healing process because all three are you, and all three work together.
As we talk about how to overcome abuse and how to heal, I want to bring a sense of normalcy into the picture. You have experienced horrendous acts of abuse, but you can still lead a wonderful life. You can still be functional and find ways to heal. I will help you identify the ways that will work for you.
Types of Abuse
You may think that because your abuser is not beating you that you are not really abused. Abuse comes in so many different forms. I want to talk about some of these to help you understand your situation and how to overcome abuse in your life. Abuse is a form of control. The abuser wants to have full control over your life. I want to help you break this cycle and give you back control to empower your life.
4 Types Of Abuse
- Child and Adult Sexual Abuse
Within these 4 types, there are many other subcategories of abuse. I will mention a few under each heading but I will not go into detail.
The actual definition of abuse according to the dictionary is:
- use (something) to bad effect or for a bad purpose; misuse.
- treat (a person or an animal) with cruelty or violence, especially regularly or repeatedly.
- Kicking, slapping, punching, hitting, pushing, biting, and assault.
- Purposeful burning of someone
- Withholding food or force-feeding someone to eat when they don’t want to
- Use of restraints
- Physically punishing
- Taking away a person’s physical comfort, such as a coat in cold temperatures
- Confinement or isolation, keeping one in a room or away from friends and family
- Using medications or drugs for sedation
Adult And Child Sexual Abuse
- Nonconsensual sex
- Inappropriate touching
- Forcing of pornography
- Photographing sexual acts
- Indecent exposure
- Nonconsensual anal or oral sex
- Sexual harassment
- Not allowing food, medical attention, heat and clothing
- Not allowing a person to follow their religious, cultural, or ethnic beliefs
- Withholding medications
- Lack of privacy
- Taking away all decision making
All of the items listed under physical, sexual, and neglect are also in emotional abuse. There are a few more that I will list.
- Financial abuse such as withholding finances, theft, scamming, and fraud
- Modern Slavery such as forced servitude, forced sexual favors, and human trafficking
- Discrimination such as age, race, gender, sexual orientation, and religion
- Bullying such as in the workforce, at school, and among friends
This list is not conclusive, but as you can see, each one in the categories above can lead to another. The list of abuse goes on and on.
I want to stop just a moment to talk to you about your safety.
If you are still in an abusive situation and you are not safe, there are organizations you can turn to for help. It is fine to begin working through your abuse while you are still in the situation unless your life is in danger. Then it is time to find a way out.
To find your way out of a dangerous, abusive situation is the most difficult part of working through it and very frightening. This is why I say you need to seek help. In every US state, you can find an abuse hotline that will connect you with shelters and organizations that can help.
National Sexual Assault Hotline-1-800-656-4673
In foreign countries, I do not know the laws of abuse, but you can research them. Be sure when you research that you cover your tracks and be ready to close the research window if your abuser discovers you.
How Abuse Infects Your Body, Mind, And Soul
I will first talk about how abuse infects you physically, mentally, and emotionally. Further down in this article, I will offer ways you can help yourself improve and begin to heal.
The most effective way to overcome abuse is to learn new coping mechanisms. For so long, you have been brainwashed and made to believe you are worthless. Even if the abuse were for a short period, it would still affect your body, mind, and soul.
Physical Body Needs
If you are newly out of an abusive relationship, I suggest you have a physical checkup. You may have incurred injuries you are not aware of and require medical attention.
One thing I want to point out is that any abuse will affect you physically. Even if the abuse were not of a physical nature, emotional or psychological abuse would produce physical symptoms. Some of these symptoms are:
- abdominal pain
- poor concentration
- chronic pain
Any of these symptoms and physical manifestations can continue for months or years. When you are reminded of something that happened, which is known as a “trigger,” you may have some of these symptoms all over again. Triggers are different for each person and can be words, gestures, surroundings, and much more.
Emotional and physical abuse may have severe consequences. Your brain will always have suppressed memories or, on the surface, memories of the abuse you received. As stated in studies, abuse will actually cause physical changes in the brain called rewiring. It is thought that this rewiring can affect your emotional well-being. They are continuing studies on this subject to determine exactly what physical changes do take place.
Once again, any abuse will affect you as a whole person, your body, mind, and soul.
Soul Or Emotional needs
All types of abuse will affect you emotionally. You can feel the physical and mental effects are tangible, but the emotional effects can last a lifetime. Some emotional effects are:
- Low self-esteem
- Inability to set boundaries
- Poor self-image
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Loss of yourself and what your likes and desires are
- Constant feeling of guilt
How To Overcome Abuse
All three, body, mind, and soul, will be addressed as one when we talk about how to overcome abuse. Any intervention you choose will heal all three as you move forward.
How To Overcome Abuse Of Body
Have heard that exercise reduces hormones such as cortisol? When cortisol levels in your body rise and stay high, it will affect your brain and your ability to cope with stress. The repeated or consistent threat of danger as in an abusive relationship may cause your levels to rise. Exercise will help to reduce stress and thereby reduce the levels of cortisol in your body.
Exercise will increase the endorphins in your body. Endorphins are your body’s natural painkillers and will elevate your mood.
All exercise is good. Walking for 5 min a day or an hour a day will have the same effect to reduce stress. Standing every hour will circulate blood through your body and move you toward a healthier lifestyle.
If you are not used to exercising and caring for yourself, start low and slow. Consciously move more and increase your walking each day. Apple Watch 6 or Fitbit Versa 3 will help motivate you to move and act as an accountability partner to keep you going.
Yoga is an excellent exercise that will decrease stress by working on your body, mind, and soul all at the same time. Yoga has science-based results and will increase posture, increase circulation, improve breathing and lower your heart rate and blood pressure.
You can begin yoga at home with videos and yoga accessories, or you can search your area for yoga classes. If you are a beginner, you may want to learn the yoga poses in a class setting before attempting them at home.
Eating healthy can have its challenges. When you are under constant stress, you may tend to stress eat. Regularly eating comfort foods to help you feel better will actually increase your stress.
Psycom has an article, “5 Ways to Stop Stress Eating and Why You Should,” to help you overcome your habit and stress.
Healthy eating is a lifestyle, yet most people look at it as a phase in their life. A focus group study was performed, and throughout the testing, groups offered some benefits of healthy eating.
- Improves mind, spirit, attitude…and your life
- Enhances your social life
- Retards the aging process
- “I can feel my jeans are looser.”
- Feeling better
- Helping prevent chronic diseases that “run in my family.”
- More energy
- Less stress
- Weight loss (goal-oriented such as fitting into a special dress, plans to attend a class reunion)
- “Be more alert at work. If you want to go out, you feel like going out.”
Any or all of these benefits of healthy eating can boost your mood, self-esteem, self-confidence, and your ability to work through your life-altering emotional experiences and overcome abuse.
While you are healing your body, mind, and soul to overcome abuse, a good night’s sleep is essential. Some say a good night’s sleep is at least 7 hours, while others say it is waking up feeling ready to face your day.
To learn and make proper decisions, one needs to reach a REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. The National Institute For Neurological Disorders And Stroke states that REM sleep begins about 90 minutes into your sleep cycle. If you are worried or stressed, you may not sleep deep enough to reach REM sleep. For your brain to function properly and overcome abuse, it takes 7-9 hours of REM and non-Rem sleep.
When you are stressed and worried, how do you get enough sleep? In times like these, it may not be enough sleep as much as good quality sleep. There are many tips to help you sleep and enhance your sleep but following them is the issue.
I know that some use sleep aids such as Muse S to track your sleep. Users report that Muse S is calming and helps them fall asleep.
There are also weighted blankets that improve your quality of sleep and decrease anxiety.
How To Overcome Abuse Of Mind
Rewire Your Mind
How do you rewire your mind? Isn’t your mind waves already set for life? Well, yes and no. Your mind is made with a brain and intricate parts within the brain to communicate and function properly. Stress and a negative thought pattern, as well as abuse, will change your brain chemistry.
Regular negative thoughts will cause physical illness such as headaches, chest pain, and sleep disturbances. These thoughts will also decrease your ability to think and to reason or problem solve. To overcome abuse, it is vitally important to make good, sound decisions.
So how do you stop this negative thought pattern that has manifested from worry or low self-esteem? You renew your mind also known as rewiring your brain.
Long-term repeated positive thoughts will push out the negative ones. Positive quotes repeated over and over will help with this process. If you are a believer in God, reading the bible or a devotional book will push out the negative.
Meditation is also an excellent way to renew your mind. Meditation helps you focus on the here and now and not worry about everything in your life. Meditation can help you indirectly overcome abuse from your past.
When you have a hectic busy life with lots of worries, it is hard to have a functional meditation session. Your mind wanders, or you can’t get in a comfortable position to let your mind focus. Muse 2 is a device to help you reach a meditative state. There are also items that you can use to get comfortable such as meditation pillows.
The most important tip to meditation is to start. Practice will help you reach the meditative state to decrease your stress and renew your mind.
If you are not a person who likes to meditate, you can achieve a calm, quiet mind in other ways. Surround yourself with peace such as relaxation apps, relaxing wall art, and getaway spa vacation.
Relaxation Apps-You can find various apps on your phone that will help you relax, fall asleep and improve your stress. I will review these apps and link them here shortly so you can better know how to overcome abuse in your life.
Relaxing Wall Art– Your home is your sanctuary for peace and healing. It is your place to feel safe from the abuse you encountered. To hang wall art and pictures that help you relax and feel safe is surrounding yourself with peace.
Getaway Spa Vacations-There is nothing better than a relaxing vacation. What better way to relax than at a spa. A few days or a week of pampering yourself will go a long way to relieve the stress and help you deal with the abuse in your life, so you feel protected. I will also do a review on Spa Vacations shortly to help you decide what best fits your needs.
How To Overcome Abuse Of Emotion
Let Go Of Shame
Build new support of family and friends. When a person is abused, they feel ashamed and have difficulty telling others what happened. Often a fight or flight mechanism will kick in. You go through different stages of helplessness and rage. You may try to act like you were never a victim of abuse, and many times others will believe you.
But to overcome abuse and heal, it is important to share your experiences with others. You do have to pick and choose who you share with. Many people in your life will not feel comfortable hearing about what you went through. Others who have not been abused don’t know what to say to your stories, and they don’t know what it is like to have to work through and overcome abuse. You may want to start with a counselor or support group.
Support groups are usually offered free and involve a group of people who have been through similar situations as you have. Each person can talk about their situation or choose to stay silent until they feel comfortable. You can search the internet for a support group in your local area.
Most importantly to talk about your situation with like-minded people will help you to overcome your abuse and heal.
Oh my, it sounds so easy, “just build your self-esteem,” but this is a tough step. Over time you have been told you are worthless in more ways than you can count. Your abuser needed control, and to gain that control, they broke down who you are. They wanted to keep you in a victim state of mind. But you are stronger than that because you are now and forever will overcome that abuse.
We have discussed exercise, healthy eating and good sleep patterns but there are more such as:
- Positive Self-Affirmation
- Push Negative Thoughts From Your Mind
- Be Kind To Yourself
- Surround Yourself With Positive People
- Job Accomplishments
Positive Self-Affirmation-Positive affirmations are simply you saying “I can.” You can do anything you set your heart and mind to. Remind yourself often that you will overcome and that abuse will not keep you down.
Repeat positive thoughts to yourself and out loud and believe them. It isn’t enough to just repeat “I am worthy” or “I am loveable,” you need to believe them. You can find quotes that talk of your self-worth or your inner strength or wise sayings.
Hug yourself every morning when you wake up to show you some self-love. You are worth every effort you put into this exercise. As a baby, you were made whole, loveable, and accepting. You can be that babe again with a bit of effort to overcome the abuse.
“Every rising sun brings with it the hope of a new day, a better tomorrow, and a better future.”Laura Fuller
Pinterest has millions of positive affirmations you can repeat. Write some down and keep them close at all times.
Push Negative Thoughts From Your Mind-negative thoughts can subconsciously become a part of your life. Often it takes great effort to push those thoughts away. But they won’t stay away unless you replace them with a positive thought.
You can use your positive self-affirmations to replace negative thoughts. Or you can consciously think of things you are grateful for.
The one thing you want to refrain from is beating yourself up when you have a negative thought. Give yourself a break and use that energy to think of positive thoughts.
Be Kind To Yourself-You are the only person made like you. You are wonderful and unique.
You will need to pamper yourself. If you enjoy baths, take a bubble bath. If you enjoy nature, take a walk in the park. Be kind to you.
Forgive yourself for your mistakes. We all make mistakes. Let go of guilt. You are not alone.
Take responsibility for your life but do not judge yourself for your decisions. Learn from them and grow.
Let go of perfectionism. No one is perfect. Embrace your imperfections.
Give yourself time to heal. And as above, trust yourself to do what is right for you. Do not let others persuade you to do anything that does not benefit your healing.
Surround Yourself With Positive People-You are who you hang with. Positive people will lift you and help you grow. Positive friends want the best for you.
Friends, family, or workspace, it doesn’t matter where positive people come from. Just make sure they build you and compliment you.
Positive people make it easier for you to exchange negative thoughts for positive ones. After all, you have had enough people tearing you down; why not allow others to build you up.
“If you surround yourself with positive people who build you up, the sky is the limit.”Joel Brown
Job Accomplishments- Many abused people, have found satisfaction in their job because it becomes an escape from the horrible life at home. Your job gives you a sense of belonging and a feeling of contributing to society. It can also help you learn how to overcome abuse with your accomplishments and increase in self-worth.
Make a list of what you are good at in your job. Focus on the positive aspects—Pat yourself on the back.
If your work is all you have right now, make it the best of your day until you can rewire your life to match your workday.
If you have not worked, then find something in your life that you are good at. Is it gardening, drawing, lifting others, protecting your children. There are so many things that you have overlooked through the years. Dig deep and find those things that you excel at, then make a list.
“To say, ‘well done’ to any bit of good work is to take hold of the powers which have made the effort and strengthen them beyond our knowledge. “Phillips Brooks
Learn To Trust Your Instincts
What are instincts? I could define the word, but that is not the type of instinct I am referring to here.
An instinct here is when the hairs on the back of your neck stand up when you feel danger. It is when you get goosebumps or tears when you are moved with emotion.
Your instincts are your ability to know when something isn’t right. During abuse, your emotions are stomped down, and your instincts go into hiding. To learn to trust them again will take practice.
But the most important part is that you listen to yourself. Put your feelers and radar up. Check out situations for safety. Often when we are in a strong emotional situation, we ignore the gut feeling or that little small voice telling us something is wrong. You will learn to overcome abuse as you learn to trust who you are.
These steps will help you determine if your instincts are trying to tell you something is bad or wrong timing. When you have an emotion or a feeling about a situation, follow these steps.
- Stop and think on or meditate on what you feel. Evaluate your emotion. Is it a good feeling or a threatening feeling? Once you determine this, move onto #2
- What was happening when you had this emotion? Were you reminded of another situation or life experience? Did the emotion trigger something from your past?
- Once you have worked through step #2, it is time to trust yourself. Maya Angelou says the next step so well in her quote, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” More than likely, if a person set your instincts on fire, it was for a reason. Don’t ignore it and or make excuses for why someone is OK.
- Let go of the situation and move on. You won’t be missing the opportunity of a lifetime. Not to mention if you have not learned to trust yourself first, you have a lot of healing yet to do. I worried that if I didn’t try to make it all OK, I might miss something. I only missed the peace that I so desired in my life when I forced an issue.
Setting boundaries will be new to you. You have been used to doing what others want. Now it is time to decide what you will allow in your life and where you will set your foot down.
A boundary is a line you draw to protect yourself. It is not a wall but rather an imaginary fence.
Think of a boundary as a line you place around yourself for your personal safety, emotional safety, relationship safety, and even with your kiddos.
Let’s look at an example to understand boundaries better:
You meet a person who askes you out on a date. The boundary you set is, you will only be friends for now and enjoy another person’s company. You go on a date. Your date is funny, charming, and wants to take this relationship further. You are flattered and charmed. But you are still healing, and you know you are not ready to take a relationship further.
Your date understood when you told him/her that you wanted a friendship but not a further relationship at this time. So your date tries to charm you and talk you into a more serious relationship.
What do you do with your boundary? You stand by it and do what you know is best for you. Now at a later time, you may choose to adjust your boundary. But you do not adjust it for someone who pushes you.
People who try to mow down your boundaries do not respect you. So even if you were tempted to give in, that person does not care about you. They care about themselves and what they want.
I wrote a couple of articles on boundaries that can help you take care of yourself.
Learn To Avoid Abusers
First and foremost, you are not to blame for the abuse your partner caused to you. You may blame yourself or wonder why you didn’t get out of a bad relationship. You are not responsible for the behavior of another person.
An abuser is manipulative and puts on a front of goodness until they have control of you. Every abuser looks different, so it is hard to determine when a person will be an abuser.
I married an abuser more than once. Each time I knew this person was OK because they were smart or they could quote the bible. Each man I married was totally different from the other or from my dad, who abused me.
In the end, I too wondered how I could have fallen for abuse 2 times. I am an intelligent person who should have spotted the signs. NOT! The signs are different.
A person who has been abused just wants to be loved and love another. You have had your self-worth torn to shreds. Your self-esteem has taken an all-time low. Why wouldn’t you just want to trust a person who says they love you?
So for this very reason, I encourage you not to trust another person until you trust yourself. Follow your instincts. Grow your self-esteem. Follow the suggestions I have laid out before you and heal before you go back into another relationship.
There is love for you! But you can not love another until you first learn to love yourself. It took me 5 years of attending counseling, groups, church activities, and learning to trust who I was before I met a man who was good in all aspects of life.
And even then, I waited and made him prove himself before I let down my guard. So you say why should you have to do this? Why do you have to heal first? Because you want true love and happiness not just for a moment but for a lifetime. It can happen, but not until you heal.
Narcissist-There is a type of mental disorder that may fool you every time. It is the NPD or Narcissistic Personality Disorder. An NPD will mimic you and make you think they are just like you. So if a person comes along, that is just like you, RUN! No one is just like you! You are the only person in the world who has all of your amazing attributes and quirks.
If you meet another who sends up tiny red flags and the hairs stand on end, then beware there is a problem.
Time and healing are the answer. There is no concrete method to follow to avoid abusers. I have written a couple of articles that may help you identify with your fears and help see when it is time to RUN the other way. Your safety and your happiness are the most important of all.
We have covered so many aspects of abuse and how to overcome abuse. I know it can be a bit overwhelming. I encourage you to pick this article apart, find the parts that you want to work on first, and tackle them.
Healing from abuse is a lifelong process. Every person will work through their abuse aIt doesn’t happen overnight, and you will need to work through any new issues that will appear when least expected.
But please remember you are worth every effort you put into your healing. You did not deserve the abuse, but you deserve the time and effort you put into overcoming the abuse in your life.
Your body, mind , and soul will thank you.